22 Things I can do in the USA that I can’t in France

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

things i can do in usa and not in france

At first glance, France and the USA don’t seem that different, but if you dig deeper, you’ll quickly see that the two cultures have some significant differences. Some differences are pretty minor and others might really stick out to you. My post on things you can do in France that you can’t in the USA was a hit, so here’s the reverse: Things you can do in the USA that you can’t in France.

Enjoy!

Things you can do in the USA that you can’t in France

(Please keep in mind that one country or one way of life isn’t inherently better than the other. I’m just pointing out the differences I’ve observed after living in both places. There are tons of positives to living in both countries. 😉 Also, some of the items on the list *can* be found in France but they aren’t mainstream.)

things i can do in the usa but can't in france

Things you can do in the USA that you can’t in France:

1. Be able to run to the grocery store (or a convenience store like Wawa or 7-11) well after dinnertime or on Sunday. In the suburbs. A 10-pm shopping trip isn’t out of the question if that’s the only time you can shop. Even places like Target are open until midnight in many areas. Convenience is king.

2. Stock up on jumbo-size everything at places like Costco or BJ’s. Very handy if you have a big family, are having a party, or just want to have a large quantity of something on hand instead of having to run to the grocery store every couple of days. The first Costco is coming to France in May!

3. Get a driver’s license without knowing how to drive a stick shift.

4. Make a right turn on red. When driving in some states, it’s perfectly legal to make right turn on red if the coast is clear. Not so in France (I found this out the hard way).

5. Easily count all your coins in a matter of minutes with a Coinstar machine that’s available at grocery stores. Yes, they take a fee but many people find it’s worth it when you consider how much time you’ve saved.

6. Open a bank account and get your debit card for free and often the same day!

7. Go to a baseball game!

8. Legally purchase marijuana for recreational use in 7 states without a prescription.

9. Do your banking without getting out of your car at the drive-thru window. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a drive-thru window at any bank in France. If you want to make a deposit or withdrawal here, you need to go inside or head to the ATM. Many banks in the USA have outdoor hours where you can do everything via a tube. There may be a drive-thru bank in France although I’ve never heard of it and it’s not the norm.

10. Change your career by going back to school, getting your degree later in life, or just proving your worth in a new industry. In France, career trajectories seem to be more rigid. Not that you can’t ever change your career but it seems more accepted, encouraged and do-able in the USA.

11. You can indulge in a real American breakfast complete with pancakes, eggs, bacon and whatever else your heart desires at a place like Perkins or Cracker Barrel. And it’ll be open quite early in the morning.

12. Be sentenced to death in some states for a crime. In France, the death penalty is illegal. The last time a person was sentenced to death was in 1977. Capital punishment was abolished in 1981 and is now forbidden by the constitution.

13. Eat at an authentic Mexican restaurant and enjoy some of the best Mexican food of your life.

14. Easily find a fun fitness studio even in smaller cities without much effort. Pure Barre, Orange Theory, Cyclebar, aerial yoga, bootcamp, Crossfit. You name it and you can find it. On average, the French fitness scene is about 10 years behind the USA.

15. Visit the desert. Head out West and see the Great Basin Desert, Sonoran Desert, Chihuahuan Desert and Mojave Desert.

16. Drive for hours on the highway and not pay any tolls. In France, some regions, like Brittany, aren’t toll heavy, but the 3.5-hour drive to Paris from where we live costs 30 euros in tolls alone. That’s just one way!

17. Acquire a gun relatively easily, and in some states, carry it on your person. Open carry is legal in many states including Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana and more.

18. Buy a house with central air conditioning, visit friends and businesses with air conditioning and not sweat through your clothes indoors on a hot day. (and let’s not forget screens)

19. Grab a cup of hot coffee (or even iced) to-go… pretty much anywhere.

20. Wear swim trunks or board shorts in a public poolAs a matter of hygiene, loose swimwear isn’t allowed in France’s public pools.

21. Get cash back at a store when you pay using your debit card (with no additional fees).

22. Legally be a surrogate or have someone be a surrogate for you. In France, surrogate motherhood was made illegal after a ruling of the Cour de Cassation, France’s highest civil court, in 1991. Then the ban was further confirmed by the Bioethics Act of 1994. Those looking into surrogacy have to travel abroad.

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Do you have anything to add that you can do in the USA and not in France?

Click here for things you can do in France and NOT the USA!


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Comments (25)

  • Taste of France

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    Funny list. I can’t say I have a problem with not being able to do some of them (getting sentenced to death!). OTOH, some things are easier in France–daycare, good vegetables, the beach (I grew up 2K kms from any beach).
    Taste of France recently posted…Signs of SpringMy Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Oh yes, many things are easier in France. That’s for sure!

      Reply

  • Peter Horrocks

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    I can recommend the Poco Loco in Nice for an authentic Mexican meal if ever you are down our way…I’m no expert but it’s the best I’ve eaten…

    Best

    Peter

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Excellent, thanks for the recommendation! Will check it out if I’m down that way!

      Reply

  • k_sam

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    I would say a few of those are off-limits to you because you live in the countryside (grocery stores open on Sundays, Mexican food, American Breakfasts, etc), but most are true for the rest of France too.

    You can actually though get a drivers license with an automatic car (I’m living proof 🙂 ), and our local grocery store has a coin-counting machine. I’ve often questioned its accuracy though!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Sam, great to hear from you! How are you these days?

