We started talking about the prices of stamps to various destinations, and it turned out it was cheaper for me to mail letters from Minnesota to the UK than from France to the UK. It was also cheaper for me to mail letters from the US to France, than from France to France! France is the size of Texas people - how is that even possible?
Oh wait, that's right, it's because La Poste has to fund all of the benefits their employees get. And conversely, the United States Postal Service is not allowed to make a profit.
It just so happens that the day of our visit was also the day the USPS announced that they were going to close hundreds of post offices nation-wide, eliminate Saturday deliveries and get rid of next-day shipping. They "can't" raise prices because of the effect it would have nation-wide on deliveries and thus increased costs to the consumer (a big no-no during difficult economic times), so they are forced to cut services instead.
Apparently several people had come in to complain, so they had put up a sign talking about how first-class postal rates vary around the world:
The weights allowed for a first class letter also differed. I wanted to include some pictures in some of the envelopes, and in the US ones, we could add in several photos and not go over the weight. However in France, if we put more than the card + one picture, it required an additional stamp. So my advice to all the complainers in the US is to sit down & stop your whingeing - compared to the rest of the world, we've got it quite good. It's still reasonable to mail a letter cross-country, you rarely have to worry about letters getting lost in the mail (*ahem* La Poste!!) and most postmen still make an effort to deliver your packages.