Ten things I wish I'd known before moving to France


(Catharine Higginson) #1

So in no particular order, here are my personal top ten. Feel free to add your own…



1. Dealing with the RSI is a complete and utter nightmare and likely to drive you to drink.



2. Venturing outside if you are blonde and live south of the Loire, without wearing factor 50 sunscreen, will result in thread veins all over your cheeks. As you will now look like the local wino, you may want to admit defeat at this point and hit the bottle before dealing with the RSI.



3. Ducklings 'imprint' on their (human) mums. This means that if you hand rear them in the sitting room, they will think that they should live in the house, with you, for evermore.



4. Never try the andouillette. There's a limit when attempting to embrace a culture and its cuisine.



5. Be prepared for your teenagers to suggest they see a 'psychologue' - all their friends will, whether they need one or not. If they do mention this, knock it on the head by telling them that they are British and should be displaying some stiff upper lip.



6. You will get stopped randomly by the police on a more frequent basis that if you were of ethnic extraction and carrying a backpack on the London Underground. Hopefully they won't shoot you.



7. Nothing can prepare you for the horror of French customer service. There isn't any.



8. If you have a wood burning stove, your life will revolve around buying, chopping, stacking and carting wood inside for six months of the year. Your house will be covered in a fine layer of ash throughout the year.



9. You will develop sudden and weird cravings for foods that you would have turned your nose up back at in the days when they were readily available in the local shop - salad cream, sandwich spread, Branston pickle.....



10. Over to you....?

(Nikki Pilkington) #2

aah yes, the over priced bricolage…


(Ria Tounsi) #3

I’m sure I have seen this somewhere else but the paint is so weak you need twenty coats of the overly priced stuff!


(john hope-falkner) #4

No 1. Agree... great excuse

No 2.Most people around here ARE the local wino (s) - or the exact puritanical opposite

No 3.Cute - do not have to shoot supper

No 4. Agree, but maybe in situation induced by No 1.

No 5. Thankfully not in that situation.

No 6. Strange...

No 7.Agree - usually

No 8.True, so very true.

No 9.You must have forgotten what that chemical cr**p tasted like.

No 10. Voila !


(Padraig A. Carty) #5

What I still cannot, but really cannot, come to terms with is the lack of polite civility that one encounters so often (not always mind), but very very very often: in shops, restaurants, bars, administration, banks etc. It still (after 27 years living here) irks me so much.

I live in the Paris region and some (French) people say it's different outside the Ile de France, but I'm not convinced.


(Nikki Pilkington) #6

Oh dear Marion, sounds as if you have bitter experience of that one?


(Marion Pilling) #7

that expats gossip and slander other expats all the time


(Sharon Bond) #8

One of the most awkward things about living in france is the “kissing business”,I usually end up knocking noses or short changing the person and then going in for another couple after an awful pause…


(Jeni Middlehurst) #9

Thank goodness. Bloody car companies, they are all the same. Europcar is one of my least favorites. I used to rate Sixt 'till they let us down as well. :frowning:


(Nikki Pilkington) #10

Finally, the fantastic Philippe at Europcar in Dunkirk has tracked down a 9 seater for us and all is calm in the Pilkington household once more LOL


(Catharine Higginson) #11

nice one Nikki!
Any luck with your bus yet?


(Nikki Pilkington) #12
  • that people who came to live in France would moan about living in France :wink:

(Victoria Gould) #13

@Vivien - I know what you mean! I originally came over here to cook, which I did for several years (until I had my baby). I started off doing a “stage” in a small hotel - my chef practically kept me locked in the kitchen and told me not to talk to any of the customers - he was petrified they would find out he had an “anglaise” working in his kitchen !!!


(John Slate) #14

A few more things to add…

  1. That, although the Brits live on an island, the French are far more insular than us.
  2. That strangers are aliens to the French
  3. After six years living here we have yet to step foot inside a neighbour’s house in spite of trying to get to know them and keeping them supplied with home-made jams and marmalade
  4. When asking a neighbour to join us and her friend (from whom we bought the house) for aperos and/or dinner she replied, ‘Non, je n’aime pas les repas anglais’ It didn’t deserve a reply
  5. The French do not trust anybody - even themselves
  6. That is is cheaper to buy a new household appliance than to have a two-year-old one repaired.
  7. That in the supermarket our obviously ‘not new’ plastic supermarket bag would be regularly checked by looking for the scribble over the barcode to prove I was not stealing it.
  8. That supermarkets do not put extra cashiers on when it is busy. It works the opposite way round. If there are less than eight people in a queue that’s the time to shut down one of the tills. And isn’t it infuriating when the customer just in front of you in the queue has at least one item which cannot be read by the barcoder or has no barcode at all - and even if you know the price is two euros they don’t believe you and have to call a supervisor -so we leave that item at the till!

(Catharine Higginson) #15

@ Vivien - I’ve just read that - that is outrageous!! Can’t believe they can do that in this day and age.

@ Victoria -with you on number 10 - I found a huge green one on the table yesterday morning. It was big enough to be given a name!


(Victoria Gould) #16
  1. That you don’t need to learn to park - in France you can just “abandon” your car
  2. That the French don’t know what an indicator is either
  3. That you can party with your kids til midnight and no one will bat an eyelid
  4. That you can pop in to see your friends without them having a panic attack
  5. That you don’t have to carry around a poopascoop and a load of silly little bags
  6. That you don’t have to pay road tax
  7. That you DO have to pay to see a Doctor
  8. That the French don’t think you’re an axe murderer when you smile and say hello to them
  9. That it can go down to -15° in the winter
  10. That I’d get over my arachnophobia - just out of sheer necessity!

(Vivien Barrow Clegnac) #17

the worst thing for me, and I dont complain about much, I love it here, is the eternal question “oh you cook?” "but you’re English…?"
otherwise the Carte Vitale that you had for years which gets confiscated when you get divorced, you still have to pay all your taxes etc of course but what the heck?


(Jeni Middlehurst) #18

The smell of bread baking.

Of sardines grilling.

Of sweat and Ambre Solaire

And Traffic Fumes and cigarette smoke filtering up through the lift shaft.

We literally live over the beach next door to Cap d’Ail Port and the smell from the restaurants and the sound of the wierd “Existential” fifties style jazz singer they hire, will live with me forever. :slight_smile:


(Catharine Higginson) #19

There were some really great comments and other people’s top tens posted on my other blog site - I might try and integrate them here as some were hilarious.


(Stuart Wilson) #20

I agree with 6 with the exception of Jean Jacques Goldman.