Surviving Teenagers: Trying To Impress A French One

23/04/2012 18:03 | Updated 22 May 2015
Weird English tea drinkingAlamy

We have a teenage French girl staying with us. My daughter went off to France last term, and this is the exchange visit.

I want her to like the UK. I don't want her to go back thinking British people are sad, weird tea-drinkers who eat bad food and slosh about in perpetual rain.

"Just chill, Mum," says my daughter.

But I don't. I chuck one of my sons out of his room and thoroughly disinfect it. I make up the bed with a set of sheets without rips or biro marks.

I buy in traditional British food like Cheddar cheese. I say, brightly, "We could take her out for a curry one night."

"Stop panicking, Mum," says my daughter.

The day the French girl arrives, there is brilliant sunshine. London sparkles. I beam, proudly.

The next day, and for the rest of the week, it pours with rain. It rains so much that the drains block and the roads turn into rivers. It rains so much that the windscreen wipers can't cope, and I end up staring open-mouthed at a wall of water.

"It hasn't rained like this for months," I say. "In fact, we're in the middle of a hosepipe ban."

I'm not sure she believes me.

The second problem is that she doesn't eat cheese. (I thought all French people liked cheese. I hastily revise the menus and hide the Cheddar.) And she hates curry.

The third problem is that it isn't until she arrives that I realise how much tea we drink. It's what we do. Any excuse, we put the kettle on. I keep turning to her, saying, "Cup of tea?" and she looks back, mystified.

She's going home tomorrow. I have a sinking feeling I know what she's going to remember about the UK: continual rain, bad meals and constant cups of tea.

Have you hosted an exchange student?

Did you make a good impression?

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