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The 2021 Bag of Essential French Products I Brought Back

Looking for a pandemic-safe way to discover France? Step into my bedroom! No quarantine or mask needed if you’re fully vaccinated—I am, don’t worry.

Go ahead, open a chest drawer. This corner is called the “petite parapharmacie française,” basically all my over-the-counter drugs and personal hygiene products. Head to the middle desk drawer for the “petite papeterie française” with French BIC four-colour retractable ballpoint pens and Seyes-ruled Clairefontaine notebooks. For the “petite épicerie,” let’s go to the kitchen downstairs…

For the first time in years, I didn’t bring back French products for quick comfort when I miss home but because it made sense. Canada’s inflation is the highest in a decade. Shortages, lockdowns, and border restrictions have impacted supply chains. Sure, I can find over-the-counter drugs, shampoo, soap, cream, stationary, etc., in Canada but most products are more expensive than in France and—I know I’m probably biased here—higher price doesn’t mean higher quality.

So I shopped in France and fill up my bag with products I’ll need for the months to come.

I’m absolutely not doing my part to help Canada’s economic recovery. Not only I left the country a few times during the pandemic but I kind of stopped… well, buying stuff.

It started last fall, during the second wave. I’ve never been a shopaholic in the first place but between lockdowns, restrictions and higher prices, I started avoiding stores altogether. I didn’t feel like joining the queue unless it was for groceries we actually needed. And I didn’t shop online either because reasons, namely shipping costs and labour exploitation.

You’ve probably read that the pandemic has transformed consumers’ spending habits. It’s kind of true for me.

Take coffee, for instance. I used to love my local Starbucks—not because I’m a big fan of the company but because the closest coffee shop from home is a Starbucks, a well-managed store with a great team. I’ve been working from home for over a decade now, so going to Starbucks once a day was a nice way to take a walk, a break and socialize. It was also a plan B to work when the Internet was down (… or when my in-laws were stopping by). I stopped going to Starbucks at one point last fall when the company “paused” indoor seating long before the second lockdown. I didn’t see why I should pay $2.09 for coffee when I had to order and pay on the app, wait outside behind a table blocking the door and eventually get my cup to enjoy… anywhere, but not at Starbucks. I can make coffee at home, thank you very much.

I’m not advocating for a minimalist lifestyle—I can’t stand the holier-than-thou attitude of people who suddenly adopt X or Y lifestyle. I’m not even trying to make a point because what I “need” and what I want is probably different from what you need and want. So, whatever.

It’s just that after months of being told to stay home, avoid other human beings and shop online to fill the void, I’m focusing on experiences rather than things.

Even with my French shopping, I went back to basics. Like, I don’t feel like splurging on Nuxe or Kiehl’s skincare products—NIVEA is cheaper and just as a good. I only bought things I’m actually using. Much like when I’m travelling, I like to keep my life portable.

As usual, boxes are a bit crushed and the tape I used on bottles to prevent leaks is still there—but everything made it to Canada just fine and I’m glad I have what I need for the months to come.

Le Petit Marseillais shampoo and conditioner
Le Petit Marseillais shampoo and conditioner
Nivéa makeup remover and Linéance body scrub
NIVEA makeup remover and Linéance body scrub
Le Petit Marseillais one-minute mask and Cattier green clay mask
Le Petit Marseillais one-minute mask and Cattier green clay mask
Briochin soap bars
Briochin soap bars
Nivéa face scrub and face cream
NIVEA face scrub and face cream
Over-the-counter drugs and vitamic C
Over-the-counter drugs and vitamic C
Welcome to a French pharmacy!
Welcome to my French pharmacy!
Welcome to my French pharmacy!
Welcome to my French pharmacy!
Clairefontaine notebook and BIC classic ballpoint pen
Clairefontaine notebook and BIC classic ballpoint pen
Nescafé instant coffee
Nescafé instant coffee
Sea salt from Guérande
Sea salt from Guérande
Sea salt from Guérande
Sea salt from Guérande
Knorr cubes
Knorr cubes
Instant soup (don't laugh, it's very comforting when it gets cold!)
Instant soup (don’t laugh, it’s very comforting when it gets cold!)
Two recipe books I used during spring in France
Two recipe books I used during spring in France

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