Top 9 Cultural differences between France and the U.S.A

I have been living in the US for the last 3 years. Long enough to notice the following every-day habits between France and the US…. that change your life!

  1. Doggy Bags: A routine thing people in the US, which is close to inconceivable for a French native. To us, it sounds like being stingy. With that said, you get used to it easily when you live here because it’s a good thing. It’s economical and it prevents you from wasting food. This is certainly a habit we should make ours.
  2. Ice Cubes: In France, we don’t use them much except when it gets really hot or in some cocktails. In the U.S, they are EVERYWHERE! Even sometimes in red wine, which a real sacrilege for a French guy.
  3. The Shower: Or more specifically, the shower head… stuck to the wall! In France, the shower head is at the end of a long flexible pipe, long enough to rinse easily. In United States, mind the first freezing spray of water when you take your shower!
  4. Tipping: In the US, there’s nothing more natural and logical than leaving a tip for service. And even a big tip if one is very satisfied with a service. In France, gratuity is always included in the service cost and there’s no need to add up a tip.
  5. Coffee: Ordering a coffee has a pretty different outcome depending on the country. In France, you will get an expresso in a small cup. In the US, the coffee will be much lighter but you will get enough of it to last the whole morning!
  6. Dining Habits: In France, the meal setting is simple. It starts with a main course, followed by a dessert, and most often a coffee. For special occasions we add up an aperitif (wine, alcohol, cocktail drink or juice), some salty “amuse-gueule” (like chips), and hot or cold small appetizers. Besides, the whole family is gathered and eats at a specific time. Every single day. In United States, basically, it is whenever, however and whatever you want. Voilà.
  7. TV Commercials/Breaks: In France, they are regulated and can’t last over 12 minutes per hour, plus ads must be spaced by 20 minutes. Recently, on the main public channels (France TV), commercials have completely disappeared. In USA, frankly, we feel like there are more commercials than the actual program sometimes. In some cases, you will see ads 5 times in one single movie on US channels vs only one time in France. To be honest, I was not watching TV much before, but now I don’t watch it at all anymore.
  8. Courtesy: French people are not impolite, but the reasons for apologizing are less diversified. For example, skimming against someone on the street is not enough to apologize, bumping in to someone is. In the U.S., the “I’m sorry” is almost nearly used too often, to a point that I sometimes wonder why the person is apologizing to me. But at the end of the day, it is pretty enjoyable and it is something contagious so… “Sorry!”
  9. Internet and Phone Plans: I am going to be honest with you, the following will make you jealous! A phone + internet plan costs a maximum of $41 in France and we think this is expensive. My mom, to give a good example, pays $70 for her phone, internet and my 2 sister’s phone plans… What about you? How much do you pay for your phone and internet? More? Me too…


And no, this is not a top 10 because finally, we are not that different and we get used to these small changes really fast. Actually, this list proves only one thing, a French guy will never stop complaining! 🙂

What do you think? If there are any expats among you, either French living in the U.S. or Americans living in France, feel free to share your thoughts and experiences or compare it to mine.