As someone who has called France home since 2012, I’ve had loads of time over the years to reflect on my life here and the life I left behind in the U.S. I’ve shared many of those reflections here on the blog, but something I haven’t touched on is what I miss the most from the U.S. after a decade of living in France. I have a lot to say on this topic, so let’s go!
11 Things I miss from the U.S. after living abroad in France
When you grow up in one place and become accustomed to how things are done and what you find there, it’s only normal to miss certain things when you leave and go somewhere else. I strangely never experienced intense homesickness after moving to France, but there are things I absolutely miss about life in the United States.
First, nothing I mention below is a matter of life or death. None of these things keeps me from getting out of bed in the morning or really weighs on me (except the last thing on my list, at times). But there are certain aspects of my old American life that I really did enjoy and look forward to when I go back and visit.
Make no mistake, France has everything you need to live a great life, so most of the things I mention here don’t factor into my daily thoughts. But when I go back to the US and come across one of these things, I rediscover how much I actually do miss having it in my everyday life in France.
Also, a lot of what I talk about below has sentimental value. The things I grew up with are comforting, like a warm blanket on a cold night. They’re familiar, easy, and represent a little piece of me and where I come from.
In the early days in France, some of the things I missed reminded me I was a fish out of water. The things I mention in my list aren’t necessarily these amazing, spectacular things, but they represent(ed) comfort and ease to me in some way.
Another point I want to stress upfront is that just because I miss things from the U.S. doesn’t mean I want to move back. You can enjoy your life in France while also acknowledging that there are things from your home country that you miss. Two things can exist and be true at the same time.
I also acknowledge the privilege that’s inherent in the fact that I’ve been able to move to France by choice and experience life here.
It also doesn’t mean that just because I miss things in the U.S. that I should go back to the U.S. Things are different in France but it doesn’t mean I dislike them enough (or at all!) to actually pick up and leave. Not everything in France is perfect (nor is it in the US).
Finally, if you’re new here, I didn’t leave the U.S. because of politics or being fed up with life there or anything like that. I moved to France so I could start a life with my French husband, Tom, and I have no plans to move back.
While life in the U.S. is far from perfect, I’m also not going to say I’d never move back there because of the things I dislike about it. Living abroad gives you a new lens that allows you to view your home country with a different, more critical, set of eyes.
I’ll always be grateful for that perspective since it’s not one I’d have if I had stayed in the U.S. Living abroad in France is definitely not easy, but it’s been worth it 100%. I don’t live with regret.
If living abroad for a decade has taught me anything, it’s that life is incredibly nuanced, so with that, here we go:
11 Things I miss from the U.S. after living in France:
1. Amazing pizza and Mexican food.
Fellow NYers, I know you feel me on this. The food scene is something I majorly miss. New York City has some of the best pizza in the world and I was spoiled by it. I could pop out of my apartment and grab a slice whenever I wanted. Mexican food was another favorite of mine.
In France, you’ll find pizza and Mexican food, but it’s not the same!
2. Grocery stores like Sprouts, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s.
I’ve been going to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s for years, but Sprouts was new to me as of 2021 and I love it! They opened up a store near my dad’s house in Florida and the produce selection and overall quality of the store is top notch. I can’t get enough of the Sprouts brand waffles and all the other yummy things I regularly buy when I visit.
These three stores are always a pleasure to shop in, and as someone who loves grocery shopping, I look forward to picking up what we need from these supermarkets when I’m back in the U.S. (when I’m not going to Publix, that is).
France has a lot of amazing supermarket chains as well and I’ve done tours on my YouTube channel and grocery store content so you can see for yourself. There are health food stores in France like Biocoop and Naturalia, but they don’t have the same selection as the three above and tend to be super expensive. They’re definitely not a stand-in for Sprouts, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s!
9 Surprising differences between French and American supermarkets >>
3. Can-do attitude
Say what you want about Americans, but one undeniable truth about us is that generally speaking, American society has a can-do attitude. It’s laced with a pleasant optimism that’s not really seen in France in the same way.
From customer service policies that make returns easy and free for the customer to people’s general demeanor and even how business is conducted, there’s this friendly and enthusiastic attitude in the U.S. that I miss.
Some may say this is superficial, but I don’t think that’s always the case. And listen, I’m not over-the-top smiley Pollyanna, for the record, and I HATE toxic positivity, but the American spirit is something I miss.
In France, people are more cautious and critical. The French language even has a negative slant at times. For example, when you want to say something is pretty good, you’d say it is pas mal, literally not bad…. which means you like it. The French are also known to be complainers (and there are reasons for that). It’s just…. a different vibe.
That problematic “if you don’t like it, leave!” attitude >>
4. Affordable electronics
Electronics tend to cost more in France and there are fewer sales. Items like TVs, computers, phones, and even appliances are not cheap. Whenever possible, I wait for les soldes or buy things used in France. For small items, I try to buy them on sale around the holidays if I’m in the U.S. I like saving money, what can I say?
5. Screened windows
I almost got clocked in the head the other day when a neighbor’s kid threw a toy out the window at the exact moment I was passing by on the sidewalk outside. In France (and many parts of Europe and elsewhere), windows don’t have screens, so toys, cats, plants, babies, etc. can all fall out of a window (or on your head if you’re not careful).
Safety and jokes aside, there’s an even bigger reason why I miss window screens in France. It’s because of the bugs. I’m super sensitive to mosquito bites and can’t stand them buzzing around my head at night waiting to pounce. We have a net that goes around our bed, but it’s not foolproof.
We’ve also gotten giant spiders that waltz on in making our walls their new favorite hangout. I’ve been bitten by spiders and have ended up on antibiotics several times when the bites have gotten infected.
