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What I Miss (or Not) from France, as a Former French

Each time I visit France, my friends all ask me if I miss the country and if I’m planning to come back for good.

In short, the answer is no. I like France but 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.

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

I grew up in the city centre of Nantes, where the movie theatre is a two-minute 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 10-minute 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

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 “to go” at Starbucks, Second Cup, Bridgehead, Timothys or Tim Hortons. If they want to get drunk, they go to a bar. French, on the other hand, can hang out in cafés and beer forever, sipping 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 cared about national politics, which after all are important!

Tip and tax are 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

The French are not too politically correct and I like it. I feel that in North America, there is always someone who is going to be offended by something!

Healthier food

Even questionable food is somewhat healthier than North American junk food. Portions are smaller, food is less salty, less fatty and there is no “triple cheeseburgers with a side of onion rings, 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 were working (which is not a given considering the high unemployment rate), I would probably make between 1000 and €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 terms of government info on the internet and most contact phone numbers are overtaxed, not free!

Stupid shop hours

In France, most places close at 7:00 p.m. (a bit later in Paris) and don’t open at all on Sunday. I never go to these 24-hour stores in Canada (well, I do, but not at 3:00 a.m.!) But I must admit it’s very convenient to be able to go grocery shopping on Sunday and to have pharmacies open late.

No proper customer service

The French are notorious for jumping queues, and it gets on my nerves. As for customer service… let’s just say it’s nonexistent. Most people are very pleasant and polite, but this somehow changes 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 sighs 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 me 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 compared to France. Dodging dog poo isn’t my favourite sport, and I hate seeing puke everywhere after a weekend of binge drinking!

No 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 card to call cell phones lasts 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?

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French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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