A Little Piece of America in France: Visiting Costco

On my Instagram account, @jeparlefranglais, I often share about the sights I see and the food I eat in France. I love it when my friends and fellow users respond. But can you guess what IG stories I’ve gotten the most responses to? The Château de Chenonceau? The Eiffel Tower? The delicious restaurants in Paris? Nope. It’s Costco! I’ve gotten so many questions about what a French Costco looks like and what products they offer. And when I talked to some of my friends back home in San Francisco that I was thinking of writing a blog post about Costco, they responded excitedly, “Yes! Do it!” So here it is…

Locations of Costco in France

Courtesy of Google Maps, 2022

The first Costco opened up in a small town south of Paris (Villebon-sur-Yvette) in 2017. Although it’s less than 50 miles away from where we live north of Paris, we have to pass Paris to get there, which means lots of traffic. It’s taken us over 2 hours to get home during rush hour! In December 2021, a second Costco opened in the town of Pontault-Combault. Why they’d open another Costco south of Paris is beyond me. 🙄 The only redeeming factor is that, since this Costco is east of Paris, we can bypass some of the crazy traffic. It takes an hour to an hour fifteen to get there, versus an hour and a half to two hours with the other one.

Membership Has Its Benefits…

With the time and energy that it takes to get to Costco, we resisted getting a membership for 5 years. But finally, we gave in. Our friends convinced us that it was worth the effort. Also, we had significantly decreased our travel due to COVID, so going to Costco felt like a little day trip in itself. Without further ado, I present Costco France…

The first thing that told me that we had left French soil for American was when I pulled into this beautiful parking space:

The parking spaces at this Costco are huge!!!! A double line separating cars?!? 🤯 (Note: The Pontault-Combault Costco’s spaces, while not bad, are not this big.) Normally, when you park in a parking lot in France, the spaces are extremely narrow and it’s usually an acrobatic feat to try to get out of the car. But here, I was able to completely open my door without worrying about dinging the neighboring car. Such luxury! (I think the fact that the big parking spaces are one of my favorite things about Costco is telling me that I might have lived here a little too long. 😬 )

Costco in Villebon-sur-Yvette

Walking into the Costco in Villebon-sur-Yvette feels exactly like the Costco in San Francisco. There is a very similar layout. Except that the workers upon entry greet you with a “Bonjour”. The Costco in Pontault-Combault had a very different layout, and I’m not sure if I really like it. There’s a lot of empty, unused space, and it has an awkward layout. In one French newspaper article, the president of Costco France, stated that they need to get a permit to operate in the rest of the space. 🤷🏻‍♀️ They hope they can get this approved soon.

Costco in Pontault-Combault. Lots of empty wasted space.

A Taste of America in France

This is our main reason for coming here. It’s great to find products that are either hard to find in France or much more expensive. For example, to get a bottle of maple syrup in France, you usually have to pay €4-5 for a tiny little bottle. In Costco, you can get a bottle 5 times the size for €11. Here are some other products we’ve seen (and bought!) that remind us of home:

Canned pumpkin is really difficult to find in France. Last year, I had to roast pumpkins and make pumpkin pie from scratch. It turned out pretty well! But buying one from Costco is always easier.
In France, it’s easy to find a tarte aux pommes (an apple tart), but it tastes nothing like a good, old-fashioned apple pie. Although they also call an apple pie “tarte aux pommes” on this label, they add “recette americaine” (American recipe). It tasted pretty close to what we find in the US.

Gateau à la carotte, or carrot cake
Seeing these Costco muffins reminds of the period of time in my childhood where we used to buy these all the time thinking that they were healthy because they had blueberries. 🤦🏻‍♀️

Oh, the famous Costco roast chicken (poulet roti in French). Their roast chicken is smaller, less greasy and less juicy than the one in the US. It’s probably healthier, but part of me does miss the juiciness of the ones in the US.

“American” Products

They also have products that are supposed to be “American”, but I’ve never seen these in the US…

New Yorkers Cookies. Although the label is in English, they’re made in the Netherlands.
Ummm… no.

French Products in Costco

Although our main purpose in going to Costco is to stock up on the American products we miss from the US, it’s also fun to see French products there in bulk.

La Mère Poulard has some of my favorite biscuits. They’re full of buttery deliciousness.
Pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants) with butter that is certified from a special region of France
I wish I could convey how amazing these croissants smelled 🤤

Poilâne is an excellent bakery in Paris, well-known for their sourdough bread.
Have you had these before? Canelés de Bordeaux are small pastries flavored with rum and vanilla. They have a caramelized crust with a soft custard center.
Beef bourguignon that you can take home and warm up
Are these also sold in the US Costco? I don’t remember seeing them. I think this 53 inch teddy bear would likely take up half of the space of a Parisian apartment.
We observed someone actually buying all of these teddy bears on a Costco trip. I wonder what they were buying them for?

And of course since this is France, Costco has to have a lot of cheese, and in massive quantities.

I’m pretty sure this was the size of my head.
So funny to see the Kirkland brand on French cheese.
This is our favorite cheese at Costco – Truffle Cheese! And this being Costco, it comes in a 3-pack.

Costco Wine

What goes with cheese? Wine, of course!

This being France, you can actually taste wine in the store. Along with yummy hor d’oeuvres.
You can also get Napa Valley wine here, too!
Once again, it’s funny to see a Kirkland label on French wine.
If you have €1700 to spare, you can buy a massive bottle of French champagne. Or you can level up for €2,280.
This might be the ultimate gift box for a wine-lover: Le Metre du Vin, or “The Meter of Wine”

Costco Food Court

Just as it is in the US, the Costco Food Court is a fun experience.

I was surprised how empty the food court at the Pontault-Combault Costco was. The Villebon-sur-Yvette Costco always has a line.

You better believe that the first thing I got on my first Costco trip was their famous Costco hot dog. The hot dog was just as good as I remembered, but I was disappointed that the only thing that came with it (beside the drink, of course) was a little sad packet of ketchup. No mustard, no relish. Also, although the soft drinks are self-service like in the US, they aren’t all-you-can-drink. The soft drink machine reads the QR code on your paper cup and will only pour out enough for one serving. From what I’ve heard, for health reasons, it’s actually illegal for a restaurant to allow its customers to drink an unlimited amount of soda.

That was my one and only experience with a Costco hotdog in France, because I discovered…

…Fish n Chips. I must say that this is some of the best fish n chips that I’ve had in France. For only €5(!!), you get two large filets of fried fish on a bed of fries, along with tartar sauce and a lemon. In a way, I’m happy that Costco is so far away – thankfully I’m not eating this every week!

So that’s my French Costco experience in a nutshell! Have you ever visited Costco in another country? What were your favorite products? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time,

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