Life in France has a lot going for it and when you move here, you’ll notice there are a bunch of things to get used to as you settle into a routine and adapt to French life. Some aspects of daily life require specific items that I had zero experience with or had never considered. Let’s get into a bunch of items I’d never bought before moving to France. Please note that some of the items on my list are culturally French and some are just random things that I personally never owned before getting married and moving to France. It’s a mixed bag. I moved to France in my 20s and never owned a home in France, so this is just my experience.
1. Electric kettle. The Brits out there reading this are probably scratching their heads, but it’s true. I never owned an electric kettle before moving to France and as a non-tea drinker, I didn’t think I’d have much use for one.
But oh, how times have changed. While they do exist in the U.S. and people have them, electric kettles aren’t super popular and a lot of Americans boil water via a regular kettle that you heat up on the stove. Electric kettles are way more mainstream in France and I love them for heating up water. I wrote a whole blog post on them here with more info.
2. A bread bag. Baguettes are a staple of French daily life, or at least some sort of bread. If you don’t finish your bread, you have to put it somewhere overnight until the next meal and that’s where the handy-dandy bread bag comes into play. Except I thought it was a trash can at first. Funny story here.
Now I know better and I actually have a bread drawer in my kitchen for all of our bread needs. Bread bags are often made of cloth and long enough to fit a few baguettes. They are hung vertically on the back of a door or kitchen cabinet. Here’s an example of one.
3. A fan. Growing up, our house had central air conditioning and my NYC apartment never really got that hot. I never needed a fan until I moved to France to a house without a/c.
We have this upright Honeywell model that is powerful yet quiet and it makes sleeping on hot nights much more bearable. Did you know the French are afraid of air conditioning? Only half joking. 😉
4. Nasal spray when you have a cold. I feel like French pharmacies sell tons of nasal spray and related products. I still have no idea what they all do. When I have a cold and am all stuffed up, the last thing I want to do is shoot some spray up there. But ya know, when in Rome and all…
There’s a lot of talk about cleaning your nose and serum physiologique in France. Have a cold? Clean your nose with a spray or serum. Allergies? Same.
I don’t think I’ve heard it as a tried-and-true remedy as much from U.S medical professionals for colds and the like. Just know that nasal sprays/liquids are very common here.
French vs. American pharmacies: Differences you need to know about >>
5. A duvet and square pillows. My bed always had a comforter until I moved to France. Under it would be the flat sheet (and maybe a blanket depending on the season), which is what comes in direct contact with your body. In France, bedding is a little different and flat sheets are less common.
Generally, French folks have a duvet that has a sheet cover on it that I find really annoying to change. I know how to do it but bed making is not my strong suit. Tom and I make the bed together more times than not.
Also, while rectangular pillows do exist, square ones are probably more common. For awesome high-quality bedding, check out La Chambre Paris.
6. Pouch-style washcloth. I’m 100% on Team Gant de Toilette. Instead of a washcloth, the French use a “glove” to wash. It’s a washcloth that you put your hand into, like a little pouch and it’s pretty convenient and easy to use.
Unlike washcloths which are easy to drop, the gant, which looks like this, stays on your hand. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve seen square washcloths here at all.
9 Things the French love that I’ve come to love too >>
7. A saucisson cutter. For all of your apéro needs, a saucisson cutter is soooo French and I love it. Thin slices are a must and a regular knife just doesn’t do the job as well. This is the one we have.
8. Peanut-flavored snack puffs. Who knows about Curly snack puffs? I had never tried these before coming to France because I don’t think they exist stateside. I know, I know, peanut-flavored cheetoh things sound weird, but trust me, THEY ARE GOOD.
I love peanut butter but am not a fan of peanuts for the record, but Curlys are something different. You can’t eat just one. They aren’t sweet and really do taste like light and airy peanuts — but better — with a bit of oil so they aren’t too dry. Very addictive. Very good. Consider yourself warned.
