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

  • This is actually a friend of Polly-Vous Francais writing to you, David. Polly is curently lying in a sodden puddle on the floor, convulsed with laughing/snorting over this incredibly hilarious post. We hope she will recover. Kinda. Cause if she does she may move back to Paris.

  • LOL . . thanks for my first laugh of the day!

  • David, you are spectacularly hilarious! (And your coffee ice cream recipe is just plain spectacular!) Thank you so much for this post.

  • This is equally hilarious and brilliant!. I am an expat in Germany, not France but I can relate. Different set of issues here but the insanity of it all is the same to us foreigners. OMG can’t believe the movers really left your belongings on the sidewalk. Oy vey.

  • This quiz is so funny!

    Seriously though, I moved to Holland from Greece 3 years ago and it was not easy leaving my country, my family and friends. But hey, life is all about taking risks!
    So if anyone wants to move to Paris, or any other place for that matter, I say… go for it. It would be wise though to have visited the place first before making the decision ;)
    Magda

  • Happy Sunday morning to me! Thanks for waking me up with a giggle.

  • You could also add..

    Getting confirmation from the registry office where you got married to prove you are “still” married..oh yes and having it translated into French by a government approved translator at 10 Euros per word.

    Never getting your deposit back on the property you rented because the Etat des lieux isn’t worth the paper it’s written on – of course after 3 years of correspondence with the proprietaire you could go to court but… which court?

    Trading in your National Insurance entitlement in the UK to obtain free health care for a year (we’re all in Europe aren’t we?) to find that no-one knows of this arrangement in France and that obtaining your Carte Vitale is as likely as URSSAF letting you actually start trading before it starts taxing you!

  • Wonderful post :)

    And, David, you are too nice to them.

    6. D. Walk by looking to the shops, to the air, to the ground to spot “les crottes de chien” so people start avoiding you. (a motorcycle jacket is recommended for protection, you never know)

    7. D. Just use the 100€ bill for your next shopping as if it were a 20€ bill. (you really should believe that it is a 20€ bill, but take the full change of course)

  • Hilarious! Ah, this completely turned my frown upside down, in the words of a parent to a patronising child :D

  • Quite recognizable indeed.
    Would also like to see a quiz from a french guy who moved to the States, though… ^^

  • If you think France is disorganised and overrun with bureaucracy, you should try living in Spain. At least the language is easier – although this fact is complicated by the fact that the country has four official languages, and at least one other that is commonly spoken!

  • Eelco: I’d like to see that, too. If you do find one (for some reason, I haven’t been able to find one), please let me know.

    Metin: Great advice about les crottes! A new grocery store just opened nearby with automatic cashiers (self check-out) and although the last time I slipped a €50 into the métro machine and nothing came out, when I tried it yesterday at the supermarket, it worked perfectly. No hassles! : )

    Lora: That was quite a shock. Yikes! And oddly (or not…) the shipping company continued to try to bill me even though I paid for it and they agreed that I was right, and yes, they wouldn’t have released the articles without payment.

    But since banks in France don’t, and won’t, give you copies of canceled checks, it took about two years of getting threatening letters from their bill paying department before they finally believed me.

  • Hilarious! Really funny and I can totally relate to some of ‘em after only 1 week here!

  • So.
    It took me 20 minutes to finish the questionaire.
    How can I find out my score, Monsieur?

  • This is soooooo hilarious David. And so true. I swear, you could do some stand-up if you get bored with cooking (which I hope you won’t).
    I just burst into laugh with the 50-dollar-bill-and-the-beggar-who-is-now-unable-to-use-it thing. And you point with the information point at Les Halles is so true, too! Ca sent le vécu!

  • I’m still laughing!! Fabulous post!

    My favorite is number 23 . . . I had such a nightmare of a time going through the NYC consulate! I had to go back FOUR times!! My last adventure was when le Monsieur behind the window demanded that my organization provide a different letter using the term ‘allocation’ instead of ‘salary.’ At that point I had had enough, so I mentioned that my colleagues in Chicago had walked in and out of their consulate with no problems. They used the exact same letter from the organization sans difficulté. He sneered at me and said “Mademoiselle, zees iz not She-ca-GO, zees iz New York Ci-TEE!” At that point, there was nothing left to say and I returned a week later with a new letter siting ‘allocation’ where ‘salary’ used to exist.

