Reasons why I DON’T miss living in the USA

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

Reasons I don't miss living in the

This isn’t a post about why it’s better to live in France. No place is perfect. Or even close to perfect. You could come up with a sizeable list of pros and cons of pretty much anywhere in the world ranging from superficial likes and dislikes to deep cultural notions and attitudes ingrained in the culture. This isn’t a USA bashing post either. I’ll always love the USA and life there can be fabulous. I may even return one day. Life in France can be fabulous too and at the same time tedious and frustrating. But something I say often is that actually living in France is nothing like a vacation in France. That said, I’ve been in France for 4.5 years now and there are definitely a few reasons why I do NOT miss living in the USA.

Read on!

Reasons why I DON’T miss living in the USA

The lovely Lisa who blogs over at LisaLDN was my inspiration for this piece, so I decided to share my take. Keep in mind the following list is just my perspective. Not everyone has to agree! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Healthcare

As a single woman back in the US, I paid about US$300/month out of pocket for crappy healthcare coverage when it wasn’t covered by my employer. Then on top of that there were copays and deductibles and enough to make your head spin. Beside being expensive and anxiety inducing, US health insurance coverage can be extremely confusing.

What bothers me the most is that in the US, healthcare is a privilege and not a right. It’s something you pay for in most cases and often tied to you or a family member’s employer. So if you’re laid off or fired, your insurance gets cut off as well. France’s healthcare system is nowhere near perfect but it has a lot going for it. Your health won’t bankrupt you, for one, and because we all pay into it, healthcare is available for all citizens and legal residents even if you lose your job. I wrote a whole post on myths about the French healthcare system you should stop believing if you’re interested in learning more.

Lack of public transport

Major American cities have fantastic transportation but if you’re in a smaller town, the bus network is either non-existent or in need of a schedule makeover. America is big and people have cars to get around, but in Europe? Even in smaller cities, there are often train stations, buses and sometimes even trams that make getting around simple. This is great if you don’t want to rely on a car. Highspeed trains are fantastic alternatives to flying and can get you all over France and Europe in a snap.

rush hour traffic

Rush hour traffic

Working in NYC meant that if I was driving and wanted to avoid rush hour traffic, I had to arrive/leave from work either super early or super late. Otherwise, a simple 40-minute commute could take hours. In France, there’s rush hour traffic but not where I live. That’s one part of my old life that I traded in. And of course there are more rural areas in the US where you’ll be the only car on the road just like there are larger cities in France where traffic is consistently the stuff of nightmares. It’s just not something I have to deal with anymore.

Obsession with work

Americans work hard, have little vacation time, and people are always busy. In fact, The New Republic just published a piece on how exhaustion has become a status symbol. We rush around, we put in overtime and we multitask like pros. That was my life. Work is often a hot topic of conversation.

In France, people work but they also take time to fully unwind because the work mentality is completely different. With 5 weeks of paid vacation minimum, French workers can unplug and unwind. Sometimes for three weeks in a row or the entire month of August! Work is less of a focus in life and doesn’t define them. A balanced approach to work makes a lot of sense and maybe it took me moving to France to see firsthand how other people live. Society still functions if employees aren’t worked to the bone and instead peace out for several weeks each summer!

Culture shock moments I had on my vacation back in the USA >>

The temptation to consume

This one goes both ways. As much as I love the fact that stores stay open late in the USA and you can get whatever you need pretty much whenever you need it, there’s a flip side. If you always have a variety of stores/restaurants/fitness studios/activities available and waiting for your business, you’re more likely to spend money when you have options everywhere. It’s so easy to stroll into Starbucks and spend $4 on a beverage you could have skipped or step out for froyo at 10pm after dinner when some fruit you had at home would have been fine or spend money on stuff at Target because it’s open until midnight and you happened to pass it on your way home. Or to spend Sunday afternoon shopping at the mall. The list goes on…

Many of France’s stores aren’t open at all on Sunday, you can’t eat outside of mealtimes at restaurants in smaller towns and there just isn’t as much blatant consumerism everywhere. Luckily for my wallet, I don’t live anywhere near a Starbucks or a “real” mall. And this deal shopper rarely buys clothes or shoes in France because sales are few and far between. I really do miss a lot of aspects of life in the USA, so as I said I go back and forth on this one, but I know that for my current situation spending less is a good thing!

