1. You consider 4 o’clock the best time of the day.
When 4pm hits, the country comes to a halt, and the blood glucose levels of its inhabitants goes bonkers. The kids are off school, so it’s snack time (l’heure du goûter) for them, and apparently everyone else. The ritual in my neck of the woods is to get a third of a fresh baguette, cut it in half lengthwise, and spread some salted butter and strawberry jam on it. It doesn’t get much better than that.
2. You don’t believe bread makes you fat.
No respectable French person, whether they’re a dietician, a nutritionist, or a lingerie model, should utter such nonsense. Bread is delicious and healthy (I’m not talking about Wonder Bread here, people, I’m talking about the real handmade-with-love deal), so there’s no way it can be responsible for such evil doings as making me put on pounds. That whole thing is just a conspiracy against the best people on the planet: bakers.
3. A full mug of coffee can make you cry tears of joy.
In France, if you go to the ‘café’ and ask, very appropriately, for a cup of Joe (“un café, s’il vous plaît!”), you only get a thimble-worth of the stuff. Now, if you love coffee, that’s just not enough. You don’t want to admit it, but the only place where you can get an honorable amount of caffeine is Starbucks. Unfortunately (or not), there are very few of them in France, so until café owners get themselves some properly sized cups, you’ll have to remain miserable, or go abroad.
4. Your wallet is gigantic.
It’s not like you have much choice. Your driver’s licence (pink and made of the thickest blotting paper on the planet) is 3in wide and 4.5in long, and so is your ID card. Only French wallets can handle that kind of ridiculous.
5. You know what cheese withdrawal feels like.
When it comes to cheese, we’ve got one rule in France: the stinkier, the better. I know it seems appalling, but it’s a very accurate gauging system. For most French people living abroad, the lack of variety among cheeses is nothing short of tragic. Whenever someone asks me if I’d like some cheddar, my heart sinks, and I pray for that horrid block of orange crap to turn into a foul-smelling camembert.
6. You’ve never experienced customer service.
It was not until you left the country that you realized some businesses actually cared about their customers. In France, if the store closes at 5pm, at 4:50pm the metal blind is halfway down the front door, and the staff is vacuuming between your feet. You don’t count on a smile either; it’s not in anyone’s contract to be pleasant.
7. You have no college debt.
This is one of the many perks of being French; you pay next to nothing to attend university, which means you don’t end up with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt when you reach 25. Yay to high taxes and national solidarity!
8. You smoke.
Let’s be honest, the stereotype of the French person chain smoking is very close to reality. There are exceptions, of course — for example, I’m a non-smoker, but I’m the only one of all my French friends who doesn’t smoke (breastfeeding moms included). Everybody seems to give it a try as a teenager, and most people just get hooked for good, despite the rising price of cigarettes (the cheapest pack of 20 now costs 6.5 Euros).
9. You know what a ‘Minitel’ is.
That was one hell of a French invention! The Minitel is the ancestor of the internet connection. That thing looked like a small PC in a funky beige/brown colour combination and allowed you to make train reservations, look up a phone number (very much like an online directory), and access porn! In 1982! 3615 ULLA was the code to have a hot conversation with some sexy lady…
10. You speek like zees.
Your English can be grammatically perfect, but your accent remains as thick as the layer of butter on your 4pm snack. It’s not your fault — there’s not much you can do about it — but be aware that your pronunciation of “little,” “Worcestershire sauce,” “sourdough,” etc., is how everyone can figure out you were born and raised in France in a split second.