SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

ECONOMY

Why the tabac is essential to life in France – even if you don’t smoke

A cornerstone of the French culture, the tabac has long been a place for more than just cigarette shopping. Paying bills, fines and even taxes are just some of the services that tobacconists offer.

Why the tabac is essential to life in France - even if you don't smoke
Photo: AFP

France’s tabac (tobacco shops) have long been a place for more than just purchasing cigarettes. Their iconic red sign, found in any French city, town and village, is associated with a place for locals to socialise over a beer or a coffee, or watch the horse racing and have a bet.

With the numbers of smokers steadily falling in France, these non-tobacco related sides of the tabac have become even more important to tabac owners. 

“We are aware that we will sell less and less tobacco in the future. This.. goes hand in hand with our change of identity,” said Gérard Vidal, President of a tobacconists federation in the Occitanie region of southern France.

The government has therefore added new services to the list of errands that can be run in a tabac.

“More than a tobacco shop, tobacconists have become local utility traders,” Vidal told French daily La Dépêche.

So what exactly can you do in a tabac in France? 

Pay your bills

Since 2020, you can pay bills for school fees, cafeteria fees, crèche (nursery) or even the hospital.

This is however only possible IF the bill has a QR code AND says that it is payable auprès d’un buraliste(can be paid to a tobacconist).

If the bill ticks both boxes, you may pay it at the tobacconist whatever the amount if you pay by card. If you pay cash the limit is €300.

Before going you should however verify that your tobacconist offers the paiement de proximité service.

You may find your nearest tobacconist providing these services here (select your département and your commune and you get a list of the different tabacs and a map showing where they are situated).

Some French people like to visit their local tabac to have a beer and watch the TV. Photo: AFP

Pay your taxes

As with bills, this new addition was added in 2020, provided the tabac offer these services and the taxes you are paying are of an amount less than €300.

The taxes included in the system are:

  • the tax audiovisuel (TV licences);
  • taxe d’habitation or taxe foncière (property taxes)
  • income taxes with a QR code on the bill

Pay your fines

As with your bills and taxes, you can also pay fines in a tabac. Again, this is provided that the fine has a QR code and says that it is payable auprès d’un buraliste (can be paid to a tobacconist). It also requires that the tobacconist in question features on the list providing these services (see above).

Buy train tickets

In 2019 the national rail company SNCF made it possible to buy train tickets for the high speed TGV trains and regional TER trains in a tabac.

Buy stamps

For non-smokers, buying stamps is one of the most common reasons to frequent into a tabac. Ask for un timbre, s’il vous plaît (one stamp, please) and stick it on your letter or postcard. If you want a pack of stamps the thing to ask for is un carnet de timbres, s’il vous plaît.

Place a bet

If you like to gamble, the tabac is the place to go. Whether it is to bet on the next horse race via the PMU or get a lotto ticket, you will find it here.

Get postcards

Many tabac sell postcards (and sometimes the cards are nicer than the ones sold in supermarkets and cheaper than those in tourist shops).

Buy more phone credit

If you need to top off your phone minutes you can pop by your nearest tabac to see if they sell phone credit (they usually do).

Make photocopies

A tabac is also a place to make photocopies – if they have one – and the price is usually just a few cents a page.

Get a souvenir

Some tobacconists sell local products and souvenirs, so if you’re on a trip in rural France and looking for something to bring back home, you could pop by the local tabac to see if they have anything interesting.

Snack

Finally, if you’re feeling like a snack, tobacconists sell candy bars – the carambar toffees are a classic here in France – and sometimes even patisséries like croissants and pain aux chocolats

Have a beer or a coffee

Not strictly part of the tabac service, but in many small towns there is a combined tabac/café/bar in the same building, so once you have conducted your business you can sit down and order a drink. 

Member comments

  1. The French Government has recently done its bit by severely reducing the amount of ciggies in Spain. It can be considered another unfriendly gesture to Spain.

  2. Who are you trying to kid? The TABAC is dead.
    Everything you mentioned had been replaced by an app.
    But the French still smoke more than any country in the world!

