Five Frustrating Things about France
Leah Walker November 29, 2012

I know it’s hard to believe, but before last week I’d never been to France. It’s not that I didn’t want to go, it’s just that I never made it a point to go. Unlike so many others I know that have a deep fascination with France, I’ve always been sort of ambivalent about the country.

I couldn’t have been more right.

Paris Eiffel Tower

My week in Paris has shown me a lot about France. Yes, I know that Paris isn’t France any more than New York City or Los Angeles is the United States, but I’m painting this post using a broad brush. However, here are my top five frustrating things about France:

Their Breakfast Sucks

Paris Breakfast

How can I be expected to sustain myself until my three-course lunch and five-course dinner with croissants, baguettes with butter and jam, and pain au chocolate? Have these people ever heard of eggs? That’s a rhetorical question. I know they know about eggs because they put them on anything that will sit still long enough on lunch and dinner offerings. Croque madame, anyone? What about bacon? Ham? I’ve got to have something with protein.

Paris Breakfast3

My first morning in Paris I had to visit four different breakfast places before I found scrambled eggs AND they had cumin in them. With a side of salad. Really? Isn’t that a spice found mostly in Indian food? No matter. It was nothing a little Tabasco didn’t fix. This isn’t to say that I’ve not eaten my fair-share of croissants and baguettes for breakfast, it’s just not conducive to fitting into my pants for the long term.

Paris Breakfast2

They’re Breaking Me Financially

France ain’t cheap, especially for someone that doesn’t strictly budget her travels. If I’m hungry then I eat. It doesn’t matter where. Five euro for a cup of coffee? They must see this caffeine-addicted woman coming from a mile away. Don’t feel like taking the metro? A cab it is. Four euro for a bottled water? Yep, I’m coughing up the coins for that, too. I’ve taken more trips to the ATM in Paris than I did for the whole of Prague, Italy, and Barcelona.

Paris_Cartier

Thank God I’m not forking over the money for a hotel in Paris because I’d have to sell my good kidney or my slightly-plumper body {thanks a lot, Italy} to pay for the ten nights in the city. I took a tour of the W Opera last week and was shown a beautiful room overlooking the Opera. It wasn’t even one of their top rooms, just basic, but the rack rate for it is 750 euro per night. Don’t even get me started on the price of cocktails. And the shopping? That’s going to put me in the grave. It’s pretty sad when I look at the bill and feel like I’ve gotten a steal when it’s under 100 euro. Un-freakin-believable.

Paris Dessert

They speak French

Yeah, I know I’m in France and all, but I don’t speak a lick of French. I’m like a deer in the headlights when I sit down at a cafe or walk into a store. I mean, don’t I have American written all over me? Don’t speak to me in French. Normally I try to communicate in the native language of each country I visit, but France just has me intimidated.

Notre Dame Candles

I was speaking Spanish in Italy. They’re way too similar and I got confused. By the time it was time to leave, I was doing a fair job of communicating in Italian. Then I went to Barcelona and found myself speaking Italian. Once I got my head screwed on straight, I was doing really well with my school-girl Spanish. Then it was off to France. Yeah. I haven’t even tried to speak French. I really hate it when English speakers visit a country and assume that everyone should know English. What an arrogant thing to do, but here I am doing what I despise. C’est la vie, y’all.

Paris Photography

They Adore Everything I Adore

Who knew that this girl from small-town Texas had so much in common with the French? I mean, I grew up with a Piggly Wiggly and thought Parmesan NOT from a can was fancy cheese. This is where things could get a little dangerou$, my friends.

Paris Crepe

Wine, jewelry, cheese, Nutella, bag$, whole milk, boutique$, pastries, bitchy looks, black clothe$, morel mushrooms, $hoes, fa$hion, cobblestones, real sugar, quaint coffee shops, truffle$…the list could go on forever. Perhaps I was a Parisian in my former life, a much skinnier and richer Parisian. Yeah, I’ll go with that theory.

French Wine

I Like the French

OK, I really like the French. Despite the stereotype of being rude, I’ve yet to encounter any of that treatment. I was certainly prepared to dislike the French, but damn it, they’ve all just been so charming, kind, friendly, and helpful.

That kind of pisses me off.