The whole gun situation

Gun control is a topic that gets heated very quickly so I’m not going to get carried away here. Between racially fueled shootings, school shootings, accidental deaths of children and more, I think it’s safe to say the USA has a problem with guns. Or irresponsible people. Maybe you disagree and I respect that. I think there are ways that we can honor Second Amendment rights and still make the country a safer place in which to live. As I said, no place is perfect but the fact that France has fewer guns out on the street makes me feel safer. Is it safer? Maybe not. Really who the heck knows anymore.

***

If you live abroad, any reasons why you do/don’t miss your home country? And my fellow Americans abroad, any reasons you don’t miss living in the USA?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: ,

Comments (24)

  • fiona

    |

    I’ve never lived in the USA but my parents lived in Seattle for two years when my father had a contract with Boeing and I thought two weeks holiday a year (as it was then) was bonkers. Thankfully France (and UK) has a much better work/life balance. I also agree on your points about opening hours in France. Here it has become much like the US and some shops are open 24 hours. I don’t understand this constant need for consumerism and think family life suffers as a result. French roads are great compared to the UK. No potholes and no traffic…or hardly any. Admittedly I usually travel to rural areas and take the autoroute there, but in the last three years I’ve only hit traffic twice… at the Angers gare de péage and the Nantes peripherique.
    Bonne semaine Diane.

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      And two weeks is a privilege. I don’t think any paid vacation at all is legally required in the USA! Luckily my job gave me 23 days/year but also included sick days/personal days so if I got a bad flu and was out for 3 days, then I’d only have 20 days left in the bank.

      Reply

  • Taste of France

    |

    If I had to move back to the U.S., I would certainly have a hard time dealing with all the things you list here. This is a good reminder on a day when I am up to my eyeballs with French bureaucracy.
    Taste of France recently posted…Communal CassouletMy Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      Yah, some of the things on my list are avoidable to an extent. Like a rural area won’t have traffic but then you have the lack of public transport situation. So pros and cons everywhere!

      Reply

  • Richard

    |

    Hi Diane. ALL of these ring true for us, too! One that I would add (no matter which political party you prefer): Election Season. In France they are mercifully short, with TV time strictly limited, while in the US they are interminable, especially if you live in a “primary” state.

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      Yup, totally right, Richard, and I was thinking of adding that. Parties aside, the election cycle is so incredibly long in the US and with that comes a whole lot of unnecessary fighting on FB, in real life, etc. In France and a bunch of other countries, politics are just as fierce but the election is over so much more quickly.

      Reply

  • Jess

    |

    I couldn’t agree with you more on these items. Though, I particularly agree with the temptation to consume. When I was in France, I actually loved that many stores were closed on Sunday. It made me slow-down and enjoy the day rather than shop, run errands, etc. I miss that!
    Jess recently posted…What’s the Deal with Culture Shock?My Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      To be honest, most of the time I find it to be inconvenient when stores are closed just because I’m so used to them being open in the USA. Even if I don’t need anything. It does force you to do other things.

      But I know people in the USA who worked like dogs during the week and working hours so their only time to grocery shop or buy a gift was off-hours usually on Sunday nights (full-time job then a part-time one as well to make ends meet). Their work didn’t leave them much choice. So it was a necessity to have stores that had all-day/night hours. In France, it’s not an issue because most people don’t work insane hours. I’m sure there are some but most people can get things done outside of work.

