Our French Life

5 Things That May Surprise You About France

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So you may think you know all there is to know about France.  You’ve been on holiday numerous times, you’ve been reading all the various forums or you may even live in France. Hopefully if you are the latter you will be nodding in agreement, if not, strap in and enjoy the surprises!

1.  The French Work Hard

SAY WHAT?!? Are you kidding me?! I hear you all scream. But what about all those Daily Mail articles? The ones that say all the French have 2 hour lunches, go on holiday in August and don’t do much work? Sorry folks you’ve all been fed an enormous amount of French bashing as, actually, they are pretty darn hard workers.

Mr Normandy has been offered 3 jobs whilst here in Normandy (all with French firms – more of which later). Now one building company he worked for started at 8.30 am and finished at 6pm. The 6pm finish was when the workers got back to the yard so add on another 30 minutes or so travelling time. Mr Normandy didn’t get home until 6.30pm. Now, for manual work this is a long day.  Plus they only had 45 minutes for lunch and not your “2 hour long lunch break”. Now, don’t get me wrong, on his first day they took him to a restaurant where they had cider, beer, wine and a 3 course meal. They then returned to work but this isn’t everyday!

He is currently working for a French landscaping company and it’s more or less the same – early start, quick lunch and work none stop to get the job done.  You only have to drive around to see men in high viz jackets carrying out essential maintenance, digging trenches and the like and no they don’t all (some granted are lunch time pumpkins) down tools as soon as the bell strikes 12pm.

Yes, independent shops will shut for their own holidays but by and large the self-employed and the employed are putting in long hours.

Interesting fact – did you know that statistically they are more productive than a UK worker?  Don’t believe me then read this interesting current article of which there are many.

2. There Is Work

Blimey I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve been told “there’s no work here”, “they only employ their own” “you won’t get a job without French qualifications”. The people who tell me this, generally have never applied for work with a French company (normally retired!), but they know. They’ve got it all sussed. They know about the employment chances of an ex-pat alright.

Erm no they haven’t got a clue as they rarely venture out of their enclave.  You don’t need French qualifications and you don’t even have to speak French.  You don’t all have to be doing maintenance and any other job that every other Brit is trying to do. You don’t have to be a micro entrepreneur. You can be employed. It might not be what you used to do but hey, isn’t that why you left the UK in the first place?

Plus being employed has many benefits. Literally. You are entitled to so much more plus your company will be paying your cotistations (bit like NHS payments). There is a lot to be said for being employed in France.

What you need to do is pop down to your local employment agency and say you are looking for work. Or the job centre where you maybe able to avail of the many services available to you i.e free French lessons. Granted it’s easier if you have a trade i.e plumber, electrician, gardener, builder etc but you can also put yourself out there or cleaning, care work and other jobs.

Mr Normandy can’t speak a great deal of French but he presented himself at an agency went for one interview and got the job. Whilst it was manning a digger which he didn’t take and another with a landscaping company who have been very understanding and accommodating with the language. Which was one of the reasons he applied – to become fluent.

The building company was an advert in the local paper of which there are many. Granted the phone conversation was a bit difficult but we got there in the end and they could have hung up and thought sod it. But they didn’t. He did a day’s trial and they took him on. It wasn’t for him as he thought they’d be more variety but the firm, again, were very accommodating. Not only that France, like the UK and the world over, have employment websites like Indeed etc. Other agencies are advertised on French television.

If you’re willing and able companies will take you on. Business is business at the end of the day. Mr Normandy wouldn’t have cared if someone had UK qualifications when employing someone on his firm – as long as they worked hard and were reliable – they were hired. It’s the same here.

3. The Birds Play Chicken And Lose

It came to my attention the other day, when I split a bird in two whilst driving, that French birds like to play chicken with drivers. Now, you don’t have to live in France to know who’s going to come off worse in this scenario. Never in my lifetime, have I slowed down for a bird whilst driving.

In the UK, if a car is approaching, birds will fly away. Simple. Whilst driving at the new speed limit of 50mph I saw a bird on the road. Naturally, I thought the closer I get, he’ll fly up high into the sky above. He’s a bird after all. Nope. This French bird had attitude. He was only half way up my bonnet before he even contemplated flying a bit higher. He contemplated too late. One part of his body went to the left, the other (his head I think) onto the grass verge. I couldn’t quite believe what had just happened. A bird wasn’t prepared to get out the way of a fastly approaching car?! Now, many of his feathery friends have the same attitude. I counted 4 dead birds today – there is normally a bird of prey amongst the fallen.  I used to think “how do birds get killed here?” They lose at chicken that’s how. And whilst out cycling I saw that a duck got it. So yes, you can slow down and save a birds life or you can see if the bird flies high enough. The choice is yours.