  • That would be my dream come true!! Do I need to start smoking when I move there? When I studied at the Sorbonne some 30 years ago, everyone smoked except les chiens!

  • Glad to see that despite all this you are survived and thrived.
    (maybe I should do one on Italy for a lark)

  • hahaha.

    I can so relate. Priceless.

  • Number 23 hits far too close to home. Clearly B is not the right answer, because I am convinced that whoever designed the voicemail at the consulates that actually take phone calls (by far the minority, and I do have a complete sample set) belongs in a special circle of hell. You also forgot that requirements are different depending on which language you use to read the consulate’s webpage.

    But I still want to move there.

  • Thanks David – For a while I thought I was the only American having these kind of interactions in France. Certainly there are days when you are so happy to live in Paris. Then there are days when the cashier at Carrefour tells you that it is impossible to give you two 10 euros bills for your 20 euro change. Even though her register is bursting with bills. Trying to enjoy my here now. I will surely miss it when I go back to the States.

  • I think you’ve painted the whole country with your Parisian paintbrush.

  • I just remember being 19 by myself in Paris, and getting lost. I asked a policeman for directions, and realized after a bit he was giving me directions to his house (as the taxi driver tried to take me to his house, and another man . . .). I began asking women instead.

  • I think it’s crazy not to spend twenty-some bucks to subscribe to Consumer Reports.

    It’s even crazier not to read your blog for free (even the laughs are free).

    No wonder so many people visit your blog.

  • Brilliant, just brilliant. I laughed, I cried.

    We played Parisian for the month of August 2004. I never felt more Parisian than when a visitor broke a window in the apartment we were staying in, and I successfully negotiated locating and paying for a vitrier to come fix it. Au mois d’aout – c’est dingue! And naturally, payment was en especes . . .

  • As much as I romanticize the idea of living in Paris, your posts give me a dose of reality–and a good laugh.

  • I love that I know which answers are ‘correct’ – it’s not too difficult after following your blog, David! But funny none the less. My husband was LOL as we both took the questionnaire. Thanks for lightening our Sunday!

  • This is just WAY TOO funny!! I totally appreciate it…and relate. merci mille fois.

  • When in line in Paris at a coffee bar, buy the person behind you a coffee too. Note the reaction…..

  • Naomi: Usually the policemen are pretty prompt and responsive (like the four that surrounded me one night when I ran a red light on my bike at 2:30am). But when faced with the possibility of romance, or whatever, I guess all bets are off.

    Punch: I realize that not everyone out there is enamored with Paris (like that magazine cover), but since that’s the city I live in, that’s all I’m qualified to write about. Perhaps someone elsewhere…like Jennifer maybe?..could be persuaded to make their own write-up for la France.

    Abby & deborah: That was quite interesting when the guy at the consulate said to me, “Of course they’d different. It depends on what city in the US you live in.” Which is like saying someone French who wants to go to the US will need different paperwork, depending if they live in Paris, Nice, or Lyon. Someone explained it to me recently, but I still can’t wrap my head around it. But I guess it makes sense. Well, sorta..

  • Am I the only one that scrolled to the bottom looking for the answer key? :)

  • My favorite part was that the 100 Euro bill was the beggar’s problem. You’re hystericcal.

  • Well, that is the first time I’ve had hot coffee shoot out my nose. Great post David.

  • Sara: I’ve been looking for answers for a few years now. When I get some, I’ll report back..

    Erin: Ouch!

  • i’m gonna go ahead and say i should still move to france. i went to a large public university so i ate least have a pre-school understanding of how to deal with endless bureaucracy.

  • love it, David. Thank you. I already put it on my Facebook page to see what the Frenchies make of it.

  • Oh golly….Simply hysterical! And so well put! Numbers 4 & 8 left me in tears!
    I just had a family member visit here for their first time. He thought he’d died & went to heaven. (Paris does these things to us :) By the time he left he was sure that he’d come back soon to live here. Nothing I said convinced him that there’s a flip side to the postcard, but maybe reading this will! :-)
    Well done cher David!

  • Answer to #6 – definitely B.

  • Reminds me of the things you experience in Germany. You know the plastic bags for doggy do? Well, they us them here but for some reason leave the full bags lying around all over the city. Weird!
    So what is the name of that chocolate?
    And who might that candy shop owner be?

