Wanderings and Ponderings

My Study Abroad Adventures in England & France

Cultural Differences, French Edition

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For this post I’ll just do some basic points to compare the two cultures.

Fresh food & markets. In the US, you’ll rely on the grocery store for all of your shopping (except perhaps the odd farmers market during the summer). Nantes has multiple “marchés”, the most popular one being on Saturday. People come with backpacks and little wheeled baskets to buy their week’s worth of groceries, and the market remains busy all day long.


Goat cheese hearts – half moldy, half not


Marché Mediatheque

Specialty shops. While I came here knowing that France would have its fromageries, boulangeries, and more (cheese and bread shops), I didn’t expect it to this extent. It seems every single shop is a privately owned and run business, specializing in candles, toys, clothes…the list goes on and on. When I first arrived, all I wanted was a sense of familiarity. While I thought the specialty shops were cool, I couldn’t help but missing stores like Target. Chains where you know what to expect. I’ve come to realize that that’s boring of course – that’s not how things are done here and there are lots of cool places to look around.
Bottled water. Every time I go to the store, the main thing I see people buying are cases of bottled water. As if they will die of thirst without it. Not even the high-faluten sparkly stuff, but the plain water! Is the tap water that bad? It seems fine to me.

Fruit goes out of season. You may say “…duh!” at first. But seriously, think about it. In the US, you can get peaches and strawberries and watermelon in the dead of winter. Sure the price goes up, but if you really need them for a recipe, they’re available. This is not the case in France. I got hooked on nectarines pretty soon after arriving, and was fairly dissappointed  when the stores stopped selling them. Now the persimmons and fall squashes have come in, and it’s very cool to see the different options!

Grocery sacks. If you want a sack for your groceries, it will cost extra. A great way to encourage environmentally-friendly actions, right? They also sell reusable grocery bags at most every store (like Publix and Kroger have started doing).

Eating outside. Super popular (but costs extra). No idea what’s gonna happen when winter comes, but right now, outside is still the place to be. Perhaps cause you can smoke outside? Not sure. When it’s warm, the fresh air is nice, though.


These people have a cat on their table

Pencil pouches. In the US, if you choose to use real paper instead of a computer, you’ll probably just keep them in your backpack. Or maybe in a pencil pouch, but the pouch returns to the backpack! Here, everyone has pencil pouches complete with little decorative buttons and doodles and every student leaves it out on their desk throughout the lecture. This is so different to me! I had to buy a pencil pouch to fit in with all the cool kids 👍

Graffiti everywhere! Like, really. Covering the desks, covering the backs of chairs, and buildings, it’s everywhere! At first it struck me as horrid and grimy but some of it is actually sort of funny if you read it.


ZAD *everywhere*!!

“This is a pointillistic representation of your mother”

 Coffee, Smoke, & “Pause” (break). During long classes (so, like, *always*) the prof will let us have a break. During this time, it’s popular to buy coffee (from one of the vending machines, though I usually bring my own coffee cause it’s cheaper lol). Most everyone goes outside was well cause smoking is so prevalent.


Julien, Chloë, & Noémie during our long Italian break

No eye contact. This has been one of the most difficult things for me to learn. Especially in an environment like the tram where it’s just total strangers, eye contact seems totally taboo. It only ends in weird staring contests. That I always win mwahahahahahahah!

“Pharmacies.” These aren’t like the US pharmacies where you get prescription drugs filled, however they have huge selections of vitamins and general health stuff. A couple weeks after I got here, I was feeling a bit under the weather, and a lady was able to recommend a supplement with a combination of lots of vitamins.

Style. Truly, if you aren’t dressed predominantly in black, or maybe brown or maroon, you’re going to stick out. Similarly to England, everyone has black jeans, shoes, coat,with a bit of color in a scarf or something. The uniformity and classic black makes you look much more put together.
And here I’ll dump some pictures of other random different things I’ve seen:

A ruler with a handle – seriously, how genius is that?

A vending machine that sells apples and baguette sandwiches

I like the name. “Schtroumpfs” instead of “Smurfs” haha

Goat cheese hearts – half molded, half not. Yay!


Author: twinzlyn

Hi! I'm a junior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, double majoring in French & Linguistics. For the Spring 2015 semester, I did an exchange program to the University of Kent in the town of Canterbury, England. For the 2015-2016 academic year, I'm studying at the Université de Nantes in Nantes, France.

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