How far have you assimilated into French culture?

Oliver Gee
Oliver Gee - [email protected]
How far have you assimilated into French culture?
A picnic with a view overlooking the Saint-Jean cathedral in Lyon. Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

Becoming truly assimilated into the French culture means that you not only have to ditch your own culture from back home, but you also have to adopt the French way of life, and that's no easy task. Which stage are you at?


The Local has taken a (light-hearted) look at what we consider to be the three levels of assimilation in France. What stage are you at?

Stage 1

You still find the whole cheek-kissing thing strange and embarrassing and try to avoid it where possible and substitute a handshake, a hug or just a cheery wave. 

You're glad to find your favourite Cheddar cheese in the local French supermarket, where you'll grab the cheapest wine on offer that says either "Chardonnay" or "Sauvignon Blanc" on the bottle.

Sure, you've learned a bit of basic French, but still prefer to speak English with French people (even when they're struggling).


You've got a great network of expat pals who lend an empathetic ear when you discuss the nightmare administration issues you've dealt with. 

When someone says "fancy a drink?" you say "which pub?" 

When you visit friends and family back home you bring back food and drink.

You are absolutely baffled by the strikes and street protests and think everyone should be grateful get on with their jobs.

You constantly compare things to life back home, whether it's the amount of smoking, the way they drive or what they wear. In fact that's all you talk about.

Stage 2

Your French is pretty good and enjoy testing it out on locals but when it gets complicated you don't hesitate to bust out the old parlez vous anglais.

When someone asks you what your favourite cheese is, you say the words "Comté, but I do a love a strong cheddar."

You now prefer to faire le bise when meeting people, and you'll even do it with other expats because that doesn't feel so strange anymore. 

You don't talk about having a drink, you have an "apéro".

Getting drunk is starting to feel uncool.

You still love a Starbucks, but you never walk anywhere with it anymore. 

When you're out with your Anglo friends, your group is the loudest in the room, and you start to get a little self-conscious knowing the locals on neighbouring tables will be irritated. You are sensitive to their ear ache.

You're now more comfortable driving as close to the car in front as possible. And you've used your horn to encourage the bin collectors to do their job a little quicker.

You'll say bonjour in the lift at work to those who share your office building and then bonne journée seconds later, but you would still love to talk about the weather with them.

You've grown tired of comparing France to back home, as France is starting to feel like home.

Stage 3

You wouldn't dream of buying cheese unless it's from your local fromagerie, where you know the staff by name and where you have over a dozen favourite fromages. You no longer hold your nose when the Pont l'Eveque comes out.

You've acquired half a dozen French friends whose cheeks you will kiss to say hello and goodbye. 

When you head home, you find yourself telling family and friends how disgusting their food is, not to mention the ridiculousness of their healthcare system and work/life balance. And you insisted on kissing them twice. 

You despair at the lack of French spoken in the country of your birth.

You yawn when people talk about the administration headaches, because you've been there and done that, and you already have your files ready with all important documents and their photocopies. 


You speak French with your remaining expat friends, and find yourself using French words when speaking English with those back home. No, this isn't arrogance, this is assimilation. 

You feel mortified when a friend visits from back home and speaks too loudly in a restaurant or on public transport. You might even tell them to quieten down. 

You know the words to the Marseillaise and like to sing it at sports events (where you're cheering for France, naturellement)

You own several Breton T-shirts, numerous foulards, and cheer for France at the World Cup. You often support strike action and have probably marched in a demonstration once or twice. Your first son is called Kevin but your second is Jean-Luc.

Your car is covered in dents. 

What 'stage' are you at? Share your views in the comments section below


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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Bryan 2023/07/28 19:18
An amusing article. I've lived here for 34 years and have dual nationality, so I guess in some ways I'm beyond Stage 3. But I still do buy mature Cheddar at the supermarket
Steve Morris 2023/07/28 09:20
The final sentence is classic!

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