20 Things I Hate About Living In France

20 things you might hate or miss if you live in France

Living in France has been great but-and I know this may be hard for some of you to believe, there are certain things you are going to hate. Here are 20 things which I hate about living in France (or miss about North American culture)- depending on how you look at it.

1- I hate cold popcorn served in French movie theatres (I miss hot salty buttered popcorn)

photo of my daughter holding up cold popcorn in a French movie theatre. YUCK

I’m not a big popcorn fan but when I do eat it, I like it HOT, BUTTERY AND SALTY.

Unfortunately, popcorn at the movie theatres in France is served up cold YUCK.  Cold popcorn as you know can be chewy. When I told some of my friends that popcorn tastes better hot and that this was the way it was served in North America, they seemed oblivious. I guess ignorance is bliss because I am sure if they tasted hot popcorn in a movie theatre they would never go back to cold popcorn.
You also have a choice of salty or sweet Popcorn.

2- I hate the disgusted looks you get if you tell a French person your kids like to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches: aka PB&J

I hate the dirty looks you get if you tell a French person you eat peanut butter on bread with jelly: akd PB&J

If your kids invite their friends over to the house in France, be prepared for the scrunched up disgusted looks they give you because mixing peanut butter and jelly together is just weird.

Peanut butter is rarely eaten and I don’t know one person who actually eats it although you can always find a bottle of Skippy peanut butter hidden away next to hundreds of bottles of Nutella and confiture. SO look hard because that’s all you’ll get.

3- I miss going out on the weekends to eat pancakes, bacon and eggs.

I miss going out on the weekends to eat pancakes, bacon and eggs.If you live in France and want to go out for breakfast to eat a classic breakfast food like a cheese omelette, bacon and eggs, pancakes or fresh waffles you can forget about it. If you want these things for breakfast on a Saturday morning or any day of the week for that matter, you’ll just have to pull out your frying pan and make it yourself.

The French typically have more of a continental breakfast, a baguette with butter which they sometimes dip in their coffee. Some pain au lait, a croissant, yogurt or cereal but never eggs, never bacon and never waffles. The idea of eating something “salty” vs sweet in the morning is kind of foreign to them. They have no idea what they are missing.

4- I miss North American coffee culture: iced coffee, big coffee cups and to-go coffee cups

YOU'll never see anyone in France carrying a cup of coffee in to-go cups like this
Yeah, it’s so cool that the French all congregate at café’s to drink coffee but damn it, sometimes I want a big cup of coffee to go. Not a tiny espresso cup.

5- I miss being able to buy aspirin or medicine in grocery stores.

As the old saying goes, you never know what you had until it’s gone.

I never knew I would actually miss being able to buy headache medicine in a food store until I moved to France.  In France, you’ll need to make a separate trip to the pharmacy to buy aspirin, ibuprofen or any other over the counter pharmaceutical goods.  A small inconvenience since there are pharmacies everywhere but still I do miss the convenience of doing my grocery shopping and buying over the counter drugs too.

6 – I miss giving hugs to friends and waving hello instead of stopping to give all your friends air kisses

How to faire la bise step by step

I have a love-hate relationship with “la bise”- the act of greeting someone by giving them an air kiss on their cheeks. On the one hand, I love how warm and welcoming it is to cheek kiss but on the other hand, I sometimes resent the fact that I have to do it when I would sometimes rather just say hello and keep walking or simply wave to say hello. If you don’t “faire la bise”, you’re actually being pretty rude. (read the French kiss explained).

7-I hate that some French people think All Americans eat McDonald’s and are fat

What people think I do: Travel meme about living in France

There is a very strong stereotype in France that ALL Americans like to eat McDonald’s and are usually fat.

I am not fat, I don’t eat at McDonald’s and I like to cook Thai food, Chinese food and Japanese food.

My friends in France are always amazed at the fact that my kids don’t eat McDonald’s. The truth of the matter is, I actually know more French people who eat McDonald’s than I do Americans or Canadians. But don’t tell that to a French person because they might be insulted and choke on their McDonald’s hamburgers.

You might be interested in reading about McDonald’s in France.

8- I hate having smoke blown in my face while I eat

Or…I miss smoke-free restaurant terraces and breathing Fresh air in public spaces.

It’s true, the French really do smoke a lot. This is especially true after a meal. 

Don’t worry though, smoking is banned in restaurants but the ban does not extend to the prime real estate, outdoor seating and terraces. No, the ban on smoking in restaurants favours smokers by allowing them to smoke on terraces on beautiful sunny days forcing other non-smokers to either eat indoors or endure smoke being blown in their face while they eat with their kids on the terrace. I’m not bitter about this at all.

