Many people are attracted to the culture, architecture, food and wine of our nearest European neighbour. It could well be the dream move of your life. An apartment in the centre of a buzzing city like Paris, a happy retirement of sun and cocktails on the French Riviera or a small cottage out in the Provence countryside. It’s all there waiting across the Channel.
France certainly has plenty to offer but there are quite a few Gallic eccentricities you’ll have to get the hang of.
- Kissing is Big in France
Both for informal and familiar situations, the French love to kiss. It usually involves a quick touch of the cheeks on both sides but in some areas you need to be prepared to throw in three or four. This can be a little awkward for the more reserved English but it is something you get used to pretty quickly.
- There’s Plenty of Bread
While you could be hard placed to find a private bakery in the UK anymore, in France they are protected and you’ll find a boulengerie in every town, city and village. Bread is also served at all main meals from the humble baguette to the crusty boule.
- Say Hello!
Etiquette is big in France – it’s polite to say hello all the time. Bonjour and ç va are two of the most spoken words in the language whether you’re popping into a shop, passing someone on the street, or heading into the office. Ignoring people is a big faux pas even if you live in the city.
- Health is Important
While we’re used to the NHS here in the UK, the French take their own health just as seriously. You’ll no doubt find the green cross of a pharmacy on nearly every main high street. The French have a system of insurance that provides their health care needs which can be a little difficult to understand but covers most medical needs.
- Food is Life
Of course, most of us associate the French with great food. Eating times are a little different to your average UK family with meals anywhere between half seven in the evening to ten o’clock. Like many of our European counterparts, the French also tend to take longer for their meals, including lunch, with social engagement just as important as food.
- Shopping Hours
Apart from large supermarkets and malls, French shops often close for lunch for a couple of hours and don’t open on a Sunday. Opening times for banks can also be a little variable with many not opening until the afternoon on Mondays.
One of the reasons that people move to French is because of the wine. Travel to any part of the country and you come across large vineyards with their tell-tale rows of grapes. Wine is big in France and, the good news is, it’s relatively cheap for a good quality bottle.
- Driving Habits
The French often have a disdain for laws. You could find a car parked where it shouldn’t be and speed limits are sometimes not adhered to, even by the most conservative motorist. And, of course, they drive on the opposite side to the UK, which takes a bit of getting used to.
- Strikes and Demonstrations
If you’ve been keeping track of the recent industrial problems in the country, you know that the French love a good strike. This can sometimes bring everyone out, disrupting travel, schools and even some industries you may think aren’t affected by such things.
- Drinking in France
Wine and beer are all part of the social fabric of France. They are not into big night’s out with a binge on vast quantities of alcohol as we are, especially amongst the younger population, here in the UK. Food and wine are, as they should be, inextricably linked.