9. Violet ice cream. Sticking with food for a sec, holy heck violet ice cream is so, so good. I first had it in St. Malo at Sanchez’s and this seasonal summer flavor is the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted. Or at least in my top two. Eataly gelato is also excellent. But stick with me.
Violet ice cream is floral tasting but not in a weird way and is so refreshing on a hot summer day. Any of the floral flavors are actually really good, like rose and lavender too.
I wouldn’t say they are common — you won’t find them in grocery stores — but check out ice cream shops during the summer months for this standout warm weather flavor.
10. Multiple cases of wine. Back in the U.S., I didn’t drink that much wine and rarely had the need to buy a case of it. In France, it’s a different story and I regularly buy wine by the case, either direct from the producer or from my local shop.
I have quite a collection in my basement and my buying habits outweigh my drinking habits, which is a good thing. From sparkling to white to red, and rose, I’m covered if I have an unexpected guest who is into French wine.
11. Laundry tablets for hard water. My gosh is French water hard. I wrote all about that here. To protect our clothes, I use the anti-calcaire laundry tablets that counteract the minerals in the water. No clue if they actually do anything, but I make sure to add one to every load.
And speaking of laundry for those of you in France, I love this French eco-friendly detergent brand FYI. Their pods come right to your door delivered with no plastic. Get some free trial packs here. Check out this post for more must-have household products for life in France.
12. A house. Before moving with France, I lived with family my whole life and then after college, I rented an apartment in NYC. My first and only home buying process took place in France and my gosh was there a learning curve. It all worked out in the end, though.
*BONUS* Premium dental floss. French dentists don’t seem to stress the importance of regularly using dental floss as much as American dentists do. I’ve haven’t found a great selection of dental floss in France, so I now buy Cocofloss from the U.S. It’s a premium woven dental floss that I highly recommend. The flavors are the best part!
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What about you? What are things you never bought for yourself or your home before moving to France?
Beverly Eagan says
I used nasal rinses for years in the US. My allergist encouraged me to do it. Nasal rinses originated in India, where they were used with neti pots. I could never do it with a neti pot but the Neilmeds spray bottle worked well. The rinse was water with a bit of salt Though it was recommended for allergies, I found it worked very well for colds. Cleared the sinuses in half the time. I still use it here in Paris. Other nasal sprays were popular for a while. They worked miracles for stuffed-up noses, but apparently, they also damaged the sinuses. I don’t think they are still sold.
Hi Diane! Yes!! The notorious G-A-N-T! Husband swears by them and after a trip to LinVosges in Reims, I do too! They’re soft and plushy and so French.
Also, new for me too: the anti-calcaire tablets, Wise money transfer (huge thank you for that!), a stand-up fan, the Rolser shopping caddy (life saver!!), Doliprane Pro (because I too am nasal-spray averse even though husband is still trying to convert me to nasal sprays!), Chipster , Haribo Chamallows, those tassel-fringed white cotton/linen window treatments (I forget the name!) that are particular to the French countryside windows, Ushuaia body wash, a gigantic drying rack, and a baguette basket (gifted from my belle-mère ) for serving sliced baguette at meals.
I’m sure there’s more but this is just off the top of my head!
Ha! We JUST bought the saucisson cutter after allegedly bringing home good stuff from Rome. Can’t wait to try it.
Environment do changes people’s mind!
And here I thought a comforter is a duvet. Which is different from a bedspread which is very old fashioned and not exclusively American.
I thought you’d add your shopping cart bag to the list.
The voltage is stronger in Europe than America and that’s why electric kettles are less popular in the US. Takes too long to boil the water.
shell shockers says
Fantastic list! When I’m eating with a European, I make it a point to hold my silverware the “right” way and not switch, but when I’m at home, I can hardly be bothered to use a knife. When I’m eating with a European, I make it a point to hold my cutlery the “right” way and not switch. I am not afraid to admit that the way we Americans often eat can be somewhat sloppy… yet there are occasions when it is appropriate.