23 Things You Can’t Do in France

A person standing in front of a door

1. Get cash back

You: So… do you take credit card?

2. Say “uh-huh” as a response

The French don’t say “uh-huh” or “uh-uh” or “mm-hm.”

3. Get thin plastic bags

You better have some reusable bags on you because you can’t get that thin plastic sack. Since January 2017, supermarkets have been prohibited from using thin plastic bags at checkout or in produce (thicker plastic bags are still allowed).

4. Wear swim trunks in a public pool

Speedos only!

5. Legally acquire marijuana

Nine states recreationally and 30 states medicinally. (Not that we’re saying you should, but at least in the US you have the option.)

6. Buy cheap books

In France, you can only discount books to 5% below the publisher’s list price. There are two laws that set this up: the Lang law, which established the maximum 5% discount on books in 1981, and a new law, passed unanimously on June 26th of this year by the French parliament, which abolishes free shipping on books purchased online and shipped to France (aka, the “Anti-Amazon Law”).

7. Write your name “first last”

8. Write “month / day / year”

9. Make a one-stop shop for makeup, prescriptions, snacks, Hallmark cards, photo printing, and paper towels (oh, and boxed wine)

CVS, Duane Reade, Rite Aid, Walgreens — all gone.

10. Use an iPhone in school

Sucks to be a high school student in 2018.

11. Do anything in August (especially in Paris)

This store is closed, and this store is closed, and this store is closed… and all those restaurants too.

12. Buy beef jerky, marshmallow fluff, Reese’s, Lucky Charms, French’s yellow mustard, and a million other delicious things. 

^You trying to adapt to without your American food.

13. Play competitive sports at school

French schools offer limited physical education class (about four hours per week in middle school and two hours per week in high school), and they don’t offer competitive after-school sports. In college, sports operate like a class (you even get a grade) and you only play against other students in that college class.

14. Take a subway at 3am

The Paris metro shuts down from 1am to 6am on weekdays (2am to 6am on weekends).

15. Order off a kids menu

You might find a kids menu at a chain restaurant, but certainly not everywhere. Kids really eat what adults eat. (In school, kids are served a four-course, balanced meal for lunch.)

16. Tell someone the weather is in the 80s

If it were in the 80s in France, which uses celsius, it would be 176° F and everyone would be dead from a real heatwave (not like the current one).

17. Hear non-French music more than 60% of the time you listen to the radio

60% of the music you hear on French radio will likely be in English (sung by French, American, and UK artists), and the other 40% will be in French (it’s the law). Sound ridiculous that France would even need to make that law? On the current Top 100 chart in France, about 40 of the tracks are in French, and about 60 are in English or another language (but mostly English).

18. Go out to eat at all hours

^^You at 1:00am when you aren’t able to go to a pizza place, a Carrefour, a crêpe stand, or literally anywhere other than your own fridge.

19. Use the bathroom for free

Save up your euro coins, you’re going to need that 50 centimes.

20. Get your food to go at literally any restaurant

Via your stomach is the only way you’re taking something to go.

21. Go to the post office, or really any government building, during lunch hours

The French bureaucracy shuts down often.

22. Shop on Sundays

This store is closed, and this store is closed, and this store is closed… (fine, maybe that one store way over there is open, but everything else is closed).

23. Look at the website of every store or restaurant 

Seriously, why don’t all French stores and restaurants have websites? An Instagram page is not enough, a Facebook page with a link to reviews on TripAdvisor is not enough, just having Google list opening hours is not enough. Americans want to read the menu, click through a gallery of images, and skim the “our story” section.

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