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TIPS

Readers’ tips: What should you pack when coming to France from the US?

Each week The Local asks its readers to share their tips about various aspects of living in France. This week we asked our American readers what they bring with them to France from the US. Here's what they had to say.

Readers’ tips: What should you pack when coming to France from the US?
Photo: AFP
When you come to France from the US there's no shortage of things to look forward to, not least of all the easy access to the country's wonderful cheeses, cafe culture and fine wines. 
 
But there will also be some things you will want to bring with you whether it's for money-saving purposes or simply because you want the comfort of home, while you're away on your travels especially if you're staying a while, or even moving here.  
 
We asked our American readers what makes the grade when it comes to their filling up precious luggage space when they make the trip to France.
 
Medication was one of the top suggestions of things to bring, with Susan Gish providing a list of small essentials that might make a stay in France more comfortable: “Benadryl ointment for bites, Neosporin, big bottles of aspirin, cotton real q-tips, favourite sunscreen, favourite bug spray.”
 
Meanwhile Lexie Savic suggested stashing some American tampons in your suitcase, and F Joseph Leonard-Peray wrote that when he first came to France toilet paper was top of his list of essentials to bring from home because he “could not find a decent roll anywhere. It was a horrid pink, flimsy tissue paper.” 
 
READ ALSO:
Where in France do all the American expats live?
 
Although he went on to say that “thankfully, things have changed in that department and one can purchase quality toilet roll now.”
 
Other readers suggested products such as toothpaste, razor blades, deodorant and dental floss. However feel like it's important to mention that all these products are all widely available in France although they may cost a little more, depending on where you shop.
 
Another reader, André Blanbecque also pointed out that bringing favourite over-the-counter medicines to France might make for a smoother transition to a new country, rather than “expecting to be able to order it on Amazon. You may or may not be able to do that, and it may or may not cost twice as much.”
 
However André also pointed out that if you're moving here, while you might feel you need some intimate creature comforts with you at the beginning, it's likely this feeling will eventually fade. 
 
“Every country does things differently so until you get a handle on just how, bring your intimate creature comforts with you, and seasonally appropriate clothing but nothing else. You will eventually find alternatives or even lose interest.”
 
Whether or not to bring American clothes and food to France was a topic for debate among readers.
 
Some pointed out that it was worth bringing American brands like Levis to France as they are “way cheaper in the USA” and Twitter user What if Brigade even claimed that American clothes are preferential because “natural fabrics can be difficult to find in France.”
 
READ ALSO:
 
 
Meanwhile, others suggested that finding inexpensive and good quality clothes in France is just a case of “knowing where to shop”.  
 
When it came to food, many readers said they bring over home comforts such as peanut butter, chocolate chips and Bisquick pancake mix, essential for making classic American dishes like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies and American-style biscuits.
 
But again, others pointed out that some of these items can also be bought in French supermarkets although “they are expensive due to shipping costs.”
 
The difficulty in finding spicy food in French restaurants and supermarkets lead readers such as Lexie Savic to advise packing some spices from the US as a suitcase essential.
 
Although readers’ suggestions for items to bring to France were much discussed, they were united in their suggestions for items to leave behind, which included electrical goods, such as hairdryers and electric razors and books, all of which would clearly weigh your suitcase down. 
 
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Photo: AFP

Christopher Tyle summarised:  “Leave books behind unless they are rare or hard to come by. You can get almost everything on Amazon or other online places. Furniture, cars, electrics – all of those things you can get here – and have a good time (in most cases) shopping!”
 
Finally, many readers had more philosophical response to the question, with the psychological aspect of enjoying a new culture taking precedence over physical comforts.
 
Merijke Gerritsen advised a minimal approach to packing might help new expats discover French culture, writing: “Bring only what can't be missed or replaced. Leave everything else behind. Don't make the mistake of becoming a permanent tourist and missing out on the essence of another culture.”
 
Francine Gloaguen Curtner suggested (a tad harshly) that Americans do not bring an “attitude of superiority and your loudness to France.”
 
And Phil Lambert recommended that those who move here should “bring an open mind and patience, especially with the bureaucracy. It's a much slower and wonderful lifestyle here.”

