Around France

Expat Tips: Nothing Is Easy About Moving To France

Nothing’s easy about moving to France.

A new Barefoot Blogger friend is moving to Uzès and wants some expat tips for beds. Like me, she’s tossing away most of her worldly possessions in the US and starting all over in France.

There are a few things I learned during my first year here that seem to be helpful to my friend. Things that were real challenges.

Like bedding.

Bedding is something I just couldn’t seem to understand. When I went shopping in France,  first, there was choosing a mattress. There are more configurations and iterations that you want to know. Just when I got that figured out, there were the sheets, pillows, and other confusions.


Yes, I know I’m picky. Finding the right-sized linen for a bed seemed to be necessary. I should have considered that when I purchased the two 80x200cm beds instead of 90×190 for the guest room. Who knew there were no linens to fit. The guy who sold them to me certainly did not think I’d have these problems. Or maybe he did. I couldn’t understand everything he was telling me in French.

Fitted sheet: Housse  

The Conforama store in Nimes, where I shopped, had a bedding section that answered my prayers. Good thing because the Castorama store was a bust. (“Rama” is a popular store name, apparently) Conforama had fitted sheets for 80x200cm beds! See for yourself. The package says: 2 x 80×200.

expat tips for bedding

There was even an illustration of two beds. Voila! I was beginning to figure it out. Since the beds are meant to be pulled together to make a queen-sized bed, they must sell the sheets together.

I could hardly wait to get home to make up the beds. Not so fast. The fitted sheets were sewn together in a section down the middle to fit the queen bed! Now what did I do? I cut the housse in half! So what if there are raw edges. My guests would never know!

Duvet: Couette Never learned French and never owned a duvet. Two pitfalls for living in France.

Duvets have never been my thing. To me, there’s something untidy about a bed that’s not tightly made. (Reexpat tipsmember, my mother was a nurse.) Therefore, the joy of stuffing a duvet into its cover is an art I never mastered –like learning to speak French. Here duvets are the norm. Top sheets are not. So to make up a bed properly in France, I had to convert.

Duvet cover: Housse de couette. Like other bed linens, the couette and the housse de couette come in a gazillion sizes and permutations. Amazingly, I chose the correct size for the two guest room beds. Slipping the couette into the housse de couette was a breeze. Mainly because there’s a tiny slit on each side of the housee de couette. Right at the top. It allows you to stick your hand in to grab the end of the couette. Perhaps the American version of Duvets has a similar design. If not, the French have something on us.

Oreiller vs. Traversin.  
OK. Another head-scratcher. An “oreiller” is an ordinary pillow. Easy enough, even though they are all shapes and sizes. It’s an odd-shapeexpat tipsd “pillow” named “traversin” that’s a puzzlement.

I’ve seen similar in the States, but they’re everywhere here. The most common size is the big one shown in this picture. The smaller ones I bought from the same man that sold me the beds. Maybe when he told me I wouldn’t find sheets for the 80cm beds, he also mentioned that I wouldn’t find pillowcases for a small-sized traversin.

You can decorate the large one nicely with ribbons and bows on the ends.

You hide the smaller ones under a stack of pillows so the edges don’t show. Yes, I cut a big traversin pillow cover in half to make two small-sized pillow covers.

If you’re considering moving to France, I hope these photos and descriptions of bedding you might encounter are helpful. If you want to know a few obscure but essential words in French, I hope you’re pleased. For others who just like to hear about the trials of an American expat in France who speaks no French, you see why nothing’s easy!

Expat tips: It’s so worth it!  

Saint Etienne

expat tips

Categories: Around France, Blog

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8 replies »

  1. Thank you so much for this post! Just as I am tossing out (editing) sheets and towels from my linen closet, there is one question. Do they sell beds near Uzes that come in sizes that will fit my American beds. I also want to haved shipped by bed frames; will their mattresses fit? Many thanks. Hope to get to Uzes by Nov. Thanks so much Mrs. G

    • Oh dear! That is my worst nightmare with moving to France — as you read. So let me try to answer and perhaps another reader will help if I’m wrong.As far as I know, there is no configuration of mattresses that will fit American fitted sheets. I found a mattress I like a lot that fits on a slatted bed frame. It doesn’t sound very comfortable, but it is even though it doesn’t have a boxspring. About towels — I thought I wouldn’t find plush towels, so I took them with me. Wrong. They do have plush towels, including bath, hand towels and washcloths. I haven’t seen any fuzzy bath mats, but there are so many beautiful woven rugs you can use you may not miss the fuzzy ones. Carrefour, MonoPrix and Bricolage in Uzes have selections of linens. The “…rama” stores in Nimes have even more. Check out this post:
      Twin (sm) — (80×190) 32 x 75 inches
      Twin (lg) — (90×200) 35 x 79 inches
      Double (sm)– (120 x 190 cm) 47 x 75 inches.
      Double (lg) — (140 x 190 cm) 55 x 75 inches.
      Queen ——– (160 x 200 cm) 63 x 79 inches.
      King ———- (180 x 200 cm) 79 x 79 inches
      Hope this is somewhat helpful! Again, my worse nightmare!

  2. Deborah this is very interesting and am sure Paula will read carefully. You should be about ready for your trip to London and then back to the USA. Take care and have a great time this holiday season. 2016 will be a great year and we are due in France on the 23rd of May and staying until the middle of October–living life to the fullest and “Doing everything we want to do”

    • I’m in London now then head to the Cotswalds before back to the states for a visit. I can’t wait til we’re neighbor’s in Uzes. It’ll be a fabulous summer. See you in June!

  3. I had sheet and pillow issues when I got here, too. The nice fitted US sheets I had wouldn’t fit the bed, so I had to order them from (which is where I’ve been buying almost everything, since if it doesn’t work, I can return it with the “premium” program [aka “Prime.”])

    I’m very fussy about what kind of pillow I have (as far as firmness), so I ordered two from I kept one and sent the other back (it was too soft).

    I can still use my US top sheets although they are a bit too small for the queen sized bed I have (furnished with the house). I shipped several comforters here so I’m avoid the duvet and it’s cover.

    I’ve also ordered a few things from the UK, including a heated mattress pad (wonderful for warming the bed up on cold nights), and an upright vacuum – which I couldn’t find at all for sale by a French retailer.

    So, I guess you just carry on and learn more French vocabulary!

    • Sounds like you found ways around a lot of the “problems” with bedding. I’ll remember about Amazon when I need something I’m missing. Meanwhile, I’m getting used to duvets and those square pillows!

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