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18 ways your eating and drinking habits change when you live in France

People's habits change in subtle ways when they come to France and it's often most noticeable when it comes to eating and drinking. France is of course the country of fine dining and wining.

18 ways your eating and drinking habits change when you live in France
Photo: Jorge Royan/Flickr
When you first move to France it's likely you'll still be liberally pouring milk into your tea for some time but the longer you're here the more you'll find yourself happy to drink and dine a la française.
Here are just some of the ways your eating and drinking habits might change, depending on how resistant you are. 
1. Drinking tea without milk
You might have balked at the idea of not having some semi-skimmed to splash into your tea when you were at home but once you've been in France for a few months/years (delete as appropriate for you) you'll find yourself turning your nose up at the very idea of it.
2. Spicy food is hard to come by
There are many (many) benefits for your stomach when you move to France but one of the things you'll find yourself waving goodbye to is spicy food. While it's easy to get a hot curry on the other side of the Channel, in France you'll have to take time to hunt one out. And you'll probably have to ask the waiter to spice it up (plus épicé s'il vous plaît).

The French eating habits the world should learn from

Photo: AFP
3. Eating offal 
While you might take to eating French steak like a duck to water, you're likely to find your introduction to French offal slightly more challenging.
But you'll know France is truly your home when you're gobbling down tripe without a second thought (although many long-term residents still consider andouillette beyond the pale).
Photo: Muesse/Wikicommons
4. Eating is not cheating
In the UK, a (proper) night out doesn't include eating, a rule which is elegantly summed up in the phrase “Eating is Cheating”. But once in France you'll find this law is not applied. In fact you'll be laughed out of town. In France is “Eating is living”, especially on a Friday night.
5. No more snacking
Old snacking habits might die hard for expats living in France but it won't be long before you're wiping those greasy crisp paws clean for good. Eat at meals times or at the specified snack time of “gôuter”.
Photo: Pixabay/WikiCommons
6.Swapping pints for demis
You'll know you've become something of a native in France when you don't feel embarrassed by ordering a half pint (demi).

7. Wine only with food 
Gone are the days of ordering a bottle of Chardonnay and three glasses on a Friday night out. Wine and dine rhyme and it's no coincidence. In France wine is to accompany food (unless it's rosé and it's summer). If you want to get sozzled they have plenty of other choices.
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Photo: Jorge Royan/Flickr
And that goes hand-in-hand with our next point…
8. No more binge drinking
Despite moving to the land of the apéro and endless varieties of wine, it's time to put your binge drinking behind you and learn to drink in a more civilized way. You'll probably have a tipple a lot more often, but you'll be less likely to drink until you drop on a Saturday night. 
(This one might take a while to get used to.)
9. Get your cheese fix BEFORE dessert
Moving to France means that a world of delicious cheese is right on your doorstep. And now you're allowed to eat it with every meal…as long as it comes before dessert that is. The theory is that dessert is needed after cheese so dinner guests can still talk to each other comfortably without reeling away from Camembert breath.
Photo: Wikicommons
10. Eating a proper lunch
Even though the heyday of the two hour sit down lunch might be (mostly) a thing of the past in France, it's still common for work contracts to include a rule that prohibits dining al desko. French workers will also get restaurant vouchers to encourage them to eat in the nearest brasserie. 
11. Swapping your weekend fry-up for viennoiserie
It's time to swap your Saturday morning rashers of bacon and fried eggs for a pain au chocolat, croissant or pain au raisin. If you truly want to go native, that is. 
Photo: Glen Scarborough/Flickr
12. Eating crepes all year round
In the UK, crepes (or pancakes) are usually reserved for Shrove Tuesday but in France, praise be, you can eat them all year round. 
13. Enjoying a baguette with dinner (but no butter allowed!)
The importance of the role of the baguette in French food can't really be underestimated. After a few onths you'll be buying fresh baguettes twice a day. Once for breakfast, once for dinner. And when you do, you'll bite the end off before you get it home.
Just remember the following, butter only goes on a baguette at breakfast NEVER at dinnertime. 
Photo: Max Pixel/Flickr
14. Espresso after dinner  
While you might previously have avoided a coffee after dinner, thinking it would ruin a good night's sleep, it won't be long before you're ordering an espresso after every meal. Dinner just won't feel the same without that little shot of caffeine. 
15. No more filling your glass of wine to the top 
While it might not seem like such a bad thing to slurp from a glass of wine that's full to the brim at home, in France it's a big no no. So take your time, there's plenty to go around.
Photo: Marco Verch/Flickr
16. You'll discover fruit and veg
Once you see what's on offer at French markets or even les primeurs (fruit and veg stores) you'll suddenly take pleasure in sticking to the “five-a-day” rule. In France apples taste like apples and melons like melons. And you'll have to get used to what's in season too.
17. Quality over quantity
When you first come to France you'll often feel like you've been ripped off when you see the size of your main meal. Then you'll have to order two desserts. But you'll soon get used to eating less but better. 
18. You'll eat a lot of pizza
You might expect this to happen if you move to Italy, but in fact the French are the world's biggest scoffers of pizza. To put it into numbers the French ate a stomach-churning 819 million pizzas in 2015. You'll no doubt be contributing to that record being broken in 2020.

