7 Things I never did until I moved to France

Written by Diane on. Posted in on everything else, on life in France

Things I never did until I moved to

As babies, our parents carefully note all of our “firsts.” Our first word, first time we crawled and walked are written and dated in a baby scrapbook somewhere. But even as an adult, life is full of exciting firsts that are worth noting.

Here are 7 things I never did until I moved to France.

GO!

7 Things I never did until I moved to France

train travel in europe

1. International train travel.

In the US, we have trains but since the country is so big, most people choose to fly everywhere (with our measly 2 weeks of vacation, no one has time to travel by train). In Europe, train travel is the way to go! The trains in France are fast, super accessible and reasonably priced and we’ve taken them around France and also to Brussels, London and other destinations. No need to fly when you have the TGV to make your way around Europe!

2. Gotten accustomed to French cocktails.

I’ve become very good friends with Kirs and Kir Royales. Some white wine (or Champagne) with a flavored syrup is quite tasty for apéro. We do have French liqueurs in the US but I never really branched out and tried them until I moved here.

3. Paid tolls with a debit card.

France’s toll plazas accept cards for payment so you don’t have to fumble around in your cup holder for the coins you need. And that’s a good thing because tolls are NOT cheap. From where we live to Paris, it’s over 30 euros each way on the autoroute (4-hour drive) so coins won’t cut it! Using a card usually keeps the line moving too so you’re not waiting for 10 minutes while people in front of you count their coins.

4. Tried foie gras.

I tried it once here in France and never again. Not only do I not like the cruel way it’s made, but the taste and texture just don’t add anything to my life. I know duck liver is something many consider a delicacy but I’m happy that it’s one less expensive thing I have to buy for myself.

5. Flown a low-cost airline.

Europe is full of low-cost airlines that make getting around Europe a breeze. Sometimes the airports aren’t right in the city center (Think Beauvais, not Paris). Companies like Ryanair and EasyJet are known for their low fares and no-frills service. If luxury isn’t what you’re after, low-cost airlines are worth a look if you can make do without meal service. We’ve flown low-cost around France and Europe and have had good experiences.

6. Cheek kissing.

Ahhhh, the bisous. It’s commonplace to faire la bise in France when you’d typically hug someone in the US (remember, the French do NOT hug!). Friends, family, sometimes even coworkers and acquaintances will lean in for a couple of cheek kisses every time they see you and it can take some getting used to if you’re a hugger. Back home, I think my great aunt would do a cheek kiss but it was paired with a hug. Here, people of all ages greet each other with a bise, or several.

7. Become excessively polite in social situations.

You don’t just say hi. You say hi monsieur. You don’t say bye. You say bye, have a good day, see you soon. The French are socially polite and certain greetings are just expected. Are they superficial or sincere? I don’t know. But French politeness is real and it makes me smile. The social niceties don’t exist on the same level in the US. I’ve completely adapted when it comes to politeness and rattle off the au revoir, bon dimanche, bon week-end just like everyone else!  

What are some things you’ve done for the first time after moving abroad?

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Comments (13)

  • Lynn

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    I recently had visiting friends in town and I stressed to them the importance of saying Bonjour when you enter a place of business. They seemed to catch on right away, then later in the week I saw them and they said an English tour guide had instructed them to also say “Ca va?” after the Bonjour. My face must have been hysterical as I said “Never do that!”. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d only ever ask “ça va?” of someone I’m on a first name basis with.
    Lynn recently posted…Perfect for Summer: A Savory ClafoutisMy Profile

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    • Diane

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      Hello! I think saying “ca va” to someone you don’t know such as in the case of a shop owner is wildly out of touch. I think tourists can get away with it because it’s clear they’re not French and are just trying to be polite (and in English saying how are you is perfectly fine). But a French person would never say ca va to someone in that context. Maybe a French person out there can weigh in?

      Reply

      • Cal-expat

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        “ça va ?” can only be said to someone you’re on a tu-basis.
        With someone you don’t know, you’ll go with « Comment allez-vous ? », but you don’t have to say it if you enter a store or even offices.
        Cal-expat recently posted…Las Vegas – Welcome to Las VegasMy Profile

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  • MaryZ

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    I am so much more friendly and polite when I’m in France! haha. In Chicago, people are rude. I work for a fairly large company and many of us don’t know each other and work on other floors, but when we pass in the stairwell on the way to the cafeteria, most people don’t say hello unless I do first. One apartment I stayed in had a tiny, narrow washing machine with a vertical wheel. I’d never seen one like that. In Paris, I had my first hot dog on a baguette with “salade” (lettuce) and ketchup. It was good that way! 🙂

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Same! I find my politeness carrying over when I’m in the US but I knock it off after a few days after cashiers look at me like I have 3 heads when wishing them thanks, bye, see you soon, have a great weekend, happy sunday! hahaha.
      I could go for a hot dog right now….

      Reply

  • Jo-Anne

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    I love train travel and would do it more if it was more affordable here in Aus and if it didn’t take so long to go from A to B.

    Cheek kissing is common here in Aus along with hugging or is that just my family, we hug and kiss each other all the bloody time.

    Being polite is so a must and doesn’t cost anything.

    We usually don’t pay for tolls at toll booths as you go through a toll point a camera either reads your toll ecard or takes a photo of your number plate and you get a bill in the mail for the cost of the toll.
    Jo-Anne recently posted…Wordless Wednesday/Jess ArtMy Profile

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    • Diane

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      What part of Australia are you in, Jo-Anne? Do any trains in Australia go down the coast? Would be a beautiful trip & I hope to get there one day.
      For the tolls, do you have the option to pay or not? Just wondering if you borrow a friend or relative’s car what you’d do if you don’t want them to foot the bill.

      Reply

  • cal-expat

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    6 things I never did before moving abroad:
    – tip everywhere, from waiters to hairdresser.
    – in restaurant, cut my meal in half on purpose, and bring the second half home.
    – get dressed with patriotic colors and own a flag (I have an American flag and a Californian flag, but no French flag)
    – add ice in all my drinks, all the time.
    – really take time to visit and explore the country I live in. Well, mostly California, but anymay, I didn’t do that when I was in France.
    – hug people, even if I don’t know them that well!
    cal-expat recently posted…Las Vegas – The BellagioMy Profile

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    • cal-expat

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      I forgot one, related to transportation:
      – pass cars on the right side instead of the left. even after a year, I still feel like I’m doing something forbidden each time!

      Reply

      • Diane

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        That is 100% illegal but people do it anyway. Where I’m from, there are road signs that say passing on the right is illegal. I’ve seen cars get ticketed for passing on the right so don’t do it!

        Reply

        • Cal-expat

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          I don’t know about NJ, but in CA, I found nothing regarding how you’re supposed to pass when I was getting ready for my driving test.
          The handbook I got at the DMV was mentioning choosing the lane with less people. Which explains why you can have 2 cars at the same speed on the only two lanes of the freeway…
          Cal-expat recently posted…Las Vegas – Welcome to Las VegasMy Profile

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    • Diane

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      Excellent list! The tipping in the US is really out of control and can be confusing even for Americans. I’m OK at restaurants and with hairdressers but concierges an bellhops and movers, ahhh!
      I love leftovers and enjoy my “doggy bag” and ice. What’s your favorite place in California?
      I bet the hugging is weird. Every time someone does a bise with me I cringe and brace myself. Would much rather hug!

      Reply

  • Marine

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    A T-Mobile customer representative told me “It’s a music to my ears that you are satisfied with the service I provided today” … Didn’t know if I had to laugh or if he was serious …
    Marine recently posted…L’été et la plage à Buffalo!My Profile

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