5 Unexpected Differences Between France and U.S. Living

Emma Lofthus is a student at Luther College and an ISA Featured Blogger. Emma is currently studying abroad with ISA in Paris, France.

I am not an untraveled person- I’ve been to Greece, Austria, Germany, Puerto Rico, Canada, Sweden, and even France one other time before. All those trips do not, however, eliminate the culture “surprise” (not quite “shock”, per se) I got my first 2 weeks in Paris. Here is a condensed list of the things I had forgotten or never knew about France:

Rainy, but beautiful, Paris

1. Window treatments. Where I’ve stayed so far, the curtains are very light and breezy, and they have aluminum “voiles”, like shutters, that you either remote-control close or close with a winding crank. They shut out all light so you can sleep in darkness!

2. Trucks cannot pass other vehicles on the highway. They stay in the right lane, unless they’re breaking the law. It’s pretty different from my life in Minnesota/Iowa, where all trucks drive faster than me.

3. They have “anglicismes” in French that you wouldn’t expect: “flashy”, “discount”, “deal”, and of course many more. All pronounced with an adorable French accent.

4. Cell phones. Their plans are inexpensive! In the US where we might pay $40 a month for unlimited texts and a few hours of voice, they have plans that cost €2 monthly, for the same plan. Phones are separate, but still, that is incredibly cheap.

5. Driving. On the other hand, getting driver’s licenses “le permet” is very expensive. It’s a privilege, not a right, like it seems in the US (or at least in MN). Oh and they drive like maniacs – they are uninhibited on the road! But with tiny cars.

Tiny-car traffic around l’Arc de Triomphe by night

Author: emmalofthus

Bonjour! I’m Emma, a Junior French major and Music minor at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. I’ve lived in the Twin Cities, Minnesota for all my life, which is where I started learning French in Kindergarten, and my passion for all things French has never died! I’ve done quite a bit of world travel before but I want to truly live in a European city and learn all about it. I chose Paris because ISA’s spring semester there looks like so much cultural education and fun – exactly what I want! I hope to immerse myself in French language, history, art/architecture, gastronomy, and the amazing classes at the Catholic University. I love nearly everything I know about Europe, and I can’t wait to show you how a 20-year-old Minnesotan does Paris!

2 thoughts

  1. Yes, most of the rest of the world pays a lot less for cell phone service than we do. Sort of makes one wonder how much profit is built into American carrier’s rates. Oh wait…I can answer that….a LOT!

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