Travel can certainly be educational. Experiencing foreign cultures reveals that the American way isn’t the only way.

France for example, bears a few similarities to life here in Forest Park, and since I know the question is at the fore of your thoughts, I’ll go ahead and make the comparisons.

If you think we have a litter problem than you haven’t walked the streets of Paris. The French drop twice as much garbage as we do. However, they power wash the sidewalks every morning, so from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m., your path is clear.

Graffiti is a small nuisance in Forest Park compared to France. Perhaps the French love of art is being expressed, because where we see a building they see a canvas.

Driving and parking may be a pain in Forest Park but it’s civilized when you contrast it with the chaos of French traffic. Over there, cars are missing each other by inches, while motorcycles zoom between the cars. I was impressed by the absence of honking, though. They don’t get mad about the close calls.

Walking is another story. It may be tough to cross Madison Street sometimes, especially when drivers knock down our “Stop for Pedestrian” signs. It’s not near as dangerous as crossing a street in Paris. Trucks, cars and motorcycles speed at you from every direction.

I made the mistake this summer of trying to walk through the traffic circle that whirls around the Arc d’ Triumph. Several gendarmes then surrounded me and signaled that I should use the underpass next time.

Apart from the danger of ending up as road kill, walking through Paris is safe. The entire city has been gentrified. Poverty and other social problems have been pushed into the suburbs. That same trend is happening here.

Their architecture may be more beautiful than ours but our Forest Park houses are palaces compared to tiny Paris apartments.

The French are much better at conserving resources and energy than we are.

The French lifestyle is really nothing like ours. They have free health care but seem less health-conscious than Americans. Smoking, drinking wine and eating rich food are the three most popular activities. This nicotine stained country, however, is planning to ban smoking in public. If the French can restrict smoking, what’s stopping Forest Park?

Their food is far superior to ours in freshness and quality. They eat a lot of rich, high-calorie dishes but remain amazingly slim. Obesity, though, is finally becoming a problem as the younger generation gorges on the fast food that we’ve exported to their country.

Even if they have some bad habits, the French don’t feel guilty about it like Americans. They live life with gusto and aren’t shy about public displays of affection. It’s no surprise that they were pioneers in kissing.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.