The best and worst things about life in France according to a British ex-pat | The Sun

WHEN I moved to France 18 months ago, I didn't think I'd experience a culture shock but I was wrong.

I soon realised that life in France was more different than I'd anticipated, as I began a fruitless quest for Marmite in the supermarket.

Generally, I found mealtimes to be a dizzying affair of brand-new do's and don'ts.

A typical French breakfast doesn’t keep a flea satisfied for 30 minutes and my French friends look positively disgusted whenever I tuck into a hearty bowl of porridge in the morning.

Lunch, however, is an institution.

Forget scoffing a sarnie at your desk, most people take at least an hour for their lunch break with multiple courses.

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Some French employers also give their employees restaurant vouchers – roughly €6.50 (£5.72) a day.

A free lunch ticket gives everyone the perfect excuse to grab a sandwich and a dessert from the local bakery.

But many people save their vouchers and go out for a slap-up lunch once or twice a week. 

I don't recommend getting hungry mid-afternoon though because lunch is strictly served between 12pm to 2pm.

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After these hours, restaurants shut up shop until it's time for dinner – something I’ve been caught out by more than once.

Grab-and-go culture isn’t a thing either, so you’ll rarely see someone walking with a takeaway coffee cup in hand.

If you want your caffeine fix, you'll need to take a seat and drink your coffee while having a sit-down.

And whatever you do, don't tell the French that you believe that cheese causes nightmares – unless you're trying to start a riot.

Dating and drinking is a whole different ball game too.

Going for drinks on a date is rarely just drinks, so whoever I’m seeing gets the pleasure of watching me throw food down my top from day one.

By and large, the drinking culture is avery different – not even a student would turn up with a bottle of Lambrini for pre-drinks here.

Everyone seems to know about the wine they're sipping – a lot more savouring the glass and a lot less vomiting.

And, if it’s your birthday, it’s automatically your round – how is that even remotely fair?

But while people might not be binge-drinking at parties like the Brits, they’ll be binge-smoking.

And you can't just slip out when you're ready to go home either because you're expected to greet each person in turn with a kiss.

In Lyon, where I live, that’s one on each cheek, which is fairly standard, but in some parts of France, this can be three or even four kisses.

This does mean you run the risk of an awkward face bump if you try to kiss the wrong side of someone’s face. 

Despite all of this, nothing could've prepared me for French admin.

Whether I’m applying for my next visa or a parking permit, I need to put together an enormous dossier of personal information.

Forget submitting a form electronically too, with anything official usually requiring hours of queuing outside a government building.

I long for the days when I don’t need to provide my primary school test scores and trace my family tree back to William the Conqueror to fill out a simple form.

Another shock, but a good one, was how welcoming people were to me.

The French have an unflattering stereotype of being cold and standoffish, but within weeks I was being invited to stay with friends’ families and added into group chats with people who’d grown up together.

Knowing a little more local lingo than merely “bonjour” helped, but I was still amazed at how warmly I was received (save for the jokes about rubbish British cuisine of course).

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Meanwhile, another British expat who lives Cadiz in Andalusia has revealed the three big mistakes tourists make while they're on holiday.

And Sarah and Johnny Robinson, who left the UK 20 years ago for their dream life in Spain have revealed the mistakes that make Brit holidaymakers stand out like sore thumbs on holiday.

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