For over a decade here on Oui In France, I’ve been discussing cultural differences between the U.S. and France as well as what it’s been like for me living abroad in France as an American (among other things of course). Part of living abroad is adapting to a new culture and experiencing all the trials and tribulations that come with it. Then, one day there comes a point when you’ve adapted so well to French life that you start incorporating French habits into how you do things when you visit your home country. To that end, here are six strange things I do when I’m stateside that are all because I live in France.
1. I mispronounce my own name. On purpose.
Yes, I actually mispronounce both my first and last names to make it easier for everyone. When speaking French, my American first name gets a French pronunciation and when speaking English, my French last name gets an anglicized one.
Here’s what I mean: My first name, Diane, in French is pronounced Dee-Ahn (the second part is not pronounced like Anne in English because it’s a vowel sound that doesn’t exist in the same way and French people can’t say it, so it gets frenchified. I haven’t ever been called Diane (said the American way) in France by anyone and when I introduce myself, I pronounce my own first name the French way so people can properly say it.
Now on the flip side of the coin, when speaking English, my French last name gets anglicized. The W, instead of sounding like a V in French, gets a W sound in English and I say the “r” like an American and not a French person. I took the fancy factor from a solid 8 down to about a 2 and it’s for the best.
It’s just easier that way because when I’ve said my French last name how it’s supposed to be pronounced in French, Americans either don’t understand what I’m saying or think I’m trying to fancy (which is never the case. Remember, I don’t like telling people I live in France!). A couple of years ago, I made the shift to anglicize the pronunciation of my last name for English speakers.
If you’re into this topic, here’s a post I wrote about pronouncing French words “correctly” (or not) when speaking English.
2. I make raspberry sounds in conversation.
I’ve written about French speech noises (with audio examples) and one of my favorites is a mouth sound I call “raspberries.” It sounds like something a kid would do or a sound you’d make at a baby. It’s kind of like a mouth fart. This lovely French sound is quite common and means “I don’t know.”
The first time I heard an adult do this in France, I did a double take because it came out of nowhere and I didn’t expect it. Now I do it. Sometimes even in English too!
3. I put a spoon in an opened bottle of sparkling wine.
Before you put your bubbly in the fridge, pop a spoon in it! Really, it works! Tom taught me this one years ago. French people know what I’m talking about. If you open Champagne, crémant, or some other sparkling wine, put a spoon in there with the oval spoon part sticking out of the end of the bottle and stick it in the fridge. It’ll save the bubbles at least until the next day.
Try crémant instead of Champagne (and save a few bucks!) >>
4. I’m overly polite.
While some people in the U.S. always say, “Hello, thank you, have a good day, and goodbye” every time they interact with someone, it’s not required and most people say much less in their interactions. Just a friendly hello and thank you are totally fine with shopkeepers, store employees, etc. in the U.S. Saying hello, thank you and wishing a cashier an exuberant “good day!!!!” in NYC might get some side eye.
But in France, you know all about the importance of saying bonjour and other conversational niceties. Social politeness is something the French take seriously. This habit has carried over to how I interact with people in English. Fellow Americans who have observed me have even commented on my politeness, which has definitely ramped up over the years. I personally like being super polite and it comes naturally to me now after a decade since it’s the norm in France.
5. I eat dinner later.
I’m not a total convert and I reserve 8 p.m. dinnertimes for when I’m in France (or it’s the weekend and we’re going out in the U.S.). But for everyday weeknight dinners when I’m visiting the U.S., my normal dinnertime is usually a bit later than what it used to be growing up — especially if I’m dining alone.
My family eats dinner around 6:30-7 p.m. and for me, 7-7:30 p.m. would be the perfect time. But when in Rome and all… I adapt to what my family does since I’m the outsider.
11 American habits the French find rude >>
6. I don’t tip at restaurants.
JUST KIDDING, OMG. I TIP!! I TIP PROPERLY WHEN I’M IN THE U.S. I’m a good tipper and always treat restaurant servers well. I was one back in the day, after all. I actually despise bad tippers.
Anyway, tipping 20% or more at restaurants in the U.S. is the norm and I’m happy to say this is one habit that hasn’t worn off after living in France. In France though, I do what’s normal here and tipping 20% is NOT. I round bills up or leave a few extra euros for a great meal and service.
What about you? What habits do you now do in your home country because living abroad has worn off on you?
PIN MY FRENCH HABITS IN THE US POST: