I’ve Been Living in France for 7 Years and Want to Tell You About the Country Without Sugarcoating Things
Moving to another country is always tied to big hopes and a whirlpool of emotions. Perhaps that’s why it’s so interesting to read people’s stories about how brave they were to make that step. Below, is a story about a resident of Khabarovsk, a city in Russia, who went to school, started working, and changed several cities before finally getting married. She has gone from a student with a temporary visa to a French citizen within 7 years.
Bright Side asked this woman questions about her life so that we can all know more details about a country whose residents, according to rumors, can eat whatever they want and never get fat.
1. The language
The issue of knowing a language in a different country is always very difficult. I’d been learning French at a university and the teacher would always blame me for having a severe Russian accent, which caused me to grow quite worried. However, it turned out that French people are pretty loyal to Russian pronunciation of things and even consider it charming (or “charmant” as the French say). Moreover, when you start to live among French speakers your speech becomes very similar to those around you quite quickly.
As for the English language — it’s not very welcome here. Therefore, it’s better to refrain from saying “Hello” when entering a cafe or a shop. It’s best if you enter, smile, and say “Bonjour.” After that, you can shift to English. If you enter somewhere and don’t say any greeting at all, get ready to never be forgiven.
2. Mysterious French women
There are 2 controversial myths about French women. Some say that French girls always look great and elegant while others insist they don’t look after themselves at all. Both of these stereotypes are true and false at the same time. French women have a trait known as “inner freedom”. It helps them to feel confident both in an elegant dress with bright makeup and in faded jeans with a messy bun to match.
Typically, French girls wear minimal makeup, sometimes with no layers of cosmetics on the face. Girls look as if they didn’t make a single effort to enhance their beauty. Additionally, fashion that supports this natural look is becoming more and more popular in this country. Government authorities help implement this fashion even more and recently they’ve introduced a ban that prohibits the retouching of advertisements. Now Photoshopped, “plastic” models won’t hurt anyone’s self-esteem anymore.
There’s one more wide-spread myth that says French women eat pies and buns yet still stay slim. There are some nuances here: most women here look slim, especially in Paris. However, baked goods and sweets are traditionally considered to be “kids’ food”. Therefore, you’ll only see a French woman carrying around a croissant and coffee in movies. In real life, French girls are likely only holding coffee.
One of the most popular stereotypes about moving to Europe is that they’ll have to work in a fast-food restaurant and shout for years, “Next, please!” Of course, this kind of thing does happen, but if you have an educated background and know the language, you’ll have more than one chance to get a good job and will never have to encounter national discrimination.
That being said, there are things called de l’emploi en France, which are essentially fairs where potential employees and employers can meet and network. These job fairs are held in all major cities. Here, one can have several job interviews in just one day, hopefully finding their job for life.
But it’s not always that perfect. Despite the fact that women keep actively fighting for their rights here, their salaries are still lower than men’s. Moreover, France has an unhealthy tendency to overwork employees. The extent of the problem is not as bad as it is in Japan, but overworking, in some ways, is a badge of pride. For example, it’s culturally acceptable for a colleague to boast they left the office at 2 a.m. the previous day.
4. The specifics of their diet
Food in France is a kind of like a religion. French people eat for a long time enjoying their meals fully. Food is spoken about and poems and songs are dedicated to it. One should simply get used to this way of thinking as it’s truly a cultural trait. Their attitude toward food is simply different here.
There is one more stereotype connected to this: French people have definitely sold their souls to someone, otherwise, how could they manage to eat such saturated, calorie-rich dishes and stay so slim? French people are really not obsessed with counting calories. Their main concern in a dish is whether or not it tastes good. Their portions are not that big and the amount of meals per day is strictly limited to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. No one would be caught eating sandwiches at night and chowing down on snacks at work.
Also, there’s strong social pressure on overweight people. If a French man or woman gains weight, their relatives and friends don’t feel shy asking them about it. And they’ll keep talking about it until the “guilty” person starts to work out and lose the weight.
5. French mentality
Many people consider the French to be penny-pinchers, however, that’s not true. They’re simply more practical. They don’t go crazy at restaurants, spending the last of their money on food and drinks. This way of thinking has many advantages: people plan their budgets accordingly and don’t struggle with a penny in their bank account the days leading up to payday.
The French also have a healthy attitude toward their bodies and to everything that’s connected to it. Women will easily discuss the horrors of PMS in front of men, while men feel comfortable discussing the details of their stomach disorder, for example.
At the same time, it’s not okay to ask personal questions here like, “When are you going to get married?” That, in particular, is a question you’ll rarely hear in this country. If someone dares to ask it, they’ll probably face disapproval.
French people have completely mastered the art of enjoying life, which somehow manages to come together with the habit of complaining and begrudging. Almost anything that can cause a whirlpool of resentments like a bus ignoring the timetable, the government, the post office, and even weather. And this habit of being grumpy is a very contagious one.
French bureaucracy can also be related to the specifics of their mentality. When moving to this country, be ready to spend weeks and even months filling out paperwork. “A paper for the paper to get a paper” is not a joke here, it’s a reality! However, it’s only a matter of habit — one should simply get used to French bureaucracy just like the grey weather in Paris.
Many couples date each other for 5-10 years before getting married. Moreover, the traditional institution of marriage is gradually losing its ground. This is all thanks to PACS, which stands for civil solidarity pact. It was initially created for same-sex couples but today, it’s used by all couples. This a civil contract regulating minimum personal and property rights. It turns out that this is quite enough for many people who are comfortable just living life together. The traditional marriage, however, is closely connected with a wedding which is quite expensive and energy-consuming.
Usually, there are more than 2 kids per family in France and fathers take an active role in family life. Men even have a compulsory (though short) paternity leave during which new dads can take care of their offspring as well as cook, wash clothes, and clean the house. French men have a positive attitude toward this and for the most part, are happy to be engaged in upbringing kids and household chores.
Building a family budget is also different in French families. They do have a common budget but it doesn’t consist of the total amount of both spouse’s salaries. Their family budget is on somewhat of a “chip in” basis where spouses bring a part of their income to the family but keep some of the money they earn to themselves. They can spend this money as they wish.
I’ve been living in France for 7 years already and I don’t have any illusions regarding this country. Of course, it does have its disadvantages (ah, that French bureaucracy!) but aren’t there some in every country? Paris has already become my home and I’m happy that my destiny brought me here.
Which details of French life ended up really surprising you? We’d be happy to hear from you in the comments!