The Slightly Unusual Things a French Brings Back From France

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There are many things I don’t bring back from France. Booze, for instance, because I don’t drink and I wouldn’t know what to buy for friends. I don’t attempt to cross the border with traditional French meals in Mason jars because my family doesn’t do canning and frankly, I rarely crave cassoulet, fois gras or other local specialties. I don’t bring back childhood memories or photo albums because I really don’t need to remember how awkward I was as a teen. I don’t bring back paintings or drawings from my dad because unless he starts working on his subway tickets series again, art is difficult to carry. I don’t hide unpasteurized stinky cheese under my clothes for obvious reasons. I also make sure my sister’s cat isn’t sleeping in my backpack, because you never know.

But since I have room in my bag after gifting what I bring from Canada—typically clothes, sweets, maple syrup and a few North American goodies—I do a bit of shopping in France.

Breaking news—France is a good place to stock up on cosmetics and skincare products. I like the basic and cheap Crème fraîche from Nuxe, the Crème hydratante ultra-confort from Rogé Cavaillès, Linéance’s body scrub, Nuxe’s Rêve de miel cleanser and fancy soap bars from Briochin and Roger&Gallet. Each of these products is between €5 and €10, although I did splurge on Nuxe’s masque-crème clarifiant. I also bought a couple of Klorane shampoo bottles—I buy fancy shampoo because I absolutely hate most North American brands like Head & Shoulders.

I collected my second most important stash at the pharmacie. French love pharmacies—it’s that magical place where you walk in sick and tired and leave happy and cured. Note that French are also addicted to antidepressants, tranquilizers and mood-altering prescription drugs, but that’s another story.

I can easily spend an hour in a decent-size French pharmacy. I usually stop by for paracetamol, and twenty minutes later, I’m somehow convinced I need a bunch of remedies for issues I didn’t even suspect I had. Do not go to a French pharmacy if you’re a hypochondriac, although I’m sure you’ll find a drug for that too.

I usually stock up on paracetamol because taking a French orally dissolving cappuccino-flavoured Efferalgan beats washing a giant green Advil with water. I also bought de la vitamin C—this is the French meth—and Arnica cream for bruises and sore muscles. I got Feng addicted to Arnica a few years ago, he buys his own stash now… And I got the classic glass bottle of rubbing alcohol because in Canada, it’s sold in giant plastic containers.

At the supermarket, I bought a tube of Génie, the best hand-wash detergent I know (very useful when travelling!).

I can find most of my favourite French cookies in Canada now, so I only bought sel de Guérande for seasoning, Knorr spices and many instant soup flavours because leading North American brands don’t offer that many options.

In the back-to-school aisles, I got a few Bic quatre-couleurs pens, pencils and French notebooks.

This year, I found the best fashion deals at H&M—two pairs of short and one pair of jeans, all on sale. I also bought a lovely red leather jacket at Mango, on sale for €60.

Finally, two cute souvenirs—a small wallet I bought in Saint-Brévin and a Breton keychain I bought in Saint-Michel.

The stash (some of it, at least)

Nuxe and Roger Cavaillès creams

Roger & Gallet and Briochin soap bars

Linéance body scrub and Nuxe face soap

Klorane shampoo and conditioner

Paracetamol and vitamin C

Paracetamol (no water needed, cappucino flavour!)

Rubbing alcohol

Bruise cream

Hand wash detergent

French notebooks and Bic pens

French notebooks and Bic pens

French spices and sea salt

French soups

French soups

H&M jeans

H&M shorts

H&M shorts

The Mango jacket, Nantes, August 2018




About Author

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


  1. Euphytose ! Always usefull, especially when coming back from holidays!
    I do the raw milk stinky cheese stuff, but most of the time, I do the beauty products one. I find the organic canadian brands soooo expensive and with less choice that what I can find in the Biocoop. I basically have a 7 euros organic day cream and a 2 euros organic toothpaste, plus the Couleur Caramel make up. I’d never find those prices in Canada!

    • Nantes has a couple of Biocoop now, both very popular 🙂 I agree, you wouldn’t find stuff that cheap in Canada, although it may be changing now in big cities. I can find more “alternative” products (by “alternative” I mean not owned by a mega corp and vegetarian/healthier/more ethical/organic, etc.).

  2. Oh my, I love your little vacation haul!!

    It’s so funny how much I relate to all of this, too.. After two years in Canada I can safely say shopping here is great because there are SO MANY CHOICES, whether you’re buying cosmetic products clothes food or electronics, doesn’t matter the options are infinite! Having said that, there are quite a few things I cannot find her and I find myself making a mental note of all the things I’ll be getting from back home when I go visit! It’s hilarious that my list is pretty much IDENTICAL to your stuff
    You did good my friend & Welcome back!!!

    • This is really funny, but after a few years in Canada, I came to realize that sometimes, there were FEWER options here. Supermarkets are huge, bigger than in Europe… but a few big brands conquered most of the aisles. So for instance, the dairy aisle is basically Danone vs. Yoplait without any other smaller brands with alternative products. Maybe I’m spoiled, because food and cosmetics are two big industries in France.

  3. Before leaving Brazil, my husband (who was already here in Canada) told me (in a mild panic) to buy a big stash of paracetamol because in the 5 years we were away, they had replaced the main ingredient of Tylenol from paracetamol to acetaminophen!!! And don’t know you, but that DOESN’T WORK for us, AT ALL!!!
    Anyway. So I did bring back a big stash of paracetamol and other anti-inflammatory medications from Brazil, which are slowly dwindling… Glad to know that it’s still available in France, you never know when will be my turn to cross over the pond again 🙂

  4. Love the skin care recommendations. I will have to look into this once we get to St. Martin. We can compare prices and see what the island inflation is. And good thing you bought that jacket. It’s COLD here this weekend!

    • Way too chilly for me right now!

      You can find Nuxe at Shoppers now. Bit more expensive than in France but still a good value 😉 (Or come over for samples!)

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