Back to France

For anyone considering a move to La Clusaz, please note that these foods are not available when dining out:

  • Chinese
  • Mexican
  • Greek
  • Indian
  • Japanese
  • British fat chips (from a fish’n’chips shop)
  • basically, anything else that doesn’t revolve around cheese, potatoes and meat

Thankfully, England is well-stocked, and I took full advantage. The food was great, and so was the shopping. However, the queueing was not. When buying a bikini and a sun dress — both of which, ironically, I’d rarely wear (if ever!) in England, I spent more time waiting in queues to try things on than I spent looking for them. I queued for tables at restaurants, toilets, changing rooms, to speak with literary agents and even when picking up a pizza (it went cold). Normally, at least two toilets are vacant. Nobody notices. Similarly, the changing room attendant will watch the people line up, wait for someone finished to exit a changing room, count the rejected clothes, hang them up to be returned to the shop, and — oh, wait a minute: another person has come out so there are now two vacant changing rooms but nobody is allowed in yet because the attendant is still checking the exiting people’s clothes and hanging them up, and has not thought about giving those waiting the correct token for the number of items they’re taking in so that the queue can move without these hold-ups. I guess I’ve lived away from England for long enough now for this to bother me once more. It’s needless queueing, but the English have grown up with it, so they seem far more tolerant than me. And don’t even get me started on the restaurant that couldn’t seat us, nor take a booking for an hour’s time, nor call us when a table became available since they couldn’t reserve it an hour in advance.

So, my suitcase is stacked with new clothes and lots of Haloumi cheese (unavailable in my region of France). I will not miss the queueing in England, but I’m already missing the food.


I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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5 comments on “Back to France
  1. Geoff says:

    Well, Zurich does have the benefit of international restaurants. Hey, even my tiny little town has a Greek restauarant and (and I’ve never seen this anywhere else) an establishment specialising in both Indian and Italian delicacies. I have not picked up the courage to go in, although reports are favourable.

    You’re right about the queueing though. It needs to be efficient, and that word no longer exists in the UK.

    I’m very happy to live in mainland Europe, but still treasure those return trips to England…

  2. Richard says:

    We English are indeed a nation of obsessive queue fiends!

    We are (good-heartedly I think) mocked for our love of the orderly queue!

    When moving to France (three years ago) I had given this matter some thought and concluded that I really couldn’t see any other way around a situation where several people want to be in one place at the same time (the changing room, the post office etc). I just couldn’t see if it was possible to act in any other way if I should still wish to conduct myself with good manners!

    When first encountering a rural French post office I found myself behind one other, already being served; I waited, and then the door opened and in came someone else, and again and again. I then discovered myself standing shoulder to shoulder with the new arrivals! (A very unnerving experience for the uninitiated Englishman used to single file, stare at the back of the head!)

    So, there we all were ~ ready to pounce as soon as the clerk was free! This run-of-the-mill-activity suddenly appeared to be thrown into the realms of competitiveness and one-upmanship, instead of general politeness, I was out of my depth, totally bewildered, and yes, I was served a good two or three people later!

    Standing there, raging, I thought ~ Surely it has to be realised that, in this situation, to show some respect for your fellow man, the simple act of queuing is the only way!?

    That was three years ago. Now I am acclimatised! With spiked elbow pads and American football helmet I am quite capable at keeping that cute little old lady behind me (as she pretends to be a bit dotty, slowly edging along the mob!)

    So now of course, three years down the line; not cueing somehow makes some sort of peculiar sense, yet, I can’t for the life of me articulate this into words!

    All praise the differences in each culture I guess!

  3. The thing that struck me about the English queue after 7 years away from UK is how jealously the queue-er guards his/her place in it.
    And supermarket queue-rs are the worst of the lot. Even if you’ve only one item don’t think for a minute anyone will willingly let you through.
    This curtesy happens all the time in my part of France, only yesterday a gentleman ushered me infront of him as I’d only one item. I did say it was alright but he insisted. I felt really guilty because the ‘one item’ was a return, so by the time the girl on the check- out had rung for a supervisor the poor bloke could have been home !

  4. Richard says:

    Well said jowalmesley! queue guarding is a bit bonkers isn’t it!

    I wanted to mention the fantastic Asian supermarket we have in Bonneville. I agree, on occasion something other than French food would be very much appreciated! I was delighted when I found this amazing Asian supermarket, it’s spot on, they have all the bits you could want; curry pastes etc, they even have fresh green Papaya! And I have seen the famous ‘king of fruits’: Durian there. Ace.

  5. April says:

    @Richard: great anecdotes that I can identify with totally! And yes, the Asian supermarket in Bonneville is fantastic.

    @Jo: is it just me, or do supermarket queues take longer in France? There are never enough tills open!

    @Jeff: Italian and Indian? Ooh, I’m not convinced I’d like that mix…

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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