  • I am printing this one out to share after dinner tonight. This is the funniest thing I have read in ages!

  • I work for a visa service, and #23 is entirely true. And not just for France.

  • David,

    I can’t stop laughing!! This is awesome.

    I lived in the Czech Republic for awhile and this brought back all those um, creative issues. It was fun, but there were so many things that made me wonder where common sense had wandered off to.

    Laura

  • The funniest part, as a French expatriate in the States, is that I could make an equally hilarious list of almost the same questions with almost the same answers about the United States. But I’m not doing it because I would be too ashamed of myself to joke about the people who welcomed me and helped me to make a living. Shame.

    My French friends with businesses tell me that it’s hard to make a living here, and most of them have trouble doing business in their homeland. They’d welcome some of that help! I watch French television and, like America, there’s plenty of self-satire. As evidenced by the magazine cover in the post, it’s nice to see that the French can poke fun at themselves, too. -dl

  • Yes, yes and yes. Or should I say OUI?

    And don’t forget–should you bring all the documents required for each different consulate, exactly as they requested them at each different consulate, there will STILL be one missing. For us, it was the actual sheepskin of my husband’s PhD. Oh, and the fact that our wedding license didn’t list our parents’ names, so we ended up having to have copies of birth certificates as well, though they were not required.

    And, of course, the consulate moved. 2 years before, in fact, but hadn’t updated their website with the new address. In TWO YEARS.

    Can you tell I did move to Paris? Moving home was much, much easier. ;-)

    And I learned how to perform the “Paris Fit” and get my way, comme une vraie parisienne, *bof!*

    BTW, the baguette is priceless. I learned quickly for form a fist with the hand that held my handbag, and put the “PO’d Parisienne” look on my face, and wasn’t bumped again. Only took a month for the initial bruises to heal.

  • Number 12. Or the time I saw a mouse at Monoprix and thought I was doing the responsible thing by alerting a nearby employee, only to hear in response the sarcastic, “Oh, I’m sorry. Did the little mouse scare you?”. The woman then turned to her friends and laughed at me. Priceless.

  • Ok, seriously, this is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a loooooong time. Especially about the pants!!

  • David, # 23 – it’s because every US State has it’s own agreements with the country of France … which is why a Delaware license can be turned in for a French license, but someone from Virginia has to learn the language well enough to read and pass the French driving test (in French), xo

  • Hilarious!! – just found your blog yesterday after purchasing your book Ready for Dessert, and ordered last night The Perfect Scoop. I literally own hundreds of cook books and your dessert cookbook is the best I have read love, love, love it! Just bought a icecream machine at the weekend so will be trying out a few of your recipes – the vanilla and the butter caramel sounds divine! I make and sell homemade fudge and have a lot of off cuts which I freeze so will be stirring through some of them! You definitely have a fan here in New Zealand

  • Thank you so much for helping me realize just how much I love Greenwood Village, Colorado! And for the giggles…especially when I think of you (?) and 2C!

    I’ve worked all day, thanks for the break and the laughs!

  • david… you are brilliant. this is beyond words…xx pam

  • Dude, you’re killing me! I haven’t been this amused in a long time. And obviously, no matter where you live there are going to be things that we find completely and inexplicably weird and wrong. What makes me afraid is that it seems there are way too many people around “now a days” that don’t seem to think any of these things are weird and wrong. I think you know what I mean. : )

  • Very cute and amusing. One should think twice (or not at all) before moving to France.

  • David,

    I have been following you for several years now and after today’s post I just had to comment! I really look forward to your posts! Your ironic humour and dry acerbic wit always make for a most pleasurable read! Your frank observations and delivery …I’m still laughing!

    I often forward your posts on to a friend who recently moved to Paris from Rome and ask her if she is experiencing the same need for change based on common sense!

    Thanks for the smile therapy & fabulous recipes!!!

    p.s. your OMG post had the tears just streaming down my face!
    p.s.s. sorry for the overuse of the exclamation but there isn’t any other key that expresses the sentiment better ;-)

  • Hysterical! Wonder how many folks will decide to move to France based on this questionnaire. ;-)

    Shirley

  • Well.. I guess I’ll just be a plain ole’ tourist.. surely ‘Merci Beaucoup’ will work nearly as well as Thank you very much does here in Texas.. I love living in the South.. where manners matter. :)

  • This is hilarious!

