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French Stuff a French Brings Back from France – 2017 Edition

Backpack weight at check-in in Nantes: 15 kg

The first five days after we came back from France went by fast. I gave Mark his French LEGO, did four loads of laundry, filled up the fridge, caught a cold, cleaned the house, opened the mail, translated one document and reviewed another, called a friend and washed bedsheets. Then, and only then, I finally brought the yellow bag to my room.

I had set it aside in the hallway when I unpacked. I wanted to deal with it later, after all the post-traveling chores, to enjoy the moment when I would rediscover my French shopping.

So, what did I buy in France this year?

The big yellow bag of French stuff
Emptying the big yellow bag

In August, French supermarkets were stocked up with back-to-school supplies and full of stressed-out families trying to find permanent markers, binders, pencils and other essential investments to make sure kiddo gets into med school in fifteen years from now.

For old times’ sake, I bought two notebooks with standard French ruled paper. This is one of these small, interesting cultural differences: Canadians and Americans use college ruled paper while French love these 8 mm x 8 mm grid, with lighter or thinner horizontal lines spaced 2 mm apart. This paper is designed to learn cursive writing but it’s the default paper for notebooks.

I also bought the classic “Bic quatre couleurs,” a four-colour ballpoint pen, as well as unbreakable pencils made of synthetic resin.

I added a mini French dictionary to my own supply list because sometimes, it’s easier to flip through pages than to Google a word.

French back-to-school supplies: notebooks and a drawing my dad did of Mark
French back-to-school supplies: pencils and four-colour ballpoint pens
Classic French ruled paper
Mini French Larousse dictionary
Mini French Larousse dictionary

When I first came to Canada, I found pharmacy chains like Rexall or Shoppers were awesome… until I realized they were 10% post office services, 50% junk food, 20% overpriced cosmetics, 10% stationary and seasonal items and 10% over-the-counter drugs. Granted, French pharmacies don’t open 24/7 and you can’t pick up chocolate and chips with your painkillers. However, as soon as you step in, you feel better already—it seems like there’s a remedy for everything. Besides, drugs are usually very cheap.

I bought cappuccino- and orange-flavoured Efferalgan tablets designed to disintegrate in the mouth without water. Canadians haven’t mastered orodispersible tablets yet… I also bought Lysopaïne sugar-free pastilles—at school, we used to eat them like candies!—and an Arnican roll-on for bruises. Tip of the day: if you’re clumsy or if you have kids, do try Arnica, it’s surprisingly effective. We call it the “boo boo pen” at home!

From French pharmacies: orodispersible Efferalgan (acetaminophen), Lysopaïne for sore throat and Arnican roll-on for bruises
Arnican roll-on for bruises

I have a bit of a bar soap addiction… I gave up body wash years ago because back then, it wasn’t as common in Canada as it was in France, and I quickly noticed my skin was doing much better with bar soap. I never looked back.

I also bought two different scrubs, face creams, cleansing gel, lip balm and sunscreen. Note that we have all of that in Canada (except maybe scrubs which don’t seem to be as popular) but I generally like French fragrances better.

French soap bars from Briochin and Roger & Gallet
French soap bar from Briochin
Soap bars from Le Petit Marseillais
Body scrub from Linéance and face scrub from Nuxe
Honey face and body wash from Nuxe
French creams from Nuxe and Rogé Cavaillès
Face and body cream from Planter’s
Nivéa Sunscreen Spray SPF50+
Nuxe honey lip balm

I toyed with the idea of bringing back instant dry soup mixes. I love soup and apparently, so do French—there are dozens of different flavours whereas in Canada, it’s always “chicken soup” or “cream of something.” But I felt silly importing soup to Canada, so instead, I bought small salt-and-pepper shakers (great for travelling!) and bouillon cubes.

Mini salt and pepper from La Baleine
Knorr Garlic and parsley Bouillon Cubes

Finally, even though it was les soldes (the summer sales period), I couldn’t be bothered to shop for clothes. I only bought one pair of jeans from Desigual the day I arrived.

Funny story: my mom has been looking for a new swimsuit for about twenty years (!) and one evening, she tried one on at the Galeries Lafayette. I was standing outside the fitting room when Mark decided to sneak a peek. He immediately burst out laughing. “Grandma is NAKED inside!” he informed me, still laughing his head off. “She has NO clothes!” I’m not sure why it was so funny to him considering he came with me inside fitting rooms dozens of times and he sees me taking a shower or changing clothes often enough…!

Desigual jeans

How about you? What do you bring back from home?

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