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Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

One thing everyone can agree on is that France has a lot of cheese - but exactly how many French fromages exist?

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

Question: I often see a quote from Charles de Gaulle talking about ‘246 different types of cheese’, but other articles say there are 600 or even 1,000 different types of cheese and some people say there are just eight types – how many different cheeses are there in France?

A great question on a subject dear to French hearts – cheese.

But it’s one that doesn’t have a simple answer.

Charles de Gaulle did indeed famously say “How can anyone govern a country with 246 different types of cheese”, but even in 1962 when he uttered the exasperated phrase, it was probably an under-estimate.

READ ALSO 7 tips for buying cheese in France

The issue is how you define ‘different’ types of cheese, and unsurprisingly France has a complicated system for designating cheeses.

Let’s start with the eight – there are indeed eight cheese ‘families’ and all of France’s many cheeses can be categorised as one of;

  • Fresh cheese, such as cottage cheese or the soft white fromage blanc
  • Soft ripened cheese, such as Camembert or Brie
  • Soft ripened cheese with a washed rind, such as l’Epoisses or Pont l’Eveque
  • Unpasturised hard cheese such as Reblochon or saint Nectaire
  • Pasturised hard cheese such as Emmental or Comté
  • Blue cheese such as Roquefort 
  • Goat’s cheese
  • Melted or mixed cheese such as Cancaillot

But there are lots of different types of, for example, goat’s cheese.

And here’s where it gets complicated, for two reasons.

The first is that new varieties of cheese are constantly being invented by enterprising cheesemakers (including some which come about by accident, such as le confiné which was created in 2020).

The second is about labelling, geography and protected status.

France operates a system known as Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC or its European equivalent AOP) to designate food products that can only be made in a certain area.

As cheese is an artisan product, quite a lot of different cheese are covered by this – for example a blue sheep’s milk cheese is only Roquefort if it’s been aged in the caves in the village of Roquefort.

There are 63 listed AOC cheeses in France, but many more varieties that don’t have this protected status.

These include generic cheese types such as BabyBel and other cheeses that are foreign in origin but made in France (such as Emmental).

But sometimes there are both AOC and non-AOC versions of a single cheese – a good example of this is Camembert.

AOC Camembert must be made in Normandy by farmers who have to abide by strict rules covering location, milk type and even what their cows eat.

Factory-produced Camembert, however, doesn’t stick to these rules and therefore doesn’t have the AOC label. Is it therefore the same cheese? They’re both called Camembert but the artisan producers of Normandy will tell you – at some length if you let them – that their product is a totally different thing to the mass-produced offering.

There are also examples of local cheeses that are made to essentially the same recipe but have different names depending on where they are produced – sometimes even being on opposite sides of the same Alpine valley is enough to make it two nominally different cheeses.

All of which is to say that guessing is difficult!

Most estimates range from between 600 to 1,600, with cheese experts generally saying there are about 1,000 different varieties. 

So bonne dégustation!