By most definitions of the word, I am a francophile. I love the language and have enjoyed living in France and learning more about its culture. But nowhere is perfect and France is no exception, so let’s explore some things that I dislike about living here (in no specific order).

1. Dog poop

At least in the Paris region, many dog owners do not pick up after their dog. As a proud dog owner myself, I find this behaviour to be very inconsiderate. Luckily I think I’ve only stepped in crottes de chien once or twice in the last 13 months.

2. Paid toilets

Some public bathrooms require payment of anywhere between €0.80 and €2.00. Usually it is when there is an attendant ensuring the cleanliness of the premises, so I assume it goes towards their salary. Sometimes card payment is accepted, and other times cash is required (exact change, even). This alone is reason enough to always carry some cash and change on you.

3. Toilets without sinks

On the topic of toilets, in a lot of homes, the toilet is separated from the rest of the bathroom. And if the toilet doesn’t have its own sink, you would have to walk to the actual bathroom afterward to wash your hands. Now try not to think about how dirty the interior doorknob of the toilet must be, with everyone touching it without having washed their hands…

4. Smoking

Smoking is not stigmatized in France like it is in North America. It is a way for colleagues to bond, parents to de-stress, and youth to look cool. When there are more smokers, there is bound to be more smoke on the sidewalks. And that isn’t ideal for children, sensitive populations, and people who just don’t like the smell.

5. Seating arrangements in public transport

France seems to love making strangers sit face to face in public transportation by arranging seats in that way. Whether it’s in the metro, the commuter train, or the bus, you are very likely to find yourself sitting closely across someone at some point, both of you awkwardly trying to not accidentally make eye contact with each other (or just pretending to sleep). Why, France, why?

6. Pickpockets

With a booming tourism sector, many French cities have become victims of their own success with regard to the number of pickpockets. While I myself have never been a victim, I’ve heard many stories of people falling prey to these thieves. And so even as a resident, I find myself clutching tightly onto my phone in public transportation and busy streets with a healthy dose of paranoia.

7. Card minimums

For small purchases in cafes or boulangeries, there is usually a card minimum between €5 and €10. Customers like me may not find it super convenient, but the minimum exists because each card transaction costs a flat fee to the store. And so it makes sense that owners would prefer cash for small orders.

8. Voice messages

Don’t be surprised if your French friend sends you a voice recording. While not everyone does it, it is perfectly normal for people of all ages to do so. Back home, it’s usually only older people that do it. For the recipient, it takes me more time to listen to a recording than to skim a message and I can’t even search for keywords later on if they’re in the form of voice messages.

9. Tiny elevators

Elevators in France are small, usually fitting no more than 4-5 people. Smaller residential elevators sometimes only fit two people. It can be pretty awkward when several strangers are squeezed into such a tight space. Maybe it’s to encourage more people to take the stairs and get some exercise? Who knows, but I miss my big American elevators.

10. Weird doorknobs

French architecture is beautiful, but can someone explain why doorknobs are designed so un-ergonomically? On wooden double doors to Haussmannian-style buildings, you’ll see fancy knobs that look like they can turn (but actually don’t), and that are situated in the centre of each door rather than near where the two doors meet. This makes the already heavy wooden doors unpleasantly difficult to open and close. Inside homes and offices too, there are often cheap knobs and handles that don’t snap in place or spring back satisfyingly. Canada’s buildings may not be as ornate, but we’ve at least mastered the art of doorknobs.

11. Hard water

I’m not sure about the rest of France, but in Paris the tap water is very hard (i.e. has a lot of minerals). It leaves visible limescale on metallic surfaces, which isn’t super appetizing to see when you pull out a just-cleaned fork that is covered with water stains. Apparently hard water is also bad for your hair, and I have noticed greater hair loss since moving to Paris. And lastly, though it is technically safe to drink, many people say it also has a weird taste.

What do you think about this list? Are any of them dealbreakers for you? To end on a more positive note, check out my other article A Canadian’s 5 favourite things about living in Paris.


In February 2023 I moved from Vancouver to Paris. Adventures await.
En février 2023 j’ai déménagé de Vancouver à Paris. Des aventures m’attendent.

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(1) Comment

Hong I |

Unpleasant but true facts😀!