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Culture Shock?? Top ten cultural differences that may surprise you about life in France.


So you’ve bought your apartment in Nice, or perhaps your villa in Cannes and you’re ready to immerse yourself in the local lifestyle. This is what the Attika team think are the biggest differences between life here and life at home!


1. A whole lotta kissing!

The French ‘bise’ is perhaps the single most important cultural difference and is the one part of French culture that may take the most getting used to. This is done the first and last time that you see someone in a day and is usually only done in informal and friendly situations. Not to try with your bank manager! The amount of kisses varies from region to region, and can be either two, three or four kisses. Down here on the French Riviera two kisses is the norm, but it may sometimes be three!


2. Bonjour!

They might not be famed for their manners, but the French love saying hello! Everywhere you go, be that the doctor’s waiting room, a clothes shop or in the lift in your apartment block, people will say hello to you. This may be unusual if you’re used to just slipping in quietly!


3. Nothing’s as important as your health…

The French take health very seriously. You will be hard pressed to find a street on which there is not a pharmacy – their little green crosses flash everywhere! French chemists do not only sell medicine, either. You will often find general healthcare and wellbeing products, and even beauty products and make up in some of them (these are called parapharmacie). French people’s bathroom cupboards tend to be heaving with various medicines and you’ll also notice that popular products are to relieve the distress of jambes lourdes (heavy legs!!!) – we still haven’t found out what they are!!....


4. … except the delights of a French bakery!

We challenge you to resist the delights of freshly baked French bread! Baked constantly throughout the day (along with the many patisseries and cakes) and coming in more varieties than you can count, delicious French bread can be bought at any bakery or supermarket. Traditionally, bread is served with almost every meal.


5. Eating times

The French eat dinner late in the evenings, usually after 7.30pm and sometimes as late as 10pm. In the summer months it is so hot that people do not usually eat until it has cooled down, even children. They also take a lot more time over their lunch, and it is not unusual for office workers to pop out for a full meal and a glass of wine at lunchtime! A far cry from the British custom of wolfing down a sandwich at your desk! All part of the relaxed way of life out here; they say that the French work to live and not live to work! As meal times (lunchtime especially!) are set in stone, you’ll be hard pushed to find a restaurant that will serve you lunch outside these times.


6. Opening hours

In light of the above, opening hours in France are slightly different to the UK. Most shops and offices close over lunch time (usually between 12 and 2pm) and close for the day slightly later. Also, a lot of banks and other public places, such as the Post Office, close on Sundays and (part of) Mondays, but some places that are near to a market square may open especially for this on Sundays! It can all get a little confusing… Another thing to bear in mind is that many businesses close for the entire month of August.


7. Family mealtimes

The family unit is highly valued in France. Older members of the family are often looked after by younger members and certain rituals are almost always respected. One of these is family mealtimes. Most families eat together around a dining table, and a lot of schoolchildren even go home at lunchtime to eat with the family. They say “A family that eats together stays together”. This is also why you will often find French children eating out with their parents in restaurants, even later at night.


8. The bidet

This is the bizarre low fixture that looks like a sink, which you will find in a lot of French bathrooms. Do not be alarmed by it! Water is expensive in France and so some people opt to use the bidet to have a quick wash or even to wash their feet, instead of always having a full shower.


9. Vin

Along with its bread, France is famous for its wonderful wine. This said, you may mistakenly think that wine is expensive on this side of the channel. The opposite is true, in fact! You will be thrilled to hear that you do not have to spend a lot to buy good wine here and if you’re down in Nice do try our local wine, the Vin de Bellet – delicious! You’ll find that rose wine is very popular on the Riviera and is often served with ice cubes.


10. Night life

Night life usually starts with what the French call apéro, a sort of pre-drink. Then for the hardcore, the real night life usually begins later in France than back at home. People eat out later and go to bars later, a lot of clubs do not really get into full swing until around 2am and are more often than not open all night.