So, a year ago I left the UK for the sunnier climes of the south of France, specifically Toulouse, nicknamed 'la ville en rose’ (the pink city). Having just returned to England, I wanted to reflect on some of the best and worst of life in France.
- Starting off with the negatives, the worst thing of all about France for me were the shop opening hours! It may seem like a small thing, but while shops in the UK are usually open from around 9 am-7 pm, the shops in France were only open for a few hours a day due to shops often taking a four-hour lunch break in the middle of the day! How was I ever meant to get my shopping done?!
- Second on my list, another result of the famously more relaxed attitude of the French, was bureaucracy in France. Getting anything done was basically a nightmare of form-filling and incessant email-sending. Oh and don’t expect a French person to reply to your emails straight away. It could take a good week, or even months …
- Lastly, for me, as a language learner, one of the most frustrating things about France was that so many people spoke English! Whilst this is generally a good thing, for me it meant that every time I asked for une table pour deux (a table for two) in my best French, I was met with ‘right this way Madame’ (in a thick French accent of course).
- The food. Now of course everybody raves about the cheese and the pastries in France (which are, truth be told, fantastic), but what I loved most of all was the French style of dining. Whilst UK families often rush down a quick meal in the evening, the French know how to make an event of a meal, often making their way leisurely through three courses!
- The social life. Another great thing I found in France was that tickets for places such as cinemas and museums were much cheaper than in the UK. This made a trip to the cinema a very credible night out, for around 6€ or £5 compared to typically around £12 at a UK cinema. Public transport was also remarkably cheap. I was able to have unlimited access to buses, metros and trams for only 10€ or £8 a month in Toulouse. A bargain!
- The more relaxed lifestyle. Whilst it had its frustrating elements as I discussed earlier, this was also undoubtedly the best part of French life. Shorter working hours thanks to longer lunch breaks means that whilst people in the UK are rushing out to buy a quick meal at lunchtime, the French are lounging in cafés. The sunshine means that people dine outside more frequently, often with neighbours, and stay out later at bars and restaurants.
So there you have it, life à la française.
Have you ever been to France? If so, what did you think of it? How does life there compare to life in your own country?