5 Things That Will Surprise You When You Move to France

During this time of year, many au pairs will be moving into a new home, meeting a new host family, and learning a new way of life in their new home.

As a result, we thought we’d talk about a few things that you might find surprising as an au pair moving to France. So, we asked the au pairs on the Au Pair, Oh Paris Open Forum for some insights into the things that surprised them too!

Let us know if any of these surprised you!

1. Wine is Very Affordable

If you’re moving to France when you’re underage in the US, you may be surprised to find just how cheap wine is. Better yet, it’s delicious!

Furthermore, I was super surprised to find that I could sit in a bar, order a glass of wine (or two, or three), and not have any money worries, even on an au pair salary. As you can imagine, this is one of the best ways to spend an evening with friends.

As a little tip, we recommend getting to know your favorite wine early on so it’s easier to order when you first arrive in your new French city!

2. The Metro Doors Need Some Working Out

This is one for Paris. If you’ve just moved, then you may get stuck on your metro carriage for a few stop before learning how to open the metro doors… Don’t worry, it has happened to the best of us.

However, it’s not on every metro car either, so when these strange door hooks appear in front of you, you’ll need to remember how to quickly lift them up! Isn’t it surprising to find a public transport system that wants you to stay on it for longer than you need to?

3. Bonjour to Bonsoir

Okay, we still don’t have the transition from bonjour to bonsoir down. You’ll have to follow the French cues for that. However, at some magical point during the day, French people will switch. You’ll feel like a fool for saying bonjour when it’s clearly the evening!

Furthermore, be prepared to say bonjour every time you walk into a shop. Parisians may have a reputation for being rude. However, if you don’t say hi when you walk through the front door of a store… you’re the one being rude!

4. Dinner is Served Late

In the US or the UK, dinner is served around the 6pm mark. However, the French are accustomed to eating dinner much later in the evening We’re talking between 7.30 and 9pm.

Of course, this depends on your family. However, I was surprised by how late my host family would eat dinner. I would often come home from picking the kids up at 3pm snack on their goûter (or afternoon snack), and wonder why they weren’t SO HUNGRY by 7pm.

Your body clock soon adjusts and you’ll be telling friends back home that you never eat before 9pm.

5. Food Really is a Religion – It’s Not a Cliché

Now for a few examples from the Au Pair, Oh Paris Open Forum – A LOT of the answers involved food. For example, how French people know ALL of the names of the cheeses. (I think I can name Cheddar… and… yep, that’s it.) Brush up on your wine AND cheese knowledge if you want to impress your host family!

Another comment was how French people always eat meals together. Although this is one of the oldest clichés, it’s certainly true! You may find these dinners slightly awkward during your first few weeks in France. However, we guarantee when you get back home, you’ll insist on your family all SITTING DOWN for meals.

Finally, although the French love their food, they’re certainly not above eating leftover cake for breakfast or serving Milka chocolate bars inside a white baguette for goûter…

Have you experienced any of these surprises or are your host family very similar to your own family at home? Let us know in the comments or over on our Instagram account!

Are you still hesitating? Read the story of Illaria who was Au Pair in the South of France!

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