Should I Move to France? (28 Questions to Ask Yourself)

Just the other day, I saw a tweet from Jennifer, asking her the question that many of us who live here get from time-to-time, “Should I Move to France?”

Paris rooftops

It’s pretty hard to decide to make such a life-changing move, for many people. Moving to a foreign country isn’t easy, but it does have it’s rewards. So I put together this quiz to help people make that all-important decision…



1. You’re working as a guard in a museum filled with priceless treasures. The alarm in the museum has been broken for two months and thieves have stolen €500 million worth of art. Video monitors showed the entire robbery in progress but as one of the guards on patrol, like the others, you somehow missed the whole thing. Do you…

  • A. Blame the mayor.
  • B. Blame the lock company that installed the crummy padlock which the thieves snipped off the gate, which was the only thing standing between them and one of the most exceptional collections of art in the world.
  • C. Blame the anti-smoking law because you had to go outside to have a cigarette, along with all the other guards at the exact same time, and the people who came up with that law couldn’t possibly expect you to keep an eye on things.

2. You’re in a café and just finished a €2 cup of coffee and you’re ready to pay. You suddenly realize that you only have a €20 note. Even though the waiter has a billfold bulging with euro notes, do you…

  • A. Order nine more coffees because he’ll swear he doesn’t have any change.
  • B. Offer to buy a round of drinks for everyone in the room.
  • C. Unbutton your blouse a few notches and lean over and give ‘em a good squeeze when handing the waiter the money.

3. You’re stuck in traffic when you hear an ambulance coming up from behind. Cars start moving off to the side of the road to let the ambulance through. Do you…

  • A. Move your car over to the side of the road, too, so the ambulance can pass and get quickly to the urgent medical emergency they’re going to.
  • B. Grudgingly move your car off to the side because even though the ambulance is racing to take save someone’s life, complaining that you’re going to miss the start Star Academy.
  • C. An opening in the road? What are you, crazy? Allez-y…!

4. You just bought a pricey new pair of trousers. When you get home, you realize the zipper is coming apart. Do you…

  • A. Block off two days on your calendar to exchange the trousers at the store for another pair.
  • B. Take the pants to the local tailor and pay the €32 out of your own pocket to have it fixed.
  • C. Throw them away.

5. You’re visiting Paris and it’s time for dinner, but you’re a kosher, gluten-free vegan on a no-salt, low-fat diet. Do you…

  • A. Go to a restaurant and politely request that your food be served nature, without accompaniments, because of your health condition.
  • B. Go for it, because if you’re going to go, why not do it on a fabulous French meal?
  • C. Spend the night in your hotel room watching CNN, and eat an apple.
les parisiens

6. You’re tired of people walking right into you as if you weren’t even there. Do you…

  • A. Move out of their way, realizing that they likely have far more important things to do than you.
  • B. Aim the pointy baguette that you’re carrying at crotch level as a preemptive warning to get out of the way.
  • C. Belt out a random song from Rent at full-volume so they think you’re nuts, and avoid you.

7. Unfortunately, you’ve managed to get a €100 note in your possession. Do you…

  • A. Cross the city because only the branch of your bank where you opened your account can make change for you.
  • B. Cross the city because only that particular branch where you opened your account can take cash deposits from you. But they’re out of change so you have to deposit it into your account, then withdraw money from the ATM so you have smaller bills. .
  • C. Give it to a beggar on the métro, laughing to yourself as you walk away, because now it’s his problem.

8. You’re at the enormous hardware store, looking for a couple of screws. They don’t have the size you need, so you head for the exit. However the wary guards are already on you, thinking you might have swiped something from the store. Just as you’re about to exit, they stop you. Do you…

  • A. Explain to them that you were just looking, but what you needed wasn’t on the shelf, and they let you go on your way.
  • B. Open your mouth to prepare to be swabbed for a DNA sample.
  • C. Thank God you wore clean underwear because you’re in for a strip search.