      For me, I like options so if I want to enjoy my day in the US, I’ll do it. If I want to shop, I have the choice to do that too. Here in France, stores being closed kind of make the choice for you. But as I said, I go back and forth w/this one 😉

      Reply

  • Mette

    |

    What a great article!!! I am a transplant in the USA, but lived in France prior to coming here. I agree wholeheartedly with all you are saying!! I MISS the stores being closed on Sundays, the temptation of going shopping after an entire workweek, and just treating yourself to a coffee at Starbucks is huge. But in France, you wind down on Sundays, you go for a stroll in the park etc. (I often ask myself, WHY do I not do that here???). As for the entire workaholism here in the US. It is toxic, but you have to work that hard in order to make ends meet. It is not easy living here on a middleclass income…
    As for healthcare – I have to say, if one is lucky enough to have healthcare through your employer, it is good. I am thrilled that I had my babies here in the US, vs stories I hear from friends in Europe. The pre- and post natal care here is phenomenal.
    Gun control – as you, I felt MUCH safer wandering Paris at night, than here in the US. I find myself locking everything from car doors while driving, to my house. That is sad, isn’t it?
    Anyways, great article. I enjoy living in the US, and like you, one day, I may return to France, though I would not look forward to getting my work permit there……. At least, applying for a Green Card here is fairly smooth. 🙂
    Mette

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      Thank you, Metta! I hope you make some time to take long walks where you’re living now — remind me, are you in a big city?
      I absolutely agree that healthcare plans through employers, the bigger the company the better, are usually great. They have huge group plans with great coverage. But it’s still scary not knowing if something is in network or not or how much is covered and if you only have a high deductible plan because you work for a small firm, a surgery can put you in major debt. I’m glad that isn’t one of my major headaches now.

      Thanks again for stopping by!

      Reply

  • Suze

    |

    Well, I don’t live there, so it’s not me you asked to respond! But, I have been lucky enough to spend a month or so there every year for the last six or seven years, and since your post hit a nerve, and I would love more time in France (if ever I retire, how very American) here are some more for your list:

    I live in a local food hotspot, but still … in France it is waaay more likely I will eat local, fresh food.

    People respect bicyclists!

    All towns (I believe) have zoning requirements about big box stores. Small town? No Walmart, etc.

    Less sprawl, fewer endless suburbs, rural life is (seems) respected

    Urban life is respected, there are great pedestrian areas, friendly waterside development. I think of Bordeaux, Montpellier, Toulouse

    Small (by US cities) have active cultural lives

    History is respected, the old isn’t instantly torn down.

    Oh me, listen to me. Time to retire and move for awhile?

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      Thank you for sharing your list, Suze! You make some very valid additions!

      Reply

  • Jo-Anne

    |

    Yeah form an Aussie’s point of view America has a gun problem, here we have a decent amount of public transport but I don’t live in a small town or anything although peak hour traffic here is nothing like it is in say Sydney we have it just not bad.
    Jo-Anne recently posted…A Stressful MorningMy Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      I hope I get there one day so I can see for myself!

      Reply

  • Laura Wilson

    |

    Diane, I think you are way off the mark here. Except for the guns.

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      Thanks for taking the time to read my opinion, Laura. It really is only that, my opinion, and won’t ring true for everyone. But I’m not sure how you think me saying I don’t deal with traffic anymore (and I did in NYC rush hour) is off the mark? And that for me healthcare in the US was so much more of a headache than it was in France? For me personally, knowing a surgery won’t bankrupt me is great. I think 5 weeks of paid vacation is great and I don’t miss my lousy 2 weeks/year off. Maybe you can expand on why you feel the way you do because my opinion surely isn’t gospel. In any case, I appreciate that you took the time to comment — and your culinary classes and tours look fabulous! 😉

