We’ve officially been French residents now for over three weeks. Those three weeks have definitely felt more like months than weeks. And while we’ve only been here for a short amount of time, we have begun to pick up on a few things about our new home…
(Disclaimer: We live in a city called Massy, which is right outside of Paris. Our observations are based off of our time in this area, and are not meant as a complete representation of French culture.)
~ 1 ~
Bread is life. More specifically, baguettes are life. The image you may have in your head of a French native walking down the street with a baguette in his hand is legit. I have two theories on why this is: First, the French are known for their boulangeries, and there’s good reason for it. Their products really are that amazing. But even the small convenience/grocery store near our apartment has an oven at the front of the store that cranks out hot baguettes throughout the day. Second, as far as food prices are concerned, bread is cheap!
~ 2 ~
While most people in Massy have a car, it’s definitely not a requirement (at least not where we live). Within a half-mile walk of our apartment, we have access to four grocery stores, an open air market, the girls’ schools, our language school, multiple playgrounds, bus stations (which can take us to the train station), the post office, the bank, the library, and the local cinema. If we’re willing to walk a little bit further, we can walk directly to a RER (train) station that takes us straight into Paris, Versailles, or more.
While we will probably end up purchasing a vehicle in the coming year, it’s such a relief and blessing to know that we can take our time to make the right purchase for our family.
~ 3 ~
Everyone walks their kids to school. From what I can tell there are a few city-operated shuttle services for families who just can’t bring their kids, but the vast majority walk. Also, where we lived in the States, parents pulled into the school parking lots and waited in long carpool lines to drop-off/pick-up their kids. That would be unheard of here. There aren't even parking lots attached to either of our girls' schools.
~ 4 ~
I say “siesta” and you think Spain, Portugal, maybe Mexico or other Latin American countries. France needs to be included in that list too! Many small businesses and schools shut down for 2 hours around 12-2 pm. In France, one does not rush quickly through a meal. I honestly cannot think of a single drive-thru in all of Massy, which has approximately 40,000 residents. Sure there are restaurants that advertise quick service, and there are options for take-out/delivery especially for Asian food and pizza, but for the most part a meal is a time to relax and enjoy with family and/or friends.
This "siesta" principal extends even to the kids at school. On most days, we pick our girls up at lunch time and we all enjoy a meal at home before they go back to school in the afternoon, but Elizabeth does likes to stay for “cantine” on Fridays. She gets an hour for lunch followed by an hour of unstructured recess time.
~ 5 ~
Things are pricier than their Stateside counterparts. I hope to do a more extensive post on this in the future, but in general, food, clothing, accessories, etc. are more expensive. It’s not always an arm-and-a-leg difference, but enough to notice and to effect a budget. Also, due to government regulations, businesses can only have their big sales (called “soldes”) twice a year, so unless you’re shopping during these times don’t expect to see any big markdowns. There are definitely exceptions, for example bread and cheese are less expensive, but largely you can count on paying a little bit more when you're shopping.
Also note that I’m comparing prices to where we lived in Indiana and Ohio, so if you’re used to living in a part of the States where the cost of living is higher, the prices we’re seeing might be more of what you are used to anyways. But again, I’m doing a more detailed post on this in the future because this was a question that we were asked frequently during our support raising last year.
The list could really go on and on, so I look forward to sharing more about French culture with you as we live here longer and experience the language, the food, the people, and the places more.