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 or- (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 sandwhiches: 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 expresso cup.

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

Like 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

I miss giving hugs to friends and waving hello instead of giving an air kiss

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 had, I love how warm and welcoming it is to cheek kiss but on the other hand, I sometime 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 fait la bis, 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

I hate that some French people think All Americans eat McDonalds and are fat

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 may be insulted and choke on their McDonald’s hamburgers.

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 over eat at restaurants because portions are generally much smaller in France than they are in America and Canada. Smaller portions means, 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 about 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 beach)I 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 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 will 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 their 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, fundraisers 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 sport teams don’t exist. Yes, it would be convenient if kids could do sports with their classmates after school but it just doesnt 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 you child wants to learn piano once a week, there is usually a program that will coast less than 200 euros per year (about 160 USD or CAD). Same goes fro 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 hotdogs, 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 or (I miss using a clothes 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 common place in France as it is in North America. Those that do have a dryer usually just hang their cothes on clothes lines. If you don’t have a year to hang up your clothes, then you just hang it on the line outside your window. Most homes have them.

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. ( I miss window screens or )

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.

Dilemmas dilemmas. Makes me think of death by uga buga.

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 lunch time 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. AAAAAHHHHHHHH!!

  • 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 (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 over 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”.

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)

The French have fabulous French food, but after you’ll start to crave something other than coq au vin and steak frite like sushi or a burritos. Admittedly, I have been spoiled having grown up between California and Montreal, where you can get authentic food vs in France where the asian food is horrible. Almost as if they Frenchified it to make it tolerable to French people.

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)

Last but not least is the plat de résistance. You have heard about all the dog poop in France right? Well, it is all pretty much true. People don’t pick up their dog poop nearly as much as they should. We have even opened up our door to find dog poop on our door step. 

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 get 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 move on or they become a thorn in your side. We adjusted but it is still fun to poke fun at our lives here in France.

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.

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