The French Year Abroad: What do Brits miss when they move to France?

There’s a small army of British students working and studying abroad in France. They’re fairly easy to spot – often found looking quizzically at coffee shop menus where you can only get a shot of caffeine, or pay an extra 3€ merely for the addition of frothy milk. Or, they’ll ask if there is any vegetarian option and be looked at by the disgruntled waiter as if they just asked if there was a freshly sliced dead baby option. The supermarkets are also ridiculously expensive (though the markets are always lovely).


I’m still trying to navigate my way around French life, but the weekly shop is a stressful task. As much as simply buying your meat and veg is great, I do miss my impulse buys of British branded goodness (from McVitie’s to, in moments of darkness, Bernard Matthews turkey dinosaurs). I recently bought avocado oil spread because all of the normal butters were double the price. It’s all a bit baffling.

So, I asked my fellow year abroad pals the all-important question – what supermarket item do you miss the most when living in France?

Here are the responses.

  • Breakfast Tea.
  • Mayonnaise that doesn’t have mustard in it.
  • Vegetables that don’t go off two days after you buy it.
  • £1 bags of doughnuts.
  • Orange squash.
  • Waitrose.
  • Breakfast Tea.
  • Heinz Baked Beans.
  • Heinz Baked Beans.
  • Tesco chicken and stuffing sandwich.
  • English bacon.
  • English bacon.
  • Skips and hula hoops.
  • Quorn.
  • Cheddar cheese.
  • Breakfast Tea.
  • Crunchy peanut butter.
  • Custard Creams.
  • Ibuprofen.
  • Terry’s Chocolate Orange.
  • Breakfast Tea.
  • Breakfast Tea.
  • Quorn.
  • Cheddar.
  • Heinz Baked beans.
  • Breakfast Tea.

Apart from the obvious like tea, some of this surprised me. Who misses bakes beans, in any sort of conscious or yearning way? Beans are beans, they’re never a treat. I think that there’s something oddly encapsulating about the British student how cheddar, beans and tea are what seems to be missed. The vegetarians are also clearly having a absolute mare of a time trying to feed themselves.

But – for me, what I miss is the comforting, slightly gross odour of pickled onion monster munch snaking its way across the 121 bus to Enfield town as I crack open a fresh pack. Bloody yum.


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