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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Ask an Expat: What's the best thing about living in France?

Last week, I discussed some of the difficulties of living in France, and now I'd like to look at some of the best things about calling this country home.  While I was going through photos for this post, I thought about how challenging living abroad is & how it's easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day details of making a life for yourself in a foreign land, while forgetting what's wonderful in your new home.

Again, these are some of my thoughts from living in the South of France, which I find warm (the weather & the people), quirky (more the people), & above all, oh-so-delicious.  Here is what I enjoy best about living in France:

1.  The French
Before moving here, I guess I was carrying around a bit of my own generalized anti-French sentiment, some of which I discussed in French Stereotypes, because I had bought into the idea that the French were arrogant, at best, and downright (cough) scoundrels, at worst.  Now that I have spent some time with these nasty Frenchies (& cohabit with one), I have found that quite the opposite is true.  Although I can't claim to be friends with everyone in our town, the majority of French that I have come into contact with are among the kindest, funniest, and most generous people I have ever met.  This coming after living for three years in Italy with it's fair share of warm & hospitable people. I'm not sure where these stereotypes about the French have their roots (perhaps a few snooty waiters in Paris made the trek back to the States & spread like wildfire), but right at the top of my favorite things about France is the people themselves.

2. The Food
I'd be a little wary of any best of France post that failed to mention the food.  As with Italy, when you think about the country, you can't help but envision all of the culinary delights that await you on a trip or extended stay.  Although I certainly miss the heaping plates pasta carbonara, I am quite in love with French food- the salty & the sweet.  Sometimes standing in the cheese aisle at a French supermarket is enough to remind me why I love living here, and learning the ins & outs of French cooking can be a lifetime pursuit (which many happily sign-up for).  I'm just waiting for the release of American Women Don't Get Fat because I could use a bit of help getting my pastry-sampling under control.  

3. The Aesthetics
If you like pretty things, chances are you'll love French style.  Along with a French food obsession, I also have a keen admiration for how things look & a special fondness for attention to detail.  In French design, you get it all; your shabby and your chic.  Shabby in the faded interiors & softness of white & blue cotton arranged just so that daily living feels not only exceedingly comfortable, but dreamy. Chic in the elaborately-layered chocolate pastries, cherry-oak antiques, and couture fashions. I may not be able to afford many of the goodies that are quintessentially French, but the care & attention the French give to creating beautiful environments makes this a very pleasant place to live.

4. The Attitude to Time
This is the classic live to work vs. work to live argument and, as you can imagine, the majority of the French fall into the later category. I'm in the South, so attitudes are even more relaxed here. Certainly we can point out a few folks who do live for their job, but the focus is much more on working in order to enjoy your free time. Oh, and there's that little thing called the 35-hour work week. Not everyone adheres to it, and there is a decent argument about what it means for the economy, but it does speak to a pervasive sentiment in the culture that work comes second, or third, in your list of priorities.  Call it European values in general, or just an excuse to skip out early to hit the cafés, but I like a slower approach to life- even if all the best markets are closed on Sundays. 

Next week I'll be answering, "How did you prepare to move to France?"; addressing some practical concerns & tips for dealing with culture shock.

More Best of France:

Smile, You're in Paris- HiP Paris Blog
My Favorite Day in Paris- Girls' Guide to Paris


  1. Pain au chocolat and/or croissant for breakfast? Sometimes, I have to stop and question whether that will be my most challenging decision for the day.

    Love the post!

  2. Thank you for linking to our Smile post on the HiP Paris blog. It was very sweet of you! I look forward to next week's post too. :)

  3. "The attitude to time" should be universal! oh, i can't wait to come visit and experience it myself

  4. The food, the sun, the lavender, the rosé, the pastis... summer in Provence can't be beat!

  5. Thanks for the comments! Trying to beat the heat today & enjoying every minute of it. Provence is truly wonderful in the summertime & going to add "French beaches" to my list of favorite things!

  6. i just left france yesterday after a month stay, and already miss it. i would move there in a minute.

  7. (many months later) Sorry for not having thanked you earlier! oops....
    Thanks for the link and I couldn't agree with your reasons more.