Culture Shocks in France

Hello, bloggers!

So, to continue my week-long discussion about Paris (or France, in general), I thought that I would share something that I am sure you might have come across before, especially if you are an avid traveler.

Yes, as you can tell by the title, I am talking about…CULTURE SHOCK!


But no, really…it’s not that bad. πŸ˜›

What is “culture shock,” you might ask? From my understanding, it is a psychological phenomenon used to describe travelers who experience a sense of distance, possibly alienation, from the new culture that they’re exposed to. Their expectations of the new place do not align with the reality of being there; they are not used to the customs and way of living in the new environment. As a result, they feel rather…out-of-touch with their surroundings.

Even though I have been to France three times already in my life, I have always experienced some sort of culture shock whenever I return to the country. Sometimes, it’s more apparent than others, but in any case, it’s always there. I end up adjusting to it, though, within a few weeks or so. But I know others who don’t, and that’s a shame, because then it’s difficult to have fun if one is so stuck on the cultural differences.

I propose to you a petite list of things that visitors (especially Americans) might experience while in France, in terms of culture shock. From this, I hope that you will gain some insight into the differences between the country and the U.S., which can help you prepare for the encounter when it comes to visiting France. Otherwise, enjoy! πŸ™‚

Five Things That Might Shock You About France

#1 L’addition. Also known as “tip,” l’addition in most restaurants or places of service will not be delivered to you right after the meal. Surprising, isn’t it? You have to ask for it. Otherwise, the servers will assume that you are just chilling out for a couple of hours in the cafe, while you sit there and look like an idiot. Quick table turnovers just don’t exist in France, so if you want to leave right after your meal, flag down a server and ask for the check. Simple, right?

#2 Showers areΒ tiny. As are most things in France, from automobiles to cafes to kitchens…you name it. If you were to live in an apartment or hotel in France, know that your bathroom is going to be small as heck. Seriously, the showers are narrow. Kind of reminds you of a time machine, eh?

Shower time machine!

Another difference is that most toilets are in a separate room from the shower and sink- meaning that you will have to go to the next room to wash your hands after you do your business. πŸ˜› Also, to flush the toilet, you don’t have a lever on the side; instead, it’s a button on top that you push to make the crap go down (interestingly in my case, mine pulls up).

#3 Dinners start later. Turns out that we Americans dine early, between 5 and 7 pm. In fact, most restaurants in France don’t open for dinner until after 7 pm. Not only that, but meals last longer, around sixty to ninety minutes (if not two hours!). The French really do take their food and eating ritual seriously; it’s not like our speed-eating approach in the United States. Not at all.

Even more so, traditional French meals are not necessarily this extravagant, five-course food fest (maybe for fancy gatherings, but still). Yes, there are three-course, prix-fixe meals at restaurants, which come with an entree (appetizer), a main course, and a dessert. There’s also coffee at the end, if you want that sort of stuff (I usually skip it). But usually, most people just start off with the main course, then perhaps take their coffee at the end. I would say that it’s pretty informal dining.

#4 Services are not opened on Sundays (sometimes Mondays). For a country that offers services 24/7, the United States really spoils us rotten. The French know that working hard is important, but so is taking the day off to enjoy oneself with family and friends. That being said, almost everything is closed on Sundays (restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, boutiques, etc.); you might get lucky and find a store opened that day, but with limited hours. Boulangeries, or “bakeries” tend to be closed on Mondays as well. So be careful when planning your shopping/touring activities!

#5 Smokers everywhere! I don’t smoke, and even though I come from the big city, there aren’t half as many smokers as there are in France. Seriously, almost everyone smokes in Paris, and even many in the city that I’m staying in for my job. The smell of the smoke gives me headaches, and I always have to open the windows to let out the smell. Too much secondhand smoke to handle! 😦 But in the end, though, you just have to accept that it won’t go away. C’est la vie.

All right, that’s about it for culture shocks in France. There are plenty more out there, but then it would turn into a novel if I were to continue! More to come in the future; take care, lovely bloggers! πŸ™‚

— The Finicky Cynic

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13 thoughts on “Culture Shocks in France

  1. When I went to the US with a smoker friend, he was like “but… but… Nobody smokes!!!!” hahah. It was very surprising because we are so used to smokers here. But I am like you, I really don’t like the smell of cigarettes. Also, when I was there, I got a culture shock about the way you eat, guys. I do prefer my French eating style haha but your food is really good! πŸ˜€

      1. Well, I ate in a restaurant and didn’t like it at all but when I ate home, it was really good. It was weird because you don’t eat like us but I ate delicious potatoes/meat/corn/burgers… It was different but my host family cooked well 😊

  2. cherry

    #4 is shocking …I don’t know how I would have survival in India if we had that sort of thing . But the intention behind it is admirable .

  3. That shower reminds me more of a transporter device from Star Trek than a time machine. Yes, culture shock can happen to anyone who travels or moves anyplace. I think I experienced a little bit of culture shock moving from Green Bay to Madison 13 years ago; it’s not just the politics that are different between the two, there’s just more of an exciting vibe here in Madison than there is in Green Bay.

    1. Definitely. Even if you’re just moving a state (or town) over, there are differences that can surprise you.

      …and yes! French showers are so interesting- in a cool way, though!

  4. Pingback: Culture Shocks in France (Part 2) – The Finicky Cynic

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