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What to Buy in France, What to Buy in the UK

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 16 Jul 2014 | comments*Discuss
France Uk British Expat Food Brands

When you start your new life in France it can be hard to know what products are best bought in France and what you should bring from the UK.

There are a number of cultural and practical differences with products from France and the UK, with some items being considerably more expensive because they are only imported to France for the British expat market and others simply far more expensive or worse quality.

There are also a number of products that are far superior in France, making it unnecessary for you to bring with you either when you move or in your suitcase. You will certainly get used to noticing the random items expats and their guests put in their hand luggage! It is not unusual to see pull-along suitcases stuffed with teabags on the way to France and filled with French cheese on the way to visit family back home!

Food to Buy in the UK

Even though France has all manner of the most delicious food products, it is very hard to buy a few particular items that British people know and love! Teabags in particular are tricky to get hold of, even though practically all supermarkets sell their versions of ‘English Tea’, it is really nothing like a good, strong cup of English Breakfast tea.

Expat classics like Heinz Baked Beans and Marmite are often available in the increasingly-popular ‘British Food Aisle’ in many supermarkets, but they tend to be terribly overpriced. Even if you have to resort to buying beans in France because of the current luggage restrictions, a plastic pot of Marmite fits into your hand luggage beautifully.

Although it is cheap and easy to buy herbs in France, it is very difficult to find a good selection of spices. This is probably because traditional French cooking uses very few, if any, spices and the French have not embraced international cuisine in the same way that Brits have, so the demand is not there. Small packets of spices are also easy to post or pack in your hand luggage, although it is a good idea to keep at least the details on the product packaging in case you get any raised eyebrows from airport staff.

Please note that Asian and oriental spices are especially hard to find in France, unless you are near a large city with an oriental supermarket (although these are usually woefully under-stocked and very expensive).

Food to Buy in France

Rather than trying to live the life of a British person in France and get concerned that you cannot buy certain cuts of meat or particular ready meals, the best way to get the most out of your French experience is to cook like a French person. Of course, that’s not to say that you won’t want to make family favourites or won't crave a good roast dinner!

Food products that the French do especially well are cartons of soup, stock cubes, huge bulbs of fresh garlic and delicious pâtés.

Non-Food Items to Buy in the UK

Unless you’re planning to only read French magazines and watch French television, you’ll find that English magazines are like gold-dust! Many large cities and tourist areas have at least one or two newsagents that stock a few English magazines, but they are often a month old and very expensive.

Paint is far better in the UK than in France, both in terms of quality and choice. The paint colours available in France tend to be rather outdated and all paint is at least three times the price as in the UK. Even the large DIY chains charge considerably more, so it is a good idea to stock up before you move.

Appliances are also more expensive in France, with less choice from quality brands. Although you will need to be aware of the difference in power and will have to change plugs, most of your small electrical equipment will work fine in France. If you don’t have the room to bring your kitchen appliances with you, you will find that the ‘cheap and cheerful’ price point that you get in the UK is neither cheap nor cheerful in France.

Non-Food Items to Buy in France

Stylish lingerie and hosiery is more expensive in France than the UK but it is great quality. Although there are not the high street equivalent products available in France, the specialist stores are comparatively good value for beautiful products – perfect for treating yourself!

French pharmacy brands for make up and body products are also great value for the excellent quality. Again, there is no high street chemist equivalent, but the pharmacies always stock a great variety of wonderful body lotions, moisturisers and cosmetics.

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