What I Miss From France... And What I Don't!

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Weird Sign In Nantes

Weird Sign In Nantes

Each time I visit France, my friends all ask me if I miss it, and if I would ever go back there to live. In short, the answer is no. While I like the coun­try, I must admit my life is much eas­ier in Canada. I left right after high school and I never looked back, even though I enjoy vis­it­ing every once in a while.

Now, to each his own, and I’m happy to see expats and immi­grants from all over the world (notably Bar­bara, Jen­nie, Lis, Emily, Sarah, Aimee, Princesse Écos­saise and Tanya) hav­ing a great time in France!

There are things I miss, but there are also things I don’t miss. Let’s have a look…

First, what do I miss from my home country?

  • Not hav­ing to drive every­where, for a start. I grew up in the city cen­ter of Nantes, where the movie the­ater is a two min­utes walk, where I had hun­dreds of restau­rants and bars another ten min­utes walk from home, as well as two nearby super­mar­kets and all the shops you can think of. The tran­sit sys­tem is also pretty good, with buses and sev­eral tramway lines. In Canada, I live in a close sub­urb (about 10 min­utes drive from down­town), but we rely on the car a lot to get around. City plan­ning (or lack of in my opin­ion) is very dif­fer­ent in North Amer­ica and dri­ving is a must.
  • Hav­ing my fam­ily nearby, obvi­ously. I have really good friends in Canada, but no fam­ily except for Feng and my in-laws.
  • The art of hang­ing out in cafés: Cana­di­ans are pretty straight­for­ward: if they want caf­feine, they grab a venti cof­fee at Star­bucks, Sec­ond Cup, Bridge­head, Tim­o­thys or Tim Hor­tons — to go. If they want to get drunk, they go to a bar. French, on the other hand, can linger for ages around a tiny cup of espresso or a beer. Plus, you can still smoke on terraces.
  • French care about pol­i­tics. Maybe a bit too much, con­sid­er­ing demon­strat­ing is almost a form of exer­cise. But I wish more Cana­di­ans care about national pol­i­tics, which after all are impor­tant!
  • Tip and tax included in the price. In Canada, GST and PST are never included in the price, nor is the tip in restau­rants. I can never ever pre­pare my change at the cashier because I don’t know the final price. And I’m still not nat­ural at cal­cu­lat­ing tips!
  • The lack of polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness: French are not too polit­i­cally cor­rect and I some­how like it. I feel that in North Aner­ica, there is always some­one who is going to be offended by something!
  • Health­ier food: even bad food is some­what health­ier than North American’s bad food. Por­tions are smaller, food is less salty, less fatty and there is no “triple cheese­burg­ers with a side of onion ring, bacon, ribs” non­sense, like in the “land of plenty”.
  • His­toric cities: most cities are old and the her­itage is pre­served. There are tons of muse­ums and every­thing is beau­ti­ful. Most cities in Canada are quite new and build­ings are obvi­ously not as pretty.

Now, what I don’t miss:

  • Life is very expen­sive in France. If I was work­ing (which is not a given con­sid­er­ing the high unem­ploy­ment rate), I would prob­a­bly make between 1000–1500 € a month. Enough to sur­vive and rent a small place, but I wouldn’t travel or go out much. I don’t make much in Canada, but I feel I can afford more: there are always cheap clothes on sale, enter­tain­ment like con­cert tick­ets are okay, eat­ing out in eth­nic restau­rants is cheap enough etc.
  • Rent­ing a place can be a real headache: there is a hous­ing cri­sis in big­ger cities and find­ing a place can be tough. Plus, land­lords are very picky and often demand a per­ma­nent job with a high salary.
  • The bureau­cracy. I feel things are rel­a­tively more straight­for­ward in Canada: first of all, most of the info we need is often online. Sec­ond, there are 1–800 num­bers (free) for every­thing. France is a bit back­wards in term of gov­ern­ment info on the inter­net and most con­tact phone num­bers are over-taxed, not free!
  • Stu­pid shop hours: in France, most places close at 7:00 pm (a bit later in Paris) and don’t open at all on Sun­day. I never go to these 24 hours stores in Canada (well, I do, but not at 3:00 am!) but I must admit it’s very con­ve­nient to be able to go gro­cery shop­ping on Sun­day and to have phar­ma­cies open late.
  • The health sys­tem. No, there is noth­ing wrong with it (other than its deficit). But what a lot of Euro­peans don’t seem to know is that our health sys­tem in Canada is not that bad. My French friends always ask me how we do to pay our health bills: well, we don’t have any. Every­thing but den­tal, eye care and med­i­cine is cov­ered by our provin­cial health sys­tem — not bad! Plus, in France, you have to pay first and you are reim­bursed later. In Canada, our health card is just swiped and we don’t pay any­thing! Sure, there is a doc­tor short­age in Canada, and wait­ing lists can be long. But France also has wait­ing list for some spe­cial­ties after all (see my post about both health sys­tems, Sicko(s)).
  • Lack of effi­ciency and no cus­tomer ser­vice: French are noto­ri­ous for jump­ing queues, and it gets on my nerves. As for cus­tomer ser­vice… let’s just say it’s inex­is­tent. Most peo­ple are very pleas­ant and polite, but this some­how change when they are serv­ing you. I wanted to buy pens the other day in a store, but they were under lock and key. I asked the shop assis­tant, who sigh look­ing at me, and said: “can’t you get some other pens?”. Yep, that’s what I’m talk­ing about…!
  • Drunk kids in the streets: call my old-fashioned, but I hate to see young kids (I’m talk­ing early teens) drink­ing in the streets and hap­pily order­ing Vodka in bars. Not to men­tion when they buy tons of liquor at the super­mar­ket… I’m not stu­pid, I’m sure kids in Canada get drunk as well. But at least, the state doesn’t make it easy for them! I know, I used to think Canada’s atti­tude towards alco­hol was a bit too much. Well, I changed my mind. I think kids drink too much in France… espe­cially in Brit­tany, where I’m from
  • Dirty cities: I find Canada amaz­ingly clean com­pare to France. Dodg­ing dog poo isn’t my favorite sports, and I hate see­ing puke every­where after the week end binge drinking!
  • Lack of pub­lic phone booth: every­body has a cell phone these days in France. Now, when you are vis­it­ing, you have to rely on phone booths, but unlike Canada, they don’t work with coins but with phone cards, which you have to buy before­hand. Call­ing a cell is amaz­ingly expen­sive (a 3 € phone cards to call cell phones lasted about 5 min­utes), and even call­ing local num­bers can be pricey. I like it bet­ter in Canada: 50 cents unlim­ited local calls and local cells! Plus, phone booths in France are head­ing towards extinc­tion, and they can be hard to find.