  • This is HILARIOUS! Did you co-write it with David Sedaris?

  • French proverb :
    Il est plus facile de voir la paille dans l’oeil de son voisin que la poutre dans le sien.

  • mimi: The French excel at politesse. There’s all sorts of greetings and salutations used in everyday conversations and transactions, and they often get the impression that we Americans are rude because we go into stores and restaurants and don’t greet the salespeople with a Bonjour Madame or Monsieur. Manners here definitely matter!

    Romy: I was at the health food store and there was a mouse, and the salesclerk tried to push it outside with the broom, which in fact, killed it by accident. The poor woman was distraught. I felt bad for her…it never occurred to me to laugh at her.

    Jul: That’s interesting…I guess that explains some of the incongruities. But I wonder if they work vice versa, for example, if indeed a French person from Paris needs different paperwork for a US visa than someone from Nice or Marseilles.

    Laura: “Wandered off..”…lol!

  • David — loved this, very charming. I live in the south of France, and none of this holds true for the lovely south (thank God!). All big cities are difficult (NYC?) — the countryside much easier. However I do love Paris, but you must have ATTITUDE!! — you are just too nice. For instance — you have 50 euros only to pay for coffee? They do have or want to give you change? “desole” — I would tell them. ” I will have to pay you the next time I am by…. if ever…. ‘ Having drunk the coffee, and holding onto your 50 euros, you have the upper hand. You have to be firm.. and a bit haughty — try it.

    An exception to the southern exception: Bureaucracy in France is hideous in every small outpost, hamlet, village and town. For example, I have the same address (number and street) as 12 other houses within a multi-acre area (strange quirk of local bureaucracy) and yet my mailman — a cheery guy on a yellow motor bicycle — finds us all and is always helpful.

    It takes a lot of internal fortitude to live in Paris — that’s why the Parisians are always taking vacations…..

  • This is so funny! I loved it, and I’m sure anyone who’s moved to France can recognise at least some of it. I especially liked 1, 3, 4 and 9.

    But if you lived in the country, you would be complaining about #16 too. Because your local post office would have closed, or only be open for half an hour on alternate Tuesdays. Need to collect a registered letter? Get in your car (you do have a car, don’t you? La Poste assumes you do when claiming everyone lives within 20 minutes of a post office) and drive 20 minutes to the nearest town with a real post office. Queue for 20 minutes with all the people from surrounding villages who are in the same boat as you. If you’re lucky, the letter will actually have made it back to the post office from the van by now (if not, you’ll have to repeat the whole process). Drive home again. There! What took 5 minutes pre-privatisation now takes an hour. But hey, you’re just a plouc, so you have the time to spare, right?

  • Absolutely hilarious! Loved 24 (obviously C is the answer)

  • A marvelous test on the cultural gap.

    One might remind you of the horrible insults meeting every European (and all else) tourists – mind you TOURISTS – on entering the US. Everyone has to fill in a “yes” or “no” to a number of questions such as if one is entering the States “for immoral purposes” or if one has “participated in genocide” to mention just a few.
    All questions given one WELL BEFORE 9/11.

    I once refused to answer handing over the questionnaire haughtily to the airport official. I was given a very loooong look and as they had met sensitive ladies
    before I was mildly turned over to other officials “they will process you”.
    I admit I was sure I would be sent back to Paris at once.

    However the official who would process me took a look in my passport and saw
    that the day in question was my birthday. He began showering me in congratulations and so devastatingly charming that I forgot my insulted self
    and did my duty answering all the silly absurdities demanded of me.

    We parted as best friends. We exchange Christmas cards to this day. I fell in love with Americans and that goes on and on.

    Have you seen the questionnaire? Next time you fly back to the States all non-American passengers are handed it before landing to be filled in. Ask for one and learn a thing or two of insults.

  • Veronica: I guess things are different in the countryside, but I have to say, in spite of everyone grousing about them, I think La Poste is generally efficient and friendly. And now, when I walk into my local branch, there’s always someone there greeting me, and asking if I need any help. Then taking me over to the desk, or machine, to provide assistance. J’adore!

    suedoise: I’ve not had any French friends express their love of the bureaucrats. (In fact, one recently used some very pointed language, which I won’t repeat here, out of politesse.) I know a lot of Europeans get treated poorly at our border, which I witnessed first hand, last time I went back to the states with my partner. Luckily I was there to intervene and told the person off, which I’ve seen Romain do here on more than on occasion, too.