9. You’re hopelessly lost in the enormous 5-story underground shopping center at Les Halles. After walking around a few times, trying to find your way out and realizing that you’re about to pass out from the lack of oxygen, do you…

  • A. Feel relieved when you find an information desk, only to find that it’s empty.
  • B. Feel relieved when you find an information desk, only to find that it’s manned by teenage girls who are too busy texting their friends or checking their watches in anticipation of their next cigarette break so they don’t have time to help you out.
  • C. Curl up in a ball in a corner, stick your thumb in your mouth, and whimper that you want your mommy.

10. Can you figure out which one of these isn’t true? Your plumber shows up because you have a problem with your toilet. Does he…

  • A. Offer up a hands-on—or otherwise, demonstration of how to use your new toilet.
  • B. Offer up a recipe and a demonstration for puff pastry.
  • C. Ask what flavors of ice cream you have in your freezer today.
  • D. All of the above.

(Tip: Answer D.)

11. You taste a chocolate that’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten in your life. You have friends coming to visit so you make plans to go to the chocolate shop and get more. Do you…

  • A. Take 3 métros across town, only to find out that they happen to be closed that day for a Fermeture Exceptionelle.
  • B. Kick yourself for not calling before you set out.
  • C. Get to the shop and find out that that’s the only chocolate they don’t have in stock, because they only make them on the third Tuesday of each month, during months that end with a “y”…and only during leap years.

12. You’re at the supermarket register, and the cashier has just rung up your goods. However as you’re reaching for your wallet, in a panic, you can’t find it and fear you’ve been pickpocketed. Does she…

  • A. Offer a bit of sympathy for your unfortunate predicament.
  • B. Set aside your groceries for you to do a more complete search of your pants and jacket pockets.
  • C. Start laughing at you.

(Tip: Answer C.)

13. You’re on a bus. Who gets priority seating?

  • A. The man who lost both legs in the war.
  • B. The frail, little old lady who could barely make it on the bus with those heavy bags weighing her down.
  • C. The five year old kid in the Hermès jumpsuit.

14. You move to France with all your worldly possessions, which you’ve shipped by freighter. They arrive…

  • A. Right on schedule.
  • B. A few days late, but they call to let you know, so you can change plans.
  • C. A day before they said they the delivery would arrive, when you have movers scheduled to help, and call from the street saying they’ve just left two rooms of your furniture on the sidewalk outside.

(Tip: Answer C, which I know from personal experience.)

15. You’re in the neighborhood and pass by your favorite candy and chocolate shop to say hi. The proprietress is happy to see you. Does she…

  • A. Have you sample a few new chocolates, including an amazing one filled the crushed bergamot macarons.
  • B. Give you a bag of organic prunes.
  • C. Invite you up to her apartment to see her bedroom.
  • D. All of the above.

(Tip: Answer D.)

16. Under the threat of privatization, La Poste successfully implements new measures, including a guarantee that customers will be out in five minutes, which they make good on. They also modernize a host of their other operations, for the better. Do…

  • A. Your French friends complain about the changes at the post office, even when they respond affirmatively when you ask them if the service and speed are improved.
  • B. You and everyone else become pleased that the country is concerned enough about its citizens to improve one of its most fundamental, universally used services.
  • C. You wonder why the communists stand there and open the door for each visitor in hopes that you’ll buy one of their flyers, which is pretty much antithetical to everything that communism stands for.

17. Which of these activities means that you’ve achieved a certain status in France, and you can say that you actually have completed, so now you finally have the right to say you live here?

  • A. Got your visa at city hall approved.
  • B. Set up an apartment, furnished it, and integrated into French society.
  • C. Switched cable providers.

18. Answer this question: “Is foie gras inhumane?”

  • A. No. It’s been made the same way since Egyptian times so it’s fine to eat.
  • B. No. It’s part of French culinary heritage, and it wouldn’t be Christmas without it.
  • C. No. Because my health food store carries it.

(Tip: Answer C.)

19. What thickness should towels be?

  • A. Thick, soft, and water-absorbent.
  • B. Big enough to get the job done.
  • C. You should be able to read Le Monde through them.

20. Someone has sent you a gift from the states. Unfortunately they forgot to declare it as a gift, so you have to pay taxes on it. Are the taxes…

  • A. Equivalent to the cost of the item.
  • B. More than the cost of the item.
  • C. You don’t know because you look at the bill and you can’t even see straight when you find out there’s actually a tax on the tax, too.