      Reply

  • Laura Wilson

    |

    I do not live in New York nor a mega city like it such as San Diego, but most people who I know who do live in New York or Chicago absolutely do not drive and do use public transportation all the time. In cities such as Aspen or Boston, the bus system and the trolley (in Boston ) is free and really great. And often it is green. In San Franscico there is great public transporation as there is in Atlanta. So when you say there is not good public transportaion in cities, that simply is not true. As for health care, my husband, three grown children, and I work so we have very good insurance. Yes we have a co-pay, but I believe everyone should take some responsibility for their own life, education, and health. It is not the government’s job to take care of our every single need. For me, that is too much government and too big of government. As for the two weeks a year vacation, I do not know anyone who only gets two weeks a year off, unless they are blue collar workers. Nurses, teachers, factory workers(who re blcu collar, of course) usually get more than that and are able to build up the longer they work at a place.
    I have a love/hate relationship with France. I love it so much. I go almost every year and sometimes for a long time. I love the pace, the beauty, the language, the food. But then I begin to miss the wide open spaces of the midwest, where I live. I miss the super friendly people who will stop and help you or bring you a meal if you have surgery or a baby. I miss the check out people who ring and bag your groceries carefully, if I am not doing it myself. I like the fact that the U.S. has so much access to things for the handicapped, the hearing imparied, the sight imparied like braille on many signs like the restrooms and the elevators.
    Yes we do work ery hard and we do work long hours. I am a chef and I work long hours. But I love what I do and find it very fulfilling. I have had standard jobs that were 9-5, 5 days a week, but for me, I needed more creativity and growth. I find not shame in this. So viva la difference! Both countries are wonderful and I love and get frustarted by both of them. I am 1/4 French, by the way! 🙂

    Reply

  • Laura WIlson

    |

    Please forgive all the typos! it is very late…so sorry!

    Reply

  • blandine

    |

    Hi Diane,

    It’s nice reading à more balanced post on stores’ opening hours 😉 I don’t fully agree with you re public transportation : in really rural areas, you may have good schools buses but for the rest of the population, there will be a bus service to the next Town twice à day and that’s it. Which is great for elderly people, for instance, but require other households to have two cars.
    And may I point out to Laura that éducation and healthcare, while provided by the gouvernment, are ultimaltely provided by other citizens, out of solidarity. My sister had cancer when she was à teen : was it her responsibility, and should my parents have gone bankrupt to pay to chemo and radiotherapy? What about Kids from low income background, should they not deserve to go to university? I pay à lot of taxes (upper middle class, single, no kids) but I am quite happy to do so. Also, I don’t understand why you are opposed to state-sponsored solidarity but then regret that people in France won’t bring you meal after à surgery which is another form of solidarity after all?
    As regards vacations, your comments seems to imply that blue collar workers don’t really deserve more than 2 weeks off which surprises me, to say the least, because working as a store employee or in a factory is physically and mentally taxing.

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      Oh yes, I’m all about balance! About transport, in rural areas in both countries a car is a must! Big cities are well connected and easy to navigate but smaller ones where livestock outnumber the people, buses and trams are hard to come by. I’m still waiting on a TGV type train to go from Cali to NYC. That would be great!
      Not sure if Laura will see your comment… best to hit reply under hers so she will get a notification. I agree about what you’ve said. Healthcare should not bankrupt a family. 😉 Thx!

      Reply

  • Holly

    |

    I wonder how different the work ethic is between the UK and the US and between the US and Canada? I feel that the UK work harder (in general) than Canada.

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      That’s a good question. I think it depends on the industry too but I’m definitely not the expert there. What’s considered full-time work in Canada and the UK? In France it’s 35 hours or 39 (but you get add’l time off if you work 39 hours/week.

      I hope you’re doing well. I read your post about the horrible morning sickness. Sounded terrible!

      Reply

  • uthman Saheed

    |

    You were able to make this brilliant comparison between you once live in the US and currently living in France. Though, no matter how convenient you may feel in France, you will definitely miss something in the USA, even though its the usual rush hour traffic as you said.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Reply

Leave a comment

CommentLuv badge