Travel Europe

Ten things you may love to hate about France

December 2, 2015

France 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. France is 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.

View at your feet at the Eiffel Tower, Paris

Glad I’m up here and not down there…

 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.

Picture of Darth Vader at the Louvre, France

Darth Vader at the Louvre!

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.


Garbage and sign on the banks of the Seine, Paris

They forgot to mention this in the Lonely Planet

9. The toilets in France

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.

Please feel free to leave a comment below if you want to share an opinion or an experience. You can also mail me at

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  • Glyn December 10, 2015 at 14:59

    How so true. I visited Paris a couple of years ago and found a back door to the Louvre on free admission day so jumped the queue. I enjoyed the city and Versailles was good – but never again. I’ll stick to changing planes at CDG in future

  • Ann April 12, 2016 at 00:14

    It’s funny how that is. Even though every single one of those things is true, and annoying, and there are so many places that don’t have those things… there’s just something about France. I like to blame the butter, bread, and landscapes.

  • nicolanecklesNicky Neckles November 17, 2016 at 09:17

    Having lived here for 3 years, I would add the fact that outside of big cities, most enterprises including shops, cafes, restos, are closed Saturday afternoon through Tuesday, never forgetting the 12:00-14:00 lunchbreak!
    And the bureaucracy is insane……but I still love it

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