10 Quirky Facts About France You Probably Don’t Know About

Living in the Hexagon made me realize there are a lot of quirky and amusing things you won’t find in any guidebook.
image - Flickr / Paolo Margari
image – Flickr / Paolo Margari

1. There is tax for owning a telly.

In the Tax Declaration there’s a special field where you have to put a tick in a box if you don’t own one. Otherwise, pay extra cash.

2. Everything is closed on May, the 1st: The Labor Day

By everything, I mean literally EVERYTHING, even boulangeries and small corner shops that work at Christmas and on Sunday evening.

In regional cities like Lyon or Besancon – there’s no public transport working on May, 1st. In Paris 80% of regular lines have a day off too.

Do not plan any travels and better stay home.

3. Double taxation for renting an apartment.

You pay it directly to the city budget and it goes for various improvements like new parks, trams, flowers etc. So does, your landlord – for owning a second item of real estate and leasing it.

4. The French Loves Striking.

That’s not just one of those untrue national stereotypies it’s an absolutely real story. So, a last month the local Tax Inspection went on strike. Later when I was getting late for my flight in Paris – the RER drivers went on strike.

A local couple whom I’ve asked to explain me what’s going on laughed and said “Well, you know The French strike. We love doing that.”

In December the bus drivers went on strike in Besancon for a month. SNCF workers went on huge nation-wide strike since middle of June and the trains been constantly running late and mis-scheduled.

You have to get used to that. It sort of a national favorite leisure pastime.

5. No Christmas sales and Black Friday.

For shopaholics and fashionistas: The French shops aren’t legally allowed to make sales only twice a year or Les Soldes – late January and July for three weeks only. No mid-season sales, no winter/summer/spring collection sales!

6. Unless your debit/credit card is chipped, you won’t be able to use it.

It wouldn’t get authorized at pretty much everywhere, even to buy a metro ticket. The French banks issue only chipped cards and cash is pretty much unpopular with the locals too and everyone prefer to pay with a debit card.

7. …or write a bank check.

When you get a card from your bank, you automatically receive a check book. You can write a check to pay for your groceries at the supermarket. There’s a special machine installed to process it and you can write a check even for 10 euro. No one would think that’s odd.

8. Don’t expect that you could do a lot of things online.

The French are against digitizing and computerization. Actually, the Tax Inspection went on strike because the local government has been implying online Tax Declarations.

A website doesn’t work and you can’t proceed with your payment – visit the office and get an appointment with the person who would help you solve the issue.

All the important documents would be sent to you by post, not email. And you are supposed to do the same.

Online shopping isn’t kind of popular here either.

9. Saying “Bonjour” to strangers

It’s absolutely impolite not to say “Hi” at the shop, to, the neighbors, to the bus driver or just when you enter any shop or service.

In small cities you’re expected to say “Bonjour,” when you meet someone on a hike around the mounts, when you pass next to someone’s house and see anyone in the garden.

10. Tuesday is a popular day to go out.

I can’t explain why, but the bars are crowded on Tuesday night and you can see loads of people at the evening going somewhere or returning home from a party.

The French don’t go out much on the weekends. Most prefer to stay home, do the housework or spend time with the family. TC mark

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