21. By mistake, you open the door and one of those fake chimney sweeps barges into your apartment, saying that “by law”, they have to clean your chimney. Do you…

  • A. Realize you’ve made a big mistake, but let them clean your chimney out, and then your wallet.
  • B. Knee him in the couilles and show him the way out.
  • C. Realize that bad karma is a bitch when you hear him in the courtyard getting ripped a new one by the guardienne of your building.

22. The government is considering a ban on €500 notes. This is being done…

  • A. To make it harder for people to smuggle large sums of money.
  • B. To thwart drug dealers.
  • C. Because even that’s too much money to hand over to a beggar.

23. You’ve decided to make the big move abroad. Since you live in Chicago, you check the consulate branch’s website in Chicago for what requirements you need and note the list of documents you need to provide. Then, on a lark, you check the consulate websites for Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco, you find they say that you need completely different things. Do you…

  • A. Assume that there’s obviously a mistake somewhere.
  • B. Call to make sure, since this is for official, important government business and you want to make sure you get it right.
  • C. Scratch your head when they ask, “Well, what city are you from?”, which is akin to someone from Spain moving to America, and a resident of Madrid having to provide completely different documents than someone hailing from Barcelona.

24. You finally move and realize that the apartment you found on the internet is actually a 3 x 9-foot room, an 8th floor walkup, and the bathroom is actually in a hallway which you share with five neighbors, one of who inevitably mistakes your door for his in the middle of the night when he gets up to do his business. Do you…

  • A. Call a locksmith to make sure your door is secure.
  • B. Wear earplugs.
  • C. Let him in. French dudes are hot.

25. How much should it cost to go to the bathroom?

  • A. Free.
  • B. 20 centimes.
  • C. €1-1.5. And if you don’t like it, find a spot outside.

26. Food should be served…

  • A. Using the freshest ingredients, in convivial surroundings.
  • B. Chopped fine, layered in tiny shot glasses.
  • C. On square plates, sprinkled with cumin.

27. What is the most confounding thing about learning French?

  • A. The fourteen verb tenses.
  • B. The fact that you don’t pronounce the last third of words.
  • C. Realizing that the French are just as confused as we are.

28. Who is the most important person in France?


french flag



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15 Things I’d Miss About Paris If I Moved Away

WTF


124 comments

  • It just can’t get any better than this! Oh, but wait, they “dropped your airfreight” on the tarmac in Lyon and the rest or “everything you own” has been delayed on the ocean another 8 weeks. And your car… well it sunk on a freighter in the channel. True, it’s all true… Though I’m really loving #6 right now and that well aimed baguette. Perhaps this should be my strategy in the queue at my favorite French ski station. That said, I thank my lucky stars each and every day that I get to wake up in this beautiful country. Talk about a paradox…. Thanks for this, I needed the belly laugh.

  • i’m arriving quite late to say that I totally agree with the comment of “the alien parisienne”. like her I’m really glad that almost all your readers have realised that was a tongue in cheek, funny post, full of references from this blog used as many winks and obviously not to be taken at first degree. I also agree with her about your wit and charm, those writing skills of yours are definitely amazing (damnit, I laughed to tears !)

  • David, you are HILARIOUS…seriously you are one talented man. I’m reading The Sweet Life in Paris right now and you are making me laugh so hard. I just read this and burst out laughing – “Outside of the house, though, I avoid fruit. It’s just too stressful.” MAN I love this book. I’m moving to Paris at the end of this month so I’m sure I’ll be able to commiserate with you. xx

  • Sorry, but I’ve chocked on my snot while snorting!

    And I’d dead! And… you forgot the music! only French ’70 music, please, les claudettes!

  • You’re so bad ;) Now, there are a few things I’d like to strenghten out in your quiz:
    – Question 7: you NEVER request 100 euros at the ATM, because the machine is more than likely to spit out one clean 100-euro bill, or two 50-euro ones that are equally impossible to use when you’re buying a 95-cent baguette which is the reason you needed change in the first place.
    – Question 13: you’ll never see a man who’s lost 2 legs in a bus, because parisian buses are not equipped for wheelchairs. Correction, there was one a few years back because I did see a wheelchair in a bus once, but I’m pretty sure that specific vehicule has retired and has not been replaced because of budget cuts.
    BTW, you’ll neve see a wheelchair in the metro either. Or a five-year-old with a Hermès jumpsuit for that matter.

