There are many things one has to get used to as an expat in Francenotes Gillian Harvey in the Daily Telegraph:
bureaucracy (bad), café culture (good), cheap wine (very good). But nothing beats the shock to the system of this country’s very different attitude to the human body.
No, I’m not talking about the famous French physique – maintained despite the copious chomping of croissants for breakfast – or even the nudist campsite that I’ve discovered is just 5km from my front door.
I’m talking about the blasé attitude towards exposed flesh, whether at the roadside or in the hospital.
… Some of the local beaches, too, can cause the odd eyebrow raise. Last summer, I couldn’t help but notice when relaxing on a deckchair (as much as you can relax with three toddlers and a baby bump) that I was one of the few who wasn’t getting a full tan on my upper half. OK, had I wriggled out of my vest top at that point, it may have prompted calls to the RSPCA (or its French equivalent), but – like most of my terribly British friends – I’ve never been that bothered by the odd white bit, and would take covering up over letting it all hang out every time.
Mind you, the exposure of bronzed breasts paled in comparison to one man in the water that day: obviously on an impromptu visit to the shore, he had decided to frolic in the water in his grey Y-fronts, the wet cotton ensuring that not much was left to the imagination. And don’t get me started on the Speedos – while British men tend to go for overlong beach shorts, the French seem seduced by costumes that make all but the most buffed-up look as if they’ve tried on their wife’s underwear for a bet.