Language: official language is French. English is spoken, but mainly in the large cities like Paris and by the younger generation.
Currency: The french franc has been substituted by the Euro since early 2002 when it became the currency unit for most member states of the European Union. Each european country has the same currency, yet, to characterized the money by country one side of coins and notes has a design that is decided by each country. The Euro is divided into the following denominations.
- Coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 cent ; 1 and 2 euro.
- Notes: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500
Time zone: Standard time zone is GMT + 1 hour. This means that when in London it's 11 am, in Paris it's 12 p.m. France applies Daylight Saving Time in the summer.
Electricity: In France it's 220 volts, 50 Hertz, Alternate Current. It's important to pay attention to the voltage system! Even though you bought a plug adaptor, the different voltage may cause your expensive electrical appliances to cease functioning with a bang and a smelly cloud of blue smoke. If in doubt, check the light bulbs at home or in a supermarket and read the information engraved on it. Most European appliances will work with the correct plug adaptor although a converter may be necessary. Transformers can be used for US appliances even though it is only recommended on 50 cycle appliances.
Electrical plugs and sockets: Type C and type E. France, Belgium and some other countries have adopted a socket which is different from type F, which is standard in many continental European countries and it's not compatible, because grounding in the E socket is achieved with a round male pin permanently mounted in the socket. The plug itself is similar to C, except that it's round and has the addition of a female contact to accept the grounding pin in the socket. In order to bridge the differences between sockets E and F, a new plug (CEE 7/7) was developed with grounding clips on both sides to mate with the type F socket and a female contact to accept the grounding pin of the type E socket.
- TYPE C - A two-wire plug used in all countries of Europe with the exception of UK, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta. This plug is ungrounded, has two round prongs and is commonly known as Europlug. This is probably the single most widely used international plug. It will mate with any socket that accepts 4.0-4.8 mm round contacts on 19 mm centres.
- TYPE E - The original type E plug, which does not have grounding clips, is no longer used, although very rarely it can still be found on some older appliances.
Tip: If you intend to use your electrical appliances from home, make sure that you buy the correct pin adaptor at home. While it's possible to buy in France adaptors that allow you to plug french electrical appliances into Australian/Asian/American/etc powerpoints, it's more difficult to find adaptors that go the other way.
Phone jacks: French phone jack. There are adapters that allow North American RJ-11 phone plugs to interface with phone jacks common to France. These adapters are duplex, meaning the adapter allows connection of your RJ-11 plug and the foreign telephone plug to a single phone line. Countries where the french phone jack can be found are: Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Comoros
Congo (People's Republic of), Djibouti, French Guiana, Gabon, Gambia, Grenadines, Guadeloupe, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Mali, Martinique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Micronesia, Monaco, Morocco, New Caledonia, Niger, Reunion Island, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Somalia, Tahiti, Togo, Tunisia.
Mobile phone system: GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) digital mobile phone system is used for french mobile phones.
DVD zone: DVDs are Region 2. If your DVD reader is not unzoned you will not be able to watch European movies. It's possible to buy multi-region DVD players. Think before you come to France with your prized DVD or Video collection - check that the player you use will work not only on French 220 voltage but also reads the correct format (SECAM of the TV and region 2 for DVD).
TV system: SECAM system, unlike most of Europe which adopted PAL. It's possible to get video recorders that play both NTSC (for Japanese and American videos), PAL and SECAM, but those are not cheap options.
If you have an old PAL or NTSC TV you could have some problems like black and white TV instead of color one. A PAL or SECAM tape cannot be viewed on an NTSC TV.
Measure system: metric.
Phone code: country code is 33
International phone calls
- Calling France: IDD of the country you are calling from + 33 + city area code + phone number
- Calling from France: dial 00 before the country code + area code + phone number.
Paper (Papier): The basic printer paper and folder paper size in France is A4 (29 x 11 cm).
Envelopes: There are two sizes (21 x 11 cm) or (16 x 11 cm).
Rooms: Be aware that in France, room sizes in apartments can be so small, that it's difficult to fit a double bed, forget about a king size bed or a complete set with nightstands and wardrobes. Check the size of your rooms before you move your furniture. Also, if you're planning to bring a double door refrigerator, make sure that the doors of the house or apartment are wide enough to fit it inside (in France many of these refrigerators have been sitting in the garage !).
Mattresses, pillows and bed linens: Mattress' standard sizes in France are listed below. Traditionally, French beds are composed of two different types of pillows, the traversins (sausaged shaped pillows), and the oreillers (square or slightly rectagular pilows). Bed linens (draps) can be flat or fitted (drap housse). When you buy a set it's normally composed of a fitted sheet, a flat one, the sausage pillow and the flat pillow. You will find no measurements for bed linens on the package in France, but only the bed type they're made for, i.e. 'Double bed set', without any dimension printed on the package.
Beds standard size:
double bed 140 x 190 cm
simple bed 90 x 190 cm
baby bed 120 x 60 cm
Pillows (oreillers) standard size:
65 x 65 cm
50 x 70 cm
Bolsters (traversins) standard size:
140 x 85 cm
185 x 85 cm
Dresses, sweaters, shirts
M/L/XL/XXL Europe U.S.A. U.K.
M 36 6 8
38 8 10
L 40 10 12
42 12 14
XL 44 14 16
46 16 18
XXL 48 18 20
M/L/XL/XXL Europe U.S.A. / UK
M 36 14
37 14 ½
L 38 15
39 15 ½
XL 40 16
41 16 ½
XXL 42 17
U.S.A./ U.K. Europe
Shoes - In France it's really difficult to find shoes for bigger sizes, but shopping for shoes in France does not present any difficulty if you have small and thin feet. If you find shoes for bigger sizes, they are priced more than 'normal' size shoes.
An option around this hurdle is shopping online.
US UK Europe Japan
4 2 and 1/2 35 21.5
5 3 and 1/2 37 22.5
6 4 and 1/2 38 23.5
7 5 and 1/2 39 24.5
8 6 and 1/2 40 (rare)
9 7 and 1/2 42 (rare)
US UK Europe Japan
7 5 and 1/2 39 24.5
8 6 and 1/2 41 25.5
9 7 and 1/2 42 26.5
10 8 and 1/2 43 27.5
11 9 and 1/2 45 (rare)
12 10 and 1/2 46 (rare)
13 11 and 1/2 47 (rare)