9- I miss doggy bag culture

One of the things I actually love about the French food culture is you are less likely to overeat at restaurants because portions are generally much smaller in France than they are in America and Canada. Smaller portions mean, less likelihood of leftovers. When there are leftovers, the  French typically won’t ask for a doggy bag because they are NOT fans of taking unfinished food home. The general sense I get from this lack of enthusiasm for the doggy bag culture is that there is a certain sense of embarrassment in bringing home unfinished food.

  • Some say the reason for the shame has to do with the fact that the French are taught as children to always finish the food on their plate. Failing to do so is the equivalent of NOT saying thank you. Another reason may be the reference to the term Dog.
  • Some people say they feel shame in taking home a meal meant for the dog only to be consumed later by themselves.

10- I hate seeing guys in tight revealing speedos

Or, I miss board shorts on guys at the pool and beachI hate seeing guys in tight revealing speedos or (I miss board shorts on guys at the pool and beach)

No one likes to see the outline of a woman’s labia in their bathing suit, not to be crude but it’s sometimes referred to as a “camel toe”. So why in the hell would I want to see the outline of a guys junk in a pair of Speedos? I think the answer, at least for me is I don’t want to see it.

For all you speedo loving folks, before you start telling me that I am afraid of speedos, or I’m a prude. Let me just say that I have been around both the board short tribe and the speedo tribe and aesthetically speaking, I’m just a board short loving person. They look better, they leave more to the imagination and they’re fun. Oh, and if you must know, I prefer boxers over briefs. Proud of it.

NO BOARD SHORTS IN FRENCH PUBLIC POOLSno swimming trunks or board shoarts allowed in public pools

Warning, you must wear speedos in most public pools in France

See also: Other funny and weird French laws.

11- The kids might miss high school dances and proms

The kids will miss high school dances and proms

Some of my son’s friends asked if it’s true that high school dances exist in American schools. Apparently, some French teenagers wish that the same were true in French Schools. You’re probably saying, so what if there are no high school sponsored dances and I would agree but take it from me, your teenager might care especially if their friends back home are posting photos and updates to their Facebook page about attending their school dances or prom.

**Something to note is there seems to be a lack of school spirit. There are no fundraisers, music, choir and last but not least no team sports. See below.

12- The kids might miss after school-sponsored sports and sports teams

The kids might miss afterschool sponsored sports and sports teams

Let me clear something up about Soccer. Soccer, played with the round ball is actually called football around the world except in the US and Canada. Football played with the brown oblong ball mainly in the US is called American football by the rest of the world.

Ok, so for the most part, school sports teams don’t exist. Yes, it would be convenient if kids could do sports with their classmates after school but it just doesn’t exist like school dances don’t exist. That’s not to say that sports programs don’t exist in France, because they do. You just have to sign up with outside organizations.

Most French people know this but if you are newly arrived in France, you might not know where to look or what sports are available. If this is you, I would start by making a trip to your local “Marie or city hall” and ask them about the sports programs.dance school in France

Programs cost between 115 to 200 euros per year. For example, if your child wants to learn piano once a week, there is usually a program that will cost less than 200 euros per year (about 230 USD or CAD). Same goes for circus school, athletic sports, crafting activities and more. The only exception is sailing. The sailing club in Toulon charges 340 euros for the year and our daughter goes sailing every Saturday for 4 hours.

13- Nothing to hate but I do miss being able to pack a lunch for the kids once in a while.

Kids cannot bring lunch to school : 20 Things You Might Hate If You Live in France

Your kids will get a taste of French food if they eat at the cantine

French kids eat pretty well compared to North American standards but if you have a picky eater they might not like brie cheese, baked fish or steamed mussels at school. That’s right, kids in France eat normal meals unlike the rotating menu of hot-dogs, pizza, burritos and spaghetti served in the US and Canada lunches.

Even with the higher level of lunch being served in French schools, it would be nice to at least be able to pack a lunch once in a while. But you can’t do that. You can, however, pick your kid up for lunch and enjoy two whole hours. Pretty good compared to the 45 minutes to an hour back in North America.

UPDATE: My friend Ameena told me that her daughter can bring lunch to school. Her daughter, however, goes to a private Montessori school in France so this is really an exception. 

14- I hate crunchy towels and drying my clothes indoors

I miss using a dryer

I hate crunchy towels and drying my clothes indoors or (I miss using a clothes dryer)

dry clothes racekOwning a dryer is not as commonplace in France as it is in North America.  Even those that do have a dryer usually hang their clothes on clotheslines reserving the dryer for the cold rainy days. If you don’t have a yard to hang up your clothes, people just hang their clothes on a line outside their windows. Most homes have them installed.

