Culture shock is a regular part of venturing to a new country. A big part of this will be the food they eat and the overall dining experience. Coming from the United States to France has introduced a whole new set of norms to live by. It’s exciting and refreshing, but certainly quite different for an American like myself. As a chocolate lover, the best part was finding out from my host family that chocolate is commonly served for breakfast. I was also shown the proper etiquette while eating. For instance, the French will keep both hands visible on the table instead of keeping one in their lap. Foods such as pizza and hamburgers are eaten with forks and knives rather than with your hands.
And then there’s coming to cafés. Unless it’s pouring rain, freezing cold or sizzling hot outside, Parisiens will most likely be sitting outside enjoying the scenery of the city. Cafés are always within walking distance from wherever you may be, and they always have plenty of outside seating. After choosing a spot to eat, you simply say “Bonjour!” and take your seat, and for the most part the service is the same as in the States. One difference, however, is that the waiters will typically expect the guests to stay for a while, as the French like to take their times and savor their meals. For this reason, be sure you ask for the bill when you’re ready by saying “L’addition, s’il vous plaît!”, as they won’t typically bring it to you right away.
Dinner is a very social time for the French. It usually lasts hours and doesn’t even begin until 8 or 9 pm. Again, no one is ever in a rush–we wait until everyone has their plate and don’t leave the table until everyone has finished. And of course, you can expect a delicious dessert after the main course! Speaking of dessert, I highly recommend seeking out Amorino: an Italian gelato shop that forms roses out of the gelato. Delicious and beautiful! But even if you decide not to track one down, you’ll likely find plenty of other wonderful desserts all throughout the city!
Paris is known for their incredible food, and I can certainly attest to this. If you decide to venture here, you’ll see for yourself, and you’ll get to feel like a true Parisien when picking up all the unique habits of how they dine. Bon Apétit!
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