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TIPS

Readers reveal the worst places in France for pickpockets… and tips to avoid them

If you're someone who has had their holiday to France ruined by a pickpocket, then you're certainly not alone. And it isn't only in the French capital that you have to watch out.

Readers reveal the worst places in France for pickpockets... and tips to avoid them
One reader said that people should watch out for pickpockets at Lyon train station (pictured above). Photo: AFP
A recent report revealed that 2019 has seen a surge of cases of pickpocketing on the Paris metro. But the French capital isn't the only place in France where you need to watch out for petty crime. 
 
We asked our readers who know France well to tell us where else in the country you need to be that extra bit cautious about your handbag, wallet or phone and for any advice on keeping possessions safe.  
 
Unsurprisingly many of the places mentioned by readers were in cities with high levels of tourism. 
 
One of the places that came up again and again was the eastern French city of Strasbourg, with readers noting that thieves tend to operate around the train station, old town and the very popular Christmas markets. 
 
READ ALSO:

Photo: AFP

“I was targeted by pickpockets in Strasbourg walking near the old town. Two women – a 40-year-old woman with a 20-year-old girl — walked very close behind me, as I was walking very fast, and tried opening a small shoulder bag,” said Greg Moore from the US. 
 
Another reader said that they “watched a group of girls working the crowd at the Christmas markets.”
 
The beautiful southern French city of Nice was also highlighted by several readers as a place where it is wise to keep a close eye on your belongings. 
 
One reader noted that there are “pickpockets in abundance” and that the city in general “is horrible for pickpocketing”. 
 
“My credit and debit cards were stolen and used when we visited there a few years ago,” they said. 
 
Lyon, the capital city in France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, is very popular with tourists who are drawn to the city for its architecture, culture – and of course the world famous cuisine. 
 
But while it's easy to be lulled into a false sense of security by beautiful surroundings, Lyon was also highlighted by readers as a place to be cautious. 
 
Linda Martz, who has lived in the city for three years, told us that a pickpocket stole her wallet while she boarded a train. 
 
And another reader Sandra Beard told us that drivers should be particularly careful due to “scam artists” targeting people with cars.      
 
There are “scam artists who “help” you at parking ticket machines while they palm (and take) your credit card (and tells you the machine took your card),” she said.
 
“They have your PIN after looking over your shoulder,” she said, adding that when this happened to her the man “withdrew €5,000 from three banks before we froze our account (within 10 mins).”
 
Photo: AFP
 
It might not be so surprising that the resort town of Cannes on the French Riviera, which has a reputation as a bit of a playground for the rich, was also on readers' lists, with one saying that his brother was pickpocketed as he stepped onto a train at Cannes train station. 
 
Meanwhile reader Leslie White, who lives in Paris, said she and her husband were “hit with the 'bird poop scam'” while strolling in the grounds of the Domaine de Chantilly in northern France. 
 
“A plop of green goop landed on my head. A helpful couple walking behind us helped to clean us off with disposable wipes. My husband somehow had some on him too. They also cleaned out his wallet and of course it was they who had thrown the 'poop' at me in the first place. We didn’t figure it out until the next day,” she said. 
 
Other readers mentioned Tours train station and tram stop, the market in Arles – where reader Sue Byford said her gold necklace was snatched from her neck – and Disneyland, where one person told us they had their new phone stolen, as specific places where pickpockets operate.  
 
Advice
 
Police around France are aware of the high levels of pickpocketing in certain cities and have offered advice on how to avoid becoming a target, including avoiding the “temptation to make valuables, such as expensive handbags and jewellery, too visible or easy to take”. 
 
They have also advised caution when sitting on the terrasse of a bar or café. 
 
It's important to be “very vigilant, do not leave a wallet or phone on a table, in front of everyone” or leave your valuables in your jacket if you leave it slung over a chair,” the Rouen police previously told the French press. 
 
Our readers also had some suggestions of their own, including using zip ties on bags and neck pouches for credit cards and your phone. 
 
One reader said they take the extra precaution of putting mini-locks on all the zippers on their backpack. 
 
Two readers pointed out that unfortunately it is “necessary to be wary of friendly people”.
 
“Any distraction is an opportunity,” said one. 
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