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Inspiring Life & Travel in France

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Inspiring Life & Travel in France

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10 Surprising Things I’ve Learned About French People

Their monthly blog, Cook’n with Class Uzes, allows me to explore my feelings about living in France. You may be surprised by what I’ve learned about French life. 

When I came to France to live four years ago, I knew very little about French people. I’d heard tales about how the French were distant and unfriendly. I’d read about French men and their romances. I knew how much the French love their dogs.

 Now that I’m experiencing France myself, I’m finding that many things I heard about the French are untrue. Here are the 10 things that surprise me the most.

1 The French are friendly.

French peopleWhen I hear that the French are unfriendly, I can’t believe it. From my experience, that just isn’t so. Every day, when I leave my apartment in Uzes and meet people on the streets, almost everyone smiles and says: “Bonjour.” They only need a moment’s eye contact to utter the friendly word. It’s the same when I go shopping. “Bonjour” is the first word out of a salesperson’s mouth. On leaving, they never say politely, “Bonne journée” or “Have a good day.”

2 The French are quiet.

Being an American, I know “loud.” The French, on the other hand, are reserved or quiet. There isn’t a time that I can’t remember when I’ve been in a restaurant, cafe, or on the street and been disturbed by a loud French person. It’s just not in their nature. Even children are comparatively entirely. Sitting beside a French family with two or more children, you’d never know they weren’t all adults. Children are well-mattered and … well …quiet.

French people
This is a common sight in an airport in France when you see French parents and children together.

3 The French love family.

French peoplePerhaps it’s because the French “work to live” instead of “live to work” that they spend so much time with their families. When I see French people in the market or at a festival, they are primarily in couples or family groups. I seldom see French people hanging out with a gang of same-sex friends. They’re with their families. It’s a beautiful thing.

4 The French love to sit outdoors.

You know the weather has changed when you see a crowded sidewalk cafe in Uzes. Yet, it doesn’t have to be a perfect day for the French to be outside. Parks are filled with joggers, walkers, and families. On school days, there are classes of children at the parks, sitting on the lawn with a teacher. Perhaps they’re outdoors because there are not a lot of homes with gardens. Whatever the reason, the French get lots of fresh air.

French people

5 The French love cats.

Everyone knows French people have a great affection for dogs. They take them everywhere — restaurants, trains, planes and all. The surprise to me is how much they love cats. I’ve made a point of taking photos of cats that I see on my journeys. They’re lazying around on sidewalks, on pillars, and on windowsills. There are lots of cats that roam around the streets of town, too. They all seem to be in good shape. If you look carefully, you’ll see bowls of food and water sitting beside the doors of many houses. The cats are cared for even if they are on their own.

French people

6 The French don’t snack

French peopleThe fact that there are not many overweight people in France is a testament to their excellent eating habits. I’ve observed the French simply don’t snack between meals. At least not to the extent that it’s noticeable. They eat a small breakfast, a big lunch, and a small dinner. In between, they might have a cup of expresso. Sometimes, the expresso comes with a tiny cookie. When they have guests for a drink before dinner, they serve something light to munch on— like olives and chips. In very small serving bowls. French people enjoy their meals, and nothing else interferes.

7 The French have good, low-cost healthcare

I’ve been to a doctor in France a few times and am amazed at the effectiveness and low cost. When I’ve gone for each visit, the doctor first prescribes a blood test. With that done, I left the doctor’s office, went to the nearby public laboratory for tests, and returned to the doctor the next day, lab tests in hand. After everything’s sorted out, I get a prescription, if needed, and I’m done. With all of the above, my cost is less than $100. That’s with no insurance.

French people

8 The French drive too fast.

Going out on the roadway in France is risky business. I’m convinced the same person I walk behind on the streets of Uzes —the one who’s meandering down the sidewalk — could be the same person tailgating me on the highway. The fast drivers’ favorite places seem to be on roundabouts and narrow roads bordered on both sides by large plane trees. You don’t want to be in the passing lane of a super highway when someone comes barreling towards you, either. You’ll be mowed down.

9 The French smoke too much.french people

I’m amazed at how many French people smoke cigarettes. I’m beginning to see a few more with electronic cigarettes, yet most who smoke go for the real thing. There are restrictions for smoking indoors, but outdoor cafes are fair game. Smoking is an equal opportunity event here. The habit belongs to those of all ages and both sexes, despite the horrific warning labels on every carton and pack of cigarettes. It’s costing the people and the country a pretty penny for their heavy smoking habits.

10 The French embrace expats.

There’s never a day in my town that I don’t feel welcomed by the French. If I had a better use of the language, I’m confident I would have more French friends. Fortunately, some speak English, and those who are patient with me. We communicate with a bit of sign language and lots of laughs.

I’m learning more about France and its people every day. It’s one of the best things about living outside my country. I’m convinced that there would be peace in the world if more people traveled or lived abroad. Aside from some of our lifestyle differences, we’re all pretty much the same.

French people

Day trip from Uzes to the Cevennes

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