Two items That make Me Look Slightly More French

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?



18 thoughts on “Two items That make Me Look Slightly More French

    1. Hi Dana,

      An update is due.

      I received an email from program coordinators today. I have not, unfortunately, been selected. I am very sad about this, but I understand how things work; this year’s pool of candidates was among the most competitive yet; according to the program coordinator.

      To all of those that made it, I wish you a great year in your position; I hope you have a wonderful time. For those like me who didn’t make chin up everyone; there’s always next year!

      Dana, do you know of TAPIF Cinderella stories 🙂 where candidates who are initially rejected are later called back? Grace in defeat, but hope is not lost! I spent a very nice summer in France last year and I’d love to go back!

      All the best,

      1. Aw Israel I’m sorry to hear that! Keep your chin up, start building on your teaching experience and French skills, and re-apply this fall 🙂 it can’t hurt !

        There are other programs such as American Village, or you could look for Lectrice positions, as well as jobs in private schools. When there’s a will there’s a way!

        Bon courage, thanks for the update and as always, thanks for reading.

        Bisous !

  1. Hi Dana! I’m an assistant in Haute-Normandie. I just bought my chariot today – what’s the etiquette for these? Can I put my items in my chariot before I check out or should I use a regular shopping cart and put the items in the chariot after I’ve bought them? Merci! -Bre

    1. Hi! You can totally just use them in the stores au lieu of a shopping cart. The people at the check out counters may just ask to look inside it to make sure you haven’t stashed anything away. I love those things! great purchase!

      1. Thanks for the quick response! I love my little green chariot, it’s got an insulated pouch and a baguette pouch! I thankfully live 2 minutes walking distance from a Netto so having a chariot is going to be super handy. By the way – your blog is soooooo helpful – thank you for writing all this stuff down!

      2. I’m so glad you’ve found it helpful! Let me know if you have other suggestions! Have a great year, my France love affair started in Normandy 🙂

    2. Hi Bre,

      Is your contract finishing this April? How has your year been?
      I’m a hopeful applicant, and I hope I get good news from the program coordinators this April.


      1. Yup my contract will be done on April 30th. The year has been going pretty well. I only have three weeks left which is crazy to think about. Hopefully you’ll get good news very soon – I remember that my acceptance to the program actually came today last year (I thought it might be an April Fools Joke). Bonne chance!

      2. Bre,

        That’s funny! Yes, I imagine these 7 months have gone very fast; are you staying after your program finishes? Thank you for the bonne chance!

        Dana, thanks for the wishes. Do you know of anyone that has been contacted by the program coordinators for the 2015-2016 term? I’m getting nervous😥

        All the best,

      3. I’m not staying after the program finishes because I have a graduate program that I’m starting in the U.S. in June, but there are definitely other assistants who are staying. I don’t know when they’re going to contact you about the program, but I hope it’s soon.

  2. Hey Dana! I’ve been enjoying your posts. Haha, I’m the jerk who keeps purchasing plastic bags (a few centimes) at the supermarché because I don’t have a trash can yet – and those big bags make an excellent poubelle!

    1. Thanks Amanda! I love reading your posts too!! 🙂 I’m glad there are others blogging here in Toulon as well. You are not a jerk for buying plastic bags, and in fact I think it’s practical for the garbage can! 🙂 bisous!

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