French oddities that don’t seem so weird anymore

Written by Diane on. Posted in on life in France

euros I’ve been living in France for about a year and a half now and when I first arrived, a lot of things struck me as odd. But now, these things that I once considered odd seem strangely normal.

Read on for French oddities that now seem normal!

Here’s a short list of things I found strange but now can barely remember any other way:

elevator buttons

  • The first floor is not the ground level in France. It’s considered 0. The first floor in France is the first level up (the American 2nd floor). I live on the 3rd floor (in French), but an American would say I live on the 4th floor. Get it? For the longest time, this would bug me, but now the French numbering system makes more sense than the American one!
  • Cell phone airtime. Only the caller pays for airtime when making a cell phone call. The receiver of the incoming call does not lose minutes by answering (same with texts). So if you answer a call, talk all day because you won’t go over your monthly allotment!
  • Prices: You pay what’s on the sticker. France prices already have taxes figured in so the price on the label is what you actually pay.
  • Wash gloves (not wash cloths) are useful. At first I thought it was dumb to use a wash cloth that your hand fits into like a glove, a gant de toilette in French, instead of a square wash cloth, but now I wonder how I could have lived without one.
  • Volets have a purpose. We don’t use these shutters called volets in France like an American would use shutters. In the U.S., shutters are more decorative, but in France, just about everyone closes the volets at night and opens them in the morning — for security, privacy and to regulate temperature. They can actually look like wooden shutters, be automatic or you can manually lower the window covering with a rod inside. When I first arrived, houses all looked like they were bracing for a hurricane after about 6 p.m. every night, but I’ve come to realize that volets do have a purpose.
  • No butter with bread. When dining out, a basket of French bread isn’t served with butter. At first I thought it was strange, but it actually makes you appreciate the bread more!
  • 2 euro coins are really useful. The colorful currency here seemed like funny money in the beginning, especially the fact that a handful of coins could actually add up to $10 or more! Now I’ve realized that having 2 euro coins can really come in handy, and having bills that are different colors actually helps when you have to find a certain denomination in a hurry.

And a few things that are STILL NOT NORMAL:

  • When driving, yield to the right (Priorite a droite). I still have to watch myself when I’m driving because if you’re not expecting it, you’ll think the guy on the right is cutting you off.
  • Stores close too early. Around here, 8 p.m. is the max and many close much earlier.
  • You get extra medicine at the pharmacy. If the doc prescribes something for you, you get the whole box!

So expats, tell me what you find strangely normal! And what do my French readers find weird about life in the US? Please share below!

     

Photo credit: iseethelight / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: EnvironmentBlog / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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Comments (20)

  • Mathilde

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    That’s funny! Living in the US, I also find here that the way to count the levels are weird 😉
    I had to get used to tipping at restaurants, respect lines, or even the way the toilets are made is different, or the taps in the shower. Small details but disturbing at the beginning.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Yup, all very big differences as well. What would you say the differences are with lines? That in the US we have one line for all the cashiers and not five separate lines, so that way people are helped in the order they arrived? Would love to hear what else you find strange about the US! There’s a lot!

      Reply

      • MAthilde

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        About the lines, I would say that people are really respectful of them, you don’t try to sneak out, or to pass in front of somebody. Don’t you think it’s a bit different in France?

        Reply

        • Diane

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          Yup, in general, Americans wait their turn and if someone cuts in line, most people have no problem speaking up to tell them they were there first. In France this has happened several times to me (I arrive first and someone cuts in front of me) but I always point it out and they very politely say sorry.

          Reply

  • Dena Barrie

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    Paying to pee!!! I now make sure that I have a euro so that I can pay to go to the bathroom…who would have thought!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      I have to say that fortunately, I only encounter that in Paris really. VERY odd practice, right??

      Reply

  • Suzanne Chaunavel

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    find several things that you mention absolutely normal because that’s the way it is in Australia, so I would find it equally as strange to live in the US as to live in France – eg. first floor, cell phone airtime, prices. And we also have AUD2 coins. But I found things strange here when I moved here, i fact far sstranger than when I moved from England to Spain. In my mind, it’s those differences that make life interesting when we relocate to another country. But it’s homesickness that can at times make them seem important. So glad you are now really settling into your new country.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Thanks for your comment, Suzanne! I’d love to visit Australia and see for myself. 😉 One day…

      Reply

  • Jo

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    I’m with Suzanne! A lot of what you describe is perfectly normal (yep, I’m another Aussie!). But isn’t that what makes travel so interesting -no matter where you go, things you hold to be self evident aren’t the norm for others. Must admit though, I’d love the shops in Sydney to be open till 8 – we’re lucky to get much open beyond 6

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Yup, I love hearing about what one culture perceives as normal and then learning about all the differences when we travel. Life would be boring if things were all the same, right? Thanks so much for stopping by!

      Reply

  • chinamatt

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    Sounds like some of the odd things I had to get used to in China. Also sounds like we could use some of those “oddities” in the US (tax already included in the price!? Incomprehensible!).

    Reply

    • Edna

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      I’m with Matt, I got used to a few of these when I lived in China — and I’m a huge fan of the tax included in the price idea, when I went back to the States I kept forgetting about taxes and tip!

      Reply

      • Diane

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        Yeah, it’s definitely easier when the price you see is the price you pay and no need to calculate tax or tip in your head. And in the case of restaurants, it would help servers not get stiffed by Europeans on vacation! But I guess the issue is that not all states have the same sales tax. Thanks for stopping by!

        Reply

    • Diane

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      Cool, checking out your blog now…

      Reply

      • Isabelle de fromSide2Side

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        I like your blog : so funny to discover how an Americain understands my country … I left so many years ago … I had you to my blogroll ..

        Reply

        • Diane

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          Thanks Isabelle — yup, lots to discover here and I’m having fun doing it. Take care!

          Reply

  • Steven

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    Lol im french and what u r saying is so funny x) i admit that my parents close the shutters too early (6pm most of the time) -_- and the “priorité à droite” is so boring i haate it but i didnt know it didn’t exist in the us

    Reply

    • Diane

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      If you’re ever driving in the US, take not that priorite a droite definitely does NOT exist. You’ll get in an accident. The guy going straight would have the right of way. And about the shutters, just a cultural thing so I think I’m used to it! I close mine early now because my house is right off the street so people on the sidewalk could look in. Thx for your comment!

      Reply

  • Tierp

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    Most of these things are quite common outside the US and even those that aren’t are good ideas. Its not that they are weird – just that US is resistant to change – note for example how they are GRA D UA L L Y intrdocuing colour into currency – very faint at first, so that the Americans don’t freak out. Probably themost conservative country on the planet – except when it comes to foreign policy.

    Reply

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