The Little Quirks of French Living
There is no denying that living abroad, wherever it may be, means experiencing a different culture, a different way of life and most importantly different social customs. After living in Paris for the last 2.5 years I have been able to accept the peculiar French habits, which seemed so foreign to me when I first arrived. Admittedly there are a lot of clichés that the French have had to endure which aren’t all necessarily true. But hey, we’re all given reputations, and lets face it, they don’t always come from nowhere!
Arguably what we see as being out of the norm is very much influenced by our own culture, but I do believe there is a general consensus on certain social customs. We would like to share a small list with you of the little things to get used to when moving to France to prepare you for the unexpected…
- La Bise – Otherwise known in English as “the kiss”. Do not be put off when a stranger approaches you with two kisses – it is totally the norm here. And just a heads up, you don’t actually have to kiss, just some cheek-to-cheek action will suffice.
- Queuing – The French don’t always enjoy queuing, they know what they want and they go straight for it. I was shocked when one day at the post office people blindly walked (or sometimes pushed) in front of me in line. After a while, I learned to raise my voice, and guard my spot and eventually I began to do the same thing back to them! After all this is how it’s done here in France.
- Zebra Crossings – I was under the impression that zebra crossings were there for pedestrians to cross the road as and when they approached the line and the cars would naturally stop to allow this. While pedestrians at a crossing do, indeed, have the right of way, this is does not mean that cars will always yield to pedestrians in Paris. Either you wait patiently at the crossing for a gap in the traffic, or if you’re in a rush you walk straight out in front of the car forcing them to stop because you can be totally sure that they wont voluntarily stop for you!
- Scarves – While this may seem like a total stereotype, the French do love their scarves. Scarves in winter, scarves in spring, scarves in summer and of course scarves in autumn. Scarves are also not only for women in France. Part of the appeal of the Parisian man is the loop around and pull through scarf phenomenon.
- Baguettes – French people carrying freshly bought baguettes from the boulangerie is quite possibly the biggest cliché, but by far my favorite! Everywhere you look you will see people carrying baguettes back home for dinner with broken off ends because they’ve gotten a little peckish on their journey back. Additionally, no matter what you are eating, no meal is complete in France without a fresh baguette!
- Opening times – Do not always trust the opening times of shops, restaurants, cafes and bars in Paris. They might state that they open at 10am but most likely they won’t be ready to open their doors to customers until at about 30 minutes later. Time is all relative in France, so play the part, relax and take your time!
- Sundays in France – While this has been a controversial topic in the news lately, most things completely shut down on a Sunday and once you get used to this, it’s actually quite nice to adopt the idea of having a day of rest. Be sure to be up and awake in time to get some groceries from the Sunday market.
- Check Books – While most people in the UK and the US rarely use checks anymore, people love to pay for things by check in France. It’s actually surprising how often you see it happening. Be sure to request a check book of your own when coming to France because it’s probably one of the last chances you’ll get to use one!
- Dog Poo – Unfortunately, this is something you cannot avoid on the streets in Paris. It is everywhere, so you really do have to watch your step! It seems there are plenty of dogs pottering around the city and their owners are happy to take them out on their daily walks but, despite the 100 euro fines the city has threatened, many people still do not clean up after them.
- Trash Bags – It seems a small and bizarre thing to notice, but honestly if you are able to pull out a bag from the pack, open it up and place it into the bin without a struggle then you’ve mastered an art! Those little plastic strings that are supposed to be used to tie the bag shut are difficult to manage – you have been warned!
While the above might be some of the little frustrations we have encountered living in this city, they are by no means a deal breaker. There are always things that one has to get used to living abroad and these are the few that I have encountered in my short time in this wonderful city. By sharing these with you, I hope to make your expectations and daily life a little bit easier so that you can enjoy every moment in this magical city!
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