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19 Things About French Supermarkets That Are Low-Key Fascinating

The more you know!

Hey there! I'm Marie. I'm French, but until last year I lived in the US. When I finally moved back home after seven years abroad, I realized how strange some of the stuff in our supermarkets might look to Americans. Here are a few examples.

1. French milk isn't refrigerated and has a shelf life of several months.

Marie Telling / BuzzFeed

That's because French milk is pasteurized at an ultrahigh temperature. Once you open a bottle, it'll only last a short time before it turns bad — but it's still useful if you want to stockpile milk for a few weeks. (And if you really want fresh milk, you can always find some in the refrigerated aisle.)

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2. Eggs aren't refrigerated, either.

Marie Telling / BuzzFeed

The first time I shopped in a French supermarket after I moved back from the US, I spent a good 10 minutes looking for eggs in the refrigerated aisle before remembering that we don't actually store our eggs there. That's because European eggs are processed differently from American ones.

To fight salmonella, the US washes its eggs — a process that also removes a thin cuticle coating on the egg. In France and other European countries, chickens are vaccinated against salmonella instead. That way, the eggs keep their coating and don't need to be refrigerated.

3. One of the biggest brands of sugar is called "Daddy."

Instagram: @elbgoettin

Not sure how many French people are in on the joke, though.

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4. There's an "American food" aisle — and its centerpiece is usually Marshmallow Fluff.

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Other popular staples of the American food corner are crunchy and smooth peanut butter (often Skippy, don't ask me why), pancake mix, pancake syrup, Pop-Tarts, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and French's Classic Yellow Mustard.

5. White bread is often branded as "American" too.

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It's also called "pain de mie" ("crumb bread"), and it's a pretty popular breakfast option. (Although it'll obviously never dethrone baguettes and sourdough loaves in our bread-loving hearts.)

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6. You can also buy crustless white bread.

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A true godsend for every parent who's had to cut the crust off of EVERY SINGLE slice. Everyone knows that white bread's crust is a sham anyway.

7. Unfortunately, you'll also find premade, prepackaged pancakes (???) in the breakfast aisle.

Marie Telling / BuzzFeed

I'm not proud of this. This is an insult to both pancakes and the whole concept of breakfast. American readers might take comfort in the "Canadian breakfast" branding, though. (Apologies to Canada: You don't deserve this.)

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8. This whole section of the snack aisle is dedicated to different types of madeleines.

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Madeleines are small cakes that are apparently so popular, they deserve special treatment. What can I say? We love our cookies and cakes.

9. You need a coin to unlock the shopping carts.

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This may seem like a huge pain, but — as Aldi shoppers know — it's actually pretty smart. You need to insert a coin (or a plastic token) to unlock the carts, but you get it back once you lock it again at the end. This forces everyone to actually return their cart after they're done unloading their groceries. Which means no more carts lying around the parking lot!

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10. As you know, we love our cheeses. So much so that there's usually a huge cheesemonger stand in every big supermarket...

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It's filled with famous cheeses from France, Swiss, England, and Italy (among others), along with lots of local cheeses, depending on the part of France you're in.

11. ...in addition to a full aisle of packaged cheeses.

Marie Telling / BuzzFeed

If there's one idea we stand by, it's that you can never have too many cheeses.

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12. Let's head to the dessert aisle — another big passion of ours! There, you'll find a whole section exclusively dedicated to compotes.

Marie Telling / BuzzFeed

French people have had a long-standing love affair with compotes. In any supermarket, you'll be able to buy anything from the classic apple and pear compotes to fan favorite rhubarb-strawberry compote, to more original flavors like chestnut, mango-peach, and white nectarine–jasmine flower.

13. There's also a TON of individually packaged desserts.

Marie Telling / BuzzFeed

Chocolate mousse, chocolate molten lava cakes, salted caramel custards, apple tarte Tatin, black forest cake, you name it. Dessert is key.

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14. There's obviously an entire aisle dedicated to chocolate.

Instagram: @aapfamilie

As there should be.

15. You can buy alcohol in supermarkets.

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You'll find everything from beer and wine to whiskey, cognac, vodka, and hard liquor. And in my experience, unless you look 12, you probably won't get carded at checkout.

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16. And many supermarkets have a selection of very fancy and VERY expensive wines.

Marie Telling / BuzzFeed

One of the best things about France is that you can find really good wine for $10–$12. But if you want to splurge and taste some of the greatest wines out there, you'll find great (but limited) selections in many supermarkets — including, in some cases, collectible bottles that are worth hundreds of dollars.

17. You have to bag your groceries yourself.

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Stare and wait all you want — no one will help you.

18. We also have trashy tastes in junk food!

Marie Telling / BuzzFeed

These are ham and cheese chips, and they are delicious.

19. And although peanut butter is weirdly unfamiliar to most French people, we DO love peanut-flavored chips.

Marie Telling / BuzzFeed

I swear, these are really good.

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