      Yes, one’s location does play into it. Paris is fabulous for diversity — the people, the food, activities, everything. So it’s a bit special since it’s not reflective of everywhere else. But that’s what makes it great. That’s awesome you were able to take your driving test with an automatic. I called a few schools around here and they told me stick shift only. So yes, a few things on the list can be found in France as you pointed out, but I don’t think they are the norm. Appreciate your comment. 😉
      Have a good week! xx

      Reply

      • k_sam

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        I think it depends on whether or not the school has an automatic car available for lessons. I took my test over ten years ago now in Bretagne, and only two of the many auto-écoles in my town offered it.

        Reply

  • Steve Durfee

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    Cover your face in public.

    Reply

  • Joanne the crazy woman

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    So what do people wear in swimming pools in France, just wondering.
    Yeah here you can get cash out when you pay using your debit card at many places without a fee also

    Reply

  • cynthia

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    Beautiful Post Diane ! Great work as usual ! In the USA a single woman who is self employed can qualify to buy a house ! With proof of income and a good credit score it’s easy to get approved. That’s what I like. Also, being a single female I’ve noticed that the real estate sales people are really nice. They seem to go out of their way to help you find the right place for your budget ! It makes me very thankful ! I wish you a beautiful early spring in France !

    Reply

  • Dana

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    The last one upsets me. And the drive thru bank (and pharmacy!) make me laugh/feel nostalgi. SOO feel you on the fitness centers! I feel like I’m missing something big!!! X

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Yeah, I understand why France has banned surrogacy but I don’t agree with it either. If I wanted to carry a child for a friend or family member (or vice versa), it would be really inconvenient to have to move abroad to do so. It’s my body. And yea, don’t even get me started on the fitness scene. To some it might sound silly, but one thing I realllllly miss about life in the US is the variety of exercise/wellness activities and like-minded people.

      Reply

  • Agnès

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    En fait, as a French woman , j’ai du mal à m’imaginer faire du shopping à 11h du soir…

    Reply

    • Agnes

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      :-)) 😉

      Reply

    • Diane

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      I go to bed at 10pm like my grandma, so I am right there with you about not shopping late. But having the option to shop late if you work until 10pm is really handy. Or on Sunday that’s the only day you have free due to other commitments. It’s nice to know you can get what you need regardless of your work schedule or personal commitments. And if you shop on Saturday or during regular business hours, cool, then the extended hours won’t really matter. But for those of us who work nutty hours, it is a godsend to be able to get things done after hours if that’s the only time we have! And sometimes it’s fun to go to Target at midnight. 😉

      Reply

    • AdA

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      En fait, habitant maintenant aux USA depuis pas mal d’années, croyez-moi, on s’y habitue très bien. Je ne me pose plus la question de l’heure et ça me paraît tout à fait normal de prévoir de faire mes courses vers 21h. Le GROS problème est quand je rentre en France pour des vacances …. 😉

      Reply

  • Mary Elizabeth

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    Very interesting! I didn’t know a lot of the things you listed. It did make me appreciate living in the USA and the things I take for granted.

    Reply

  • JanetT

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    I think numbers 4, 7, 9, 13 and 17 only apply to the USA and not really the rest of the world (tho’ I expect Mexican food is great in Mexico). I think numbers 3, 12 and 15 don’t apply anywhere at all in Europe, it’s not just France. You can get an auto only drivers licence in Europe but there are no driving schools which teach it. Very rare thing! A fascinating list. The limited hours of shopping drive me MAD!! haha! #AllAboutFrance
    JanetT recently posted…My French Shopping List du JourMy Profile

    Reply

  • A Long Way From Home

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    Great article! I love learning about cultural differences.
    I can’t believe you can do your banking at a drive through in the USA! That is unheard of in the U.K.
    And as for clothing rules in French swimming pools – everyone had to wear un bonnet at the one I frequented – basically a swimming hat that looked like a horse jockey’s cap in red/blue and white stripes!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Well, I mean you’re not going to get a mortgage at the drive through window in the US or anything that is more serious, but a simple deposit of checks or withdrawals, sure. Although I’d say the drive ups are getting less and less popular since you can do most of that at the ATM now. Haha, love your description of the bonnet. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. 😉

      Reply

  • Ruth

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    Very interesting! The thing about visiting France or Europe is that you get to appreciate some of the facilities or commodities you have in the States. Not sure about France since I have not been there in a long time (except a day trip to the Basque Country in 2015) but in other countries you have to pay to get water, condiments and other things (when they are free in the States). Plus, it is not that easy to find a public restroom or things like Wi-Fi (unless you get into an American fast food or coffee chain).
    Ruth recently posted…Champagne: 9 Reasons to Visit this Region in FranceMy Profile

    Reply

  • Rosie Hill (@EcoGitesLenault)

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    I still miss not being able to get cashback at the supermarket but then being able to buy delicious fresh baguettes from a small village bakery at 7am sort of makes up for that! #AllAboutFrance

    Reply

  • Phoebe | Lou Messugo

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    What a crazy eclectic list – I am soooo glad we can’t get guns or be sentenced to death in France but then like Rosie I wish we could get cashback! I have friends (French) who have just gone through the process of surrogacy in the States from Paris, it certainly would have been a lot easier for them (and cheaper!) if they’d been able to do it in France. Thanks for linking up to #AllAboutFrance

    Reply

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