Culture Shock: Insights from a South African Living in France

Things that I wish I knew as a South African before moving to France. I have a lot of things to say. So this is probably gonna be a two part series, but let’s begin.

The first thing I completely shocked me was levies lebees is the kiss greeting that you do when you say hello to a French person in South Africa. We hug. We do not kiss. So it was really funny. When I arrived in France, my husband is a Rugby player. And I went to go and greet his Rugby teammates and all of a sudden I had like 15 to 20 guys come up and kiss me and I was just like, what is going on? And it was totally normal. But as a South African, there was just like a long bell is going off inside of my head. Now that I’ve been living in France for three and a half years, going on four years, I have become completely accustomed to it, and it’s very normal.

No. 2 is self checkout. You can do self checkout when you go to the shops. Just go and check yourself through. You don’t have that in South Africa. I was really shocked to see that No. 3 would be putting in your own petrol when you go to the petrol station or a gas station. In South Africa, we have petrol attendance that will do that for you. And they’re like, can you windscreen wrappers, check your oil, put your petrol in and all that jazz, then you tip them. Yeah, in front. You have to do that yourself.

And I’ll never forget my husband made me do it for the first time. And I sat there twisting the cap cuz I never untwisted my petrol cap before. And I was turning it the wrong way. I was just sitting there like turning and turning. I had to turn it the other way. So that was interesting. I hate doing it because I always end up getting pitched on my hands because you supposed to shake it and then take it out. But I don’t know. I just took it out. My husband was like, you need to shake it. And I was like, what? So you shake it and then you put it out. Interesting.

The next one is brandy over lack thereof, because there is no brandy in France. Very sad moments of silence. So Africans love brandy and you can’t get it here. They have cognac, but cognac is very different. Well, it’s not very different, but it’s definitely not the same as a good old Clippies and Coke. On the drinks topic, people do not put us in their drinks in France. And if you ask for us, they’ll only give you like two, maybe three blocks. But like, that’s it. In South Africa, we freaking hoy the US in our cups. Like we love us. Another thing, if you add the bar here, they will give you the smallest possible cup ever, like for a GNT, they’ll give you this tiny little glass and it’s like this skinny, it’s basically like a big shot glass, but you’ll have a GNT in it. It’s the most bizarre thing. And also the alcohol percentage of beers here is really high. You’ll order like a blonde beer at a bar and it’s like 8%. It’s kind of crazy. So always check the alcohol percentage before you start drinking beer. If you want to book a Ducks appointment, a dance appointment, any sort of medical appointment, there’s an app. If you wanna book your public transport, there’s an app if you want to book your dog a vet appointment, there’s an app. Basically, there’s an app for everything.

The next one is public transport, which is insane in France. Oh, my goodness. It just works. It’s safe, it’s clean, except for like on the metro in some areas of Paris. But overall, it’s a working public transport system. You can get by without a car and people walk everywhere. That was another big thing in South Africa. You can’t walk everywhere because everything is so far apart. So you have to take a car. Like if you wanna go to shops, it’s like 5 km away, but it’s only a five minute drive. Whereas here, if you wanna go 5 km, it’s like an hour. And so people usually take public transport because it works and it’s, like I said, it’s safe and you can book your tickets really easily. We take the tram, we take the bus, we take the metro, we’ve taken long form trains and it works.

The next one is good. Like doing anything between 12 and two PM, everything is closed because it’s lunchtime. It’s crazy. They literally take off two hours and then go have lunch. You wanna go the doctor, the pharmacy, the shops. So if you wanna go buy something, you wanna go to the bank, if you wanna, whatever you wanna do, if it’s between 12 and 2, you probably can’t do it.

Also, Sundays and Mondays, practically everything is closed as well. Not so much in Paris because that’s more international, but in the actual little towns and like smaller cities, yeah, Sunday and Monday is just like a no go day.

Everything is done through the postal service here. So if you want anything, they’ll post it to you. If you need to submit anything, you have to post it to them. It’s crazy. I’ve received my bank card in the mail. I’ve received my bank pin in the mail. Like the actual post I’ve received one time pins. I’ve received sensitive documents for Ollie, like Ollies birth certificate, Ollies, my everything comes in the post and goes in the post. Tax stuff, Alice. Everything is in the post, which is so weird because in South Africa you don’t use the postal service because it’ll get stolen. Like it’s just not a safe way to send documents. But here it’s the preferred method. And checks, people here use checks. Like it’s ordinary. It’s the most bizarre thing ever. In South Africa, we don’t use checks at all, but here it’s still very prevalent. I’ve been asked multiple occasions whether or not I have a check book to pay people with like checks or to put down deposits with checks. And I’m like, no, I don’t have a checkbook.

On the banking topic, it takes like 4 or 5 days for your banking stuff to reflect in your app, which is so bizarre because back home in South Africa, it’s instantaneously, even now if I use myself concard for something, I instantly get a notification on my phone. In France, I’ll only be notified like 4,5 days later. So you’re like, go away somewhere and then come home and you’ll only see all these things coming off like a week later. It’s crazy. They also put raw eggs and potatoes on pizza. I am gonna run a time. Let me know if you want a part two.