    Sylvia: Check out Stuff Parisians Like for a view from un vrai Parisien. He’s practically my neighbor, too : 0

    Leslie: I agree, you have to really stand up for yourself. The problem though, is that everyone now does that, so everyone is always standing up for themselves. It’s kind of a sport, but does wear you down after a while. I remember when I moved here and told my French teacher how fun it was to banter at the bakery for my daily baguette.

    He looked at me and said, “But don’t you just want to buy your baguette, and get out of there?”

  • Best. Post. Ever. Period.

  • This is soooo funny. Thanks for the laugh. I think I’ll stick to Paris/France as a visitor and not a denizen :)

    On another note, I just made your Coconut-Tapioca pudding… and oh my god was it good. I added a little bit of dark rum towards the end of cooking. Everyone loved it. Thanks!

  • You forgot to mention the daily strikes and manifestations!

  • I am with the other readers and commenters who write that this is one of their fave posts so far. It’s definitely up there for a non-food-related cross-cultural post (although the post about Daim and Ikea is still one of your funniest ever, I think. I die laughing at that one, and go back to read it once in a while if I need a giggle). I’m also glad that the majority of readers understand that this is tongue-in-cheek and treat it as such.

    Your wit and charm serve you well, Monsieur Lebovitz. :)

  • Brilliant. Gold. Everything there is to love and hate about Paris in one reading. Loved the foie gras one. Try explaining vegetarianism to a dining table full of French people. And then explaining that no, foie gras is not a vegetarian substitute for beef.

  • Hi David,

    How to substitute cream of tartar, tell me…?

  • Sounds just as noxious as when my son did a semester abroad a few years ago in Brussels. He practically had to hand over his life history and then some about the rest of us and then when he got there, had to do more just to get an id card for their metro/subway and then the college ( which his alma mater no longer uses) put them up in the most disgusting part of town, only to be rescued by another student’s family friend who was heading back to the US and had a fab apartment not far from NATO HQ, the EU parliament and a very much safer area. But when they left ( after we had visited and seen the apartment was pristine) had the gall to say the students trashed it and demanded money to fix it. I suspect that Brussels is very similar to Paris in that regard.

  • Do you know how the Swiss prevent you from leaving Switzerland for a cup of coffee in France?

    Their ATMs dispense only €100 bills.

  • This was just too funny! AND I’m a regular and big fan of your blog and books -
    I’ve heard plenty about the French banks without computers, but all your files in..ehm actual files, and stacks of them are brought out should you need any help -or the “no, no , no, no, no!” with a waiving finger in your face when some clerk somewhere tell you you can’t do what you did last week (like paying your phone bill).

    Jokes aside: The US however has in my opinion the most inefficient, patronising, alienating, incomprehensible bureaucracy I’ve ever met, coming from Europe and having lived many countries.

    Approving a work visa for instance:
    what about $4000 in legal fees, $1000 for the express service (3 months!), then when all is approved 3 months later (tons of paper work) the worst is still to come: you have to book an appointment at the Embassy! SO; there is a hotline owned by a separate company, when you finally get through all the automatic messages you can book an appointment, but they cant offer you alternative times. (you can call another day and hope they can give you an alternative slot) Then you have to pay a booking fee of $80,- even though you paid $5000 for your visa-PROBLEM: They only accept Mastercard -NO VISA! So if you don’t have mastercard you can’t book an appointment.
    Long story short: you manage after a few weeks to book an appointment, get a time that you make (usually there is only one Embassy in each country, most of theses appointments are between 5-8 am and all the hassle of US Embassies etc etc. Then they want my passport. They want to keep it post it to me with normal mail in 3 weeks. I say no – I’m travellling in this period, so after a long fight they say if I book a new appointment it can be done – they say they can make my visa in a day (!). so after another 5:15 am appointment 3 weeks later it is done ( and it takes a day, with me mostly having to hang outside the embassy waiting to enter) – but they’ve misspelled my name in the visa which is now glued into my passport! OK! another 2 weeks go on and I finally get it, but I still have to fill in an almost exactly similar form as I had to when travelling on a tourist visa every time entering the US, minus the “genocide” questions. …… this is just some of the stuff I’ve experienced in the US

    so guess the grass is not so much greener

  • Jam: Oof! That’s amazing they only take Mastercard, and not Visa (which, of course, is what most foreigners probably have.) $5000? Well, I do have to hand it to my fellow Americans; no one can accuse us of not being good at making money!

