A few ways the French are different from us…


3 hour dinners

We’re hungry.  We’re exhausted.  We’re the first people in the restaurant.  Does that mean a waiter is going to take our order?  Or bring our food?  Or bring us a check.  No.  The French ENJOY their meals.  They take their time.  So do waiters. Nothing will rush them.  French waiters don’t work for tips.

The 3 course dinner

Unless you opt for a kebab stand or McDonald's, don't expect to pop into your local bistro and grab a quick bit (see above).  Oh, no - you've got to choose from the prix fixe, 3-course (sometimes 4, if you opt for the cheese tray) meal, which start at, say, 15 euros, and can easily top out at 80-90 euro, depending upon the pretension of the restaurant.

Waiting in line

We’re in the security line at a French airport.  Suddenly, one of the agents announces something in French we don’t understand (okay, we should speak better French!).  About 50 people rush to the front of the line ahead of us.  Why?  They were late for their flight.  Why arrive ahead of time?  If you’re late, you’ll get to move to the front of the line.  We thought they should miss their flight.

Health Care

Steve’s sick.  Very sick.  Fever and GI problems – very inconvenient when you’re cycling.  What does an American do?  Call a French doctor.  He’ll come to your hotel or he’ll see you in his office.  No nurse.  No receptionist.  No appointment.  You wait for about 20 minutes while two other patients see the doctor.  He calls you into his office, and, after a brief exam, prescribes a course of treatment for you to take to the pharmacy (which is the ONLY place you can buy an aspirin or any other type of medication in France).  He takes your 22 Euros and says he’ll file your insurance (are you kidding?).  So socialized medicine is a bad thing? We think the French may have it right on this issue.

The drug business is huge in France.  I recall reading that the average Frenchman takes 6 or 7 prescription drugs, and, given the number of pharmacies you see (even the smallest village - one that doesn't have a bakery - will have a drug store), it must be true.  The pharmacies have a lock on drug sales.  You can't even buy an aspirin in a grocery or tabac shop - look for the flashing neon green cross that designates an open pharmacy and buy to your heart's content.  Strangely enough, some drugs that we can buy over the counter (such as Aleve) are prescription-only.


They love their dogs and take them everywhere, and let them do their business everywhere.  A walk through any city is akin to strolling through a Bosnian mine field - your best option is to keep your eyes on the sidewalk, not the architecture, lest your sneakers' waffle sole fill with a great steaming pile of Rotweiler.  There's no such thing as a fixed male dog.  From the smallest teacup Chihuahua to the biggest Great Dane, the boys are proud of their "boys" and let them swing in the breeze.