Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE living in France, and right now I would not change living in France for living in the United States. But, sometimes this country is all kinds of frustrating, and sometimes you just want to scream, yell, curl up in a corner, and rock back and forth. Living abroad makes you appreciate the “little things” and the Americanisms about America. Read on to see what I miss about the United States
1. My friends and family: This one is all kinds of obvious, but my best girlfriends and family who have been in my life for years do not live in France. However, thanks to technologies such as FaceTime, Skype, Google Voice, and social media, it is a lot easier to stay in touch!
2. Ice: Yep, you read that right. Generally speaking, the French do not use ice in their drinks (even at McDonald’s!) In fact, in MOST (but not all) restaurants, you will have to ask for ice if you want it. Funnily enough, refrigerators in France which have ice dispensers are called American-style Fridges.
3. Diet Coke and Peanut Butter: Diet Coke in France does not taste the same. It is called Coca Lite and has less sugar, so the taste is just not as good. Overall this has been good for me because I drink way too much Diet Coke in the states, and therefore don’t drink as much here in France, but I still miss my favorite beverage. And as for peanut butter, I love eating it on my sandwiches. But Jif just isn’t found here.
4. Free Refills: Yep, in restaurants, generally speaking, unless you ask for tap water, there are no free refills, ever. I think this is largely due to the reason that French people drink mostly wine and water with dinner anyways, as opposed to soft drinks. I casually mentioned to my students that in the United States, many families drink milk for dinner as the main beverage– they were absolutely disgusted and horrified by the thought.
5. Separate checks: In France it is normal and polite for one person to pay for the entire table at dinner. However, all of us being in our twenties and making what we make, we cannot afford to do that. Separate checks do not exist, and if you want to pay separately you need to divide everything out amongst yourselves.
6. 24 Hour Stores: you don’t realize how nice it is having almost everything open until 10 PM or later until you live in a place where business do not open until 9:00 AM (including your gym!), close for lunch from 12-2 PM, then close for the night at 7:00 PM, and do not open at all on Sundays. People say that the United States is the Land of Convenience, and after living in the relaxing south of France, I completely get why.
7. Drive-Thrus and To-Go Coffee: I absolutely LOVE café and dining culture in France. I love being able to sit down, relax, order a café, and sip it leisurely with no pressure to hurry up. I love having a 3-4 course meal every night as well, and it’s something I am going to truly miss
when if I leave. However, sometimes in the morning a woman just needs a big a** coffee to go from Starbucks to sip on the bus, or to grab a meal on the go (this is VERY American).
8. Toilet seats: France has this thing where they simply do not provide public restrooms, at all, like ever, even at train stations. If you need to use the restroom, you need to go to a café and order something to drink. It is nearly impossible to sneak into a store to relieve yourself. And, even if there are public restrooms, you almost always have to pay to use them. Ironically, many public restrooms in France in restaurants, in schools, work places, etc. do not provide toilet seats, and sometimes not even toilet paper, even for women’s restrooms.
Source (and this toilet is clean!)
9. My gym: Americans are fat and lazy, but we have an awesome fitness culture. Gyms are everywhere and are open almost all hours of the day. My gym at home has amazing options in regards to classes and experienced fitness instructors. My gym here in France gets the job done for seven months, but it’s nowhere near up to par with gyms back in the states. However, apart of that is because fitness culture just isn’t the same. I ride my bike to and from work every day here in France in order to get exercise, but I know that would most likely never happen at home.
10. Netflix: France TV has some awesome translation features for its tv programs, and there are movies shown every night in multiple channels. However, there’s not really a Netflix service or anything equivalent, and The site is blocked over here (though rumor has it the service is making its way here!)
11. Unlocked Mailboxes: in France, all mailboxes are locked, even for people living in houses. They must be unlocked with a key by the owner, and you must have all names of recipients on the mailboxes. Packages, if small enough, will be put inside a mailbox (because they are literally bigger boxes), or you will be required to go pick them up at the post office, because things are stolen so much more here so they cannot be left on front porches (and many times because houses are so closed off, it is impossible to access someone’s front porch). Interestingly enough, one of the things I read about was how foreigners who came to the United States were absolutely amazing that packages left in front of people’s doors were not stolen. (Not stealing someone’s mail, what a concept!) Finally, if you want to mail something, you either have to go to the post office or drop it in a yellow box, which are strategically placed around cities. There is no “raise-the-flag” concept on mailboxes here in France like in the states.