4. Coloured Jeans Are Still A Thing

No it wasn’t an eighties thing. It’s still alive and well in 2018. It doesn’t matter who you are – age, sex, fat, thin – you can wear coloured jeans no matter what here in France.  I don’t know how they manage it but they just do and it’s not even funny. I mean literally. Years ago I would have sniggered and pointed and said oh look at those jeans! Chortle chortle. You just accept it. You see in the UK you can’t get away with mustard or salmon coloured jeans no matter who you are. Maybe. Just maybe if you are 2 years old but even then I think you might get the piss taken out of you in playgroup. If you’re a fully fledged adult male – well good luck going into the pub. But here a strange jean coloured thing is taking place. It’s totally acceptable and the norm. No one is batting an eyelid. In fact, I think I’m out of place with my dark jeans and I’m sure I’ll be owning a pair pretty soon. Today, I even saw a middle-aged, overweight postman donning his pink jeans whilst heading out for deliveries on his scooter. Enough said.

5. Going To The Toilet In Public

Now, I knew that French men will take a piss anywhere in full view of all and sundry. They’re not moving a few inches to discreetly piss behind a bush. Nope you’re all going to see. I get that. But I wasn’t quite aware the ladies are exactly the same. Be it a number one or a number two, male, female, child or as a family – the French don’t care if you watch them go to the toilet. We’ve all been caught short in our lives, however, there isn’t a cat in hells chance I’m dropping my drawers in full sight of the general public. I’m going to find a bush/tree or something. Anything.

Don’t believe me. Well here’s a few examples. Last year, at a giant vide grenier/brocante as we approached a packed town, a lady had dropped her drawers and was having a piss in front of a tree right beside the pavement. This was in full view of hundreds of people. Mr Normandy said “well I really didn’t need to see that”.

At the carnival in Granville, we were making our way through the packed streets to come across a young girl having a piss in full view of everyone. In fact, she was in front of a discreet alleyway. On our trip to Biscarrosse we stopped off at a plage. In the car park, and in full view of the public toilets a father and daughter we’re doing it for the family. Except the girl approximately 8 years old was having a poo just to the side of their car.

More recently, someone took a poo in the lay by outside our house and left the toilet paper with it. So this one was properly planned for. The public toilets are 1 min away. On the way to the next village (the latest toilet viewing in a public place) was a lady squatting down. This was in a manner, which I can only describe as someone having trouble passing a number two. She was properly straining so she was. By the side of her car in full view. Again, public toilets less than a minute away.

I have seen enough people going to the toilet than is strictly necessary in only one year of living in France. I don’t find it charming or revolutionary. I find it bizarre that you can’t go behind a bush or have a crap in a public toilet. Oh and by the way, I’ve seen (and this made me proper gag) a number two on the floor of a public toilet. So they couldn’t even make the toilet bowl. Avert your eyes people. You have been warned.

So there you have it. My 5 things that may (or talk to the hand) surprise you about France!

As you were.


8 thoughts on “5 Things That May Surprise You About France”

  1. We saw a young woman having a piss in a lay-bye,behind her luxurious motor home which would have a fully functioning toilet on
    board. Jeans round ankles, proper moon, dad nearly drove into the river! Xx


    1. Oh my! Well this does not surprise me in the slightest – I really don’t know why, however, my husband thinks it steams back from the revolution and it’s their right to do what they like. So maybe there is something in that i.e having the freedom to roam, do as you please etc


  2. And it’s definitely true about birds not flying out of the way of cars…! I do slow down for them though. Wild bird numbers are falling in France so they don’t need us running over them too!


  3. The horsey set wear mustard or pink trousers quite a lot in England! It’s the go to wardrobe at horse trials in fact 😍


  4. Hi, Just had to say Your blog is touching on all the little things I have no idea I don’t know. We are currently getting ready to take the plunge in September 2019, selling up in UK etc. will be following you throughout the year with interest! Regards, Clint


    1. Hi they! Sorry for the delay re commenting we are on our jollies – you can also follow the blog on my facebook page of the same name. Exciting times ahad for you and thanks so much for following. I write an honest account of our experiences here so am so glad you have found it useful. Please feel free to add some after your move!


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