10 things to love about living in France
Camilla Gash is studying French at the University of Bristol and is spending her year abroad working at a business school near Paris. Here are her favourite things about life across the pond (and a few things that have taken her by surprise)! For more on Camilla's life abroad, check out her blog.
1. The price of wine
It’s SO cheap here! And still decent. Which is especially great news for a student budget.
2. The long lunch breaks
The French really value a good “pause déjeuner”. Wolfing down a sandwich at your desk is just not part of the culture here; hour-long, multi-course lunches are the norm. These are accompanied by plenty of good conversation and even a beer or glass of wine if you want: not an eyelid is batted at daytime drinking! I don’t know how I’m ever going to go back to regular old English lunches.
3. The completely mad and wonderfully visual idioms
Some of my favourites (they seem to be mostly either animal or food-related!):
- “Devenir chêvre” = to go nuts (Literally: to become a goat)
- “C’est la fin des haricots”= it’s all over! (Lit: It’s the end of the beans)
- “Poser un lapin” = to stand someone up (Lit: to leave a rabbit)
- "Avoir le cafard" = to be depressed (Lit: to have the cockroach)
- “Occupe-toi de tes oignons” = mind your own business (Lit: “Take care of your onions”).
4. “Café gourmand”...
...which is (in my opinion) the best thing ever. It’s a simple concept: if you can’t decide on a pudding at a restaurant, you can opt to have a selection of several mini versions (served with a cup of coffee). This happens anyway at some restaurants in the UK, but in France it’s ALWAYS an option. As a forever-indecisive menu- browser, this is the ideal solution for me.
5. The endless holidays
We have no fewer than four bank holiday weekends coming up next month, and the typical French annual leave is 5 weeks— better than the UK, and a lot better than the measly 10 days the average American receives.
6. The pâtisseries
This obviously had to make the list – if anyone knows how to do baked goods, it’s the French. Croissants, macarons and éclairs – they solve the majority of life’s problems.
7. No one dresses up to go out
Anything more than black jeans and a squirt of perfume and you’ve overdone it. And heels are just out of the question.
8. The stunning architecture
I just love those Mansard roofs and elegant Parisian buildings. Paris is an undeniably beautiful city and every time I get to stroll through one of its graceful parks or find myself whizzing past a shimmering gold Eiffel Tower on an evening metro I pinch myself.
9. The animated facial expressions and accompanying noises
French is a beautiful language, but its people also have absolutely no trouble expressing themselves without uttering a single word. Sharp intakes of breath, tutting, raspberry sounds, an exasperated “pfff”, all supplemented with a contorted face or vigorous hand motion. It’s one big performance and I love it.
10. The contradictions – you can’t pin the French down
They can come across as taking themselves rather seriously and being somewhat aloof, but then you see grown adults scootering to work in suits or a police man on roller blades and all just seems right with the world.
5 things that surprised me about living in France
1. The strikes
Trains will be cancelled without any notice and it’s every man for himself.
2. Station etiquette
I’m thinking specifically of the seemingly uniquely French habit of jumping behind someone at the turnstile if you don’t have a ticket. The first time this happens and someone presses up against you as you’re trying to make your way through the barrier it’s quite a shock. You get more used to it, but I’m still rather British about having my personal space so casually and unabashedly invaded.
3. The distinct lack of “post-club grub”
Drunk food is just not a thing here. Ask for cheesy chips and you’ll be met with a look of bemusement… in fact this is probably a good thing for both the waistline and the wallet, but at 4am it doesn’t feel like such a blessing.
4. The complete absence of gym culture
Maybe we’ve gone too far the other way in the UK, but I’ve never seen a French person exercising. It’s a stereotype, but I genuinely think they stay slim by smoking!
5. NOTHING happens on time
You can count on it. Sometimes I wonder whether it’s worth just putting my watch back by 10 minutes. After all, if you can’t beat them…!