France is an easy country to drive in but, like every country, it has its quirks. So I’ve written a guide to French driving, including these helpful topics:
- How to avoid disaster at the pump
- A special leasing program that can save you money
- How French toll roads work
- An important setting on your GPS
- French traffic circles
- And, of course, French drivers
Read all about it at My French Life!
You may already know that the French invented pasteurization and the stethoscope, and maybe even mayonnaise (it’s a hotly debated subject.) But did you know that they also invented the stapler? And how about my favorite, the hair dryer?
Learn all about some of France’s most interesting inventions in The Good Life France!
Some quotes from France are beyond famous. King Louis XIV saying “I am the state” or Napoleon’s “An army travels on its stomach” are known around the world. And, if you love quotes, you’ll enjoy these fun France sayings…
“How can you govern a country that has 246 varieties of cheese?”—Charles de Gaulle
“France is the most civilized country in the world and doesn’t care who knows it.”—John Gunther
“They have a very low rate for attempted murder and a high rate for successfully concluded murder. It seems that when a French person sets out to kill someone, they make a good job of it.”—Nick Yapp
“You should definitely visit the Louvre, a world-famous art museum where you can view, at close range, the backs of thousands of other tourists trying to see the Mona Lisa.”—Dave Barry
“Boy, those French. They have a different word for everything.”—Steve Martin
“True, you can sit outside in Paris and drink little cups of coffee. But why this is more stylish than sitting inside and drinking large glasses of whiskey I don’t know.”—P.J. O’Rourke
“France has neither winter nor summer nor morals—apart from these drawbacks it is a fine country.”—Mark Twain
“Every Frenchman wants to enjoy one or more privileges; that’s the way he shows his passion for equality.”—Charles de Gaulle
“The thing that staggers you when you first come to France is the fact that all the French speak French—even the children.”—Olivia de Havilland
I’d like to introduce you to my friend Annette Charlton, part-time Frenchwoman and the author of a delightful new book, A French Life.
Some years ago, Annette and her husband bought a house in a small village in Brittany. This, you might think, is not particularly unusual. But they bought the house on their first-ever trip to France. And they live in Australia. All right, you think, this is not your run-of-the-mill couple.
Annette is the publisher of A French Collection, where she writes about all things French. And she occasionally writes funny stories about her life in France. She has now collected these blog posts into a slim volume that I very much enjoyed reading.
Annette begins with a straightforward question—how do you buy a house on your first trip to a country? While others might choose a different path, preferring to visit a few times first, the method she lays out will profit anyone thinking of buying a home abroad.
Then Annette starts telling funny stories about the life that she, her husband, and their three kids live in France. She describes an unusual French specialty, chocolate sausage. She tells how she once accidentally invited an elderly priest for a visit, then had to entertain him when neither spoke the other’s language. And she asks the vital question, what is the proper French etiquette when someone’s hair catches on fire?
Whether you buy this book, read the stories on her blog, or just dip into A French Collection from time to time, I guarantee you’ll enjoy getting to know Annette and her family.
You can purchase A French Life here.
In France, the prime vacation months are July and August, when school is out and the weather is beautiful. Which raises a question: when should a French person go on vacation?
Traditionally, most people went in August, when factories closed and the country shut down. But as the French economy has evolved and manufacturing has declined, people can now choose which month to go on vacation. And they usually go at the same time every year, which has divided the country into two groups. They even have special names: the juilletistes, who vacation in July (July is juillet in French) and the aoûtiens (for août, or August.)
These two tribes have different characteristics and each views the other with a kind of suspicion, bordering on disdain. Some sociologists claim that the most important social division in France isn’t based on race, gender, religion, or even political affiliation, but by when you take your summer vacation!
I take a look at each tribe in The Good Life France!
France has a distinctive culture, reflecting its long and proud history as a great nation. And it has its quirks–for example, the French kiss each other when other people might hug or shake hands. Their driving habits are different than those other countries. And arguing is one of the country’s national sports.
Want some insights into French culture? Then check out this article in My French Life!
History is full of horrible monsters. The ancient Greeks were terrorized by the Cyclops. The snowy Himalayas are haunted by the Abominable Snowman. And in Japan, Godzilla appears from time to time and stomps on Tokyo.
The French have their own terrible creature and—unlike the others—this one was real. The mysterious Beast of Gévaudan ravaged the French countryside in the 18th century, killing so many people that King Louis XV had to send troops to destroy it.
What was the Beast—a vicious wolf, an escaped lion, or something else? It’s a fascinating tale.
Read all about it in The Good Life France!
Bored at home? Missing France? Here’s a pleasant way to while away a few hours.
Known for his classic novels like Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson was an adventurer. Born into a family of lighthouse designers in Scotland, as a young man he longed to see the wider world. As he put it,
“I have been after an adventure all my life, a pure adventure, such as befell early and heroic voyagers.”
His first great adventure was in France, in the wild and rugged region known as the Cévennes. At the age of 27 he made his way to the tiny village of Le Monastier, where he gathered (too many) provisions, had a sleeping bag made, and bought a donkey named Modestine. Then he set out—admittedly, not really knowing what he was doing—on a 12-day march into the unknown.
Read all about this fun book in France Today!
It’s summer: time for long, lazy days and maybe a book or two. Looking for something good to read? Then check out this hilarious true story of an American who buys a house in a tiny village in Brittany and begins living there part of the year.
As a part-time expat myself, I find that author Mark Greenside does an exceptional job of describing the many fish-out-of-water moments of life abroad. He also writes movingly about how his experiences in a new land have changed him. This is a book not to be missed!
Check out my review in My French Life.
I love memoirs by people who have moved to a new country. Some are funny (A Year in Provence), some are personal and moving (Under the Tuscan Sun), and my favorites are both.
One of the best I’ve read in a long time is Mark Greenside’s I’ll Never Be French (no matter what I do). It combines hilarious stories of his adventures in France with lovely observations about how life in a new country has changed him.
A few months ago I reviewed Mark’s book titled (not quite) Mastering the Art of French Living, which I loved. I loved this second book just as much. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys travel memoirs with a lot of humor and a lot of heart, especially those set in France.
You can read my review in My French Life!