12. Driving: I love public transportation, but sometimes it’s just nice to be able to drive your car and not always be stressing about bus times, train times, or being harassed on the streets while you’re walking at night. Additionally, I miss not having to haul all of my groceries across town. ALL cars, except for a handful, are manual cars. Automatic cars do not really exist. It is also really expensive (I’m talking thousands of euros) to get your driver’s license here.
13. Electronic Convenience: everything in France is STILL done on paper and it is annoying, old-fashioned, and inconvenient. When I cancel my phone contract, I can’t just call and do it over the phone, I have to write and send a letter. When I cancel my bank account, I can’t just call or go in person, I have to send a letter. I came to France with at least ten copies of every piece of paper you could imagine, because I needed them! Because of this paper nonsense, things are lost, they take longer, and France continues carrying her notorious title of Bureaucratic Nightmare.
14. Lack of Smokers and Dog Poop: Many people still smoke in France. Additionally, the streets everywhere in France are FILLED with dog poop! People simply just do not clean it up! Thankfully smoking is banned inside public places. But seriously, just stop smoking so much and clean up your dog poop France, it’s gross!
15. Taxes and Strikes: France takes care of its citizens, but at a cost. Want to own a tv in your house? There’s a tax for that. Want to open up your business on a Sunday? There’s a tax for that. Some company or workers are not happy about their working conditions? There will be a strike!
16. American-standard Customer Service: it’s just not up to par here, especially in the phone (although I was okay with Free.) Also, in restaurants, servers already make a decent wage, so we don’t tip, hence that incentive doesn’t exist. It is also considered rude to check on your guests and interrupt a meal, so sometimes it is near impossible to flag down a server!
17. The Abundance of WiFi: France is way ahead of the game with it comes to public wifi hotspots. France also has a concept where your internet, cable, and home phone are all under one router– amazing! But, wifi is still much more scarce here, and I miss being able to pick it up wherever I go. (4G also just arrived!)
18. Street Harassment and Things Being Stolen or Vandalized: Street Harassment happens everywhere in the world, but I experience it a lot in Toulon, and frankly the subject and the problem is taken too lightly. I’m sick of it, and you should be, too. Things are also stolen a lot more frequently. I left my bike locked and someone just punctured holes in my tires. Seriously, what does anyone gain from that!?
19. French Politeness: I have already debunked the stereotype about the French being rude (they’re not!) However, sometimes I have experienced that some people here have the tendency to tell you exactly what they think about you or what you’re doing, especially when it has nothing to do with their lives. For example- one never hesitated to tell me how much my first studio sucked, and when I told some people of my travel destinations or that I was traveling alone, I didn’t hear the end of the criticisms or judgments.
20. Positivity and Optimism: Americans are known globally for being smiley, positive, polite, and optimistic. And I love that. Sometimes I feel that we have a better outlook on life and it is easier and more accepting to change careers or make more drastic decisions in the United States than in France.
21. Being able to fully express myself: Speaking another language all day is hard, and sometimes you cannot express yourself as well as you would like. I was literally at a loss for words while at the hair dresser a few weeks back because I realized I knew no vocabulary for the subject. It is always more difficult when you want to participate in a debate or discussion and your language skills are not as strong as you would like. Sometimes you come across as dumb and incompetent when really it’s just a language barrier!
22. Credit Cards: in the United Stares, we can literally charge anything, no matter the price, to a credit card. I hardly ever carry change with me in the United States. Here in France however, you pay cash and exact change more than anything else.
23. Screens on Windows and Fans in Bathrooms- Yeah, these things do not exist in France. You can probably understand why I miss them.
As much as I miss these things, these are not things that would keep me home– I’m, not ready, and there’s still too much more to see and experience in the world.
So, am I too harsh? Do I speak the truth? Do you agree, disagree, have something to add? Leave a comment.