Photo: Public domain/Wikimedia Commons
It’s well-known that the French often enjoy a glass of wine with their meals, but you might be taken aback the first time you see someone tip it out of their glass into their soup bowl. Don't worry, they're not throwing a tantrum; it's an Occitanian custom still practised by some people in parts of rural southern France, called ‘chabrot’.
Traditionally, you would then drink the wine-soup mixture directly from the bowl in big gulps (the word 'chabrot' comes from a term meaning 'to drink like a goat') but these days it's more common to stick to using a spoon.
2. Eating pets and pests and horses
In the UK, there was outrage when it was discovered that some processed meat sold as beef had in fact come from horses. The French probably didn’t understand what all the fuss was about, and the distinction between animals to eat and animals to keep as pets is less clear, with horse and rabbit both commonly appearing on menus.
The French also tuck into animals which Brits might turn their noses up at, including pigeons and of course snails.
3. Eating all parts of the animal
Most Brits won't be happy about replacing fish and chips with pig intestine and chips. Photo: LWYang/Flickr
The French attitude to meat is ‘waste not, want not’ and many organs or body parts that the French will quite happily eat for lunch would turn the stomach of squeamish foreigners. Every part of a pig from its snout to its trotters can find its way onto your plate, and each region seems to have its own specialty, for example lamb's testicles in Limousin and andouillette (pig's intestine and colon) in Lyon.
4. They love blood
Boudin noir mousse. Photo: Arnold Gatilao/Flickr
You might get a funny look if you ask for a ‘well done’ steak, as the French are happy for their meat to have a bit of blood in it. Or a lot of blood, in fact; it's a key ingredient in several French dishes, including canard à la presse, where duck is cooked in a sauce of its own blood mixed with cognac, lamproie à la bordelaise, where the lamprey fish are bled to death to make the blood and wine sauce, and of course, boudin noir (blood sausage).
5. Eggs on pizza
Photo: Nathan Yergler/Flickr
France and Italy's culinary rivalry has been going for centuries, so the French clearly couldn't resist taking a few liberties with this classic Italian dish. While there are strict rules among chefs in Italy as to what is and isn't allowed on a pizza (many of the best regarded pizzerias will only offer margherita or marinara – which is the same minus the mozzarella), egg is a bizarre but popular topping often added in France.
6. Women not pouring their own wine
Photo: Nan Palmero/Flickr
Whether you think it's charmingly chivalrous or outdated, French etiquette considers it a faux pas for a woman to pour her own wine. Instead, the man sitting nearest will pour her glass and top it up when needed.
7. They're obsessed about Burger King and McDo
Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP
Despite their reputation as culinary traditionalists, it turns out the French love cheap, no-fuss meals as much as the rest of the world and in recent years they have more than embraced the fast food trend. You won't have to go far to find a 'McDo', though naturally they have added a French twist so you can order a McCroque or choose from an array of pastries and even macarons in the McCafe. France is now McDonalds' second largest market, and rival fast food chain Burger King has swallowed up the one-time institution Quick.
8. Dunking croissants
Photo: Bex Walton/Flickr
Slathering a croissant with butter, as many foreigners tend to do, is baffling to many French people, since the croissant already consists of mostly butter. Instead, it's common for the French to dip their pastry in their morning tea or coffee. This can also be done with baguettes, to salvage yesterday's stale bread.
9. Trou normand
This literally translates as “Norman gap” and is an old tradition from Normandy of drinking a small glass of strong apple liquor – the region is famous for its apples – between each course. Knocking back shots mid dinner might not seem like the best etiquette, but Norman recipes are generally quite rich, so taking a digestif between courses rather than at the end of the meal is supposed to aid digestion.
By Catherine Edwards