Ils font quoi? C’est pas vrai!

We asked people who recently moved to France what has surprised them the most. Here are some of their answers. 

1) No inhibitions when you see your GP

Visit a French doctor for almost any reason, from a lingering cold through to a swollen ankle and you may be asked to strip naked for a full-body examination. There is unlikely to be any sort of curtain for you 
to undress behind – and no modesty towel.

2) Everything begins in September

Whether you are five years old or 55, come September in France you will have that back-to-school feeling. In the UK, you 
can take up and drop leisure activities at almost any time. In France, even adults 
are required to sign up for courses or hobbies in September, and usually commit for a full year. This is called la rentrée.

3) Sunday

really really is a day of rest. Economic reforms mean that this will change, but – as it stands – do not expect a gentle saunter around the DIY store or a quick trip to the supermarket on a Sunday. Most are closed – and many, including pharmacies, remain just as firmly shut on Mondays. That said, local markets do a roaring trade on a Sunday morning.

4) Be considerate

Being nice to your neighbours is taken seriously. If your dog barks too much, you could be liable for a fine, while you can expect a visit from a stern police officer if the party or barbecue you are hosting is too noisy, no matter the time 
of day. In fact, it is advisable to check with your local mairie to ensure you do not violate any local bylaws regarding having a barbecue, lighting a fire, or even using your lawnmower.

5) Freebies

You will be used to paying for many things that are free, or heavily subsidised, in France. Much of this generosity is likely to come from your employer if you work for firm – they may provide you with coupons to help pay for holidays, meals out, motorway tolls, and even the odd shopping spree. By law, they must pay some of your commuting costs if you use public transport. Their comité d’entreprise may periodically offer discounted ski passes or deals on wine. If you have three or more children you are officially a famille nombreuse and eligible for reductions on train travel, attractions – and a lower tax bill.

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