Since my arrival in Toulon one month ago, I have acquired two items that have made me inherently and undeniably more French: un vélo (bicycle) and un chariot (a bag on wheels).
The first week I was in Toulon I decided I wanted to buy a used bike. Pharmacycles is a shop in Toulon that finds old bicycles on the streets, in dumpsters, on the side of the roads, etc. and either salvages the parts or fixes them up and sells them. When I arrived that afternoon there were exactly two bikes ready to sell. My bike, Alex explained (in flawless English), was found in a dumpster and is hard to sell because it is a smaller bike and it is pink! His exact words to me were, “You are not so tall, and the bike is not so tall, so maybe it will be a match.” (And it was!) So, for 50€ they set me up with my new bike, adjusted the seat height for me, and I joined their Pharmacycles club, which basically means that if my bike breaks down, I can come to the store and use the tools to fix it (or in my case they will show me how to use the tools and help me). Again, the guys at this store were super nice and extremely helpful, and made me feel just a little bit more welcomed in a new city. Afterwards I went and bought a basket (which is what makes the bike look inevitably more French), a lock, and a light for riding at night (which is obligatory according to the dudes at the shop). Overall I ride my bike everywhere, including work! There are green pistes cyclismes (bike trails) all around the city (which I use to ride to work), which is actually quite awesome because riding on the cobblestone, narrow, uneven streets of France surrounded by crazy southern drivers can be quite dangerous!
The family who set me up in Toulon also gave me my very own chariot to borrow during my time here in France! These things look sort of grandma-ish but in fact, EVERYONE, men and women both old and young, use these for les courses (errands, which are normally always done on foot), especially grocery shopping. In France, unless it is a clothing store, businesses do not provide plastic bags. Here, it is obligatory to bring your own bags, or you simply will not be able to carry your items. So, everyone in France has their own set of Eco-friendly bags or a chariot, because there is NO SUCH THING AS PLASTIC BAGS. In France as well, it is not as common to do all of your food-related shopping at a single grocery store, but instead by your bread at a boulangerie, buy your fruit and vegetables at the daily markets or street vendors, buy your meat from the butcher shop, etc. so, having a big bag on wheels makes this a little more possible, as most people do these errands on foot (all of these stores exist within individual neighborhoods all over France.) Additionally, the French do not buy in weekly or monthly bulks like we do in the US, but instead buy a little each day. This is because French refrigerators are many times half the size of US refrigerators (kind of like what you see in college dorm rooms!). So, all in all, the chariot is very useful and you do not at all look out-of-place using them!
What are some of your abroad token items?