Here’s a short list of things I found strange but now can barely remember any other way:
- The first floor is not the ground level in France. It’s considered 0. The first floor in France is the first level up (the American 2nd floor). I live on the 3rd floor (in French), but an American would say I live on the 4th floor. Get it? For the longest time, this would bug me, but now the French numbering system makes more sense than the American one!
- Cell phone airtime. Only the caller pays for airtime when making a cell phone call. The receiver of the incoming call does not lose minutes by answering (same with texts). So if you answer a call, talk all day because you won’t go over your monthly allotment!
- Prices: You pay what’s on the sticker. France prices already have taxes figured in so the price on the label is what you actually pay.
- Wash gloves (not wash cloths) are useful. At first I thought it was dumb to use a wash cloth that your hand fits into like a glove, a gant de toilette in French, instead of a square wash cloth, but now I wonder how I could have lived without one.
- Volets have a purpose. We don’t use these shutters called volets in France like an American would use shutters. In the U.S., shutters are more decorative, but in France, just about everyone closes the volets at night and opens them in the morning — for security, privacy and to regulate temperature. They can actually look like wooden shutters, and can be either automatic or you can manually lower the window covering with a rod inside. When I first arrived, houses all looked like they were bracing for a hurricane after about 6 p.m. every night, but I’ve come to realize that volets do have a purpose.
- No butter with bread. When dining out, a basket of French bread isn’t served with butter. At first I thought it was strange, but it actually makes you appreciate the bread more!
- 2 euro coins are really useful. The colorful currency here seemed like funny money in the beginning, especially the fact that a handful of coins could actually add up to $10 or more! Now I’ve realized that having 2 euro coins can really come in handy, and having bills that are different colors actually helps when you have to find a certain denomination in a hurry.
And a few things that are STILL NOT NORMAL:
- When driving, yield to the right (Priorite a droite). I still have to watch myself when I’m driving because if you’re not expecting it, you’ll think the guy on the right is cutting you off.
- Stores close too early. Around here, 8 p.m. is the max and many close much earlier.
- You get extra medicine at the pharmacy. If the doc prescribes something for you, you get the whole box!
So expats, tell me what you find strangely normal! And what do my French readers find weird about life in the US? Please share below!