    Sandra: I think getting back your security deposit is a worldwide problem. Plus taking advantage of foreigners, as mentioned above, is another issue—altogether.

    Vidya: I don’t think anywhere is perfect. But I have to say, eating my way through all the gelaterias in Rome last week was fairly close ; )

  • I shouldn’t be laughing so hard so early in the morning by myself!! I have been late to so many things by not being able to find my way out of the Les Halles shopping mall. I keep thinking I’ll figure it out….then you find a door to the outside and it’s just a courtyard! I still love Paris with all of it’s mind boggling idiosyncrasies. Since I am there just once a week I don’t have the frustrations (or the joys) of living there. I DO have to endure the insane traffic jams and 2 hour rides from CDG into the city regularly. How do you say “bus lane” en Francais?!

    Thanks for the morning laughs!

  • This is too funny!! Maybe another sentence on what you do when you spot other Americans….just loud in a restaurant, or badly dressed or saying bad things about the French in English (like the French wouldn’t know what they are saying)…….

  • Hi David,
    What a great way to start a gloomy NY Monday morning! Hysterical! Lived in Paris for a year long ago, and now can’t wait to move to the South and see if it’s the same.

  • Enjoyed that :) …and you know no-one said living in Paris wouldn’t be quirky!

  • You certainly have to have a sense of humor to live here. I moved here two years ago and my friends and family hardly believe me when I tell them how things work (or do not work) here. I have shed tears over customer service issues more than once. But all in all it has been a great ride and I do not ever want to leave! Thanks for the laugh David!! It is so nice to know I am not alone :)

  • David> Of course French people are good at self satire! But as long as I know, you are not French,are you? There’s a little difference between self satire and foreign satire.
    For exemple, if I say ” Only an American would put half and half in custard cream” then it’s a joke about people being out of weight in America, and from a French person it’s not very kind. If you say it, it’s a trait de genie. It’s all about nuance :)

    I’d love a French version of your website, it would be so much fun to read the comments!

  • Spectacular!

  • thank you for making me laugh my head off at 6 a.m.!!

    despite all france’s quirkiness, i will never forget when i was 17 and spending a year abroad in paris. the french woman in whose home i lived sent me down the street to buy a baguette for dinner. when ready to pay, i realized that i had left my wallet at home, and the gentil homme told me i could take the baguette and pay him demain. that would have never, ever happened in dallas, texas, where i was from. i’ve remembered it all these 39 years!

    also will never forget buying batteries at a little shop in paris and after saying “merci” to the merchant, he said, “ah, non, c’est a moi de vous remercier!”

  • Davey–Do you think the immigration bureaucrats would differentiate between a person coming from Berkeley and one from San Francisco? How do they define which city you’re from exactly? Great blog, great quiz. T

  • Oh yes. Nicely put. Thank goodness I don’t live in Paris. You said maybe Jennifer could comment on elsewhere in France but am I the Jennifer you mean? I’m not the twittering one (…uhm, as it were)

  • Well, I spit my water out laughing…thank you very much! I have never been to France and now I will cross it off my list for major moves………

  • Dear David,
    I just finished “The Sweet Life”. It was so entertaining and funny. LOL moment: mint ice cream in the toilet.

    My husband and I spent 10 days in Paris in May. When my husband refused to budge on a narrow Paris sidewalk, and a Parisian woman wanted to pass, I thought he was just an eccentric 78-year old man with an attitude. Now I know he’s actually a Parisian. Also, I now know the word for hernia in French. Last trip I had to ask for Preparation-H in the pharmacy. As long as I said Pray par ray shun ahsh they knew what I meant.

    Could you tell me, do you use the subjuntive in everyday speech? I want to know if I should memorize the irregular subjunctive verbs.

    I have such a rosy view of Paris, it’s nice to know il y a une mouche dans la pommade.

  • OMG David–Loved the quiz. So glad I was able to see Paris for myself this year. Everyone should go at least once!

    Long live Nutella!

  • stephanie: Yes, you do have to laugh at most of the things. Not having a phone or internet for 3 months, however, was a breaking point for me. Plus those stolen paintings from the museum (what kind of museum in a major city has a non-working alarm…for two months?) are hard to laugh at, too. What an unfortunate loss for the city, and country.

