France vs. Spain: The 5 Biggest Differences I Have Noticed (So Far!)


Moving from one country to another, as I have already experienced with my move from England to Spain, presents many changes, some harder to deal with than others, and some which you completely prefer over the way it is done in your home country.
For me, moving to Paris is particularly interesting because I moved here from a country that is not my home country, and seeing the difference between living in two foreign countries is not something that everyone gets to experience.

So without first ado, my list of the 5 biggest differences between Spain and France that I have noticed…so far!:

(Disclaimer: When I say France and Spain, I really mean Paris and Sevilla, as those are the two that I have really lived in and can properly draw conclusions on. I am also disregarding the change in language as that is a pretty obvious difference!)

1. Price!

Possibly the most obvious, and definitely the most important, is the difference in general living costs between France and Spain. Before I moved to Paris I was looking up the price of living and was shocked to find that the average cost of a loaf of bread was over 6 euros. I can’t say I’ve seen any 6 euro bread around, but even just the small things add up. Where I might have done a weekly shop in Spain for 15 euros, in Paris it might cost me 20-25 euros. Of course, the difference is most obvious when you go out to eat and drink. In Spain, you can have a tapas meal for one with an alcoholic drink for anywhere between 9 and 12 euros (possibly more if you opt for dessert or a crazy amount of tapas), but here in France your drink alone could cost you 8 euros (seriously – I went to a pub/bar and bought a pint of Magners for 8 euros…and I thought it was expensive in England!). I have definitely stopped eating out as much. I’m not sure my bank account could take it if I did it as often as I did in Spain!

Me, after one week here…

2. Diversity

So this one might just be because I work in the business capital of Europe, in the capital city of France, but I have definitely noticed more racial diversity in France than there was in Spain. Having light-ish hair, light eyes and even lighter skin, in Spain I was easily picked-out as a foreigner, and was often spoken to in English first, and then in Spanish when I replied to them in Spanish. I was called blonde (I’m far from it!) in Spain, and that goes to show how different I looked from the Spanish people! But the funny thing is that I am not actually all that different-looking from Spanish people, and I am a fellow European. There wasn’t much diversity in Sevilla (there may possibly have been more in Madrid, as the capital city, but I don’t remember), but there is an almost overwhelming amount of diversity here in Paris. It might just be because it is Paris that I am living in, but I hear so many different languages being spoken every day, and there are people of all races and origins on the Metro at all times, as well as Metro announcements made in up to five different languages. (At La Défense, the “beware of pickpockets” spiel on the Metro is made in English, French, Spanish, Japanese and Chinese.)


This is a difference that I only noticed once I started work. When I sat down at my computer on the first day (or the first day I was actually able to use it) I started typing, only to realise that my Qs were coming out at As, my Ms were coming out as commas and all my numbers were coming out as symbols! It’s still a little frustrating at times, but I am definitely getting used to it (as annoying as it is!) and am noticing that it is now harder to type on my QWERTY keyboard at home than it is to type on my AZERTY at work. Good for work, but bad for my blog! If you notice any strange spelling errors, I apologise… blame it on the AZERTY!

4. Timings

In Spain, whether I was in Sevilla, Granada, Salamanca or Madrid, I knew that lunch would be around 2pm/3pm, merienda between 6pm and 7pm, and dinner at 10pm or so. This was the same for everyone whether they work or study, so this wasn’t just me being lazy! Being in France, I realise it’s a little more like England in that we eat lunch at 12pm and dinner around 7pm. This is much more normal for me, though I really quite enjoyed the Spanish way of timing their meals. The timings here in France also work a lot better for me with my work. We have a 2 hour break for lunch and eat a big cooked meal, and by the time I get home I know I’m going to be too tired to stay awake to eat at 10pm. It’s a relatively small change compared to others, but it’s one that I have noticed and so thought to put it in this list.

