American concepts that haven’t caught on in France

Written by Diane on. Posted in on life in France

American Concepts that haven'tcaught on

Depending on where you live, what you’re used to and how observant you are, a trip to France might seem very familiar or like you’ve landed on Mars. Or a mix depending on the day. But know what you won’t find all over the place? The American concepts I’ve listed below. In many cases, that’s a good thing — France is its own country, after all. But a few things on my list would probably delight the French and foreigners alike (or maybe just me). One day…

Read on!

American concepts that haven’t caught on in France

Maybe these things do exist here and there, but as a whole, France hasn’t made them the norm. And that’s OK because France is a different country you know.

Here’s my big ol’ list of American concepts (or things you’d commonly find in the USA even if they’re not actually American) that don’t exist in France:

  • AMC dine-in theaters where you have the option to eat a full meal with wine in front of the silver screen.Coinstar coin counter machine
  • Coin counter machines like the ones at TD Bank (no commission if you have an account) or Coinstar (takes a fee) that are a great alternative to the time-consuming process of manually putting coins in paper sleeves and bringing them to the bank. With a coin counter machine, just dump your bucket of coins in the machine and in about a minute, you get cash. I can’t say I’ve ever seen one of these in France.
  • Drive-thru pharmacies (and banks). If you’re pressed for time, lazy or just don’t want to go into the pharmacy, the drive-thru is really convenient, especially after hours. In France, the pharmacy experience is very personalized and a cultural phenomenon so not sure we’ll ever see drive-thru pharmacies in France become mainstream.
  • Air conditioning. As Je Parle Americain puts it, “Air conditioning is one of the most brilliant inventions in human history. You recognize this undeniable truth when you no longer have it.” Isn’t that the truth! In my house without a/c, if you sit around doing nothing and close the volets when the temps top 90F, the heat can be bearable but if you put on makeup and a suit for work and have to actually move, sweat trickling down your face and back before you even step out the door really sucks.
  • Breakfasts with non-sweet foods like eggs, sausage, bacon, etc. Although Tom has adapted and loves bacon and eggs for breakfast, he gravitates toward sweet things like most French people.
  • Pickup trucks. You see them here and there but nowhere near as often as in the US. Although they exist, pickup trucks are pretty rare in France and are used to actually haul stuff and not just for the look. Workmen usually drive a different kind of vehicle to haul their gear that looks like a van/truck.
  • Line etiquette. In France it seems like people will make 5 different lines behind 5 different cashiers in the pharmacy or one line for each self-checkout machine instead of one big line. So this means people who arrive after you may get helped before you if they choose the fast line. Etiquette is very different here and I can’t say it’s more efficient.

  • Coffee to-go. Dunkin’ Donuts style & iced coffee in general. I miss my to-go coffee. And especially my to-go iced coffee during the warmer months. A few Starbucks-style coffee shops have popped up around the region and I make it a point to pop in whenever we see one.deli cold cuts not in france

  • Deli coldcuts. Stocking up on a half pound of Boar’s Head turkey, ham and American cheese is a luncthime staple but you won’t find it in France. The butcher does have some ham and various meats but it’s not the same. If you want some ham or turkey, grab 4 slices in a sealed plastic pack instead.
  • Boutique fitness studios. There are a few fitness studios in big cities but in the suburbs, aside from normal gyms, the boutique fitness scene is years behind the American scene. There’s no yoga offered at my gym and no yoga studios in town let alone anything else that’s more trendy. This is one of the things I miss the most, as silly as it might seem to some, because of what a huge part of my life studies were back in the US. The Bar Method and Soul Cycle an the like are super popular in the US right now and I reallllly miss going to classes. Sometimes I feel like I’m missing out.
  • Self-serve frozen yogurt or froyo in general. This is a crying shame for froyo lovers like me. Although there are a few shops around France in bigger cities, frozen yogurt places aren’t widespread in France and they don’t compare to the big names in the US. When it comes to regular yogurt though, France has no shortage of that!

Any other American concepts you’d add?

**Hey French bloggers who are living in the US, I’d love to see a piece on French concepts that haven’t caught on in the US. Feel free to link your blog post on that in the comments!**

Photo credit: Coinstar
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Comments (20)

  • Dana

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    yes to all of this! I really miss drive-thru pharmacies! I also miss ice being the norm in drinks as well as the lack of smokers and dog poop, and also screens on windows! I haven’t had a real French summer yet, so we’ll see what happens!

    bisous!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      God as I read this a fly just flew in and I hear it buzzing around my head, neeeeeeeeeed screens. I actually saw a DIY screen kit at Leroy Merlin yesterday. I think the French are starting to see how useful they are!

      Reply

  • Annie Andre

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    1- Board shorts for everyone and in pools
    2-peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches
    3-Graduation ceremonies and high school dances, proms etc
    4-Cake: you know fluffy airy birthday cakes. All the cakes are really dense and molleux.
    5- enormous delicious gourmet salads. I love putting cranberries and strawberries and all sorts of things in salads. cobb salad. etc.
    6-cupcakes. this is what my kids miss

    I am sure i could drum up a few more.
    Annie Andre recently posted…Breaking The Mould: How We Decided To Move To FranceMy Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Excellent additions, thank you Annie! Although the sight of old guys in Speedos at public pools is always a fun time!

