My family discovers the difference between America and France!

Julianna Johnson, 30/12/2011

When my family made plans to come visit me in France for the Christmas holiday, I was thrilled. I would finally get the chance to show them the many reasons why I don’t really want to go back to the States anytime soon.

I had hopes of walking with them along the streets of the quaint little city that I live in and explaining to them the places I frequent during the week.

I wanted to take them to a French grocery store and have them see how many different types of cheese there are compared to the three or four standard ’American’ cheeses.

I wanted them to taste pastries from a real French bakery and feel the mouthwatering difference.

I wanted to make them understand what I love about the country that is so different and yet in so many ways similar to that country of ours so far across the Atlantic Ocean.

However, as few things ever go as I plan, there was no reason for this trip to be any different.


My family arrived in a whirlwind of large suitcases and quick hellos before we headed into the buzzing metro of Paris.

Thus began a two week adventure that took us through three countries and I’m sure enough culture shock to last them for a while.

I think that by the end of it, my family, instead of understanding why I loved France so much, just wondered why I would want to live in a country with tiny coffees, pay toilets and no ice in the water.

Julianna Johnson, 30/12/2011

I guess that, as I have been studying and/or living around French culture for the better part of the past decade, there are so many things that I don’t notice anymore and that I take as a normal part of life.

My family reminded me however that many of the things I take for granted here are completely new and peculiar to them.

One of the first things my family noticed was the size of the coffee cups. When you order a café in France, you get the American equivalent of an espresso.

I told them this but my dad insisted on getting a café décaféiné while my sister and I stuck to the more ‘normal’ sized café au lait. When he got his cup he was so surprised that he exclaimed, “It must be half size because there is half the caffeine!”

After that, the differences just kept coming: The wonderful public transport in Paris that makes it so easy to get around and that is so lacking in LA, the fact that there are no drinking fountains to be found in public places, having to pay 50 euro cents just to use the bathroom in most places, no ice cubes in the (already cold) water, the cobblestone streets, the lack of elevators/escalators, strange new foods including Raclette, and (oh the horror) no dryers for their clothes.

Julianna Johnson, 30/12/2011

Despite all of the cultural differences, I think that my family in general had a great time on their brief but jam-packed visit to my second home.

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Julianna Johnson

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  1. Judy MacMahon Jan 18, 2012 at 7:39 PM - Reply

    Oh Julianna, I so love this article! ‘Through the eye of the beholder’is all I can say 😉 Judy

  2. Elisabeth Donato Jan 19, 2012 at 4:51 AM - Reply

    This was great! Having lived for 36 years as a French expat in the U.S., I can fully relate to your experiences with your family visiting you in France. The coffee thing was a hoot. I have a photo of my boyfriend holding a minuscule “large” coffee from a MacDo!

  3. Julie Chamand Jan 19, 2012 at 9:54 AM - Reply

    Laughing out loud! Here in Australia, I actually miss small portions! They don’t get the concept of not-overwhelming-the-stomach-and-tastebuds. Hence cheesecakes… lol. I really like your pictures. By the way, what other countries did you visit with them? You said there were three?

  4. Julianna Johnson Jan 20, 2012 at 11:24 PM - Reply

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

    Julie – We were also in Germany and Ireland. They liked Ireland where they could speak the language again 😛

  5. Amber Jan 22, 2012 at 6:44 PM - Reply

    Can you send us a link to your blog? Thanks!

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