5. Courtesy

This is, in my opinion, a quite substantial difference between France and Spain. When I first moved to Spain, I was saying por favor, gracias and lo siento/perdón (please, thank you and sorry) an awful lot – the amount that I would say it normally in England, and I would get some funny looks sometimes. I also noticed that the Spanish people didn’t say please, thank you and sorry as much as us English do. At first it annoyed me, but I soon learned that it wasn’t because they were being impolite, just that there is a mutual understanding that you don’t need to say them all the time. Here in France I’ve found that the level of courtesy is in between that of the Spanish and that of the English. They say sorry and thank you a little bit more than the Spanish, but still don’t say please as often as we do in England. There is, however, one aspect in which I find the French more polite than us English people (therefore definitely more polite than the Spanish), and that is that when they exit a lift at work they wish everyone in the lift a bonne journée (good day) or a bon apres-midi (good afternoon), depending on the time of day. Maybe we just don’t do this because speaking in a lift is everything but illegal in England…

And there we go! My list of the five biggest differences between Spain and France that I have noticed so far. In some points I have drawn comparisons with how it is in England too, so it’s almost a Spain vs. France vs. England list, but I find it interesting to also compare them both with my home country, especially when sometimes the countries don’t seem all that different.

What differences have you noticed between your home country and the country you live in now? Post a comment below, send me a tweet, or catch me on Facebook!


10 responses to “France vs. Spain: The 5 Biggest Differences I Have Noticed (So Far!)”

  1. cédric says:

    – a population very diverse yes, and sometimes french people are hard to find heh : most of my friends here are…. italians ! however not many spanish people to be seen here, btw if you ever find a good spanish restaurant in the area, tell me !
    – “Dinner at 7pm” in Paris… woooooot ?? Unless you are retired and approaching 70 yo, i can’t imagine eating at 7 pm, especially when living in paris “intramuros”… i’d say it starts more from 8:30 pm and even later as its usually ” l’heure de l’apéro” ;).
    – “speaking in a lift is everything but illegal in England” : double wooooot ?? why on earth is it illegal ? Besides that you are totally right about the weird systematic courtesy here with the i/o of the lift…

    • hlou14 says:

      I will definitely be searching for a good Spanish place so if I find somewhere I will let you know!
      Haha 😛 maybe 7pm is a bit of an exaggeration, but it is definitely much earlier than in Spain!!
      It’s everything BUT illegal, meaning it is not illegal but it is highly frowned upon! Don’t worry, haha! 😛

  2. This was really interesting to read! Since living in America I’ve noticed the classics like big portion sizes, talking loudly etc. But something that really struck me as different is how willing most Americans are to strike up conversation whether you’re in a lift, in line for the bathroom, whatever. Some of the people I’ve met will have known me all of thirty seconds and will be chatting to me like they’ve known me for years. It’s a really nice difference!

    Also, I’ve noticed that if you say thank you in the UK, the reply is usually ‘no worries’, ‘that’s ok’, ‘anytime’. From what I can remember, people don’t say ‘you’re welcome’ very often. Whereas here that is the standard reply and at first it felt really direct, maybe because the word ‘you’ is in there? I don’t really know. Or I’ve heard people say ‘you’re welcome’ in the UK in a sarcastic way because people didn’t thank them. So at first I thought people were doing that to me but nope, they were just replying to my thanks!

    There are more but those are two I experience pretty much daily. I’d like to see a post comparing living abroad as a student versus living abroad as a worker. I hope you’re having a good weekend!

    • hlou14 says:

      Ahh how interesting! Yeah I get what you mean about saying you’re welcome. I feel like we don’t say you’re welcome in England because it could sound kind of big-headed (for lack of a better word), whereas saying “no problem” or “no worries” is a little more humble. That’s why I say it, anyway!
      Ooh that’s a good idea! I’ll write that down and will have to do it sometime soon! Thanks. 🙂

  3. Very interesting! I’m American and I lived in Spain for two years. I recently moved to France and I agree with what you wrote!!

    • hannahinternational says:

      Haha thanks! I’m glad someone else see it! Where did you live in Spain/do you live in France?

  4. jensen says:

    i found spanish people more open minded than french people, they smile and live happily, but french people make face and sad 24h/24h i didn’t understood why ! that’s why i am living now in Madrid 🙂

    • hannahinternational says:

      I agree! Especially in Paris, the French are more closed off than the Spanish. But get to know them and they will be wonderful to you!
      It’s so cool you’re living in Madrid. How do you find it?!

  5. The French particularly in the Med regions are, selfish, rigid, depressed, arrogant and egoistic whereas at least in Catalonia the people are happy, broad minded and charitable. They also have a tradition of anarchy that allows a feeling of liberty and collective action.

  6. kate says:

    they are so different

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.