It may be one of the planet’s most visited countries. Its capital may be a symbol of love, romance and chic. But it can also be frustrating and tedious at times. Much as tourists may marvel at its beauty, they will also rant at its occasional shortcomings. Read on to discover the things that may very well drive you crazy in France.
1. It’s not all love and romance. Every movie, magazine and travel article touts Paris as ‘The City of Light’ or ‘The City of Love’. Your imagination runs wild, teeming with architectural wonders, until you take the train from Charles de Gaulle Airport. Hideous suburban sprawl springs up in front of you. Is it the wrong train? Is this the right city? Yes, it is, but this is just another part of it, a big part for that matter…
2. The smell. Fresh from your train at Gare du Nord, you are ready to embrace Paris. Looking to buy your Metro ticket, you stumble out of the station and you are hit by the odour. It is pungent and yet so familiar. Urine, of course. Welcome to Paris!
3. The coffee. But the French drink so much coffee, you think. Yes, but it costs three times as much outside on the terrace as standing in the bar. Also, if you like your latte, France has long been the country of a strong morning Espresso and the coffee scene has not evolved as much as in what the French would term the ‘Anglo-Saxon world’. However, hope springs eternal and following this link will provide help to the truly desperate.
4. The long lines at major tourist attractions. You have always dreamed of visiting the Eiffel Tower. Well, so has the World, his wife and her mother. It is not unheard of for tourists to spend up to four hours in lines at Versailles and The Eiffel Tower. Avoid the frustration and book online well in advance.
5. France may blow the budget unless you’re careful. Those coffees (see above), the entrance tickets, the food; it all adds up in the end and France is not by any means the cheapest country in Europe. Make a budget and shop around.
6. The French can be chauvinistic. Sometimes fond of complaining about the uncultured Americans, the attitude of some French can be overbearing at times. Paris may well be a showpiece capital, but places like Madrid, New York and even lowly London can have their charms. France may well be a cultured place, but it did NOT INVENT CULTURE.
7. The weather. You were dreaming of the blue skies and sandy beaches on the Mediterranean coastline, so how did you end up stuck in your car on a rainy day in Brittany? Much of the north of the country is wet and miserable from November through to March and there is a reason why you see hardly any Parisians in Paris in August. Do your research before you go.
8. Those pesky French strikes. France may teach you the meaning of strikes. Living there years ago, a trip to Roissy CDG often meant dealing with a train strike, a Metro strike, a strike by the RATP (so no RER), an Air France or air traffic controllers’ strike or, on one occasion, a simultaneous all out strike by literally all of the above. Grin and consider it an adventure.
9. The toilets. Some toilets in France, even in Paris, are ‘Turkish’. This means that they resemble a hole in the ground. Add in the occasionally lax hygiene of, let’s say, a major train station and you may have a somewhat surprising ‘cultural’ experience. Even cultured France has its quirks…Be warned!
10. The seemingly pointless rules. You have to punch your ticket before you enter the train and failure to do so can result in a hefty fine. Is this country run by bureaucrats? Chill out because there are many locals who wonder the same.
However, despite all of the above, France remains an amazing place to visit.
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