Electrical Tips for France

Years ago, humans beings traveled with money, a trunk full of clothing, and a book.

Today, we're surrounded by electrical gizmos that provide us with our beauty needs, entertainment and the means of bringing home our experiences to be re-lived again and again.

While there is a certain nostalgia for the days of old when we recorded our experiences and the thoughts provoked by them via a pencil and a journal, I'm relatively sure that you'll be dragging a substantial amount of stuff needing electricity to replace the primitive pencil.

Is this a conspiracy?

The USA has a power grid which in theory, works in the same fashion as the power grids that keep the rest of the world technologically up to date, with the noteworthy exception of its intensity. North America runs on 110 volt electricity. This is the kind which not only knocks you backwards onto your tushy if you short out an appliance, it can theoretically end your days on the spot.

France runs on the much safer 220 volt system. This system gives you a zingy jolt rather like jumping into a pool of water at 50°F - shockingly unpleasant, but not life threatening. Unless of course you stay hanging on, or swimming about for a long time.

The wall socket issue must also be taken into consideration.

I have to think that the Chinese industrials who have to deal with the manufacture of quite a lot of the world's electrical gadgets must pull their hair out about making sure that the correct shape of plug goes on the correct voltage of appliance and the correct appliance goes into the correct container shipped to the correct country. They have to be the wizards of logistics to stay on top of all of that.

Which leads me to wonder why, when the entire world adopted electricity, didn't the inventors of the grid and the plug and the wall socket all sit down together and decide on one plan of action? Why did every country adopt a different set of norms?

I know that this all came about before air travel, but still it seems to be poor planning on the part of quite a few people. I'm obliged to throw a stone or two at men here, because at the time they were the ones calling the shots in this field.

Happy to invent the hairdryer, electric curlers, and portable body hair ripper-outers to ensure the beauty of their women, they forgot to think about traveling with said beautiful creatures.

Or was this a conspiracy?

Electrical Appliance Adapters - BEWARE!

Now we're stuck living with the results of this dilemma.

So along came the electrical-appliance-adapter-inventor chap. He doesn't speak any language known to man on earth. This is blatantly obvious when an earthling tries to read the instructions on the use of the adapter. If anyone needs proof that there is indeed life on other planets, then here it is. No human could so effectively write so many pages of undecipherable gibberish, and do it in so many different languages. It has to be the work an extraterrestrial with the specific mission to confuse the heck out of us by causing havoc and uproar.

I was not aware of this before, so I feel the real need to inform you all before you plug in your things.

A bad hair day!

Being of relatively “normal” intelligence (I have a bachelors degree from an accredited university), I thought I would be capable of reading the booklet in either of the two different languages in which I am fluent.

Twice I was confused. So I asked my sister, also a college graduate, for her opinion on the bits and pieces needed to plug her curling iron into the wall socket of our hotel in Paris. You see, we had a bit of an evening on the town planned and there was some hair manipulation needed to ensure our success.

When we finally jointly decided on which part to put on the curling iron, and which part to put on the wall plug, it worked. The light on the curling iron turned on and started to heat. We were delighted.

Luckily for me, my sister tried it out first. She carefully separated the batch of bangs she intended to curl, opened the jaws of the curling iron and clamped it shut. The smell of roasting hair, and melting plastic, accompanied by frantic screaming as the “city of light” went dark, is one I'll never forget.

Nor will I forget the resulting hairdo.

I didn't try to explain in French to the concierge what had happened as we dashed out of the hotel to the nearest “coiffeur” still open, hoping to repair the damage to her frizzled bangs.

She did look rather nostalgically fetching with her silk scarf tied tightly under her neck, hiding the burnt frizz. A bit like Grace Kelly on the loose in Paris. I think I forgot to tell her so at the time, probably because I was laughing so hard that I couldn't speak.

I found it especially funny when I had to explain in French to the coiffeuse, since my sister doesn't speak French, what had happened. The expression on her face was priceless, and I can feel my sister's angry glare burning into my back from across the ocean even as she reads this.

I didn't mention her name, but since I only have one sister, she pretty much knows this is about her. Hi, sis!

Men have it easier!

Having learned a valuable lesson, I resolved to never do anything electric to my bangs for the rest of my life. I figure if the look can't be achieved with a brush then I don't want it, hence my boring flat hair.

I was a little angry to discover that men's electric razors come equipped with a magic button that allows them to simply switch from 110 to 220, ensuring that their razor will never go insane and shave off their noses when they're away on business. How fortunate that the razor manufacture guy is male and therefore worried about his nose! He obviously never needs to curl his bangs.

Still, I had solved my electrics in foreign countries issues until I became a computer junkie.

One more bit of advice...

Thinking I'm not alone in this bleak dependence on electronics to stay in touch with the rest of the world even when on vacation, I feel it necessary to advise you to buy one little gadget before leaving home.

I recently invested in a universal battery recharger thing that comes with an assortment of plugs to fit the various wall sockets of the world. I can use it for my cell phone, digital camera and my laptop. Since the only possible risk is frying a battery and not damaging either the mother device or my person, I think this is a good device to bring along wherever you go.

Alas, it does not work for my hairdryer. Therefore I still have flat boring hair, but I can write to you from the four corners of the globe!

Everybody's got different priorities.....

Now It's Your Turn!
Tell Us About Your Own Electricity Nightmare in Europe!

Have you had any interesting experiences regarding electricity and miscellaneous appliances while traveling?

Maybe something at least as embarrassing as mine? (Well, it wasn't necessarily embarrassing to me... but my sister may feel different!)

Share your amusing anecdote with us!

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