Show Notes for Episode 10: Store Hours and Credit Cards in France

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1:30′ The general rule in France is that stores are open 10am to 7pm. The small stores in small cities and villages also close for lunch, generally 12:30 until 2pm. But the bigger the store and the bigger the city the less likely it is to close at lunch.

3:15′ Small bakery hours are often 7am until 1pm (or until they run out of bread!) and 4pm until 8pm. Things are different in Paris and other large cities, but don’t be surprised to find mom and pop bakeries following what you’ll think are “strange hours”.

4:00′ The lunch hour is slowly getting shorter and shorter in France.

4:30′ With few exceptions everything is closed on Sundays, that is still true most places.

6:00′ If you arrive in Paris on a Sunday morning, you will only find very small grocery stores open. But more and more we’re more and more “Carrefour Express” stores open on Sunday morning, but that will not help American tourists arriving in Paris mid-morning on a Sunday.

9:00′ How labor laws and French culture make it difficult for stores to open on Sundays. French people want to be home with their kids on Sundays.

10:30′ In the Latin Quarter lots of things are open on Sundays, including clothes stores, but bookstores are closed usually. Souvenir stores are open all day on Sunday in Paris and probably in most cities.

11:15′ If you run out of something on a Sunday you have to wait until Monday generally. This is why everything is so crowded on Saturdays.

12:30′ So stores open 10 until 7, department stores and large supermarkets can stay open later than that, but not all of them.

13:15′ French people are very family oriented, they want to spend time with them. Do not take it for granted that stores will be open with you need something. You need to plan things out better.

14:15′ Pharmacies in France. There are designated pharmacies that open on Sundays (on a rotation) but most are closed on Sundays. You know if a pharmacy is open or not because the green cross outside of the pharmacy is lit if it’s open. How you find a pharmacy in France.

15:30′ What you can find in a pharmacy in France. It’s not a Walgreen or Walter Reed! Even aspirin and tylenol are behind the counter in some pharmacies. It’s slowly changing.

17:00′ For blisters, sores, sinus pain, you need to go to a pharmacy in France (grocery stores do not have pharmacies inside!), sun screen, creams. French pharmacists are used to do health triage. If you have a sore or a nasty blister, show it to the pharmacist, they’ll tell you if you need to see a doctor.

19:00′ What you cannot get at a pharmacy in France. No greeting cards, no candy, very little in the way of feminine hygiene products. Beauty products are very expensive at the pharmacy, they’re supposed to be higher grade, but it’s pricey.

20:30′ French pharmacies have things like toothpaste and toothbrushes or shampoo, but they’ll sell the high-end more expensive “medicated” kinds. For regular hygiene products go to a grocery store.

21:15′ A French pharmacy will not dispense medications without a prescription, don’t even try. If you’re in a pickle they may give you something to tie you over until you can see a doctor, but no more.

23:30′ Banks in France are open 9-5 with a half-day closed and open on Saturday morning. ATMs are always available.

24:45′ Don’t show up with a lot of cash, use ATMs for small withdrawals. Call your US bank and ask them what French bank they’re affiliated with so you can avoid fees. You must use a card with a 4 digit pin.

26:00′ Do not bring traveler’s checks, they’re of no use any more.

27:00′ French cards have a chip in them and all have a 4 digit pin, you don’t sign with a French card, you enter your pin. American cards often don’t have a pin, you just sign. Some French store attendants will not know what to do with your swipe card and they can’t understand why you don’t have a pin number.

28:00′ How to get gas if you don’t have a credit card with a chip and pin number? Not sure, Annie will try it and report. [I’ve since tried it: you CANNOT buy gas with a no-pin credit card in France. You will have to find a gas station with an attendant and ask if they’ll take your swipe and sign card. Same with a toll, they won’t take American cards without a pin number, you have to find a toll booth attendant, also getting hard to find.]

29:00′ Some stores and administrative services will not let you in the last 15 minutes of regular hours. They serve people already inside and do not let anybody new in.

30:00′ Major supermarkets have “vigiles” or private security. They don’t use a lot of video surveillance, but they have people who walk around looking for theft. Those security guards can be intimidating and look like bouncers.

31:30′ If you’re entering a store with previous purchases in France you have to stop at the security desk at the entrance and they’ll put stickers or bag your purchases in another bag to make sure you don’t add anything to those. Some places are going to ask you to open your bags.

34:00′ No bathrooms usually in grocery stores. A mall will, but not a grocery store. A department store will usually also have bathrooms.

36:00′ You can leave us a voice mail and we’ll play it on the show! [Addendum: this has changed, to leave a voice mail, please call 1-801-806-1015]

Thank you, talk to you next week!

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France How To