If you’ve spent any time in France, you’ve probably marveled at all the beautiful things the French do differently. From food, to culture to the language and even the work-life balance, the way things are done in France is notably different from life at home and it’s fun learning about it. Today we’re talking about one aspect of our life that’s an important one… our houses! Let’s see how French homes differ from American ones. I’m going to get into 9 features of American homes that you won’t find in France, or at least not as frequently.
Before I get started, please note that I’m not saying you’ll never find the things I mention below in a French home or that every American home has these things. I’m just pointing out things you commonly find in American homes that aren’t nearly as mainstream in France. Also, many of the things I mention apply to places elsewhere in Europe and aren’t France specific.
9 Common American home features you won’t find in French houses
1. Large double door refrigerators. Many American homes these days have big fridges. Many have the freezer drawer on the bottom and have left and right double doors up top for the refrigerated portion. The commonly come with a water/ice dispenser on the front. While these exist in France and you can find them at appliance stores, they’re nowhere near as prevalent as they are in the U.S.
Homes tend to be smaller in France with less kitchen space and shopping habits vary as well. The average French home is 1206 square feet (112 sq meters) while the average American home is 2164 square feet (201 sq meters). It’s kind of funny that we refer to these types of fridges as having “French doors” because the French don’t really have them!
2. Yards without fences. Many homes in the U.S. have front and backyards and the majority are not fenced in. Some people have fences around their pool or to keep their dog on their property, but it’s normal to drive around U.S. suburbs and see homes that don’t have fences all around the property lines. In France, it’s very common to see front gates with walls or fences that provide security and privacy. Backyards are often fenced as well, even if there’s no dog or pool.
3. Garbage disposals. Mounted under the kitchen sink, garbage disposals get rid of food waste by grinding it up and sending it out with the water waste instead of it going in the trash. Growing up, friends’ homes had garbage disposals and my dad currently has one. I feel like most Americans at least know what they are. Our home in France does not and I can’t say they’re very popular at all.
4. Shingle roofs. There are all different roof types you’ll see in the U.S., but asphalt shingle roofs are probably the most common. Although they’re not the most durable option, shingles come in a variety of colors and you’ll see roofs like this throughout the country.
In France, slate and tile roofs are what you’ll see pretty much everywhere, although metal (zinc) roofs are getting more and more popular. Shingles aren’t used in France and in my area, slate roofs are what you see the most. They last for years.
5. Window screens. I’ve mentioned this one before. French homes do not come with window screens installed on each window. In the U.S., window screens are the norm and all windows have them to keep bugs out and to keep things from falling out your window. In France, the windows are open to unobstructed fresh air and many homes — mine included — have vertical windows (with a handle) that open inward and not up and down.
While DIY screen kits have become more and more available over the years at hardware stores, it’s tricky to get a flawless fit and bugs still make their way in. DIY kits also aren’t practical if you have manual window shutters (les volets) that require you to open your window to open and close your shutters.
6. Showerheads that are permanently mounted to the wall. While many American homes have handheld showerheads, lots of homes also have showerheads that are fixed to the wall. The water stream starts and stays above your head. That means you can’t easily do things like clean just your feet or wash the dog without turning on the water overhead.
In France, fixed showerheads aren’t common and you’ll find handheld ones instead. I’ve even seen ones in people’s homes that you literally need to hold the whole time you’re in the shower because they don’t have a wall clamp to attach it to when you need both hands.
7. Finished basements. Renovated basements seem to be a very American thing. You know the ones I mean… former dark and dingy basements that get turned into family rooms, game rooms, or even man caves that have a couch, TV, and sometimes even a bar, pool table, and an additional bathroom. In France, basements — les caves — tend to be places for storage and aren’t generally renovated in this way.
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8. Wall-to-wall carpeting. This type of carpeting is pretty common in American homes although I’d say it was probably more popular 20 years ago. These days wall-to-wall carpeting has come a long way with lots of modern, high-end options and it is still popular in the U.S. Carpeting does exist in France (two of our bedrooms had it when we moved in), but it’s not seen in French homes anywhere near as much as it is in American ones. I find that French homes go for area rugs under furniture instead.
9. Clothes dryers. These days, lots of French families have clothes dryers, but they were way less common when I moved to France in 2012. Even today, you’ll see lots of yards with a clothesline and the French probably hang their clothes and linens up to dry more frequently than Americans do.
Even today in the south of France, dryers aren’t something every household has because the warm weather and lack of rain most of the year means you can dry your clothes outside in the fresh air. It’s a win-win for the environment and your clothes.
There you have it, my list of common American home features that you won’t find in French homes. What would you add to my list?