There is an old saying that patience is a virtue, and that being the case, I think people in the Charente are among the most virtuous souls around!
It is quite clear that great emphasis is placed on taking time out for each other and I think anyone planning on moving to the Charente has to be aware that this is a custom of great significance. It can be very easy to get frustrated by customers chatting to the girl at the kiosk about oysters and Foie gras when all you want to do is post a letter. Particularly if you’re used to the McDonald’s “eat-it-up-before-you’ve-even-ordered” mentality.
But be warned, that any display of this frustration will be greeted with the utmost contempt. The people here are rarely in a rush. It’s an endearing quality that’s likely to get forgotten if newcomers to the area aren’t prepared for it. And though you might have guests coming round in an hour or you’re in danger of missing your favourite TV show if you don’t hurry up, stop and think of the reasons why you moved in the first place.
So many of the small communities have been lost and forgotten in countries where the 24/7 lifestyle has infected everybody. People simply don’t have time to say “hello” or ask how their kids are getting on, because there’s always a deadline that has to be met. The truth is, if there is still a family-run corner
shop just down the road, which hasn’t been put out of business by a massive super-market, then many of the locals probably don’t even know the names of the people who run it. Why would they care what kind of day they’re having?
The last thing I want to do is preach, but please be aware that in the Charente at least, the community spirit is still alive and well. It’s part of the reason why we fell in love with the place. But it won’t remain if everyone starts demanding to get things done “that bit quicker” or having the shops stay open “just a little longer”. And is it such a bad thing if the girl at the counter enjoys her job because she can be chatty with the customers? or if the markets thrive because it’s as much about socialising as it is about shopping? Does it really matter if you wait five minutes to get your coffee because the barman was asking an old regular how his wife’s operation went? Just imagine, if everyone cared enough about their fellow citizens to take a couple of minutes and stop to ask how they are, wouldn’t we all be a little happier?