5 Things You Won't Believe if You’re French Living in the U.S.

TransferWise content team
4 minute read

Thinking of moving to America? You’re not alone. In fact, there are more than 166,000 people from France currently living in the U.S.

But that doesn’t mean that making the transition is easy, as there are tons of cultural differences between France and the U.S.

TransferWise customers who have already made the move shared five valuable lessons that you’ll learn when you move to America.

The tipping point


In the U.S. it's customary to tip about 15 percent of your bill, and up to 25 percent at fancier establishments.

French servers are paid at least minimum wage, so much of their income doesn't depend solely on tips. However in America, the federal minimum wage is just $2.13 an hour for people who recieve at least $30 a month in tips. Because of this, servers in America work off a smile and really aim to please!

In France, tips tend to be much smaller and are more common in restaurants and eateries. In America, restaurants aren't the only place you're expected to tip, as you'll see people giving extra gratuities at hotels, cafés and bars. It is also expected to tip for everyday services such as taxi rides or haircuts, and at the same rate as a good restaurant meal.

They don’t have pastry shops on every corner


Whether it’s a small village or a major city in France, there seems to be a pastry shop on every corner.

Whereas it's common in France to stop at your local pâtisserie to pick up fresh croissants, eclairs and baguettes daily, in America, people are more likely to shop at major supermarkets and prefer the one-stop shop. It's more convenient here to pick up all of the groceries in the same place.

Claire, a French emigrant living in the U.S, explains:

“If you walk down the street in Paris, you’re bound to run into a local pastry shop but outside of major cities in America, they’re very hard to find. French people love popping into a nearby coffee shop for an espresso and an eclair. But here, Americans tend to gravitate towards a Starbucks grande Frappuccino instead.”

They ditch the change


Since American currency uses a bill to represent one dollar while most other currencies use a coin, Americans tend to never carry change on them because their coins are worth so little.

This is because in American currency, their highest coin is worth only 25 cents and their lowest coin is worth 1 cent. If you compare this to the euro where they have smaller coins as well as ones that represent 50 cents, 1 euro and 2 euros, it’s easy to understand why Americans are always paying for things with their Visa cards or bills.

They I.D. everyone


In France, many of the clubs are open until the sun comes up any day of the week and you’re rarely asked to show your I.D. upon entrance.

Which is very different from America, where I.D.’s are diligently checked and last call at the local bar generally ranges from 1-2 am. The same goes for buying liquor at shops or restaurants (even if you look under 40, they need to see your I.D.!)

Don't be surprised when asked to show your I.D. when purchasing something (even nonalcoholic items) with your Visa card. This is common practice in the U.S. in order to protect your identity.

Anne-Sophie explains:

“Back home, if I wanted to order a glass of wine with my lunch or enter a club, I would never be asked for I.D. But in America, they’ll turn you away if you don’t have yours if you look less than 40.”

They dress down


In the U.S., it can be very common to see someone running errands in pajamas or even wearing the same outfit to both work and dinner.

Americans seem to have no problem wearing sweatpants to school or yoga pants to the grocery. However, in France seeing someone wearing a pair of baggy sweatpants outside of their home would be as rare as not accompanying a Friday dinner with a crisp glass of red wine.

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