Things France Does Better Than The US


I’m a proud American, but after living in France for a year — and visiting multiple times for long chunks of time — I have to admit there are quite a few things they just do better.


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It’s hard to type that last bit, but it’s true.

1.

Healthcare


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Okay, okay, so I’ve never actually had French healthcare, but here’s the gist: French citizens have a carte vitale (health card) that gives them full access to the national health care system and covers all medical care for free. 

Not only is medical care free, but the card also provides access your entire health history. That means you never have to ask your old dentist to send files to your new dentist or explain your health history to a new doctor. Pretty genius.

2.

Bread (le duh)


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This one may be obvious but it’s oh-so-true. Bread in all of its forms — baguette, croissant, brioche suisse — is just so, so, so much better in France. 

3.

Work-Life Balance


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In France, the legal work week is 35 hours (and there’s talk of dropping it to 32) while in the US it’s 40 hours. (Of course, in both countries, salaried employees often work more than that without added pay.)

And when it comes to perks there are even more differences. The French get a standard 30 days of PTO and 16 to 46 weeks of parental leave with some pay while here in the US we get 10 days of PTO and up to 12 weeks of parental leave (which can be fully unpaid). 

4.

Orange Juice


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This may seem a bit random, but French OJ brings me so much joy. In most grocery stores and little produce shops they have a big orange juice machine where you grab a container, press a button, and watch as fresh oranges are juiced right in front of you. The result is insanely pulpy and delicious, putting “fresh squeezed” OJ in the US to shame.

5.

The Lunch Hour (Or Two … Or Three)


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While most Americans eat a turkey sandwich for lunch (often at our desks), the French go out and enjoy their largest meal of the day. They often spend several hours seated at a cafe with coworkers enjoying a full meal — appetizer, entree, and dessert… paired with wine. Oui, s’il vous plaît.

6.

Fashion


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Fashion is subjective, but I always found myself comparing Paris fashion with what I would see in New York or LA. In Paris, people have a low-key approach to style. It’s as if they just threw an out together but still look great. They look polished without seeming like they’re trying too hard. In the US, people tend to put on too much makeup, over-style their hair, and overthink their outfits, IMO. 

7.

Down Time


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In the US we like to be busy. In fact, just talking about how busy you are at work or in life is almost a cultural norm. We fill our waking hours to the max and then crash in front of Netflix — a guilty pleasure that often continues through the weekend until the cycle begins all over again.

Meanwhile, the French are known for their joie de vivre or enjoyment of life. It’s apparent in almost everything they do. They watch plenty of Netflix too, but they also take time to sit down and fully enjoy a meal, are always talking about the latest cultural exhibits, and love spending entire days perched in a park with a spread of meat, cheese, and wine. 

8.

Water Fountains


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PSA: You can even get sparkling water at some French water fountains, which is a good enough reason for Topo Chico loving Americans to book a one-way flight to France.

9.

Public Transportation


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Paris has a great metro and bus system, but where France really shines is in its public transportation system around the country (and even to neighboring countries). You can hop on a fast, fairly direct train to almost anywhere in the country at an affordable rate (especially if you book early). Oh, and there’s a wine and snack car so you can sip and munch as the countryside passes by.

10.

Small Talk


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How can a country be better at small talk? IMO….by not doing it. 😬

The French are notorious for avoiding those superficial conversations we Americans find so necessary. While we like to fill the space with “how have you been?” and “where are you from?” the French enjoy the silence, awkward or not.

11.

Food Quality


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The French take great pride in the quality of their food. The origin of produce is noted alongside the price in most grocery stores, and the person at the register will alert you if you accidentally grabbed an overripe tomato or a bruised apple. 

As of 2015, there were 221 protected French foods, which are held to extremely high standards of quality. For example, every step of the production process might have to take place locally or there might be strict checks to make sure the product meets quality expectations. 

12.

Wine


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We may have Napa, but France has the regions of Champagne, Bordeaux, and Rhône (among others), which produce — you guessed it — world-famous and aptly named Champagne, Bordeaux, and Rhône wines. 

There’s a reason why wannabe Champagne has to be called “sparkling wine” instead — if it didn’t come from the Champagne region of France, it isn’t really Champagne.

13.

Cheese


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We have plenty of great cheese in the US, but the truth is that many of the cheeses we love originated in France like Camembert, Brie, Comté, Munster, and Roquefort, to name a few.

14.

Childcare


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Childcare is an expensive, arduous thing in the US. Meanwhile while in France, parents can send their babies (starting at around three months) to government subsidized nurseries called crèches. These affordable day cares aren’t just run by people who like kids and are pros at making mass quantities of mac n’ cheese — staff must have a specialized diploma and there’s an entire panel of chefs and experts who curate a daily menu of multi-course meals for the kids. Seriously.

Oh, and once kids turn three they can go into the country’s universal, free preschool system.

15.

Approach To Health


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In the US, I think we have a somewhat frantic approach to health. We feel good about ourselves when we wake up at 5 a.m. to go on a 7-mile run, down a wheatgrass shot, and hit the yoga studio before work. We hire trainers, go on wellness retreats, and buy books on the latest diets.

The French have a much more leisurely — and I’d argue healthier — approach. Most wouldn’t dream of waking up early to go running or cutting out things that give them pleasure — baguettes, dessert, cigarettes, and wine (to name a few). Instead, they make a point to move and consistently eat smaller, mindful meals.

16.

Cost Of Higher Education


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In the US, getting your bachelor’s degree will cost an average of $10,338 a year, and that’s assuming you go to an in-state public university. In France, that degree might cost you 170 Euros (less than $200) a year. 

Enough said.

What did I miss? Tell me how you think France and the US compare in the comments below.