I'm an American who visited Paris for the first time. Here are 8 things I think France does better than the US.

parking spots airport
Parking spots at airports are just one of a few innovations that France has to make life more convenient.Kirsten Acuna/Insider
  • I visited Paris for the first time in July and was surprised by some thoughtful innovations.

  • There seemed to be a large emphasis on safety and making life less stressful in France.

  • The US should have parking spots at airport drop-offs, travelators, and train station safeguards.

Escalators that don't require you to step onto them seemed more accessible to the elderly or those carrying large bags.

travelator in France
This travelator seems like a thoughtful addition to make it easier for all customers to navigate.Kirsten Acuna/Insider

I came across this escalator at a mall (Centre Commercial Val d'Europe) in Chessy, France, and did a full-on stop because I couldn't believe that escalators (or travelators as they're sometimes called) like these aren't commonplace in American malls.

I prefer these to the moving walkways I'm accustomed to seeing in US airports. Sure, those can help you move slightly faster in an airport, but I love the idea of flat escalators on a slight incline in malls to help families with strollers, people trying to move large purchases, and to aid others who may have a tough time stepping onto a regular escalator.

Preventative safeguards in train stations seem like a no-brainer.

protective shields in subway station in France
These should be mandatory in major cities in the United States.Kirsten Acuna/Insider

I was stunned to find wall-to-wall protective shields in the underground French subways that only parted ways once the doors to a train opened.

This should be a mandatory innovation in the US. According to the New York Post, since the pandemic, track intrusions jumped 20% in 2021 and suicide attempts on the subway rose 50% in the first three months of the year when compared to the previous year.

Parking spots at the airport helped alleviate traffic and made arriving and departing less stressful.

parking spots at airport
I was stunned that Paris' CDG airport eradicated all of the unnecessary stress of heading to a major airport.Kirsten Acuna/Insider

Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) rid of the biggest hassle that you'll face when trying to pick up or drop off someone at any major airport in New York City or Los Angeles by adding a series of well-placed parking spots.

The Air France terminal I was dropped off at offered up to 10 minutes of free parking for offloading. No one was rushing to hop out of a car and get their luggage because of double-parked cars honking. You could take your time to make sure you had everything while still being able to say a proper farewell or hello.

France is fine with people drinking in public as long as they're doing so responsibly.

drinking in public in France
A lot of people bring alcohol to sit in front of the Eiffel Tower at the end of the day.Kirsten Acuna/Insider

While going on evening runs, I was surprised to see how many people brought bottles of wine and blankets to hang out along the Seine river and unwind at the end of the day.

When I visited the Eiffel Tower to sit and read, I was even more shocked that people were coming up to me offering wine and beer in buckets for sale.

The majority of the US has open-container laws which prohibit the consumption of alcohol in public spaces. It was pretty cool to see that France is laid back enough to let people drink anywhere.

It's common for bathrooms in France to have bidets, something I can't recommend enough to everyone.

A bidet in France.
A bidet in France.Kirsten Acuna/Insider

I was really excited when one of my hotels in Paris had a proper bidet right next to the toilet.

I've had a bidet attachment on my toilet for a little over a year now and it's tough to imagine life without it.

I was also impressed that two of the three places I stayed at offered hygiene bags in the bathrooms, something I've rarely encountered in the United States. Typically, public bathrooms in the US are only stocked with tiny trash cans to dispose of menstrual products.

Because of the bidets, France appears to be more conscious of toilet paper consumption.

public toilet paper dispenser France
This is what you get when you pull down on a public toilet-paper dispenser in France.Kirsten Acuna/Insider

If you're coming from the US, you may be surprised the first time you enter a public restroom and reach for a wad of toilet paper. You won't be able to unroll a bunch onto your hand. Instead, you'll likely pull down a napkin-sized piece.

It may seem too small if you're used to using a lot of toilet paper, but I really appreciated France's subtle emphasis on making people consciously aware of how much paper they may be wasting.

Offering toilet paper in small increments made me more aware of how much paper I thought I needed versus how much I actually did.

According to a study by bathroom supplier QS supplies, published in January 2022, someone from France would use over 335,000 miles worth of toilet paper in their lifetime while a person in the US would use over 633,000 miles of toilet paper.

McDonald's offers potato wedges that are far superior to regular fries.

McDonald's in France
There's no point in ordering normal fries when you can have these deluxe potatoes.Kirsten Acuna/Insider

In France, you can order "deluxe potatoes" instead of regular fries. They're way better than regular McDonald's fries.

They really place importance on making the most of their meal times.

eating in France
France made me reevaluate my work-life balance when it comes to enjoying meals. This was from a day when I ate inside Disneyland Paris' Super Spur Steakhouse.Kirsten Acuna/Insider

The first few days I was in France, I was visiting Disneyland Paris for a work trip. I was really confused when we had three hours blocked off for dinner one evening.

I thought someone was going to speak, but it turned out that time was just meant for people to chat, network, and get to know one another.

I quickly learned that wasn't a one-time thing. I noticed a lot of time and care was put into every meal experience, from the amount of time we spent eating to the atmosphere of the locations.

A few days into the trip, a Parisian told me it's not uncommon for coworkers to go out to lunch every day for at least an hour to brainstorm and enjoy each other's company. I was told that if I go to a restaurant, they'll let me sit there for as long as I want until I ask for the check.

In the US, I'm so used to taking a quick 30-minute lunch break or reconfiguring my dining schedule to accommodate work events. I never realized I'm not appreciating the things I have around me enough. I'm just running quickly from one thing to the next without allowing myself to also absorb it.

The French dining experience was a bit of a wake-up call, encouraging me to slow down a bit while also inspiring me to be more present during meals and my time with others.

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