This weekend, I went on a university-planned trip to Côte d’Azur/Nice, Monaco, and Cannes. On the way, we stopped at a market in a little town. I was surprised at how much it reminded me of a market or fair in the U.S. There were stands selling sweet treats (such as nutella crepes—you can find these pretty much everywhere), slushies, and candy apples. There was a large tent that had hot tubs, fresh fruit and vegetables, candy, carved wooden decorations, locally-made wine, and many other things for sale.

When we stopped in St. Paul, two girls from my group decided to share a sandwich for lunch. When they asked the worker to cut it in half for them, he gave them a weird look and said, “C’est pas possible (That’s not possible).” I guess it’s not usual here to split a sandwich between friends. Also, the sandwich was advertised as being a “steak-haché américain,” which is basically a burger on a sub bun. The “American” part of the sandwich was the fries. No, the fries did not come on the side; they were actually part of the sandwich. We thought it was interesting that it was advertised as being American but it wasn’t like anything that an American would expect to find at home.

While in Cannes, we went to the beach (in October, very different than Wisconsin!) and were relieved to see that it was sandy, as opposed to the beach in Nice, which was all rocks. Something that was very different than in the United States was the suits that people wore. There were several elderly women wearing very small bikinis, which is not common at home. The majority of men were wearing Speedos. There was even a little girl that wasn’t wearing a suit at all. At U.S. beaches, I’ve seen very young children with only a diaper on, but they’re usually younger than this girl. I saw one woman who was sitting on her towel on the sand reading a book, wearing only a suit bottom. Some girls in my group told me that they also saw a woman take her swimsuit off, dry off with a towel, and put her regular clothes back on, right in the middle of the beach. While I won’t say it is unheard of in the U.S. for a girl to get stared at by a guy, it is more unusual for him to swim up behind you and grab your leg under the water, which happened to a girl in my group.

Alissa De Valk is studying abroad in Grenoble, France, at the University of Grenoble III with the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS).