All of our writers at The Good Life France are Francophiles, most of them are expats who live in France. We thought it would be fun to ask them: “Is there anything you find odd or weird about living in France?”
We expected a few comments but it seems that almost everyone had something to say ranging from the expected to more unusual differences between French culture and expats’ home country habits!
So here’s what our experts find weird or odd about France…
Roger St Pierre: They drive on the other side! (Roger is from the UK of course!)
Susana Iwase Hanson: Well, this is a hard one because odd/weird are relative terms. I come from so many different cultures (Japanese, American, English, Chinese) and understand that what’s weird to one, may be perfectly normal to another. I find it odd that so many places are closed on Mondays, Wednesdays, Friday afternoons AND weekends, which leaves the only days to shop (without having to check first) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Are there other European countries that are like this?
Kirsten McKintosh: Square pillows. Peanut flavoured crisps.
Monique Trulove: I am still puzzled at the less is more for men’s swim wear in France. The sight of grown men in what only can be described as somewhere between speedo trunks and waterproof y-front, is something that will always be a shock culturally and another reason I am glad to be female! [Ed’s note – it is in fact the law to wear tight fitting swimwear for men in France!]
Donna Faulkner: I don’t find anything odd about France, we visited for years before moving here so knew what we were getting into. I do find the misconception of the British that the French people are hostile or standoffish a little weird but thats not a weirdness directed at France.
Lucy Pitts: So much choice. The French really are of a different mind-set to us Brits especially down here in the Vendée. That can be frustrating. I’ve just waited 15 minutes in the vets to make an appointment because the lady in front of me was chatting about her cousin and my neighbour regularly drives me nuts. Sometimes I suspect he deliberately does the opposite of what we’ve agreed. And I still can’t believe they all down tools at 12 and go off for a two hour, 3 course lunch. But once you accept that different mentality, you realise that’s one of the things to love most about here. Oh and the fact that they have an oyster stall every Sunday in the town square. I better stop or I could write all day about this.
Plus – It’s not polite to put your hands under the table, while dining. Could someone please explain why!?
Alecia Caine: I don’t understand why the majority of the French people I’ve met either in France or in the States are so pessimistic and complain a lot and they have so much to be happy about in their wonderful country! I believe if you complain and are pessimistic you create your reality, the happiest people I know are the expats in France, who want to be there and risked a lot in order to do so.I hope to be one too, one day! Also I find the toilette repulsive!
Susan Keefe: There are so many things… Christmas songs in the shops are always in English, Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ is a favourite. Why most people only work a few minutes from home and yet insist on driving around the tiny lanes locally like maniacs. I could go on…
Linda Matthieu: Customer service can be a problem in France. Of course, I have found wonderfully helpful French people, mostly as I shop in markets but I get very irritated in a small grocery store when in line with twenty other people with one cashier while eight other employees are stocking the shelves (which also block the tiny aisles). I also don’t understand why there are no bread plates at tables for meals and you will very rarely get a napkin when ordering a cocktail.
Marilyn Cathchpole-Dossat: I find the people are very fixed in their habits, for example they eat bread with everything but not with soup (except to clean their bowl).
They are horrified to be offered red wine as an aperitif – or tea and coffee after 6pm.
The give way to the right rule in villages I find a bit dangerous and wonder why they don’t change it.
But… ‘Vive la difference’!
Amanda J Fisher: How long have you got? Almost everything about France appears odd/weird in its way (probably because it’s just not British), but that’s why we go to visit/live there again and again in the hope that one day maybe all will become clear.
Donna Kerridge: In our local area, I do chuckle at the incredibly poor promotional material – graphic design is not of great importance in this region!
Evelyn Jackson: If the French don’t pronounce ‘h’ why do they even leave it in the alphabet? I say…get rid of it!
Bob Lyons: The language. Non French speakers can practice as much as they like but will never, ever be able to understand the way the French pronounce their words. Perhaps you know that they do it on purpose.
Jill Barth: Not exactly weird or odd, but I’m impressed with all the global chatter about French parenting, French education, French childcare… I’m still trying to figure out how it’s all done. One snack per day for little ones? Encouraging a bit of frustration in a child’s life? Delayed gratification? All compelling ideas that I’m still sorting out.
Sue Aitken: Lots of things. But the obsession with paperwork and long and involved processes for getting simple things sorted is quite frustrating.
Susie Woodhams: I curse sometimes how I have to stand in line to do things that in other countries we would do “online” – such as getting the list of documents to renew my visa, and then having to stand in line AGAIN once I’ve returned with those documents.
Margo Leszt: Well, if you had asked me that when I first arrived, I would have had a long list. But the longer I am here, the more “normal” things seem. One thing that I still find odd is the lack of information given when advertising an event in the newspaper. The name of the venue is listed, but no address. This is fine for those who are familiar with the venue, but if not, you have to go to the internet to look up the address. I haven’t yet figured out the reason for this, but there must be one.
Paola Westbeek: That the shops close at noon is sometimes a little bit of a hassle, but nothing I can’t get used to
Janine Marsh: Well I think I must have gone native because I struggled to think of anything! Oh yes… French people are generally so friendly and well-mannered where I live EXCEPT when they’re driving! Seriously, overtaking and bad manners on the road are rife in my bit of rural France – it’s astonishing and very very weird!
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