10 Quirky Things I’ve Discovered About Living in France

10 Quirky Things I’ve Discovered About Living in France

living in France
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When you move to a different country, things are all shiny and new. I remember my mom telling me when I was young that you took a baby on a walk to help them fall asleep, because they get overwhelmed with all the new sensory experiences. It was a bit like that when I moved to Paris. For the first couple of weeks, it was a constant onslaught of new and different exciting things and very weird sleeping hours as I adjusted slowly to the time difference.

Gradually, it became normal to stroll past the Eiffel Tower and not even look at it. (I totally admit to still hiding a grin when I hear a French person go “0h la la”). Having been living in France off and on for about a year and a half, every day routines have set in. I no longer fret about ordering at a restaurant, or getting asked for directions in French (I usually send them the wrong way anyways without knowing – oops! – maybe I’m adding to that unhelpful French person stereotype); but there are still things that pop up which I find, um, well, interesting!

living in France
© Vanessa Mallari

1. Apartments aren’t numbered. So, to tell someone where you live, the directions are usually something like take the elevator or walk up to the fourth floor (groan), turn right and second door on the left.

2. Banks don’t have cash on hand. When I opened a bank account here, I found it so odd that I couldn’t deposit cash right away. I had to wait for the bank account to be approved, which took 10 days. And then I could only deposit cash at a very specific money exchange location. Now it’s no big deal because I deposit cash into my account using my debit card and the machines in the store; but when first opening an account, I didn’t understand why they didn’t want my money!

living in France
© rioblanco/123RF

3. Doctor’s offices (and other offices) are in normal apartments that have been converted to house a business. It’s very common to not deal with a receptionist, but speak to the doctor directly to book a rendezvous. I love the direct contact that you have!

4. Once inside the doctor’s office, you have to remember who entered before you. Since there is no receptionist, each person makes a mental note of which patient arrived before and after them, to keep track of whose turn it is when the doctor or dentist pops his head into the crowded waiting room.

living in France
© Vereshchagin Dmitry/123RF

5. No French pedestrian waits for the red traffic light to turn green. At the first opportunity, people step onto the road, dodging cars to cross the street. If you’re daring, it’s easier moving with hoards against the traffic, but watch out for those French drivers!

6. Pillowcases are square. I’ve never understood this, but the typical pillow here is not what I’m used to. It’s a pretty fun topic to bring up to expats and French people too, because there’s usually a debate that will ensue. But really, don’t you think rectangular makes more sense? More surface area on both sides!

living in France
© Molly Wilkinson

7. Back on the bedroom topic- there is no top sheet between the comforter and you. It’s just the comforter. Is this ingenious? Not sure. But every time you wash your sheets the comforter gets washed too! Pas mal. Or does the top sheet mean less washing, and therefore a slightly smarter tactic? You be the judge.

living in France
© Molly Wilkinson

8. There is a trashcan specifically for wine bottles. Well it’s for all glass items, but if you look at the container, I think it was designed just for wine bottles.

9. Bonjour! On the street or metro, it’s a big no-no to say a French hello to people unless you’re looking to be picked up. Haha! Yet, to strangers in the Laundromat and doctor’s office, once you walk in absolutely say “Bonjour” to everyone!

living in France
© Molly Wilkinson

10. Cough drops are slightly chewy, but not super chewy. It’s odd to describe. I just had a cough recently, so this is why I mention it. Oh, and there’s a pharmacy at just about every corner, just sitting there, tempting you with incredible products. I tend to stock up at CityPharma every couple months for discount products.

And there you have it – just a few items added to the constantly expanding list.

I’m curious to know, what has raised your eyebrows living in Paris? Leave a comment in the reply box below!

Ever attracted to all things sweet, Molly left her marketing career in Texas to study pastry at Le Cordon Bleu Paris in 2013. She worked for several pastry shops in Texas including Bisous Bisous Patisserie, voted best bakery in Dallas in 2015, before returning to France. Since then she has helped open a Mexican restaurant (her other love) and been a pastry chef at Chateau de Gudanes. Currently she is in Paris working at a culinary school and eating as many pastries as humanly possible. All in the name of research of course! You can follow her musings on daily life in Paris and catch a recipe or two at her blog: www.ToffeeBitsandChocolateChips.com


  1. These are all so true!! It took me about two weeks to get used to the lack of top sheet- but now, I’ve got to admit, I like it! Clean comforter every time I wash my sheets! 🙂

    You can find canned chicken broth and crackers at Marks and Spencer Food! That was quite the exciting find the other day. haha! And yes it’s maddening how different the offerings are from one grocery store to the next- I have to remember where to go for each thing! ugh!

  2. Clothes dryers being a rarity (I have to admit that we gave in and bought one) and no canned chicken broth. I’m with you on the lack of top sheet and still assessing whether I’m going to continue fighting it or finally succumb to true European living because maybe they’re onto something…

    Oh, and how about the inconsistency of product offerings from one location to another, or even from week to week, at grocery stores? “Ooh, I love this laundry detergent!” *never to be seen again*. Lastly, crackers…they really don’t do crackers. I am definitely not going to complain about that one though because, well, baguettes of course.


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