I don’t love all things French

MyFrenchLife™ - all things french - french foodI was asked to write about why I love all things French. The problem is, I don’t love all things French. And I’d be skeptical of anyone who claimed to. Just as I would be disbelieving of anyone who professed to love all things American.

I have lived in France for almost five years. On the day I arrived and every day since, I have seen and experienced first-hand the ups and the downs of living in France.

It’s easy to see the good about living in France: warm baguettes, the alluring countryside, strolling along the Seine, watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle on the hour.

But it is by learning to live with the bad, learning not to care so much about the bad and learning to overcome the bad that you discover the great.

That’s when you really love France.

All things french crumble

I am not your typical Francophile. I hadn’t dreamed my whole life of moving into an apartment in Montmartre with a view of the Sacré Coeur and the Eiffel Tower, the soundtrack of Moulin Rouge playing in the background of my life on repeat like my own personal leitmotif.

I moved here partly for work and partly, ‘Why not?’

When I first moved to France, I was hit with the heartbreaking realization that I didn’t actually like French food. I spent hours upon hours investigating the best Italian, Thai, American — anything but French — restaurants around. After a full year, I finally had a respectable (yet short) list of French restaurants I would frequent for the quality of the food and not just for the charm of the décor.

Abby Gordon, 15/03/2012

These days, I know which spots to try and which to avoid. I have a list seven pages long of restaurants and bars I still want to try. Having worked for it makes me love the good finds even more.

I also reached a moment when I thought I had already discovered all the major regions of France and that I would have to travel outside of France to be awed by something new again.

But then I did a bit more digging and realized that there was more right here in France to explore than I could ever accomplish in one lifetime.

I am amazed by the variation in this relatively small geographic area: the thatched-roof fishing villages and crashing waves of Brittany, the Oxford-style villages and rolling green hills of inland Normandy; the elegance of Parisian architecture and its gardens, the fairy-tale Germanic-style villages of Alsace, the châlets and high peaks of the Alps; the bright colors of the Mediterranean towns and their glamorous air, the timbered elegance of the maisons basques, the castles and the volcanoes of the center of the Hexagon…

I could go on and on.

Abby Gordon, 15/03/2012

Maybe I’ll always be a tourist in France, but if by ‘tourist’ we mean someone who has an eagerness to explore and to discover the new and diverse, is that such a bad thing?

I have lived in France for almost five years and — immigration authorities permitting — I do not plan to leave anytime soon. And that is because I am living my own French dream and not someone else’s.

If you come to France with the romantic notion that life will be perfect, you won’t last. But if you come expecting the good and the bad, you might just never leave.

What have your experiences in France been? Has it been hard or seamlessly easy?

Image Credits © Abby Gordon


About the Contributor

Abby Gordon

“I’m American who has lived in Paris since 2007. I’m also the author of and photographer for a blog offering practical information and no-nonsense opinions to help you explore Paris and organize day trips and weekend trips from Paris. If you would like to view more of my photos, please visit my site.”

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  1. Michael Cosgrove Apr 4, 2012 at 3:23 AM - Reply

    Hi Abby, and I agree with the sentiment of your article. There are many things I love about living in France, but after 25 years of living here and paying taxes I think I’ve earned the right to moan about what I don’t like about it. After all, the French love moaning about France and what’s wrong with it too – 87% of them according to the last poll I saw.

    In fact it could almost be said that if you like everything about France you don’t really know anything about it.

    Have a good evening,


  2. Abby Gordon Apr 4, 2012 at 3:54 AM - Reply


    Thanks so much for your insights. I fully agree – if you have nothing to complain about, you don’t know France that well. And there’s no better way to be a real local around here than to complain!

    I had a similar feeling after paying my first income tax bill. All of a sudden I felt entitled to go to wear sneakers to the movies and all the things real French people shouldn’t do. I’m giving the Republique more money than most French people, after all!

    That’s not to say we shouldn’t be respectful of French culture and French norms, but even as expats, we are still residents of Paris and so long as we’re not truly offending someone else, we should be able to express our individuality!

    If there weren’t things that annoyed us on a daily basis, it wouldn’t be such an interesting place, though, right? It’s that never boring love/hate relationship with Paris that keeps us hanging on!


  3. Michael Cosgrove Apr 4, 2012 at 4:07 AM - Reply

    Well yeah! I suppose most of us wear rose-tinted glasses for a while when we first get here, but we eventually learn that living here is a much more enriching experience when we take them off and start doing things like the French do, and one of the things they love doing most is moaning. I love it!

    It’s all about breaking taboos and being real. And the only way you do that is if you accept that France, like anywhere else, is not perfect but so what?

    Also – and that was the subject of my first article here – the sooner you take off the glasses and start mucking in the sooner you learn about the French.

    I consider that there is something genuinely rewarding and honest about accepting the faults and failures of others. After all, and as my dad told me when I was a boy and apologised for my mischievous deeds;

    “No problem. Even I’m not perfect so how can I expect you to be.”

    ‘Nuff said…:)

  4. Abby Gordon Apr 4, 2012 at 6:38 PM - Reply

    That is absolutely true! Of course “accepting” faults and failures is one thing. I am still working on loving the faults and failures as opposed to just accepting despite them….

  5. Michael Cosgrove Apr 5, 2012 at 6:22 AM - Reply

    “I am still working on loving the faults and failures as opposed to just accepting despite them….”

    Me too. That said, I have become a typical provincial denizen over the years, and a Lyon lover. That which means that I have major issues with even accepting the faults and failures of Paris and Parisians, never mind loving them…. 🙂

  6. Fitz Apr 5, 2012 at 1:13 PM - Reply

    Ouais, je suppose que, pour autant que les Français sont réputés d’être des râleurs, les Australiens (dont je suis un) sont accusés de vouloir débiner (‘knock’) quoi que ce soit.
    Ce que les Français qui viennent en Australie disent souvent à propos de nous, c’est que nous trouvons pénible de discuter des choses en profondeur, voire que pas mal d’entre nous cherchent même à échapper aux entretiens approfondis.
    Côté langue, et quelque chose a voir avec ce que vous avez écrit concernant la tendance de voir en rose tout ce qui est français,je me souviens de mes étudiants adultes de français dont plus d’une (oui, c’étaient typiquement des femmes – désolé)aimait dire : “Oh, j’adore le français – c’est une langue exquise et poétique!”. Comme réponse, je prenais plaisir à leur faire constater que, parfois, l’anglais contenait des mots qui résonnaient bien mieux que leurs équivalents en français. Exemple: comparez “mother-of-pearl” avec “nacre” (qui a, à mes oreilles, l’air moche!)
    Bien à vous.


  7. Abby Gordon Apr 5, 2012 at 8:25 PM - Reply

    C’est vrai, Gérard. J’imagine que tout ce qu’on dit sur la France et les Français s’applique aussi aux autres cultures. Qu’il faut enlever les lunettes roses, devenir des vrais observateurs et déconstruire les stéréotypes avant de connaitre un endroit. Et même si la vie alors n’est pas toujours l’utopie, on sera plus heureux pour la durée.

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