I actually don’t mind hanging our clothes to dry and I like the fact that it is more environmentally friendly but when it’s raining and cold outside, we have to hang our clothes on indoor racks which take up valuable space, takes longer to dry and is unsightly. Plus, hang drying towels makes towels crunchy and not fluffy. I digress.

15-I hate mosquitos that fly in through the open windows and bite me in the night.

Or I miss window screens

I miss windows screens or (I hate mosquitos that bite me in the night)

Windows in France are everything you imagined. They are charming and quaint looking but they have one major flaw.

They let in all the bugs and mosquitoes. On hot days, the nights cool down so we usually leave our windows open to let the cool air flow through the house. Otherwise, it would be impossible to sleep. unfortunately, the mosquitoes and bug usually come flying in with all that cool air.

So make your choice: open your windows to stay cool and get eaten by bugs. Close the windows to keep bugs out and boil to death.

16- I hate how things are closed when you need them the most

Or I miss convenient store hours

Want to use your lunch hour to get stuff done like get your watch fixed or go to the bank? Unless you live in a very large city like Paris or Marseille, you can forget about being productive at lunchtime because most businesses are closed during this crucial times of the day. On certain days of the week like Monday, businesses are either closed or are on special hours.

You do adjust but every once in a while you forget and then kick yourself like the time we drove 40 minutes to get a new cable t.v. box only to find out that the store was closed on Mondays.

  • Grocery stores are closed on Sundays or close by noon on Sundays.
  • Some businesses in smaller towns like ours close on Mondays also.
  • Most restaurants don’t open before 6:30 or 7:00 in the evening.

17 – I hate bad or rude customer service

Or I miss good customer service

This is a really tricky thing to talk about because by saying good customer service does not exist, I am applying a blanket statement about all French service.  So let me qualify my statement.

You see, after having lived in the US and Canada and several other countries, French service leaves something to be desired by my standards.

  • It is not uncommon to go to a store and stand in line and have to wait for the workers to finish their conversation before they acknowledge your presence.
  • It is not uncommon to be greeted with a frown rather than a smile and a hello how can I help you today. (workers will always say Bonjour when you enter but they are not always very welcoming)
  • It is not uncommon to come across unhelpful tellers at the bank who leave important facts out of conversations because “you didn’t ask the right questions”.

It’s not that these people in customer-facing roles are “trying” to be rude. The French have different definitions of what politeness is. Here are a few examples.

In North America, being polite or not being rude has more to do with making the other person feel at ease, warm and fuzzy- Americans tend to value happy, high- energy feelings like excitement, enthusiasm and overly friendly tendencies while the French value showing the other person respect, not big happy friendly faces and attitudes. Once you understand this, you’ll understand that the French are not rude. In fact, many French find this overly friendly attitude that American people define as good customer service to be phoney and superficial.

You might be interested in reading: 99 things nobody tells you about living in France

18-I miss air conditioning

I don’t think I need to explain why having air conditioning when temperatures get close to 40C and 100F. For some reason, a lot of French people just don’t have air conditioning. It baffles my mind.

19 – I hate the lack of variety in food

Or I miss eating good Mexican and Asian food

French food is fabulous but I do miss variety. I’ve been spoiled having grown up between California and Montreal, where you can get authentic ethnic cuisine. Ethnic food in France tends to be Frenchified which is NOT a good thing in my opinion.

20 – I hate stepping in dog poop

Or I miss  Poop free streets and sidewalks

I hate stepping in dog poop or I miss (Poop free streets and sidewalks)

Have you heard about all the dog poop in France? Well, it is all pretty much true. In general, dog owners do not pick up their dog poop in France. We’ve even opened up our front door to find dog poop on our doorstep. 

French people, of course, don’t like it either yet they accept it as a way of life.

Conclusion

These are just some of the difference that sometimes gets under my skin.

Obviously, these things don’t bother me so much that I actually hate living in France. I just wanted to show you that there will be things that you may not like about France just as there are things about your home country that you don’t like.

You either adjust and accept that things are going to be different in your adopted country or let it continue to bother you.

If you’re interested, here are some examples of culture shock which you might find interesting. Culture shock happens to the best of us, not just inexperienced travellers.

And here are a few more articles you might find interesting.

99 Useful Things Nobody Tells You About Moving To France But should know

Reality vs Expectations Of A North American Expat In France

 

About the Author

Annie André Is a half Thai, half French Canadian/American freelance writer, digital marketer and author of THE LIVE IN FRANCE GUIDE: an expat travel and lifestyle blog featuring destination guides, inspiration, travel tips, personal advice and anecdotes on working, living and playing in France. ( Equal parts weird, wacky and wonderful).

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