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Twelve reasons not to say au revoir to France

While we often hear about people's motives for leaving France, there are many more reasons why people should think twice about departing, even if it's just the food. Those who have left tell us what they miss the most.

Twelve reasons not to say au revoir to France
While there are plenty of excuses to leave France, there are also many more reasons to stay. Photo: PK Paris/Flickr
It can't be easy to leave France.
 
Whether you're one of the 2.5 million French citizens living abroad or a former expat in France who's returned home, there are always going to be things you miss like crazy or aspects of French culture you wish you could have taken with you.
 
So we asked a selection of French and foreign expats what aspect of France they are still yearning for.
 
1. The value of time off
 
Vaila Finch, who now lives in the US, says one of the key things she misses is the work/life balance. 
 
“In the US your work defines you and leisure comes second,” she says.
 

(Photo: Josh Liba/Flickr)
 
“Americans don't value the benefits of vacation in the same way or see it as a earned right.
 
“For maternity benefits, for example, it's pitiful. Women go into labour in the office as they don't have enough leave to stop before and they can be back after six weeks. France has more respect for the individual.”

 
2. The French people 
 
“A diverse population that's far from predictable” – that's how a Pierre Cy, a Parisian working for a vintage Scandinavian design Gallery in Stockholm, described the French population. 
 
“In Sweden people try very hard to be different but in France they just are,” he tells The Local.
 
He wasn't the only French person to miss his fellow countrymen.
 

(Photo: Doug/Flickr)
 
One French student, Gaëlle, who has spent most of this year studying in the UK, also misses the locals.
 
Upon returning to Paris this week, she took to Instagram to write:
 
“A woman reading poetry in the Metro and two 15-year-old boys debating whether we should have a uni or multi-polar world in 35 years. Paris, you look like home today.”
 
3. French parking etiquette
 
(Muriel Demarcus, is this your car? Photo: Manu Laufu/flickr)
 
French Muriel Demarcus, who now lives in London and writes the French Yummy Mummy blog, claims one of things she misses the most is the way the French park their cars (Yes, we were shocked too). I think it's best if we let her explain.
 
“Parking your car in London is so complicated that no one understands it,” she says. “It is all about your resident permit. It can be completely different from one street to the next and I am not sure whether you can park on a yellow line on Saturdays and Sundays”.
 
“I am told that it just depends (but on what?). I have given up and have to pay the odd parking ticket from time to time (£60. What a rip-off! And in France it is just €15!!!). I miss French fines. And I never thought I would say this. Ever.” 
 
4. Free bread and water at restaurants
 
In most French restaurants you'll get a carafe of water when you order your meal and a small basket of bread, before you've even looked at the menu. But don't think that's going to be the case in other parts of the world. 
 
Some restaurants in Germany, for example, charge up to one euro for a measly glass of tap water, as one former expat in Paris tells us.
 

(Photo: David McKelvey/Flickr)
 
Not to mention in Spain, where some restaurants have been known to charge up to €1.50 for cutlery! Or in Italy they hit you with a “Coperti” cover charge, and beware opening any bread sticks. You'll probably have to pay.
 
Free bread and water might not sound like much to crow about – but wait until it doesn't come for free. 
 
5. Getting the lipstick out

Gaëlle, a French student in the UK, says that a small thing she misses about France is the ability to wear lipstick without feeling overdressed.
 

(Photo: _Frankenstein_/Flickr)
 
“Instead of getting whistled at by weird guys in the UK, in Paris I receive a silent look of approval from other girls,” she says.
 
“It's highly satisfying.”
 
6. Honest colleagues
 
“They might come across as miserable, or even rude, but at least the French are not two-faced,” says a former British expat in Paris.
 
“In the workplace, they don't bullshit and you know exactly where you stand with them…..despite all the whingeing. The French make for loyal colleagues,” said the woman, who asked not to be named, presumably to avoid trouble with her current work mates.
 
Standard of living in France: where do you fit?
(A birthday meal at a fancy Parisian cafe? Why not. Photo: AFP)
 
Another reader praised their former French colleagues for being “the masters of the personal touch” when it comes to marking special occasions, such as birthdays or farewells. 
 

7. French humour
 
Much has been written about the existence of “humour” in France, a country that favours wit and satire above joke telling (and this closer look from The Economist is well worth a read).
 
But readers told us nonetheless that the French sense of humour was one of the key things they missed after leaving – with particular reference to puns.
 

(Photo: Jafro77/Flickr)
 
One reader told us that they missed the punny headlines in the Liberation newspaper, while another said that they liked how the French “don't groan about puns the way the Brits do”.
 
8. Relationship with alcohol
 
“In France, people enjoy good wines slowly during their meals,” Parisian turned Stockholmer Pierre Cy told The Local.
 
“People in Sweden mostly drink to get drunk.”
 

(A barman in Paris. Photo: Nathan Gray/Flickr)
 
Beatrice Haranger, a Parisian, who has lived in London, missed the fact that in France people sit down to drink in bars, even if it means sitting elbow to elbow in lines of chairs around tiny round tables.
 
