1. At restaurants, you usually have to ask for the check or you just get up and leave and pay at the front. This is much different from the “Here’s your check, now leave so I can serve another customer” in the US.” It is hard to get used to not feeling like we are wasting the waitresses’ time. So we are always trying to figure out how we are supposed to pay and play this awkward game of should we ask, how do we ask that question, or do we just get up and go to the front?
2. You don’t have to tip here. Ever. Everyone here makes at least minimum wage or is on salary so they don’t rely on tips. This is very hard for us to get used to. We feel like cheapskates when we don’t tip. (Although, I admit we tip the pizza guy when he delivers in the freezing rain!)
3. There are no doggie bags here at the restaurants. I found one place that let me take home my leftovers, but last time I asked at a different restaurant, they said no. I was very sad because it was homemade spaghetti with bolognaise sauce. I, of course, finished off the homemade tiramisu with no problems, but I would have really enjoyed that spaghetti for lunch the next day. I will have to sneak some Tupperware in my purse next time. (My French teacher told me she has done that before!)
4. The stores don’t really have sales here and during the month of January and July there are huge sales and this is when you stock up. I noticed, though, that the adult stuff on sale is always crap and it seems to be things that didn’t sale throughout the year. I didn’t buy myself anything this past sale which is crazy, because most of you know I can’t resist a good bargain. I did, however, buy Brooklyn loads of cute clothes.
5. When you drive on the highway there are not many exits and almost no gas stations so you have to plan your trip well. When Michael and I first visited France right after we got married, we got on the highway headed in the wrong direction. We said, “Ok, we’ll just turn around at the next exit.” Ha! It’s not that easy. We drove for about 30 minutes and there were no exits, so we finally just crossed the median. But when we crossed the medium we didn’t have the correct toll ticket so the toll booth lady couldn’t understand why we didn’t have a ticket and couldn’t understand us either. She only spoke French and we only spoke English, so finally she gave up and just let us go through. Our advice: Make sure you know exactly where you are going at all times. And don’t make mistakes. The French expect you to know better.
6. France doesn’t have many fast food restaurants, but there is a McDonald’s close to our apartment. Sadly, the French fries aren’t as good here and we aren’t sure why. There is one other fast food place called Quick which is very similar to a McDonald’s. (In the next town over there is a Kentucky Fried Chicken.)
7. Valentine’s day is not a big holiday for the French. There was no Valentine candy in the stores at all. The children do not exchange Valentine’s cards either. It is mainly just for adults. They do celebrate Easter because the stores have a lot of Easter candy. The French seem to have a thing for Chickens because there are just as many Chocolate Chickens as there are Chocolate Bunnies. Not sure what that is about.
8. This is a gross one, but there is dog poop everywhere. Seriously, EVERYWHERE! The French don’t pick up after their dogs. Even if they poop in front of a door they just leave it there. I know this because this happened in front of the door to our building and someone tracked it all through the lobby. I don’t understand why the French don’t realize that they are tracking that into their homes! Where their kids live! We definitely take our shoes off at the door here!
9. The calendars here start with Monday. This was a little tricky for us in the beginning!
10. They read phone numbers here in sets of two. For example, say our phone number is 03 23 45 67. They would read it as zero-three, twenty-three, forty-five, and sixty-seven. It is the same with zip codes. For our zip code, 63000, we have to say sixty-three thousand. The cashiers find it amusing if we read it off one number at a time like in the US.
11. You can’t buy any kind of medicine at the grocery store. None. For medicine, you have to go to the pharmacy. The one closest to us is kind of small, so I’m not sure if they all do this, but we go in and tell her the problem and she gets us what we need. You also don’t wait for prescriptions. They fill it immediately while you stand there waiting to pay. All the medicines are prepackaged so I don’t think they ever have to count out pills. There are some things that aren’t behind the counter, but I think they are things more like lotions and washes.
12. They have hair salons everywhere here the way the US has nail salons everywhere.
13. The French love dogs. We regularly see dogs in the mall, in restaurants, and in a few bars. The dogs here are well trained too and don’t try to sniff every person they pass. It really surprises us how many people walk with their dogs in the city and don’t have them on a leash. They must listen really well to never walk out in traffic and get hit by a car.
14. Pretty much everything is closed on Sunday. None of the stores are open, just a few bar type restaurants and the grocery store is only open until noon.
15. At the grocery store when you buy fresh fruit or vegetables you have to put it in a bag and weigh it yourselves. You just put the fruit or vegetables on the scale and push the button of what you are weighing (they use pictures too which helps!) and out pops a sticker that you put on the bag.