What’s the most important daily paper in France

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - toilet paper France - daily papers

“What is the most important daily paper in France?”, you may ask. 

‘Le Parisien’, you might think? After all, it started life as a French underground publication and still has the largest circulation.

– But no – that’s not the right answer.

“‘Le Figaro’, ‘Le Monde’, or ‘France-Soir’, perhaps?”

– Wrong, wrong and wrong again.

“What about ‘L’Equipe’ then?”

– No, not that one either!

In fact, the answer is: the most important daily paper in France – especially for tourists – is… wait for it… toilet paper!

MyFrenchLife™ – MyFrenchLife.org - Toilet Paper - France

At this point I must declare a personal interest – or bias: I’ve been on a crusade about public toilets since I arrived in France 18 years ago.

I must admit that things have improved (somewhat) with the march of time, but you can still have some dreadful experiences looking for, finding and using les WC in France. Especially if your holiday takes you anywhere off the beaten track.

So, if you’re touring and staying in grand hotels and dining in chic restaurants, you’re probably safe. But if you venture into la France profonde, beware – and be prepared!

Some readers may find this overly critical diatribe on French culture somewhat tiresome. However, I consider myself a committed Francophile and I only complain in the hope that my criticisms will somehow lead to an improvement – and that this will make living in France even more like being in paradise than it already is.

Anyway, back to the paper.

The toilet paper briefing

Just after saying Bonjour et Bienvenu to our guests – who are usually here on a painting holiday – I brief them on public toilets.

“Why?” you may well ask.

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - toilet paper France
OK, let’s get specific.

Your attitude and expectations regarding public toilets may have to change on your visit to France. Just finding a WC in most places can be a challenge. Be warned too, that you cannot always expect to find toilets in department stores, tourist offices, supermarkets, on railway stations or at bus stations. Service stations rarely have them (except on autoroutes – and even these can be quite dodgy).

And nipping into a bar or hotel for a pee is not always on unless you buy something. There are often ‘Customers Only’ signs to warn you that the ‘bathrooms,’ as Americans say, are not public. So, you’re not welcome to park a pint unless drinking or dining.

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - toilet paper France - Customers Only

But let’s be positive and assume you’ve found one…

  • Quite often they’re unisex – even in smart places.
  • A door is always a bonus.
  • If it has a light, it probably won’t be working.
  • There’s unlikely to be a wash hand basin, and if there is one, there definitely won’t be any soap.
  • Even more surprising, it’s highly likely to be a Turkish style, hole in the ground, squat toilet – which is enough to put most tourists in Europe off-balance.
  • And it’s a cast iron guarantee that there won’t be any toilet paper.

So, please, as I brief our guests, make sure that you ALWAYS – REPEAT, ALWAYS – have an ample supply of France’s most important daily paper in your pockets.

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - toilet paper France - WC

Puzzling over Anglo-French cultural differences & language

We have a long-standing (and long-suffering) French friend, and we use her in our attempts to unravel the complex cultural differences between the French and Anglo-Saxons.


  • after sales service,
  • Weird shopping hours,
  • Ignoring buzz-bikes and dog poo,
  • But especially language!

Baffling French language rules

She’s helped us with all kinds of things that are baffling to me, but not to the natives. The usual glib reply is that Anglo-Saxon logic does not (and should not) apply to the French language.

OK, but I’m still stumped as to why such similar nouns have different genders.

  • Vélo, masculine – bicyclette, feminine.
  • Village, masculine and ville feminine.
  • And the toilet is always plural – les WC – even if you only need one.
  • But perhaps the most confusing of all is that masculine sexual organs are invariably feminine nouns – and vice versa.
  • France is the most popular tourist destination in the world, and, over the centuries, the French have built countless magnificent, widely recognised and universally loved buildings and monuments.

But our French friend simply shrugs when I ask this question which I believe epitomises the cultural conundrum:

Why is it that, in so many villes et villages all over France, the French, who have built marvels like the Eiffel Tower, the Pompidou Centre, Mont Saint-Michel, and le Chateau de Versailles can’t even build a decent public bog – and stock it with an ample supply of toilet paper?”

Have you ever noticed the lack of toilet paper when travelling in France? What about other differences you’ve experienced between France and Anglo countries? Share your stories in the comments below!

Image credits

1. Newspapers by Mark Prigg via The Daily Mail
2. Flying toilet paper by Brooke Anderson via flickr
3. Toilet symbols by Anja Cronenberg via flickr
4. Customers only by drpep via flickr
5. Squat toilets via Wikipedia
6. WC by Nick Knochenko vis flickr

About the Contributor

Ray Johnstone

Ray is an artist & writer. His favourite subjects are nudes and portraits. Art holidays for groups & families are catered for in their 800-year-old house La Petite Galerie in Gascony. They also take up to 6 walkers on the 'best bits' of the Pilgrims Route to Compostela. Check out Ray's 100+ articles - he has his own column called 'Perspectives'

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  1. Keith Van Sickle Aug 30, 2017 at 1:47 AM - Reply

    My wife and I were in St.-Rémy-de-Provence and stopped at one of our favorite restaurants for lunch. I went to the restroom, a one-room affair used by both men and women, and had to wait in line behind four ladies.

    When I finally made it into the restroom I was surprised to find the toilet seat up. Even after four ladies! I told my wife about this and she said it was common, that even when there was a separate ladies room, women would often leave the toilet seat up after they were done. Apparently it’s a French custom.

  2. Ray Johnstone Aug 30, 2017 at 2:26 AM - Reply

    Bonjour Keith,
    Thanks for your comments.
    Toilets in France have always been a mystery to me. Bearing in mind that France remains the biggest tourist destination in the world, how can such a modern and beautiful European country have such poor toilet facilities?
    I was in Hobart last Christmas. Like most places in Australia, it has an abundance of good, clean public toilets. In fact, there’s one on almost every street corner. French tourists must think Tasmanians are positively incontinent.

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