Apr 222012

When deciding the logistics of getting our stuff from the states to France, we decided to try to sell as much as possible and to then mail over the rest. We didn’t own anything worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, so it was easier to just sell everything. We did have a family member mail over a number of boxes for us though, which was very helpful. Here are some things to note from our experience.

  • Mailing boxes is expensive. It was about $80 per box for us. This was the cheapest option as it was a flat rate type of thing.
  • Mailing boxes takes longer than letters. Some boxes took two weeks; some boxes took 4 weeks and were then held at customs until we mailed them a letter explaining exactly what was inside the boxes and the exact value of everything.
  • Boxes are mistreated at the post office. Whatever your current idea of “mistreated” may be, it’s actually worse than that. We’re talking they throw it off of buildings and then play soccer with it type of mistreated (see the image below).

Here are tips on packing that will help smooth things along during the whole mailing process.

  • Use a large garbage (construction) bag to line the inside of it so that water won’t damage the contents.
  • Put the soft things near the outside and fragile things near the middle.
  • Pack the box as FULL as possible, especially if anything fragile is inside. Packing the bag full means that the contents won’t shift while the postman is playing soccer with the box. The contents of the box help it keep it’s shape and it’s the best defense against mistreatment.
  • Write the exact contents and the exact value of everything inside the box on the outside of the box and tape it to the outside of the box. The tape should completely cover (like laminating) the paper so that water won’t ruin it. Or if you’re worried about things getting stolen you may just note this somewhere. However, we had two boxes that arrived in customs for which we were asked for their contents and there was no indication as to which box was which and no way to tell them apart. It didn’t pose a problem though, so use your best judgement.

This box we received prompted this post (image).Mailed Box, Ruined

Apr 022012
Coffee and euros

Coffee and euros

Tipping in France is something that’s drastically different than in the US. Of course, if you pay no attention to this note, then you’ll be fine anyway. Everyone in France will love the American that tips generously for apparently no reason. French people, however, do not tip in normal situations.

  • What’s the appropriate amount to tip your waiter at a cafe? Nothing.
  • What’s the correct sum when having lunch at a restaurant with 7 of your friends? 0 euros.
  • How much should you tip the pizza delivery guy when he shows up at your door? 0 euros.

In France the gratuity is included in the bill, no matter what the waiter says. Even if you were to actually tip in France, the expected amount is ridiculously small. For example, I talked with the pizza delivery guy and he told me that when he does get a tip, it’s because people don’t take the change that’s left over from the euro. For example, if the pizza costs 11.32 euros, the pizza guy gets 12 euros and keeps the change, so he gets a 68 cent tip.

Tipping in France
Desired US
Tip Percentage
Customary France
Tip Amount
5% 0 euros
10% 0 euros
15% 0 euros
20% 0 euros
25% < 1 euro
30% 1 euro
35% 1 euro
40% > 1 euro

When going out to lunch with my coworkers, which has happened about 5 times now. They have never ever, not even once, left a tip.

To make things more clear, here is a simple to use table which you can use to convert a customary tip in the US into a customary tip in France. The left side displays the tip percentage in the States (a percentage) and the right side displays the tip amount in France (in Euros).

You may be thinking, “how will the waiter know I liked him?” or “this is what makes French waiters terrible!” or “Well I’m going to tip him anyway.” Well that’s just fine, please fell free to send me your money also. I did provide this page to you after all and I think I deserve some recognition! Seriously though, the best way to make a french waiter happy is by leaving a very small tip, and the best way to make any french person in general happy is by trying to and learning to speak french.