Wednesday 29 October 2014

England v France – some random observations

Posted by Rosie

I am now back in France after a week in England.  It was a great holiday where the boys and I got to see lots of friends, visited all sorts of places, I got new glasses and we stocked up on essentials such as Cheddar, Marmite and porridge oats!   I also had time to note a few random differences between our two nations; nations that for many years were ruled in part by one King and who, at their closest point, are only 20 odd miles apart.  

Coffee shops and tea rooms

England may still have a good few tea rooms but the coffee market seems to be dominated by the big chains and their American view of how we should drink coffee.  Costa seemed to be ubiquitous. (At Cheddar, Minehead, motorway service  stations, Portsmouth Ferry Port ... and probably Taunton but we did not venture far enough in to find it!).

Wine is very expensive in England

The exact same bottle of wine in Lidl costs €1.99 in France yet costs the equivalent of €5.10 in England.

Christmas is everywhere

OK so it did mean it was easy to stock up on a few Christmas cards but in France there will be almost no mention of Christmas for a good few weeks yet ... and even then it will be much less commercialised.  Must EVERYTHING have a Christmas theme to it in England?  Do we really need Christmas themed PJs and I am sure Lego is making a fortune selling its Lego filled Advent Calendar at £20 each.

Small brands are harder to find

Sainsburys no longer stocks brands I always used to be able to get, like Clipper loose green tea and Tom of Maine’s toothpaste.  Big thanks, therefore to Toucan Wholefoods inMinehead who still do and happily put some aside for me.  Merci :)

English Opticians are fast

In France I have heard the waiting list to get your eyes tested is long.  I booked an appointment for myself at Vision Express in Taunton on Wednesday at 2.50pm and walked out of the shop just over 2 hours later with my new glasses.

I miss charity and book shops!


Fair enough France does of course have bookshops but I do miss a good mooch around a bookshops where the books are in English!  Charity shops are few and far between in France but thankfully Minehead has plenty and I came home with a good supply of clothes, books and Christmas cards.

I also remembered not to use my shopping bag as a basket in the supermarket which could so easily have got me accused of shop lifting where-as in France this is a perfectly acceptable thing to do.  Only once or twice did I have to think which side of the road I should be on and I did enjoy having Radio 4 on in the car.  I only said “pardon” in a French accent twice when accidentally bumping into some-one and by the end of the week I had remembered that when you plug in something when in England you have to press the on switch to actually get the plug switched on!

Do you have you any random observations on differences between France and England?  This recent blog on supermarket shopping in France points out a few more differences.

Expat Life with a Double Buggy


  1. Vive la Difference!
    It would be a shame if they were the same though, as it is lovely to be able to experience both and benefit from each. ... and I tend to get radio 4 via the internet or satellite in France, as I miss it too much otherwise!

  2. Love your observations Rosie. Scary about the Costa Coffee bombardment isn’t it! Don’t suppose you even saw the large coffee they serve? Couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw one being served up in a bucket.
    Did you see masses of nail bars too? Bishop’s Stortford is full of nail bars, charity shops and coffee shops. Our (my) fault for shopping at Tescos I suppose (although I prefer Aldis now).

    1. Charity shops I did see and shopped in until the boys complained! Nail bars are here too and in the garage in the next village (the one who messed up our car BIG time) his wife also has a nail bar yo have to walk through to get to his garage office. Odd or what!

  3. I can't stand the coffee shop take over of UK - Costa and Starbucks in particular. Why does everyone need to be permanently attached to an enormous mug of coffee? I love that coffee is small and drunk while sitting down in France and not on the move. I'm definitely more French than I realise!

    1. I agree Phoebe. I love an espresso sat in a café watching the world go by and chatting to a friend (remember Flers!). In fact I only drink coffee as an espresso and can't stand it with the addition of milk, cream, sugar or flavourings. As for drinking it out of a cardboard cup - that is just yuk.

  4. Completely agree with the coffee culture take over - not something I've got used to whenever I'm back & as I'm used to Dutch strength coffee it never lives up to my expectations in these big brand chains........ and we have the same observations about wine when we are back too, but then in comparison to the Netherlands!

    Thank you for linking up #ExpatLifeLinky

  5. I haven't been to France to compare, but I did love Christmas in England! Coming from Bahrain where it was (unsurprisingly) barely a thing, I was in love with Christmas everything! And we did buy ourselves some Christmas PJ's... to match our Christmas sweaters! Great post!


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