Being married to a French guy, having visited France many times before our final move, I thought I knew France quite well. But how little did I know?

When moving to a new country, you need to be prepared and open for the various cultural differences that you might face. Some of them are quite funny but some of them… well you just need to adjust 😊

So, before moving to France, here comes a quite handy list of what will help you get ready for the big day:

1.French people don’t eat croissant every day!

Before moving to Paris, I had this romantic idea of my everyday breakfast,  sitting at a typical French cafe with a cup of coffee and a golden croissant in my hand. However,  I must be frank with you – French people do not eat croissant every day. Let’s be honest- “viennoiseries” (i.e. name given  to bakery items made of puff pastry such as croissants, or chocolate croissants, etc.) are absolutely delicious, but the amount of butter they contains… Well, let’s just say that they are not really healthy. Therefore, croissants are reserved for those long, lazy weekend breakfasts or for special occasions. But don’t worry! Instead of viennoiseries, you will end up with some delicious baguette slathered  with salted butter and a well-deserved coffee.

My long and lazy Parisian breakfast 😉

2. Bureaucracy in France- it is really “an experience” 😉         

I couldn’t believe it until I experienced it myself… yes… administrative paperwork in France is… a long and arduous topic. It takes forever for anything to be processed and approved. No e-documents here, everything is sent thru your physical mailbox. Do not be surprised if they lose your documents and forms or just “forget” to come back to you.

How to survive:

  • Be patient and stay calm.
  • If you don’t speak French, try to find a native speaker who can assist and support you in your       communications with the French administration.
  • Have important documents translated ahead of time.
  • Keep the originals safe and make copies.

3. If you don’t speak French…

For those who have been here for some time already, they can finish this sentence themselves. The sad reality is: if you don’t speak French, you won’t easily get a job (if at all!). While it’s still worth it to try, (and there are many international companies here); I have personally met only  a handful of individuals who succeeded without mastering the French language. In most of cases, the company spoken language is FRENCH. As such, increase your chance by actively learning French before coming.

4. “AZERTY” keyboard- do you know the game of “hide and seek”?

Even though most letters are in the same positions as in the most commonly used QWERTY keyboard, the small changes (such as for example, the key “A” switched with the “Q”, the “Z” with “W” and the “M” that is moved all the way at the end of the middle row) make you do annoying mistakes. Not even talking about the simply IMPOSSIBLE-to-find “@”. 😉 Also, can you imagine holding down “shift + semicolon” each time when you want to write a full stop? It always cracks me up!😉

If you don’t want to get annoyed by “strange” spelling every time you  are writing a report, you better buy your laptop before coming to France.

5. French people do not joke when it comes to food!

Lunch break is a real break! I truly enjoy that part of the day when you can get out of the office (or school 😉) and enjoy a meal with other folks. Typical French lunch break is 45 minutes minimum  and it’s often extended up to an hour and a half . Generally, dinner is served between 8pm and10pm. Therefore… many restaurants will be open at lunch time from 12pm to 2:30pm, closed in the afternoon, then re-open for dinner at 7:30pm. In the meantime, you can find a sandwich or kebab, but not a real meal in a restaurant.

6. French Etiquette- “La bise”

Kisses in my country (Poland) are mostly reserved for family and close friends, not for co-workers or people that you barely know… French will do “la bise” (kiss you on the cheek twice) even when you meet them for the first time. Now, just imagine to be introduced to a group meeting consisting of 15 people… 😉

That’s life here. In any case, you can always finish the day with a delicious glass of French wine to remind you that there are positives balancing out the negatives.

What about you? Was there anything that surprised you once you have arrived in France?

posted by @bpalfray


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