Living in France: What We Loved & Learned
Updated: Nov 22, 2019
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THIS JUST IN! We’ve decided to start a new series called “What We Loved & Learned” (L&L for short) to summarize our experience in each of our 12 locations throughout the year.
Rarely do vacationers get to spend a full month in a different city so we want to share our perspective on the local culture, food, language, and lifestyle.
Please keep in mind this is relative to a typical, American midwest suburban experience and others will certainly love and learn different things than we did.
Keep reading to find out What We Loved & Learned during our first month which we spent in Lyon France!
[We also published a YouTube video with our top 2 loved and learned if you prefer watching over reading.]
What We Loved
The old, narrow, cobble-stoned pedestrian-only streets littered with cozy, inviting cafes, restaurants and bars.
The two major rivers flowing through Lyon makes it unique and gives it a kind of vacation feel.
The train system! We easily navigated several different types of trains and all were clean, comfortable, and inexpensive. Also, their high-speed trains are often the fastest way to get to a nearby city or country.
Historic buildings, statues, and fountains older than our country are everywhere you turn in Europe.
Caesar salads that are massive and are topped with grilled chicken. We have enjoyed many an entree salad during our stay here.
One word: nespresso. Most mornings, breakfast consisted of toast with butter and jam and an Americano.
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Megan’s new favorite alcoholic beverages: Spritz Saint-Germain, which is the French take on the Italian cultural export (the Italian version is made with aperol and is more bitter) and kir (white wine with flavored liqueur added...generally peach, raspberry, or black currant.)
Pain au chocolat and (a new discovery) viennois au chocolat (essentially a small baguette with chocolate baked into it...best walking breakfast ever.)
There are smaller, more frequent grocery stores and food markets in neighborhoods, making it easier to stop by on your way home for items you may need that evening or the following day. The French generally prefer fresh products over buying in bulk.
Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. Since we’re using a card with no international fees and paying the balance in full, this essentially means we rarely have to deal with cash or coins.
Picnicking in France is an art form.
What We Learned
The French take “les vacances” very seriously. It’s essentially their annual vacation during the months of July and August where entire families will peace out for several weeks at a time. We lost count of how many small restaurants we wanted to try but couldn’t because they were closed due to the entire staff being on vacation.
Shops, restaurants, bars, and any other type of business have very limited hours (both time of day and which days they are open).
Restaurant generally close between lunch and dinner and don’t even re-open for dinner until 7:30 or 8 PM and even then it’s expected that you’ll enjoy a leisurely beverage before you’re ready for your meal.
If a home or business has air conditioning, it almost always means a wall unit rather than central air.
The stereotype of every French person returning home at the end of the day with a baguette is alive and well. You almost feel left out if you don’t have one with you!
For the most part the mobile apps published by global companies which we are accustomed to using at home are just as handy abroad.
We have had our share of delicious food here but we have also had some really bad food. Although Lyon is known as the gastronomy capital of France, there is still a wide range of food quality, service, etc. as in any destination.
Not having a clothes dryer at home does, in fact, make linens stiff and crusty. We’re glad we brought our own quick-dry travel towels!
At a sit-down restaurant, the server will not bring you your check until you ask for it. This is their way of saying “stay as long as you like!”
You can’t buy any strength of naproxen (Aleve) in a pharmacy without a prescription.
The beer selection at every restaurant is limited to one or two draft beers and is almost always blondes (or blanches, as the French say).
If you order a “cafe,” you will get a single shot espresso (or “expresso” as they prefer to spell it). Never did we come across what Americans consider coffee. Nor do they provide so many options of types of coffee drinks, milk substitutes, and flavors. Megan is missing her skinny vanilla lattes.
Pet owners are rarely inclined to pick up after their fur ball. Just gross.
Lyon has the largest public square in Europe. Place Bellecour is 15 acres!
American’s largest cultural exports are absolutely politics, music, and movies. It was not uncommon to see Hollywood-produced movies showing in theaters or hear American music while we were out and about.
It is still very common for the French to smoke. We also noticed lots of people vaping.
Trash and recycling is picked up several times per week each. And glass has a separate bin.
Despite being located on two major rivers, people in Lyon don’t actually make use of them in any way! Other than a few docked boats, we never saw a soul on the water whether it be in a boat, in a kayak, or swimming.
Graffiti doesn’t necessarily indicate a bad part of town. In fact, graffiti is everywhere. We assume either 1) the French just consider it public art or 2) they’ve given up trying to clean it up.
Finding public, fast WiFi has been more challenging than we expected. If it’s sufficiently fast, it’s probably a co-working space that charges a monthly fee. Even Starbucks let us down in regards to connectivity.
Real estate is very expensive since property is limited.
What surprises you the most about our list? Please share in the comments below!
Cheers! Eddie & Megan
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