Six culture shocks you may face in France

If you’ve been to France, you’d know that it’s unlike anywhere on the planet – for better or worse. And that’s why we love it. 

But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find some intriguing French habits that have perplexed this week’s guest, Rosie McCarthy from the hit YouTube channel Not Even French.

Yes, this New Zealander has spent the past five years in France and she shares a few of the culture shocks that left her truly frazzled. 

Listen to the 30-minute podcast episode by hitting play below (or go and subscribe wherever you find your podcasts). Scroll down if you prefer to read the list instead 🙂

The French shower differently

This one is sure to divide you readers and listeners. Have you noticed that French people get into the shower, turn on the water to get wet, then turn off the water to lather up? Then they turn the water on again to wash it all off. This might sound perfectly normal and water efficient to you, but how many of you just turn on the water at the start and then turn it off at the end? 

The French fear air conditioners and natural breezes

Never will you frighten a French person quicker than if you leave them in a room where some kind of breeze can reach them. They’ll get a sore neck or a cold, both of which could easily have been avoided by sweating it out in the heat.

No doesn’t mean no

No (often) means ‘convince me’, says Rosie. If a postal worker, for example, says they simply can’t help you with an issue, don’t take it as the final word. Often it’s just the start of a kind of game where you have to convince your counterpart to help you. 

The French don’t do top sheets on beds

In New Zealand, at least, a bed comes with a mattress protector, a fitted sheet, a top sheet, then a duvet cover. The French don’t seem to do this top sheet, and it’s a point of contention for some expats and foreigners. Why no top sheet? What’s wrong with a top sheet?

French people very rarely finish their sentences

Here’s an interesting one that takes a little more explanation, perhaps (listen to the podcast!). But Rosie explains that French people come from a high context communication culture, meaning they tend to use fewer words and that the meaning tends to be implied.

They’ll cut a sentence short and just say ‘voila’ and you’ll be expected to fill in the gaps. This can make for a tough settling in process at the French workplace, especially if you’re from a low context communication culture like those of Australia or New Zealand.

French waiters make you wait forever for the restaurant bill

In some countries, you just have to make eye contact with a waiter at the end of your meal and the bill will be on your table before you could even sneeze. Not so in France, says Rosie, where asking for the bill might not change things for 15 minutes. And a word of warning, expect another wait for the card machine to arrive afterwards. 

Well, that’s it from Rosie. If you want more of an explanation for these points, I strongly encourage you to listen to our chat by hitting play below. 

And be sure to check out Rosie’s YouTube channel here and join her 65,000+ subscribers. 

Here’s a bonus: Rosie hosted me on her YouTube channel very recently, where we discussed the difference between Paris and France (essentially my observations from the honeymoon trip!). See it below. 

Lastly, if you wanna see a heck of a lot more from The Earful Tower, consider signing up on Patreon and supporting it

2 thoughts on “Six culture shocks you may face in France

  1. I laud the French for not wasting water in the shower! We all should follow their example. The perplexing shower thing for me is the bathtub shower with no shower curtain. Wouldn’t the water go all over the place? I learned that you plug the tub, sit down, and then shower yourself with the “pomme” (you plug the tub so the shower water warms the cold tub that you’re sitting in). And remember to rinse the tub after you’re done.
    The restaurant check isn’t so difficult–no French waiter will ever inform you that your table is needed for new guests and that you have to hurry up and leave. If you want to get a French waiter’s attention, just drop a fork or napkin–they’ll be there instantly with a replacement.

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