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7 Things French People Learn When They Move to England

France England
by Amaia Oct 20, 2014
1. We French win the asshole war.

The old stereotype that French people look down on you and talk behind your back — or right to your face as they don’t think you can understand them is not exactly fair. There are jerks in France pretty much like everywhere else — the UK has its fair share as well.

But trust me, if you’ve set foot in both the London tube and Paris métro, you know there is no comparison. French people will push you to get in first, take your seat, walk all over you without a second thought. I’m so glad I left that behind for the scalding-hot and constantly packed London tube, where at least people are nice.

2. Wine is a luxury.

Growing up in France, I am accustomed to cheap, delicious wine right around the corner. In just about any shop, there’s wine from all around France at a reasonable price. London plays a different game — things are either cheap and very average tasting or really good but will require you to mortgage the house you already can’t afford.

3. Bread just isn’t…bread.

We French are very, very proud of our bread — namely, the baguette. It is absolutely normal for a French person to drive out of town, every day, and queue for ages just to get the best baguette. Here, well…let’s just say bread is not a priority. You can find toast bread in abundance, which you’re apparently supposed to eat with baked beans drowned in tomato sauce — I just don’t get it.

4. Paris is a teeny, tiny city.

I grew up in a small village on the outskirts of Parisian suburbs — Paris was the big city. It had everything: a métro that goes everywhere, cinemas at every corner, little cafés and restaurants that reminded me at all times I was a broke student. And then I moved to London. With its overload of transportation that somehow never work: the tube, overground, DLR, buses, and even an Emirates Air Line that frankly doesn’t seem to serve any purpose at all. London is so big I can’t tell where I am at any given time; I’m always lost! There’s a similar feeling, though — the pubs and restaurants still remind me that I am now a broke twenty-something.

5. We are food snobs.

My mother’s first and foremost concern when I moved was that I’d end up covered in mint sauce and baked beans. After all, France is so much the country of “fine cuisine” that most of the kitchen vernacular is still French — or close enough to be misspelt French. But London made me discover that between traditional English food and exotic cuisines, I was far from reaching my weight goal. Sunday roast, Victoria sponge, dim sum, and a thousand sorts of curry have changed my mind about the Perfidious Albion.

6. The whole dating thing is weird.

Dating isn’t really a thing in France, we usually meet through friends, and it is quickly decided if you want to be an item — there’s none of that dating malarkey where you have to look in each other’s eyes for hours while pretending to laugh at each other’s jokes. The French will try it right away, and ça passe ou ça casse — you make it or you break it.

While it’s nice to have a glass of wine with an almost-complete stranger, there’s an awkwardness I haven’t been able to shake. But I still think I’m better off without the French guys I used to meet in clubs, who thought my ass was so irresistible they needed to grab it. In two years in London and with much shorter skirts, it never happened once — that’s something Mastercard definitely can’t buy.

7. We can’t drink.

We French quite like our wine and beer, but we rarely drink without eating at the same time. Our Sunday lunches last for hours on end, and we never need a proper bar at a wedding, because you end up eating dessert at midnight, and you’re still drinking wine by then. But the British do the contrary — they drink without eating, which doesn’t make sense to me.

The first time I went for Friday drinks with my colleagues, I ended up extremely drunk in a bus eating a Burger King (which I regretted later that night) at 9:30pm. The British know how to last on a bowl of chips and five pints of beer — in the defence of my countrymen, the alcohol level between British beers and French wine isn’t fully comparable.

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