Paris Restaurant

Take for instance the time I stood in the laundry aisle at the grocery store trying to decipher the French labels. A young, French woman took pity on me and asked if I needed help. Then there are the countless waiters and waitress that have read menus to me in English without even the hint of an eye roll. Cafe owners have happily let me leach their Wi/Fi and electricity for hours even though I’ve just ordered a cappuccino. Strangers have pointed me to the metro. Even the homeless beg in a polite way.

I’m not certain how and why the French were saddled with this reputation. I tend to think that we reap what we sew. A friendly attitude begets the same in return, at least that’s what I’ve found in France and the rest of my travels. I’m not happy that I’ve had such a pleasant experience with the French. It means that I will have to return, and returning to France is not only dangerous to my bank account, but also my waistline.

Paris Photography2

So maybe the only thing really frustrating about France is how much I really love it. I’m so smitten with the City of Light. I don’t really care that I’ve stepped in dog shit a time or two. It doesn’t matter that I’ll have to take out a second mortgage in order to afford a return visit. Paris is a seductive temptress and she’s stolen my heart.

What a bitch!

Leah Walker

Leah has a marketing management company specializing in strategy, content creation and implementation for luxury brands and destinations. She's also a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. Leah documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. She sometimes freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, USA Today 10 Best, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel and wine ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's lived in Paris for four years, and was awarded additional time with a Passeport Talent visa renewal. Though, her talent for speaking French is abysmal.

53 Comments

    1. Thanks, Richard. I’m not sure how/why this sent out the email notification when it did because I had this in draft mode when I got your comment. If you’re following the comments then you might want to check out the finished product. So weird!

  1. Sorry Leah….no sympathy here! You are in France…that is so awesome! And, you are in an apartment! Eat breakfast in and have your eggs!!!! Seriously though…loving your posts and only wishing I could be back there too! Totally agree on the cost front though. Spent most of my time in Spain on my last round of travels and got lulled into their lovely cost structure. Reality bites and bit me hard when I crossed into France and the same cup of tea quadrupled in price! But, like you said….c’est la vie!
    Keep living and traveling hard!

    1. Hahaha…no sympathy requested…except for maybe the expensive part, something you know all too well it sounds like.

    1. Thank you, Malin. I was recently told that the people I have encountered must not be true Parisians, that they moved from elsewhere in the country. I’m not so sure about that, nor do I really care. I’ve had such a lovely experience that I’m not going to dampen it with such thoughts. 🙂

    1. Stumbling through is one of the best parts about traveling. I’ve learned more French than I ever knew. I couldn’t have done that if you were my interpreter. Although, I would have loved to see Paris through your eyes. Next time?

  2. I spent two months in France after college, and I loved it and the people. Spent most of my time outside Paris, but did hit Paris for a weekend or two. I never encountered rudeness, and I wondered myself where the reputation came from.

    I like the way you constructed this post as it ended in surprise. With the whining that occurred in the first part I thought the whole post was to be a crabfest, and I was about to get out a violin. Then it turned, and you stopped whining and began to enjoy yourself. Well done.

    1. Thanks so much. It was all very tongue-in-cheek, Ted…even the bread part. How could one not love Paris?! Le sigh…

    1. I walked by Friday night and took a look in the window. Laduree is beautiful, but I just really don’t like macaroons and couldn’t justify standing in line to get something I don’t care for. Sorry…

  3. I understand the need for a filling breakfast, but I can’t quite wrap my head around not being thrilled by a delicious French bread basket every morning! Please feel free to send your unwanted brioches and pain au chocolates over to me.

  4. I have love/ hate relationship with France–they criticized by pronunciation and I felt as though it was a waste even trying to practice my language there but I have to say, all the art and gardens more than make up for everything. I could spent months there–with or without eggs for breakfast!

    1. You’re so good to even try to speak French. I just don’t even have a basic grasp on the language. I agree with you…I could spend months there dispite the lack of eggs. 🙂

  5. I was in Paris in July for the first time and I really loved it, but I did experience one real frustration. All of the tourist sites close too early. In July it didn’t get dark until quite late but still the museums were closing at 5 or 6 (thankfully some offered later hours once or twice a week, but not too late and not that many of them). If Paris isn’t the number one tourist destination, it is certainly close so I can’t understand why the main draws close so early.

