1. It becomes normal to dip your breakfast food into your breakfast beverage.
The first meal of the day is taken quite seriously in La République with all manner of buttery croissants, brioche, and pain au chocolat to be had. The thing is, most breakfasts involve dipping your chosen viennoiserie into the coffee, hot chocolate, or even tea you’re drinking alongside it, especially if you’re dining with French people. While not unpleasant, it can feel a bit weird to begin with, especially if you’re more inclined to snarf some cereal before heading out.
2. You find out all the French you learnt at school is useless.
Opening a bank account is a straightforward process, until you realise no-one ever taught you the French word for overdraft. Or interest rate. Or even “bank account”. In fact, more or less the same thing happens when you’re setting up every frustrating, grown-up thing you need when moving to a new country, from registering with a doctor to getting your IKEA haul delivered. Awkward and sometimes sweaty though it may be, however, this linguistic baptism of fire ensures you’ll never forget this useful, new vocabulary.
3. Eating vegetarian gets much harder.
France is a carnivorous nation, fueled by steak frites and charcuterie. As such, meat is about as prevalent as the cafés and brasseries that serve it, i.e. you can find it everywhere. Sadly for vegetarians, this means finding something remotely interesting on the menu at many restaurants can be challenging, and for vegans, almost impossible. Luckily, a lot of establishments are prepared to make you up a plate or salad according to your requirements if you ask nicely!
4. Bureaucracy becomes your nemesis.
Paperwork seems to be France’s unofficial national sport. Whether you’re filing tax returns, or even just setting up a phone contract, you’ll need to provide proof of everything, from your address to your place of birth, and you’ll have to do a lot of it by post. For the sake of your own sanity, you should take every official document you own with you, keep every French payslip you ever receive, and never toss a bank statement or tax bill. Oh, and photocopy everything. Twice. And maybe laminate one.
5. Bread becomes a staple part of every meal.
Like meat, bread is everywhere in France. From breakfast to supper, every meal comes with a side of bread, quite likely in a big basket if you’re eating out or in large ripped-off chunks if you’re staying in. Unsurprisingly, gluten-free life isn’t all plain sailing either as a result.
6. Wine becomes your alcoholic drink of choice.
Wine is inexpensive and delicious in France, and everyone drinks it all the time, though not (usually) with breakfast. Even some of the bottom shelf stuff in the supermarket will pass muster for a BYOB situation, just make sure you don’t choose a screw top or plastic bottle. That degree of sacrilege will earn you the kind of dirty looks that just aren’t worth enduring for a 2€ saving.
7. You spend way too much time practicing the French “R” sound.
A huge part of getting your French accent down involves mastering the sultry, throaty, and sometimes spit laden “R” sound. So, expect to spend several hours practicing it in its various forms, whether in front of the mirror or to actual French speakers, or both. It’ll happen eventually, probably when you least expect it (or after a few glasses of vin rouge).
8. Crêpes become your drunk food of choice.
Going home from a night out often involves some kind of fast food, and the greasier it is, the better. In France, that means a crêpe, ideally involving plenty of cheese… then, maybe another crêpe stuffed with Nutella and banana slices for dessert. Well, you might as well do it properly, right?
9. Europe starts to seem a lot smaller.
Once you’re on the continent, Europe starts to feel a lot more accessible than it does even from the UK. Cheap flights, reasonably priced trains, and 5€ bus tickets abound, as do several car share options to neighboring and relatively nearby countries. Add to that the significantly reduced travelling time, and you have no reason not to tick off some bucket list destinations!
10. Eating al fresco often means eating on the pavement.
During the summer months, and much of the spring, autumn and winter, French people like to eat outside whenever possible. The kind of ‘terrasse’ you’re likely to find here, however, is really just cordoned off pavement, unlike the actual gardens and patios you’re more likely to find in much of the UK or US. It gives street food a whole new meaning!
11. You consider trains a seriously viable alternative to planes.
The TGV trains in France are fast and pleasant to travel on, and they’re practical, too. There’s just no other way to get from central Paris to central Marseilles in three hours, even if you fly!