  • Cheers… Yet an additional superb posting, definitely precisely why my spouse and I come for a web site constantly!!

    Thank You;).

  • OMG, that’s SO funny! Know what the poor girl means though. I moved to Thailand eight years ago and did have my moments thinking “What the hell am I doing?” Still the best thing I ever did though!

    Love your blog, btw. I recommend it to a lot of people.

  • This made my week. Seriously, so very very funny.

  • So funny, so true! Some things are so aggravating, and I dread going into a bank. But outside of government/bank/communications company bureaucracies you can find decent people if you behave nicely.

    I remember my husband and I seeking out a little restaurant in Paris supposedly frequented by Mitterand (this was a little time back), and when we found it we saw it was nearly empty, probably because it was a little early for dinner (maybe 4:30 or so in the afternoon).
    Because it was empty we thought we’d try to eat now rather than make a reservation later and walked in. The proprietor headed us off and emphatically insisted that they were full. No, no, they can’t take us now — we had to have reservations because none of the various empty tables was available. They were all currently taken. I was not that hungry yet, and in a good mood, so I said of course, and asked for the telephone number and thanked him politely.
    We walked a couple blocks away, politely called for a reservation at 5, got it and returned in about 15 minutes.
    Suddenly we were seated at one of the “unavailable” tables, given complimentary glasses of wine and were treated very warmly.

    During that same trip, I caught a cold and went to a pharmacy, said bonjour and told the woman working there that I had a cold and asked if she could suggest something. She fussed over me sympathetically as though I were a neighbor’s little girl and found a cold medicine for me that really did help.

    In Aix-en-Provence I’ve also been treated well (except for one Monoprix salesclerk who insisted what I was looking for didn’t exist. Of course I found it a short time later, in spite of her.)

  • Having lived in France, this questionaire was hysterical, and oh so true! Must find my way back to this silly country :)

  • You are having your first chest x-ray in Paris. When you get into the dressing room and are told to undress you find there is no gown to cover up with as you are used to in the States.
    A-You ask for a gown and are told there aren’t any.
    B-You call your husband on your cell phone crying, “I have to take my clothes off and there’s no gown!” He is on a metro and has no way to help you.
    C-You suck it up and go out topless for the x-ray certain that a janitor will pass by in the hall at any minute.
    D-Afterwards they tell you that there aren’t gowns so they can find “landmarks” for x-rays. You cry, “Well, they can find landmarks in the States with gowns on!”

  • Thanks for a good laugh! Having moved from Germany to the US I’d certainly be able to write up a pretty similar list :-)

    How about: It’s the World Cup, and you know that a pretty good game is on. You’re in an airport and would like to catch half an hour of it over a drink. When you ask to change the channel you get:
    (a) “What World Cup?”
    (b) “You watch soccer? Soccer players just stand around on the field for 90 minutes, why would you watch it”
    (c) An angry crowd that wants to see reruns of yesterday’s basketball game….

    That being said, I think everybody should live in another country for a few years. It makes you much more openminded….

  • I just moved to Munich from Canada, and if I can handle a sea of drunken dudes in lederhosen, I can handle France! I think.

  • I wish I took this quiz before moving here.

  • Armelie: A number of buses in Paris are equipped for wheelchairs, as is (supposedly) the line 14 Métro. However I say ‘supposedly’ because I had a guest in a wheelchair and thought it’d be fun to take her on the métro, since the #14 is specially-equipped. Except I neglected to remember the likelihood of the elevators being broken in the station. And I certainly wasn’t prepared for them to be broken in all the subsequent stations that we had to go to, in order to find a working one.

    (In the end, we ended up going back to the main station and exiting there, since that was the only functioning elevator we could find on that métro line. I felt bad for people in wheelchairs who depend on that line to get from place-to-place! Oof…)

    Hsin: Aside from the people who work at Monoprix, there are plenty of helpful people in France. As mentioned, you just need to find them. For example, I love my pharmacist and his assistant, and they’re really wonderful every time I go in there. Of course, I bring them ice cream, but still…

  • This is the best blog post of the year. Of the entire internet.

