Travel & Expat Lifestyle Magazine

From California To France: The First Hours Shocks


 Can you imagine what first strikes American people when they arrive in France?

I’m a happy French expatriate living in San Diego California. I completely feel comfortable with my American day-to-day life and I realize how happy I am with this relocation but at the same time there are so many little  things that I miss from my own country.

And here I am, flying back to France for my annual trip, ready to live again the big shock like any regular tourist even if I’m spending this 2 weeks vacations with family and friends in a well known environment.

In transit at the airport, in the car or in the street, the very first hours back there are usually full of discoveries or reminders of what makes a country so different from another.

Here are 6 small details, not always the best ones, that probably strike Californian people when they first arrive in France:

Europe is a melting pot: 

In the first two hours you are there, you get the chance to see so many nationalities sharing a same environment… Europe/France is a place where people come, leave, or are in transit to somewhere else. This gives you the opportunity to hear many different languages, different musics, and even to see different styles! Everyone agrees that French culture is rich, but very often we forget that France is also giving a tremendous space to the worlds cultures offering a richer experience to everyone.

Food is really great!

As a US fan since ever, I must say that I miss French food AND International food. As a direct consequence of what I said earlier, you can find so many different food styles and flavours that you can’t try everything in a single trip. As an example, there are probably ten or twenty times more yogurts in French grocery stores than in American ones! I have a full list of things I want to eat before going back to US but I already know that I won’t have time or appetite for all of them. What a pity!

Everybody smokes!

It’s not allowed in public spaces anymore but I can still see a large amount of people smoking in the street, during parties or everywhere they can. Being in California I had forgotten the smell of cigarettes!

Life with a baby/toddler is a lot easier in US than in France.

Play areas, diaper change areas, stroller access, boosters and kids friendly menus in restaurants… France can be the European country having the highest birth rate, there are still a lot of improvements that can be done to help mothers live a better life. I’m so happy to spend my son’s first years away from there!

Talking about improvements…

In fact this can be said in many different aspects of French life. The quality of service is in general a nightmare compared to US. Don’t expect waitresses to be nice if you are in a touristic zone, get ready to fight at the grocery store, etc… What a stress! I don’t get why French are not as demanding as American are. Things could change if brands didn’t think we are resigned to such a low level of services.

Architecture, roads, cars…

Restaurants, bedrooms, and so on… The concept “small is beautiful” is probably coming from Europe! But this is making a trip to France a perfect trip for a total change of scenery.


2 thoughts on “From California To France: The First Hours Shocks

  1. Julie,

    Great article. I know this article was written quite a while ago (almost a year), but I’m curious if you’re still living in San Diego. My wife and I lived in France last year for a short time, but now live in San Diego. I am getting the travel bug again and would love to connect sometime if you’re still in San Diego to talk about the differences and hear your side of being an expat. Feel free to get in touch if you still receive these comments.


  2. …and you forgot one thing : Paris and most French cities are MUCH dirtier than San Diego and most US cities! and people jaywalk across the streets (so much fun? not), and the worst part is : cars stop to let jaywalkers pass, but they give gas when they’re near a pedestrian crossing. French people seem to have a rule : the most obnoxious, the best : eg dog crap strewn on sidewalks is so much fun! (not)

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