Anyway, that’s all to say that I hate bugs and wish there was an easy way to install screens. Our windows open vertically and DIY solutions you see at the hardware store don’t really make a perfectly sealed off window. Trust me, we’ve tried.
Hard water in France and what I’m doing about it at my house >>
6. Central a/c.
Luckily, my area of France doesn’t get uncomfortably hot except for a couple of weeks in the summer. You know the kind of heat I’m talking about… where you sweat if you do anything but sit and it’s hard to sleep because you just keep sweating.
I held out for as long as I could before getting a portable air conditioner, but man, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t nights that I spent dreaming of central air conditioning and a nice cool bedroom.
People joke that the French are afraid of air conditioning, and while it’s mostly a joke, it’s true that a/c isn’t quite as mainstream in France as it is in the U.S. In most places, it’s just not needed for the vast majority of the year like it would be in South Florida. Houses aren’t built with central air conditioning in France and people rely on les volets to keep their homes cool.
7. The Jersey Shore
No silly, not the TV show, the place! Anyone who doesn’t agree that NJ is beautiful hasn’t spent enough time there! My home state is one I didn’t fully appreciate until I was well into adulthood. I grew up in Somerset County which is full of beautiful nature — the trees in the fall were always stunning — and summers were spent in Monmouth County on the beach.
Being near the ocean has always felt calming and restorative for me and I cherish my childhood memories of the Jersey Shore with family. I think it’s part of why I’m drawn to Brittany here in France… because it reminds me of home.
This one holds a lot of sentimental value for me and I take every chance I get to visit my home state, which admittedly isn’t very frequently since my family now lives in Florida.
Target is a wonderful place. It’s a one-stop shop for everything you could possibly need, and if you have a Super Target nearby, it’s even better. There’s no French equivalent of Target. Sure, there are hypermarchés that have a bunch of things but there’s something special about the Target experience that doesn’t quite exist in France.
9. Ice in drinks
It’s no secret that drinks chockfull of ice aren’t the norm in France. Ice exists and you can certainly ask for it, but most of the time, drinks are served with very little, if any, ice.
I went to the movies a few weeks ago and asked if my iced tea fountain drink would be served with ice and the woman told me no, that they don’t have ice. So I passed on the drink. Fountain drinks taste better with ice!
I don’t want a cup full of ice, but some nice ice cubes are never a bad thing in my book. In hot climates like when I visit family in Florida, ice cubes are much appreciated.
13 Things tourists do that get strange looks from the French >>
10. Large parking spaces and parking garages that don’t make you feel claustrophobic
Even though I’ve lived in France a long time and have a small car, I’m still not used to the very small, narrow, and low-ceiling parking garages that are commonly found in France. I’ve gotten used to the narrow parking spaces in general, but the parking garages, ohhhhhh mannnn. Let’s just say I’m glad Tom does the driving.
Whenever I’m in one, I always wonder what people with big cars do. While most people in France tend to have smaller cars than we do in the U.S., you can still buy a big sedan or SUV here even if they aren’t quite as popular. Even with a small car, you still have to pay attention so you don’t clip your bumper or mirror on something.
Cars are smaller in France so it makes sense that roads and parking spaces and garages are smaller too. You’ll see all kinds of paint marks and scrapes on the garage walls and posts so not everyone is able to navigate them with ease.
11. Friends & family
I’ve saved the most important one for last. Friends and family are who I miss most, hands down, across the board.
Ever since moving to France, I’ve always missed my friends and family and Facetime has been a lifeline. I don’t think I could have moved abroad back in the day before technology like video calls were invented. But seeing someone on video isn’t the same as giving them a big hug in person and seeing them face to face.
At some points, life here distracted me, but at other times, my family and friends were always on my mind.
The time this was the most difficult was during the pandemic when the restrictions made it impossible for me to leave France, which of course was the time I needed to leave France the most. My mom was dying of cancer and I desperately needed to be there for my family.
Luckily, I was able to get out of France and be by my mom’s side, but after experiencing several additional losses in 2021-2022, I’ve felt the pull from family and friends even more. It’s not them guilting me at all, but more of an internal conversation I have with myself.
They accept the fact that I live abroad so the pull is more from the distance and how hard it is to be away as circumstances change. You see loved ones’ kids get older on video and miss parties and events. You think about what life might be like if you never left.
This feeling has gotten worse over the years and that’s just something we have to manage if we live abroad. What helps mitigate this for me is to visit as often as I can!
In closing, I want to share how the French convey the sentiment of “missing” someone. It’s actually pretty neat.
The sentence “I miss you” is formed in a way that is the opposite of what you might expect. The subject isn’t “I” but instead the thing/person you’re missing. Tu me manques is how you’d say “I miss you.” The French sentence structure literally translates to “you are missing from me.” Likewise, je te manque means “you miss me.”
I think it’s quite touching how the French express the idea of “missing” someone or something. It’s not that we miss something, it’s that something is missing from us. As if these things make us whole and not having them leaves us lacking in some way. That hits deep.
Also, before I close this one out, I want to reiterate that I’m sharing my personal thoughts based on my lived experience. We all do the living abroad thing differently.
I’m by no means saying these things should come to France or that life in one country is inherently better than the other.
When you move somewhere new, you see how things are done and adapt to what life is like there, and at this point, I certainly have. I don’t like every single thing about France, but I accept and respect how things are here. And it’s OK to miss things from another life.
It’s funny what you miss when you’re away awhile.
Thanks for reading! What are things you miss most from your home country? If you’re from the U.S, what things from the U.S. do you miss the most now that you live abroad?
PIN my things I miss from the US post: