France is distinctive – but that is part of the appeal

Be prepared to embrace some idiosyncrasies... We newcomers often consider ourselves experts in French culture.

Whether it is our vision of the elderly paysan in his Breton stripes and beret – his bicycle laden with baguettes, a string of garlic around his neck and a dangling Gauloises – or our appreciation of sophisticated Pari­sian café culture, it is tempting to believe we already know and love every idiosyncrasy of French life.

But, as anyone who has stepped off the ferry for anything longer than a holiday here will tell you, there is a great deal in French culture – other than the need to drive on the right – that can catch even seasoned Francophiles unawares.

For a start, French administration does have a reputation for being complicated, which is sometimes deserved - though often the biggest hurdle is langu­age, as forms and information are rarely translated and officials may not speak English.

However it can creep into many areas of life. For example, hiring a holiday gîte might have been a breeze, but entering into an agreement to rent a flat can require a surprising amount of paperwork.

There are also somewhat elaborate ...

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