So, what do you guys miss from home? What don’t you miss? I tag the French ladies men­tioned above, plus:

Have fun!

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

27 Comments

  1. Inter­est­ing post and I can’t com­ment on every­thing. One thing caught my eye espe­cially though; the avail­abil­ity of phone booth and price for call­ing with your mobile phone. The lack of them is due to that every­one has a mobile phone (yea, I know you call them cell phones :lol: ) The price within the coun­try is not expen­sive in Europe, but in between coun­tries, there might be for some. The EU Comity have been look­ing into that how­ever, and there will be set a limit for roam­ing prices — I think — this summer.

    A strange thing about North Amer­ica and the rest of the world how­ever, is that you use another band stan­dard than the rest of the world. When we go to US or Canada, we need a triple band phone and I noticed when my MIL was here in Nor­way, two years ago, she could not use her mobile phone at all.

  2. Pingback: 5 Things My Mum Observed in Canada | Correr Es Mi Destino

  3. encore une fois, je né suis pas d’accord avec tous les points de ton analyse: pour le coût de la vie et le sys­tème de santé, on en reparle quand tu auras 50 ans et que tu seras malade, là tu com­pren­dras que les mesures vont bien plus loin en France (je parle des mi-temps térapeuthique, du soins à domi­cile, etc…) et que les deficits et le fait que les “jeunes beaux et en bonne santé” payent effec­tive­ment pour que les autres soient vrai­ment pris en charge.
    Et en ce qui con­cerne les heures d’ouverture des com­merces, on voit que tu n’as jamais tra­vaillé dans la dis­tri­b­u­tion!! Cela est fait pour pro­téger les tra­vailleurs, comme ça, ils n’ont pas à faire les trois huits!! Déjà que les salaires de ce genre de jobs pré­caires sont bas (même dans ton super nou­veau pays!), on va en plus tra­vailler la nuit et né plus avoir de vie pour que tu puisses aller t’acheter tes trucs quand bon te sem­ble… C’est un choix que j’apprécie de la part des français. Mais bon.
    Et pour les jeunes qui se bour­rent la ruche, encore une fois, ques­tion de philoso­phie, mais il faut bien que jeunesse se fasse… ça fait moins de crise de la quar­an­taines qui brise les familles!

    • Je né suis pas non plus tout à fait d’accord avec ton analyse. D’abord, mes arti­cles né sont pas manichéens, d’un côté les bons Cana­di­ens et de l’autre les méchants Français. J’ai répété maintes fois que je n’avais rien con­tre la France.

      Main­tenant, j’espère bien avoir un jour 50 ans et né pas être malade, merci bien! Il y a aussi des mesures pour accom­pa­g­ner les per­son­nes souf­frant de mal­adie au Canada.

      Oui, j’ai tra­vaillé dans la dis­tri­b­u­tion et dans le ser­vice à la clien­tèle quand j’étais étu­di­ante en France et quand je suis arrivée au Canada. J’ai tra­vaillé dans des emplois pré­caires et à des heures pas pos­si­bles, je sais ce que c’est. Je né suis pas non plus une grande con­som­ma­trice et en général je né fais pas mes courses à 2 h du mat’ (et la plu­part des gens ici non plus d’ailleurs). Avoir des mag­a­sins ouverts le dimanche, par con­tre, je suis pour.

      En ce qui con­cerne les jeunes et l’alcool, je suis désolée mais je trouve que c’est un vrai prob­lème en France. Qui né dérange pas grand monde parce que, comme toi, beau­coup de gens met­tent ça sur le compte de la jeunesse…

  4. Over­all this blog is really good! I have lived both in France and Canada. Yes les Français … de ce que j’ai vu et vécu le sys­tème de santé cana­dien est beau­coup meilleur pour l’utilisateur que cel­lui des Français! Le sys­tème français n’est pas nul but you NEVER-EVER PAY IN CANADA FOR HEALTH CARE! En France, vous avez besoin pour payer le médecin directe­ment et apres etre rem­bourser par le SECU pub­lic et de votre mutuelle. Sounds real­i­tively easy but it can be an casse-tête énorme!

    • Thank you for your input! I tend to agree with you. I haven’t used the French health care sys­tem as an adult because I left France in my early twen­ties but all these mutuelles and taux de rem­bourse­ment sound awfully com­pli­cated. I like being able to show my health card and not pay upfront.

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