    1. Seeing as I didn’t see many of the main tourist attractions I’ll have to take your word on that…post on that to follow soon! As Americans we get used to businesses and such catering to our schedules. It doesn’t seem to work that way in Europe. I found that out in when I tried to do a little shopping in a small town in France during lunch. Oops!

  6. You totally nailed it! Every word of it is so true! On my trip to France I was almost on the verge of bankruptcy but I was so smitten with the city that I didn’t really focus until I reached home & was under a lot of debt! But still I am in love with this city!

    1. Had I not shopped I would have done alright. But who goes to Paris and doesn’t shop at least a little? To hell with it! So what if I spent a little too much money. 😉

  7. I love France, I first went there when I was 16 but you forgot to mention the smells. The bread is good but it smells like piss in a lot of places in Paris. It’s the only European city I have been to where they must not wash down the streets after the weekend so the smell just lingers.

    1. I really didn’t get the piss smell. However, I did see workers hosing off sidewalks quite often. Perhaps they got your memo! Haha

  8. I KNEW you didn’t really hate France before I read this! Who can really hate endless pain au chocolat and all that cheese? The language can be a bit intimidating – I got told off by a security guard when I was 17 because I forgot the word for something! I remembered how to say, “look, I CAN speak French, I just didn’t understand why I should show you my bag” but of course the perfect thing to say always occurs after the event. Now when I try and think in French, half the time it’s Korean instead.

    I will say though, 5 euros for a cup of coffee?!? Merd.

    1. Come on, Tom, you think you know me so well? At least you can communicate in French. And add Korean to the mix? You’re a man of many tongues, my friend. 😉 ahaha

  9. I hate that the French get a bad rap. The reason many Americans hate France so much, and this is the irony here, is that the French are just like us. We want everyone to come to our country, speak our language, and respect our culture. The French are exactly the same and we get pissed because we think they are rude and arrogant. Sometimes they are and honestly, Americans probably are nicer than the French (especially in the South). However, they probably aren’t that much different than we are – and that’s really what makes people hate the French.

    Sure, we do have our differences. We aren’t the same. But in many ways, we may be more similar than we realize.

    (stepping down off the soapbox now…)

    1. Thanks, Mark. Paris is easy to love as are the French. I was told by a Parisian that the reason why they get a bad wrap is because they’re too cynical. Perhaps that’s what it is. Luckily I’m able to look past all of that and see what’s great about the French. Sounds like you can too.

  10. Love this! How on earth did I miss this the first time around.

    If you think France is expensive, try Switzerland. Food is just as expensive, just not as good.

    I, also, have never understood the rude Frenchman stereotype. I’ve had nothing but good experiences with the French.

    I have terrible language skills, but in France I always at least try to start out in French. After hearing me butcher their beloved language, they usually switch to English. They always seem appreciative of the attempt, though 🙂

    1. Oh, I agree on the food and price in Switzerland, although I did have some good stuff there, it’s nothing compared to the deliciousness to be had in France.

  11. Only just stumbled upon your blog and this post is hiiiiilarious! France has never really been on my travel radar (primarily due to the crappy experience my uncle has had with the French while there; and he’s even fluent in French), and apparently the stereotype about the French is shared not just by Americans but by other Europeans!

    1. Thanks! Hey, we all have our own experiences. I say give France a chance. As equally as bad experience that your uncle had, I’ve had great ones. Who knows what yours will be.

  12. Awww… I’d take a croissant (especially Pierre Herme’s amazing ispahan croissant) over eggs, bacon or pancakes any day 😉

  13. Interesting, I was in Paris at the same time as you, maybe our paths did cross! But yeah, Paris (and France) is one of my fave cities, how lucky to have a French visa, hope you will write more interesting articles, Leah 🙂

    1. Funny! What are the odds that we actually did cross paths? I plan on writing quite a bit on France, so stay tuned.

  14. Haha. I love the spin. I’ve never been to Paris, but I would love to visit. I will try to brush up on my French though. Haha.

    1. It’s always good to know the basic greetings at the very least. If you have any French background you’re far ahead of me!

  15. Really enjoyed reading this it so mirrors my first Paris trip from the UK. I too was surprised by the cost of food and drink but it’s not like i visit every week, i also met many truly helpful French citizens and I’m sure i will in the future. Love all your posts on Instagram especially the stories i look forward to each one.

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