Ten ways other expats in France drive you mad

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Ten ways other expats in France drive you mad
Photo: Josh Janssen/Flickr

We might all be expats or immigrants in France but that doesn't mean we don't do things that really annoy each other. Here are some examples after after readers.


1. Language matters: It comes as no surprise that the top complaint revolved around the French language or more to the point, the lack of it. What annoys expats more than anything, it seems, is those who can’t be bothered trying to learn the language. Even worse: those who expect to be understood when speaking English without making an effort to speak clearly. And the most cringe-inducing thing an expat could do is to speak English even more loudly than normal in the expectation that a French person will finally understand you.

2. Slagging off the French: “Their open disdain of the French baffles me,” one reader said. “A lot of expats see the French as serving their purposes and nothing more." She wasn’t the only one to bring up this point. “If you don’t like the French then go home,” said another annoyed reader. French-bashing may be acceptable wherever you come from, but in France you'll not only rub your hosts up the wrong way, but your fellow expats too, it seems.

3. Bragging about home: "LOUDLY pointing out how efficient their own country is compared to France," was how one reader summed up an oft-repeated complaint about some expats. Another reader was similarly annoyed by expats who “constantly tell the French, “Well, this is how we do it in the UK”. E.G "Well in the UK we drink ten pints on a Friday, get sick in the street and then have a kebab..."

4. Snubbing the food: It appears some foreigners living in France have honed their Gallic taste buds better than others, who still squirm at some of the things served up in French restaurants. If you are the type to put your hand over your mouth and screw up your face at the thought of a tartare or insist on having a "bavette" bien cuit or ketchup with your "confit de canard", well each to their own, but be warned, you are making your fellow expats angry.

5. Les Bises: One act that irritated a few readers was when expats practice the French ritual of "le bise" (kisses on the cheek) among themselves while in France, rather than employing the usual Anglo greetings of handshakes, waving at point-blank range, smiling half-heartedly, staring at the face, or raising eyebrows. "When Anglos try to be “a la francaise" with morning breath in the office, I just want to swat them away like a fly," said one reader.

6. Throwing in French words: There seems to be a bit of a conflict here. Expats will complain about those who don’t bother learning French, but they are equally likely to get riled by those who go too far. It might have been charming when Del Boy from British sitcom “Only Fools and Horses” (see photo) would throw in a "Mon Dieu" or "Je ne sais quoi" every now and then but expats who "throw in French words when they speak English is just pretentious,” said one reader.

7. Refusing to make French friends: Only hanging around with other expats and making no effort to make Gallic acquaintances, was also a regular moan among readers about their fellow foreigners. Similar to this was a complaint about expats who spend all their time in Irish pubs (Although if it's to get a good pint of Guiness and watch the footy then that's fine, yeah?). Forming Anglo clubs also seems to cause displeasure for some readers. The US and UK embassies better watch out.

8. Reinvention: Some expats might include a few lies about their previous work experience on their CV to get a job in France but others will take it a few steps further. "People pretending to be something they are not," was a common theme of complaint. So anyone who has told their new friends in France they used to be an astronaut, a fighter pilot, a high-flying company exec, actor, artist or anything else cool, then maybe think again.

9. Pump up the Volume: This complaint came up regularly. It seems that the ears of many expats in France have got used to the quieter way of life and their hearing has adjusted accordingly. Their ears are a little more sensitive than they used to be, so when a loud American or Brit (according to our readers) walks into the brasserie they feel like their ear drums are going to burst. Not everyone has adjusted the volume on their vocal chords since being in France.

10. Attacking French habits: 

Some expats are not so accepting of traditional French social habits – smoking perhaps being one example. But foreigners need to accept we are in a different country and things may be a bit smokier here, a reader points out. “The French smoke – so if you’re sitting on a terrace, you’ll have to accept it. Objecting would be like going to America and asking people to speak more quietly. Speaking loud is just what Americans do."


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