    Tim: I was actually told they keep things arbitrary on purpose. It never made sense to me—until recently. The French are really into processes, but it also drives most of them crazy as well. If you want to see a French person go ballistic, ask them what they think of their bank…

  • David, my beloved is presently under consideration to teach in Paris (needless to say, I am completely on board and more than glad to take a year off from my own graduate studies for an adventure abroad) and I showed him your “quiz.” Much to my delight, he turned to me with a grin and declared, “I can’t wait!” Wish us luck!

  • David, superb post. I don’t think in Italy we are in a better situation.
    Thank you

  • OMG !!! We were in Paris in March and stayed in the Bastille area. After walking home everyday from the Metro to our hotel, we saw this view of the building with the cat at the top. I even took a picture of it….thanks !!! What a wonderful memory this brought back the instant I saw your picture. Thanks, David !
    BTW: The chocolate and wine tasting at O’Chateau was fabulous !!!

  • Thank you, thank you!!
    Having discovered your blog 4 days ago, and worked my way through from day one,taking numerous breaks to make some of you outstanding ice cream recipes( which is how I found you through google) I have finally reached the last post, and what a post!
    …..and so to bed, sides aching and with the lingering taste of Salted butter caramel ice cream…..replete.

    I shall be sure to check in daily, whilst sampling some of the first ice creams I have ever attempted, including a chocolate, ginger and chilli, your mint choc chip ( handfuls of chocolate mint from my garden), honey and ginger, lime sorbet, and the above mentioned SBC.
    I learned to make a custard base from scratch , no lumps, and made my first ever caramel, my sons think I am a culinary goddess ( the raspberry ripple effect), and all that without and ice cream maker.
    Macarons are next on the list, which I have no doubt will be a success even though I have never attempted anything like it before, if only because it is your recipe.
    As an added bonus you book ‘The Perfect Scoop’ is winging its way to me from Amazon.
    Again Thank You!

  • David, I am laughing out loud. I met you recenttly at your book signing in Paris….with
    Diane (2 stews) and Doug….AA… American Airlines that is, not Alcoholics Anonymous,
    at least not yet. I have been laying over in Paris for 4 years and have been having a
    butter issue with the waiter next door to our hotel…he won’t bring me any. I believed I could win him over with my American charm and politeness….all he would say is “non”
    point to my bread and tell me there was butter in it….I think? Once he actually brought
    me a foil wrapped pat and charged me a euro. After 2 years….he won. I’ve moved on.
    Thanks for all the laughs….not to mention learning how to slice not chop garlic

  • Hillarious. One of my favorite posts.

  • David, I enjoyed this post so much that I linked to it from my seldom updated, rarely visited blog so that my two or three inconceivably loyal readers could get a good look at it. 12C just killed me.

  • Will: I was pretty stunned. I was flipping out at the thought of having to race home, cancel all my card and things, and replace everything. In my opinion, a normal person would probably express, like, say…sympathy?

    Nancy: Next time you go in, apologize, and say you’re from Brittany. (“Désolé, je suis Bretonne, Monsieur.”) People from Brittany are known for eating butter with their bread, and it’ll (hopefully) elicit at least a chuckle from him. If not, maybe he’ll be on of your flights—and you can repay his ‘kindness’.

  • This actually brought back so many memories of when I moved to Paris for nine months for culinary school, except of course my studio apt was just a little bit bigger than 3 x 9-feet and I had my own bathroom… a whole 1 sq meter =P I’m back home in a comfy 1-bdrm apt in Los Angeles, but I’m considering giving it up for dear Mr. Pierre Herme ;) Does he have any special flavors this month? I left last year before Thanksgiving, but not without having one of his Rose-Coing macarons just about every other day in November =D

  • Best Paris blog post, ever. Especially loved #6 (the Parisian game of sidewalk chicken) and #26 (The cumin sprinkled on square plates). For #6, I find that wearing dark sunglasses and affecting a haughty manner works. Or carrying a grocery bag stocked with a very large, heavy cabbage. Swing it gently as you walk and anyone who gets too close will instantly move out of your way!

  • Everyday I think about the south of France, thinking there is no where I would rather be. But I always remind myself that visiting and vacationing somewhere is quite different than actually living there. I would love to try it, however!