    1. Actually France at 34.6% is almost exactly in the middle of the 2021 world average of 33.3. Greece, Latvia and Bulgaria are at 38-39 %. Hungary, Austria, Sweden, Germany, Spain, Portugal are at 28-29%. Switzerland, US and Belgium at 25%. Italy, Netherlands and Ireland at 23%. Canada, Denmark and UK 18-19%. It’s still too high of course. As of 2018, 36% of french males and 33% of french females were smokers. Cost and social acceptance are the keys to reduction rates.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

EDUCATION

Fees to class sizes – what you need to know about private schools in France

In many countries, private schools are the preserve of the wealthy elite, but France has a wide network of private schools that are well within the financial reach of ordinary families - James Harrington explains more.

Fees to class sizes - what you need to know about private schools in France

The education system in France has its problems – at the start of the new school year some 4,000 teaching posts were unfilled and the government has launched an ‘emergency plan’ for English language lessons – but there’s no doubting there are wonderful schools and wonderful teachers making every effort to ensure children from aged three to 18 get the education they deserve.

However the country also has a sizeable network of private schools and around 15 percent of French children go to a private school. While some are undoubtedly expensive and elite, others are surprisingly affordable and provide an extra option for parents when deciding on  a school for their children.

Here’s what you need to know; 

Different types

There are two types of private school – sous contrat and hors contrat.

Sous contrat schools, of which there are about 7,500 in France, are part-funded by the state – teachers are paid by the Department of Education, for example – but also charge fees. France’s numerous Catholic schools, or regional language schools are usually sous contrat.

Hors contrat schools – which number about 2,500 – must still meet general education requirements but can choose their teaching methods and have no state funding. Private international schools found in most big cities, such as the American School of Paris, are hors contrat, but still follow mainstream teaching methods.

For comparison, there are around 60,000 state schools in France.

Prices

Yes, there are expensive private schools in France. Sending your child to the exclusive Ecole des Roches Private Boarding School, for example, will set you back more than €12,000 a term – not quite Eton or Winchester-level fees, but still well out of the reach of a large portion of the population. But, like Eton and Winchester, they’re not the norm. 

On average, fees for a day pupil – one who goes home at the end of the school day, rather than one who boards at the school – are in the region of around €2,250 a year. Meals are not included, and are generally charged at a slightly higher daily price than at state schools.

Financial aid, including scholarships, may be available for less well-off families.

READ ALSO French school canteens to cut cheese course as inflation bites

Boarding and hours

A large number of state and private schools offer Monday-Thursday boarding. It is not uncommon for pupils who excel at certain subjects or sports to attend collèges or lycées some distance from home, and board during the week.

Manual widget for ML (class=”ml-manual-widget-container”)

Daily school hours, meanwhile, are broadly similar, with children generally starting their school day at around 8am and finishing soon after 4pm on school days. Collège and lycée pupils also go into school on Wednesday mornings, and some may have classes on a Saturday, too.

Popularity

Smaller class sizes and a reputation for “better” results means that private schools are increasingly popular. The number of French private schools has increased steadily over the last decade, and now 15-20 percent of pupils go to a private establishment of some form. 

On the whole, private schools tend to do better in results league tables – perhaps in part because of the additional investment from parents, but also because class sizes tend to be smaller, which allows for more one-to-one education. Smaller class sizes and more individual attention mean they may also be a better option for children who struggle in big schools.

READ ALSO What kind of school in France is best for my kids?

Qualifications

State schools and sous contrat schools teach to the national curriculum, which leads, in turn, to brevet and baccalaureate qualifications.

In contrast, some hors contrat private schools offer different qualifications, including American High School Diplomas and SATs, British GCSEs and A-Levels, or the international baccalaureate.

Religion

Although many sous contrat schools are Catholic, most readily accept non-Catholic children and are not allowed to indoctrinate the Catholic faith. Hors contrat schools, on the other hand, may include a religious element to their teaching.

SHOW COMMENTS