Category Archives: AIT Guidebook

Chapters of the AIT Guidebook

12: Postal System

There are over 25 PTT (Post Offices) located in greater Toulouse; the main Poste is at 9 rue Lafayette, near Place Capitole. Hours of operation are usually 08:00-12:00 and 14:00-18:00 weekdays, and until noon on Saturdays; check with your local PTT to confirm its hours of operation. The main post office and other centres de tri (sorting centers), such as St-Michel, stay open during lunch hours (journée continue). Post offices sell telephone cards, and have pay phones, a Minitel (See Chapter 7, “Telephone Service”) and photocopiers available for public use. Most post offices have coin-operated machines for buying stamps and weighing packages, some have a fax machine. The French postal system also provides banking services, so the wait can be long. Continue reading 12: Postal System

13: Medical & Healthcare


Medical care throughout France is very good and quite inexpensive. The World Health Organization, in its year 2000 survey, classed France as first amongst more than 150 countries. The major criteria in the survey was not just state-of-the-art technology but, more so, easy access. This means principally the extent of coverage both geographically and insurance-wise. In fact, in means also the lower cost of consulting a GP, which is often a barrier to many people. Consulting your GP is key to Preventive Medicine and a tenet of French health care; Remedial Medicine being far more expensive. Continue reading 13: Medical & Healthcare

15: Schools & Education


The French educational system has the reputation of being one of the most thorough in the world. If you are a resident paying French taxes, you can take advantage of the French educational system. Public education is free at the primary and secondary levels. Instruction is compulsory from age six to sixteen. Universities are public and tuition is nominal. The majority of schools (85%) are écoles publiques (public schools). Ecoles privées (private schools), many of them run by the Catholic Church, are partially subsidized. Continue reading 15: Schools & Education

16: University & Adult Learning


There are many universities throughout France where a three-year course (license) is equivalent to the American Bachelor of Arts/Science degree. There are also 2-year (DEUG) and 4-year (maîtrise) diplomas. Entrance requirements are particular to each establishment, often by examination, either directly or after the Bac or, often, after one or many years of further study. Some establishments and careers require French nationality that may not necessarily be readily obtainable. This may limit the choice of study and career. It is important to verify the quality and official value of diplomas offered. Costs and dates of enrollment can vary tremendously. Les Grandes Écoles are the most prestigious higher education institutions. Most specialize in engineering, business, or political science. Continue reading 16: University & Adult Learning

17: Pets


Traveling with pets is less of a problem than most people think. Bringing your pet to France is relatively painless, if you follow the general guidelines for transferring a pet from one country to another. Some countries have pet travel services that will do all the paperwork and transferring for you. This service would transport your pet (including the picking up of the pet from a kennel in the departure county) if you wish to settle-in before your pet arrives. For those who will make arrangements themselves, the following guidelines should help. Continue reading 17: Pets

18: Shopping & Household


Shopping in France can be interesting, time consuming and from time to time baffling. While there are definite similarities to shopping in any other country, there are still differences that you need to be aware of upon your arrival in France. Opening hours and the kinds of shops you’ll be going to may differ from those you are used to. Check in advance as there will be variances. In most small villages, shops are open Tuesday through Saturday all day from 8:00 or 8:30 until 19:00 or 19:30 EXCEPT during lunch time: 12:30 – 14:00 or 15:00 or even 16:00. They may open fifteen to twenty minutes after the hour posted. Many village food-related shops like Casino (as opposed to those in the city) are open Sunday morning. There is a definite relationship between being open on Sunday morning and being closed on Mondays. Bakeries have all sorts of hours. Most post offices will close for lunch. Major supermarkets such as Leclerc and Carrefour, gas stations and stores in downtown Toulouse stay open all day. Continue reading 18: Shopping & Household

19: Food & Dining

Don’t despair, you’ll still be able to make your favorite recipes from home while in France. You’ll even find that, before long, you’ll be adding more and more French recipes to your repertoire. However, you DO need to become familiar with European weights and measures and with substitute ingredients before you try to whip up Grandma’s recipe for chocolate chip cookies or that new chili con carne recipe a friend just gave you. You just can’t go on asking your friends to send you sour cream, Velveeta, and chocolate chips forever!  You may have difficulties with some things (cuts of meat, baking ingredients) but be patient and experiment.  Part of the experience is seeing how close you can come to making your special recipe.  The experiment is half the fun! Continue reading 19: Food & Dining

20: Gifts

In most places of the world, the foreigner who brings or sends an appropriate gift is always appreciated. However, French custom, etiquette, and tradition all play important parts in the choice of a gift, its value, and the manner in which the gift is given. Before giving a gift to a French person, ask someone, (preferably a French person), if your gift, and the giving thereof, is appropriate for the situation. The following list is a guideline for different gift-giving situations: birthdays, marriages, funerals, dinner parties and other events in France. Continue reading 20: Gifts