  • David — This is so timely. Everytime some lawmaker here in the US says something stupid I threaten to move to France! My friends found this hilarious!

  • Sitting here giggling, thank you for this!! Will be sharing this with my French/Francophile friends as well, they’ll get a kick out of it. Just saw this quiz as I am preparing to move to Paris to attend a culinary school this fall, something I’ve been been wanting to do for years, and now that I’m doing it I am of course hitting little snags along the way. This blog post came at an opportune time to add some humor to it all rather than throw my hands up at it all and study pastry at the local community college instead.

    Under #23 I could add:

    f) You thoroughly check the list of visa documents over and over again. You even try calling the consulate, but are cut-off mid-sentence and sit there dumbfounded before realizing they (purposely) hung up on you. You drive hours to your visa appointment and are inadverdently asked for documents that were NOT listed on the consulate website, followed by a dirty look for each document you don’t have, for good measure.

    #24 As I search for a place to live I am hoping for at least a bathroom inside the apartment and a kitchen with more than a hotplate.

    I wish I didn’t want this so badly :)

    PS Look forward to trying some of your ice cream recipes. I tried your chocolate macaron recipe and didn’t fare well as it was my very first time making macarons! I succeeded with a different flavor, but vow to try the chocolate again soon.

  • Nicole: To be honest, you kind of get used to #23 (although it takes a few years). The main thing is to bring everything you possibly can, and think they might ask for, no matter how trivial or unimportant you might think it will be. I also bring plenty of change for the copy machines because invariably I will have forgotten something or they’ll request a copy of something obscure, along with a copy.

    I always wondered why they don’t just print a list of the requirements, so you can bring those items along. It’d make things a lot easier for everyone, but they must have their reasons.

    Odd you had trouble with the macarons. A reader just sent me pictures of those chocolate macarons, and theirs looked pretty great.

  • This is beyond hysterical and SO true based on my two years of living in the French Alps. I took the test and failed but I’m stuck here since I married a Frenchman. I guess I’ll just have to make the best of it. ;-) Thanks for a giggle. I gotta read it again and get my Frenchie to read it too. Cynthia

  • Last year in Italy..I bought a first class train ticket ( Brescia to Siena ) and all seats were over booked. ( not the first time ) , I had to stand with others in the area between the toliets.
    The ticket guy was checking our tickets when he noticed a woman with a second class standing among us,
    He told her that the area was for first class passengers. ( We all were just standing with no place to sit ) he insisted that she pay for a first class ticket, she had to pay more because ” she was standing on first class carpet”…. true story!

    It almost caused a riot but she paid.

  • Last year, I bought (and paid more for) a first-class ticket on the SNCF (French) website, between Florence and Paris. When I got to the station in Italy, I was informed that there was no first-class on that train and that I was in second-class, even though I paid for a first-class sleeping car.

    A French woman sharing my compartment (which slept 6 of us, rather snugly, three on each side) was in the same boat (or train), and said to me, “Well, what do you expect from the Italians…”

    I said, “It was the French train website that sold me the ticket, madame.” The same with hers.

  • Must add my two cents of life living her in France the past 5 years:

    1. Beware of signing up for local driving instruction. The instructor will undoubtedly show up wearing skin tight leather pants and scream “ARRETEZ!” the entire time, while dangling a cigarette out the passenger door.

    2. If you ship household goods into France from the US, they will be held in customs for weeks, while you negotiate a “ransom.” They will try and tell you that you must pay 19.5% tax on items you already own, like grandma’s china, until you get your French boyfriend, who works as a “quality manager” for the state owned EDF, to ring the customs office in Lyon and and remind them that “France is a developed country, not Nigeria.”

    3. Forget about waiting in any lines. The French only wait in line at a boulangerie. Instead, come prepared to behave as though you are with a pack of animals, herding into a feed bin, at all times. The same goes for ski lift lines. Just stomp over everyone else’s skis. And then take the 6 person lift up alone, while the other poor bastards wait and the lift operator stands there with a cigarette not realizing someone just fell off.

  • Thanks David for another good laugh … i guess if one moved to France, one has to learn to live the French way … WTF :-)))