La Belle Vie is our regular look at the real culture of France – from language to cuisine, manners to films. This newsletter is published weekly and you can receive it directly to your inbox, by going to your newsletter preferences in “My account”.
Certain topics are quintessentially French – and if you live here or visit regularly then at some point you will be impacted by a strike.
While you should certainly take some time to understand the official strike terminology (found HERE), perhaps the more important lexicon to learn would be how to complain like an authentic French person (because there tends to be a lot of that going around during les mouvements sociaux).
Strikes are one French social norms that take foreigners time to get used to – especially those from countries like the United States where large-scale industrial action is less common.
Listen to the team at The Local talk about France’s strike culture in our podcast Talking France – download it HERE or listen on the link below.
But there are some other uniquely French experiences that tend to require a bit of practice on the behalf of the foreigner living in or visiting France – like remembering which cheek to kiss first during la bise. Though, if you mix this up, it will definitely give you a funny story to tell both your friends. I have made this mistake before, and can attest that accidental lip-locking gets a good laugh from both anglophones and French people alike.
Many foreigners in France tend to feel lost about one particular social norm – tipping. To get an idea of how English-speakers living in France handle this question, The Local conducted a survey to understand which scenarios should involve a tip, and the ones that should not.
Interestingly enough, a lot of readers of The Local noticed that the longer they stayed in France, the more their tipping habits changed. Some found they tipped more when travelling home, while others found themselves not tipping at all while in France.
One aspect of French life that remains shocking to me (in the best sense) is the ease with which you can travel by train (when there isn’t a strike on).
Within France, it is often easier to get from one French city to another by train, rather than by plane or car. Other European cities are also accessible by train from France, which means you can save money that you would have spent on tolls and fuel, or the time you would have ticked away while in line for security at the airport, by travelling by rail. One huge benefit to rail travel is the fact that you can bring all the liquids you want on board – no need to worry about your perfume, shampoo or wine bottle getting tossed out.
If you prefer to travel by foot or bicycle, you are in luck. France is full of “Grand Randonées”, local walks, and cycling routes. It is even estimated that there are 100,000 kilometres of walking trails in France, crossing the country in all directions.
Hiking and biking in France can offer spectacular views, lungfuls of fresh air and a beauty-filled and accessible way to keep fit and healthy. If you are starting to think about your spring or summer holidays, take a look at these 13 French hiking and cycling paths. The Local has a compiled a list with options from all over the country from Corsica to Brittany and along the Mediterranean.
As you make your way through France’s regions, you will undoubtedly come across plenty of different, unique regional drinks, cheeses, and meals.
The French are very proud of their gastronomy, so much so that the country developed a labelling system so that customers would be able to buy certain agricultural products – from vegetables to cheeses and wines – safe in the knowledge that its production and processing have been carried out in a particular geographical area (the terroir) and using recognised and traditional know-how.
One product that often sports an AOC label in France is fromage. Dozens of French cheeses are registered as AOCs – 63 to be exact, but there are far more than 63 types of cheese in France.
Cheese plays such a significant role in French culture and cuisine that there are eight general categories – or families – for designating them. Beyond that, it gets a bit complicated as new varieties of cheese are constantly being invented.