Food, French & Expat

One of the first things expats will notice is that in the country of gastronomy, fresh dairy products have been all but eliminated from the supermarkets. The industry has got rid of them to replace them with long-lasting UHT products that while they can be stored many months do not have the taste of fresh products. Even if you find fresh milk in a corner, some of the brands seems to taste of the plastic bottle, the brand Grandlait being the only exception I have found so far. Making whipped cream with UHT cream is a challenge. The only places to get the same quality as you are used to from the UK, Denmark or elsewhere are at local farms or small local shops selling their products.

The slightly salted butter that you may be used to does not exist. Either it has no salt - beurre doux ("soft butter" - note, this does not mean that it is spreadable) - or it has too much salt - beurre demi-sel ("half-salt"). Don't be fooled by the "half-salt" name. It is in fact so salty that if they sold something called "full salt", there would hardly be any butter in it. If you need slightly salted butter for recipes, mix beurre doux and beurre demi-sel in equal quantities to get a slightly salted result. It gives a good result for example for the English brandy butter for the traditional Christmas pudding and for baking cakes and bread. Beurre tendre means spreadable butter.

Danes looking for their buttermilk - kærnemælk - will find it in some parts of the north under the name lait battu. It is the same thing. In other parts of the country, such as the south, they will find that the lait fermenté - literally fermented milk (gæret mælk) but correctly translated to Danish as mælkevin - comes so close to the taste of kærnemælk that they might not even notice the difference. The lait fermenté is produced in a manner similar to yogurt but is liquid as milk.

Denmark's leading dairy company Arla has not been able to tell me how to replace the Danish dairy products ymer and A38. These products are produced in a particular way that is not generally available outside Denmark. However, they did tell me that the Danish name kvark is another name for fromage frais which can easily be found in France.

Expat stores for food & other products, Food from other countries

Bettys. Cakes, gifts, hampers, chocolates, tea, coffee, biscuits, preserves and more shipped worldwide. Reasonable delivery charges, also for small orders (one Christmas pudding for example).

Britishcornershop. British online supermarket selling British food, magazines, toiletries, baby products and much more. Reasonable delivery charges for medium to large orders. Very good customer service. This is where I shop myself.

Expat Essentials. Online British food for expats.

Expatboxes. Sends you food products and other things you miss from the UK.

Foodbritish. British food store.

Foods From Home. Specialises in UK and South African expats. Allows individualised orders of products not in their catalogue.

Tastes Marvellous. Online UK food store for expats, created by a young entrepreneur in 2011 and very successful.

99pShopper. British expat food by mail order. Sells only items at 99p and below, at reasonable prices, but delivery charges are quite high. No Marmite.

Cap Hispania. Spanish food and wine. Shop in Paris' 17th arrondissement. Their web site does not mention postal delivery. 
23 rue Jouffroy D'Abbans, 75017 Paris. Tel. 01 46 22 11 60.
Alimentos y vinos españoles. Tienda en el 17e arrondissement, Paris. Su sitio web no menciona liberación postal.

Le Stübli. German and Austrian cakes, delicatessen and tearoom. Shop in Paris' 17th arrondissement. No information about postal delivery.
11 rue Poncelet, 75017 Paris. Tel. 01 42 27 81 86 or 01 42 67 61 69.
Deutscher und österreichischer Kuchen, Feinkost und Konditorei. Laden in das 17. Pariser Arrondissement. Keine Auskünfte von Lieferung bei Post.

Hjemve. Danish food and other Danish articles shipped abroad for expats.
Danske fødevarer og andre danske artikler sendt til udlandet for udlandsdanskere.

Maison du Danemark. Danish delicatessen, food and restaurant.
142 Avenue des Champs-Élysées, 75008 Paris. Tel. 01 44 13 86 26.
Danske delikatesser, andre typiske danske madvarer og restaurant.

Click here for the list of French supermarkets.


Some tourist guides try to make you believe that you have to tip all the time. As I just mentioned, all tipping is voluntary, and the French themselves often don't tip in restaurants at all. If you feel well treated and you had a nice experience, then by all means you can let a reasonable tip fall, but there is no need to start calculating percentages of the bill. Tipping at hairdressers is still customary but again, not mandatory. Many would leave a 10% tip if they are happy with the hairdresser, though. Whether a restaurant or a hairdresser, if you return regularly, you can be almost sure of little "extras" as you go along if you show your satisfaction with a tip.

Tipping the postman well may very well assure that you get a better service, particularly at the countryside, where they may only be obliged to dump your mail in a letterbox near the road instead of near your house that may be 300 metres down a path. Tip him well, and he may only be happy to bring your mail to the door and collect your outgoing mail, even registered mail, and bring you back the receipt a couple of days later. I calculated that even giving him 30 € for Christmas is much cheaper than the annual cost - and time consumption - of daily 7 km trips to the post office to post my mail, since I work from home. I cannot guarantee that everybody will do it, and if they don't provide a better service, then there's no reason for tipping either.

Yellow & White Pages, Directories

For B2B business directories, please refer to the business page.

Pagesjaunes. White pages, yellow pages. 
Infobel. White pages, yellow pages.
Appel118. Index of telephone number inquiry services 118 xxx. Operators: 118 000, 118 001, 118 007, 118 008, 118 012, 118 018, 118 075, 118 218, 118 222, 118 247, 118 300, 118 318, 118 333, 118 421, 118 444, 118 500, 118 612, 118 710, 118 711, 118 712, 118 713, 118 777, 118 810, 118 811, 118 833, 118 999. Cost varies between approximately 0.50 and 1.50 €. / Le Numéro. White and yellow pages which are not kept up to date.

Annuaire bonnes adresses. Directory of local retailers in Provence, grouped by area. Regional directory of the Riviera. In French and English.


August is the French holiday month. All the most important people go on holiday during this month, and only the least qualified personnel would remain working, if the company doesn't close altogether. Try not to get sick in France in August. You may find it difficult to find a qualified doctor. In case of serious illness, consider urgent repatriation very seriously, as even hospitals will not be working well, and all the experienced doctors will be on holiday. Everything slows down or grinds to a halt, except tourist activities. Your mail arrives later, and some days you just don't get any. Public services cannot close down, but that is no guarantee that anybody competent is left.

Bank & School Holidays

Americans using British English guides should be aware of the different use of the terms "holidays" and "vacation". In British English, "holidays" is commonly used for vacation (vacances or congé in French) and "bank holidays" for public and national holidays (jours féries in French). School holidays are les vacances scolaires in French. Other types of absence from work than holidays and vacation are known as congé (leave of absence in general), possibly qualified, such as congé de maternité (maternity leave), congé de paternité (paternity leave), congé de maladie (sick leave). You will find that there is a lot of congé and vacances in France, something that can be a problem if you need someone to do something for you. The common attitude is that no one will bother to cover for the absent ones, so you just have to wait until they are back.

New Year's DayNouvel an1 January
Easter MondayLundi de PâquesFloating
Labour DayFête du travail1 May
Victory 1945Victoire 19458 May
AscensionAscensionFloating 1)
WhitsunPentecôteFloating 2)
Whit MondayLundi de PentecôteFloating 2)
National (Bastille) DayFête nationale14 Juillet
AssomptionAssomption15 August
All Saints DayToussaint1 November
Armistice 1918Armistice 191811 November
Christmas DayNoël25 December

1) Ascension is the sixth Thursday after Easter
2) Whitsun is the seventh Sunday after Easter

French Ministry of Education: School holidays.

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