What I Love (and Hate) About France

Nomad Christine tells us the things she loves and hates about France. Let's start with the smell of freshly baked bread being interrupted by cigarette smoke.


Photo © iStock/lechatnoir

France is the most visited country in the world, and for good reason. It oozes culture and style, features the most iconic landmarks (hello, Eiffel Tower) and has incredible food and wine everywhere you go. 

I’ve studied in Paris, worked in Nice and visited countless other cities around the country – there’s no doubt that I’m a massive Francophile, but it’s not an all-love relationship.

These are a few things I love and hate about France.

Things I Love

The Smell of Freshly-Baked Bread

There’s nothing like walking by a bakery and breathing in baguettes. What’s even better is being able to walk in and buy a warm, crusty loaf for less than a Euro.

Wine is Cheaper than Water – Seriously

Nothing beats a chilled glass of rosé in a sunny courtyard on a spring day. 

When in Nice, Don’t Eat Like You Would in Brittany

France has an incredible diversity of food. Socca in Nice, ratatouille in Provence, butter in Brittany – each region produces specialties created out of the best produce the location has to offer.  

Provence, France. Photo credit: iStock

Oh this Old Thing? I Picked it up in France

From vintage shops cluttering the Marais to boutique stores in the French Rivieria, it’s hard to explore a city in France without spending some hard-earned Euros. 

That Je Ne Sais Quoi

I am forever inspired by French women – they ooze style and confidence. Their ability to look effortlessly elegant and wholly individual always leaves me wanting to rock some red lipstick, no matter what I’m doing. 

Culture Vulture Central

Sure, you can zone out on the beaches of the Riviera or party in the clubs in Paris — but why not learn something? France has no shortage of incredible museums, cinemas, theatre, opera and live music. 

It’s Cheap for Starving Students

Museums, cinemas and cultural attractions usually offer a discount for students — always ask for the rate “pour les jeunes”.

Hop on With the Masses

Thanks to excellent underground and aboveground train systems, France is easy to navigate without a car of your own. I love the art deco Metro stations and the one Euro bus rides in Nice, but most of all I love the TGV: the high-speed train will get you from Paris to Nice in less than six hours, without having to deal with the airport hassle and security checkpoints — and with extra legroom! 

Soak Up the Sunshine

There’s a reason why the French Riviera is the playground of the rich and the famous – the beaches are eye-wateringly beautiful.

French Riviera. Photo credit: iStock

Things I Hate

Cigarette Smoke

While smoking is finally illegal inside restaurants, it’s still allowed (and very common) on restaurant patios and in many outdoor public spaces. Be prepared to inhale a lifetime’s worth of cigarette smoke if you want to drink your wine in the sunshine.

Queue Etiquette? What’s that? 

French lines seem to reward the pushiest. Pack plenty of patience, and don’t be afraid to just skip to the front of the line – that’s how it’s done here. 

Mountains of Red Tape

If you want to get anything done — from shipping a package overseas to extending a visa — be prepared to fill out a lot of paperwork, stand in a lot of lines and engage in circular arguments with a bored-looking French officials. 

Surly Waiters

Anyone who has visited France will have at least one bad customer service experience. If it makes you feel any better, they don’t just reserve the sass for the foreigners – they’re just as rude to their fellow French. At least you don’t have to tip here.

Street Cafe in Paris, France. Photo credit: iStock

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  • Pierre said

    As a french I agree to all of this!
    Except the queue etiquette! I think you exaggerate a bit or you were very unlucky several times in a row :)

  • Maarten said

    Ever tried to order something in a Spanish bar or restaurant? Your French waiter will seem quite polite all of a sudden!

  • Lola said

    Hate cigarette smoke? Then I advise against travelling to the following: Eastern Europe, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Russia, the Caucasus, the Middle East... And please tell me where you get your wine from!

  • Laura said

    Haha Nice !

    As a French citizen, I agree with all of it, except for the queue etiquette.
    Skipping is considered very rude.

    Cheers !

  • Jim Lockard said

    Good piece! Just moved to France (Lyon) after visiting many times. The only item I would disagree with is the one about surly waiters. In hundreds of meals all over France I have never encountered a surly server.
    That's not to say they don't exist, but to indicate they are something you would encounter regularly just isn't the case.
    Another thing I like is that you occasionally hear the sound of a wine cork popping from an apartment or a restaurant as you walk down the street. As a wine blogger that makes my heart feel good!

  • Janet Mozelewski said

    We live in Normandy. I love it. The French are very polite when they greet you, lots of old world courtesy. But that goes out of the window when they are behind the wheel of a car. Impatient, bullying, tail-gating, lacking give and take. Downright dangerous. The UK with its heavy traffic would be a log-jam if British drives adopted the same attitude.
    Stylish women in France? I've read that time and again and I have yet to find evidence of it. I suspect the comments refer only to Paris....and even then we live near Deauville and see women from Paris in uncomfortably tight clothes, clutching lapdogs, over tanned with leathery skin, and over made-up. Dated, in fact. In rural areas and provincial towns stylish women are not exactly thick on the ground. Just like any similar area in the UK only more old-fashioned.
    What we love about France most is the clean well cared for Public spaces...flowers, fountains, no litter. And the open countryside where you can breathe and have a walk in a beauty spot without the world and his wife seemingly joining you. Peace.

  • Marlene Busdenius said

    Great article.
    Seems people are the same everywhere.


  • Alisa said

    When I visited Perpignan and went to a touristic little restaurant, the waiter was ingratiatingly, butt-kissingly friendly with a French couple but a bit nasty with me. Of course they'll be nicer to locals. And men in public mumble at and insult women as they pass. It's really cowardly and gross.

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