Chez-nous, c’est comme ça!
I’ve been living in France for a couple of years and so I consider myself well integrated in my adopted country. However, as a foreigner in France, there are bound to be some practices which are not the norm to me. So on this blog post series of ‘chez-nous chest comme ça’ perhaps best translated as ‘at ours it’s like that’, I’d love to share my piece of the pie on what I have encountered living here. Naturally, I do not mean any harm but, I’m merely highlighting my observations, which at times can be funny, shocking, somewhat annoying or just taken as oh, it’s France, c’est comme ça!
Let’s kick off the series with the meal times topic. It was one of the most striking things that I noticed as I was getting settled in my new life in France.
Adhering to meal times is so important here. No self respecting French would eat outside mealtimes. Naturally, the restaurants also accommodate this window, normally between 12:00pm and 14:00pm for lunch and anything from 19:00pm for dinner.
You’ll also find some businesses closed during lunchtime. It’s common to find a scribbled note on a shop window stating closed for lunch. Ok, this I accept as it’s a small business. But I was not amused once when I went to collect my car from a garage and was simply turned away as it was 12:05pm. When they called me earlier to inform me that I should go fetch the car, they did not think to tell me about the lunchtime closure, perhaps for them it’s the most natural thing. They were even so kind as to give me some tips about where I should go for some great lunch! I had to linger around for two hours. Don’t say you didn’t know.
Just to add to the repertoire, we randomnly met a group of fellow hikers in the Pyrenees and decided to join their group. We did everything harmoniously until 12pm. All of a sudden, the group leader announced that, ‘It’s time, we must find a spot for lunch’. As we left our group behind since we were not ready to eat yet, we passed so many other French hikers eating their lunch. It’s just funny as it’s almost Swiss-Clock precision when it comes to meal times.
Food is a pleasurable experience. The French make it their business to enjoy food and take their time in devouring it. Typically, when invited out to enjoy a feast at your dearest French friends chez-aux, expect a six course meal. They start with Apéros, where you have champagne and nibbles – served on a coffee table. Then it’s time to move to the table, following the host’s orders; à table! Upon which, they will proceed to serve starters, followed by main dish, cheese, dessert & coffee and to finish off, some after dinner drinks – in the name of digestion of course! I hosted one such event when I moved to France. We started from 8pm till 1am. Glad I survived it.
As we are talking about food, it’s worth mentioning that the French are super keen on food quality. Goodness forbid, it shall not be industrial nor mass quantity produced. One must seek to eat foods which are locally grown, organically preferably and of course use the freshest ingredients ever to conjure up a meal. Last but not least, when you serve food, one must explain each ingredient used in the meal. I’m serious as a heart attack here!
A true story..
My brother who lives in the US flew in to attend our wedding last year. A seasoned traveller, he was more than prepared to face the immigration officers upon arrival at CDG. He presented the usual paperwork proving financial means, accommodation and the wedding invitation. My brother stood there waiting for the interrogation to begin. He waited. He waited. And he waited. The immigration officers ushered to each other to come take a look at the card, which contained the venue details of course, but my brother had also left the food menu inside. They studied the menu for a good while, exchanging notes and nodding their heads. My brother was getting so hot and bothered at this stage. So the officers finally handed everything back to him and said, “Welcome to France. You’ll enjoy the wedding. The food is going to be great!” Of course Paul walked away relieved but quite perplexed at the same time. Only in France!
Rounding up, one of the best tips that I got from the French is that, if you want to eat in a restaurant, choose one that offers the least amount of food choices on the menu. I find this quite logical actually. No chef would be able to pull off 40 different dishes from scratch, even if you had the speed of Usain Bolt and the efficiency of the Germans. A cluttered menu resonates with frozen microwavable foods.
Have you come across my experiences in France?
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