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What you should know as an Au Pair in France - Useful tips

by Maryann on Feb 25, 2020
What you should know as an Au Pair in France - Useful tips
France is the dream of a lot of people who want to visit a country or to spend a year abroad. As a French who grew up in the north of Finistere in Brittany, I am convinced that you made the right choice by becoming an Au Pair in France. I gathered some clichés about France that have to be set aside, and some useful tips to make sure you enjoy living in France

The French and their love for food 

During your Au Pair stay in France, you might cook a lot. French people enjoy home-made food and we will be happy to make you discover them. You’ll mainly learn local dishes because each region has their specialities and we’re very proud of it. As a Breton, I recommend you, unsurprisingly, crêpes. It’s one of the most famous French specialities and it’s always fun to make them. 
 
Mealtimes are also important for us. Usually, we have three meals in a day. The petit-déjeuner (breakfast) is between 6:30am and 8:30am. Unlike what foreigners used to think, French people don’t eat croissant every morning. It’s a rare pleasure that we eat on Sundays. However, we do go to the bakery in the morning to buy a baguette. Then, the déjeuner (lunch) is between 12pm and 2pm and the dîner (dinner) is around 8pm. That’s why it may be difficult to eat at some restaurants after 3pm or 11pm. 
 
You also need to know that for French people, meals are about conviviality and sharing. Therefore, they may last a long time. 

The French language

French is a beautiful language and native speakers are proud of it. Being an Au Pair in France is a great opportunity to learn it and that’s why, an enrollment in a French language course for at least three months is mandatory. Unlike prejudices about French people, we do speak English. However, we appreciate when foreigners make the effort to speak some words of French. Even though you don’t feel comfortable yet, I would recommend you to learn the basics before your arrival. For example, “Bonjour” (“Hello), “Bonsoir” (Good evening), “Merci” (Thank you”), “Au revoir” (“Goodbye”), “Pardon” (“Sorry”) are everyday words that will help you to integrate and the French will be happy to see that you try. 

Traveling 

During your Au Pair stay, you’ll have a lot of spare time and this will be the occasion to travel through the country and Europe. There are many options that are given to you. The train remains the most popular. In France, the rail company is the SNCF. However, the train is not necessarily the most affordable. Taking the bus is also another way to travel and cheaper. Bus companies such as Flixbus serve many cities in Europe. If you want to meet people while traveling, I would recommend you carpool. In France, the most famous carpool platform is Blablacar
 
France has much more to offer than just Paris. Visiting the capital is, of course, essential but there are plenty of other cities or regions that are also worth seeing. For example, you can go to Auvergne to gaze at volcanoes or to the Loire Valley to visit all the beautiful castles. 

Kiss on the cheek 

French people have a special way to greet a friend: we kiss each other on the cheek. This probably seems to be simple but it’s not actually, even for the French themselves. The number of kisses depends on the region. Most of the time, people will do just two kisses but, for example, in the south-west, people tend to do three kisses and in the region of Nantes they have a preference for four kisses. When you meet a friend, don’t hesitate to ask them how many kisses they used to do, so that there won’t be any misunderstanding. 

French bureaucracy

As an Au Pair in France, you’ll have a lot of paperwork to fill in. This can include obtaining the visa, getting a social security number or enrolling in a French language course. All these steps to become an Au Pair in France will require your patience because you may not receive the papers or answers right away. Sometimes you’ll also need to persevere and ask again. Good luck!

Protest culture

Lately, you might have heard about French strikes and the Yellow vest mouvement. This is part of the French culture to let the government know when they disagree. Most of the time, this will cause disruption to public transports, especially in Paris. So if you’re in France during a protest movement and need to go somewhere, you have to check out information about public transport. Except that, you have nothing to worry about. Strikes and demonstrations are most of the time safe and if it starts becoming restless, stay away from the heart of the demonstration and you’ll be fine.  

Having a special diet

For some time now, people all around the world are becoming more aware of their eating habits and the number of vegans and vegetarians is increasing. Unfortunately, France seems to be a little behind the other countries. When you go to a restaurant, don’t be surprised if there is no vegetarian or vegan option on the menu. Before choosing a restaurant, check their set menu on the Internet. You could also try to meet vegan or vegetarian friends, so that you could explore the rare vegan restaurants together. 
 
Moreover, if you used to eat organic food, you need to know that in France, it’s usually more expensive than non-organic products. However, you’ll always have an organic department in the supermarket. There are also dedicated shops such as Biocoop that you can easily find, wherever you live.  
 
Remember all these tips when you’re in France and your Au Pair experience will be the best of your life!
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