      Reply

  • MaryZ

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    I LOVE that France doesn’t adopt America’s bad habits! One look at us and I’d do the opposite of what we do, too! Some of the things on the list would be nice, but I’m glad they don’t have to-go coffee and still sit to enjoy a cup. I don’t like seeing all the people in Chicago holding Starbucks cups (such a waste, too, for a green person!), and not taking time to enjoy life… taking everything on the go. We need to slow down. I’m so glad they don’t eat during movies, either. I think that’s rather disgusting. Yes, it could be fun, but it was so much more enjoyable when I saw movies in Paris without everyone crunching popcorn and sticking their hands repeatedly into crinkling, noisy bags. I mean, it’s 2 hours, and people consume 2000 calories! People here eat for entertainment… anything for an excuse to eat. My commute home is a 2-hour train ride, and most people open up a snack the minute their butt hits the seat! Obesity is a real problem now. I went to a dine-in theater near Boston once, and I did love the luxurious, big leather seats and being able to order an alcoholic beverage. That was fun, and comfortable! I love that France keeps their old buildings. In America, they tear beautiful old buildings down and replace them with ugly monstrosities that are “up to code”, but they have no character or charm. Vive la France! I hope they remain smart about what to adopt and what not to.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Mary, thanks for weighing in. I’m glad France doesn’t adopt America’s bad habits too. It’s a careful balance. As you noticed, I really enjoy talking about American/French culture on my blog and in no way think the two countries should be the same or anything. Just pointing out differences. Sometimes family or friends are surprised to learn that we don’t have something in France that they take for granted back in the US so just figured I’d put a bunch of those things into a post. And sorry about your long commute. I did that for a while too and it really is taxing after a while. I liked to take naps to pass the time. With a snack. 😉

      Reply

  • Mathilde

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    I agree with Mary Z above – and I love both countries!! The only point I disagree completely with you, is the AC one.It’s the worst in the US!! It’s such a pain to have to be COLD inside – no sweater can warm you with a full blast AC on. Open the window, wear lighter clothes, and don’t waste energy! I’m pissed
    😛
    Mathilde recently posted…Un week-end à QuébecMy Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Well there’s a fine line between having a/c on full blast to the point of being cold (like how it is in public spaces) and having the room at a comfortable temperature so you can do housework and cook and sit on the couch without sweating. I hate when it’s not THAT hot out and the bank, for example, has the a/c on so it’s freezing. Not comfortable at all! I’m all for opening the windows and wearing lighter clothes when it’s in the 70s but in the 90s with full humidity, a/c is a must because you sweat just doing nothing, yuck!

      Reply

      • MaryZ

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        Hi Diane,

        I love both countries, too. It is very interesting to compare the two. Mathilde reminded me that when I worked at a French Consulate here, the French women complained about the AC and thought it was crazy that we make the rooms freezing so that we have to wear sweaters in the summer and then make them so hot in the winter that we are too warm. They like the idea of just opening the window in the hot months. I agree with that, except when it gets above 90F. Then I’m just too hot and uncomfortable and love some AC!

        Reply

    • Diane

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      Oh yes, great addition. That can be so useful sometimes like if you know you need just $20 and aren’t near an ATM and don’t have time to find one. You’re right, now that I think of it I’ve never seen that option in France!

      Reply

  • Stacey

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    oh the screens! I was so surprised when I stayed in France for a month for work and the hotel I was in didn’t have screens. On several occasions I would have sword a seagull or pigeon was about to fly in my room. And if a bee ever had that…oh dear that would have been dreadful! Thankfully my room was up on the 4th floor so I didn’t have to worry about random people walking by poking their head in! Ah France! I do so love your differences. 🙂
    Stacey recently posted…Touring Parliament Hill, Ottawa: The Peace Tower and Memorial ChamberMy Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hahha dying laughing at the sword a seagull line. Great visual. But I know what you mean. Just last night we had our back door open to get some air since it’s really warming up and I was so afraid bats would fly in! A bird flew into my in-laws’ apartment last year. SO yes to screens!

      Reply

    • MaryZ

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      Yes! I do wish they would get screens! Mostly for pets’s sake. I saw a dead cat on the sidewalk in Paris. It had fallen out of a window. 🙁

      Reply

  • Diane

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    Thanks goodness they have not got air conditioning. I have had pneumonia 3 times and each event has been blamed on air conditioning by the Dr. The last time we were on a 7 day cruise, the whole ship was air conditioned and I spent most of the holiday in the ships hospital on drip!!!
    Car window can open so no air conditioning in our car is ever on.
    Have a good day t’other Diane
    Diane recently posted…14/04/2015 Scrabble at Vitrac today, I walked around the village to admire the place once more and the beautiful blooms around.My Profile

    Reply

  • Tpdd V

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    Retail store hours across the board. But there is a price to pay – will change the culture in negative ways too as noted by Mary Z. Hyper-consumer culture is something I like less and less.

    Todd V

    Reply

  • Cal-expat

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    a French thing that didn’t take in the US? the “drive”!
    do your groceries online, go to the store a few hours later, and they load your trunk. No need to ask if they deliver in your area, or to get stuck at home waiting for the delivery…

    Reply

  • Tariag

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    Sorry to be a little late (I just discovered your blog) but there is a drive-thru pharmacy a few minutes from my house (on the RN4 just after Pontault-Combault if you want to know), so while it’s not common it’s not an unnknown concept.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi there, thanks for your comments! Yes, I just meant that the drive thru pharmacy concept where you can go pretty much 24/7 like you can in the US isn’t mainstream and hasn’t caught on throughout France, so while you can find one here or there, it’s not the norm in every city.

      Reply

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