In London, however, “even if there's loads of free seats, everyone just stands up.”
 
9. Sincere shopkeepers
 
The service in French shops might be the last thing you'd expect people to miss about France, but some said that once they'd left, they realized they were hankering after some good old fashioned French honesty.
 

(Photo: Thomas Depenbusch/Flickr)
 

“I miss people being sincere,” says Sophie Pilgim who now calls New York home. 
 
“In French shops there's no: 'Hi, how are you, how is your day going? Oh, pretty scarf, where did you get that? Oh, I just love your bag!!!”
 
10. The joy of eating 
 
Owen Fairclough, a former resident of Paris now of Washington DC, misses not so much the French food itself as the act of eating it. 
 
“I miss the celebration of eating as a pleasure in itself, especially in the US, where the bill is on the table before your last spoonful of dessert,” he tells The Local. 
 
(Photo: Matthew Knott/Flickr)
 
11. Pastries
 
It wouldn't be a list about the good things in France if we didn't tackle the food – so why not take a closer look at the sweet stuff. One Frenchwoman who now calls Australia home said that she missed the pastries more than anything else. 
 
“I love that you can walk in the streets and see 'patisserie' or 'boulangerie' everywhere – sometimes even across from each other,” she told The Local. 
 

(Photo: Let Ideas Compete/Flickr)
 
Compared to an eclair au cafe, figues, millefeuilles, chocolate tarts, and papillottes, she says “The pastries and the cakes in Australia are simply awful,” she said.
 
12. The French health service
 
 
Nor would it be a complete list if we didn't include the aspect of France that French citizens actually do miss the most when they go abroad and it's often the reason that brings them home later in life.
 
A recent survey revealed 70 percent  of expats said they missed France's healthcare system. Let's face it, who can blame them.
 
Time to put off that move abroad.
 
What did we miss? Add your comments below.

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CULTURE

How to make the most of France’s ‘night of museums’ this weekend

More than 3,000 French museums will stay open long past their bedtimes on Saturday May 14th for the 18th Long Night of Museums.

How to make the most of France's 'night of museums' this weekend

The annual event takes place on the third Saturday in May each year in towns and cities across the whole of Europe. There are temporary exhibitions, themed guided visits, musical entertainment, lectures, concerts, food tasting, historical reconstructions and re-enactments, and film projections. Best news of all, almost everything is free. 

Here’s The Local’s guide to getting the most out of the night:

Plan, plan, then throwaway the plan

Consult the online programme and map out your route. A little preparation will make the night much easier – 3,000 museums will be open long into the night in France, and you don’t want to waste hours standing on a bridge arguing about where to go next. 

The site has suggestions for major cities, including Lyon, Dijon, Bourges, Strasbourg, Lille, Rouen, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Marseilles. And four museums that have been closed to the public for years – Musée de Cluny in Paris, the Musée de Valenciennes, the Forum antique de Bavay in Nord and the Musée départemental Albert-Khan in Boulogne-Billancourt – are reopening on the night.

So, decide where you’re going beforehand – then feel free to dump your carefully plotted plan in a bin when you overhear someone else talking about this extraordinary thing they have discovered and go with the flow.

Be patient

When you are consulting the official website, try not to scream. You have to navigate a map rather than a traditional programme format – though, at least, this year it’s broken down in to French regions, which is marginally less frustrating.

It is actually much easier if you know the specific museums you are interested in visiting, as they have individual programmes of events. But half the fun of a night like this is visiting somewhere you’ve never been before.

Wear comfortable shoes and travel light

Wear shoes for the long haul rather than the first impression. There will be distances to cover and you might even find yourself dancing in the middle of a museum. 

And blisters are never a good partner with great art. Leave your skateboard and shopping trolley at home, they will just prove a nuisance when you are going through security checks.

Come early – or late – to avoid endless queues

Arriving at the Louvre at 8pm is always going to mean a giant queue. And nothing ruins a night quicker than spending most of it standing in an unmoving line. Try to escape peak times at the major museums – but check they’re not doing something interesting that you don’t want to miss – hip hop dance classes in the Department of Oriental Antiquities, in the Louvre’s Richelieu wing, for example…

Go somewhere you’ve never been to before

Do a lucky dip. Pick somewhere you’ve never heard of and know nothing about. What about the Musée de Valenciennes, which reopens after years of being closed to the public, for example. Its giving visitors the chance to see its fine art under ultraviolet light – which will reveal things you wouldn’t normally see.

Or you could delve deep into the Aude Departmental Archives, in Carcassonne, and discover the amazing life stories of some of the region’s historical figures

Make it social

Gather the troops, this is a night for multi-generations of family and friends. Art, history and culture, is very much a shared experience and you can usually find something that everyone loves – or hates.

Plan a pitstop

You will always need refreshing and wouldn’t a night of culture be wonderfully enhanced by a delicious picnic on the banks of the Seine, if you’re in Paris. 

Your mind will need a little pause from all the intellectual overload. Find a spot, listen to the music (there’s always music from somewhere) and watch the Bateaux Mouches go by as you eat a baguette with some good local cheese and some saucisson.

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