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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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Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

The French have developed an entire cultural tradition around the idea of an afternoon snack. It's called "Le goûter" and here's what you need to know about it.

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

With all those patisseries and viennoiseries tempting the tastebuds in high street boulangerie after boulangerie, there can be little wonder that France  – which takes food very seriously – has also invented the correct time to eat them.

Let us introduce you to the cultural tradition of le goûter – the noun of the verb “to taste”, and a cultural tradition in France dating back into the 19th century, perhaps even as far back as the Renaissance … allowing for the fact that people have snacked for centuries, whether or not it had a formal name. 

It refers to a very particular snack time, usually at around 4pm daily. This is the good news.

The bad news is that, officially, le goûter is reserved for children. This is why many schools, nurseries and holiday activity centres offer it and offices don’t. The idea is that, because the family evening meal is eaten relatively late, this mid-afternoon snack will keep les enfants from launching fridge raids, or bombarding their parents with shouts of, “j’ai faim!”.

Most adults, with their grown-up iron will-power, are expected to be able to resist temptation in the face of all that pastry, and live on their three set meals per day. Le grignotage – snacking between meals – is frowned on if you’re much older than your washing machine.

But, whisper it quietly, but just about everyone snacks (grignoter), anyway – a baguette that doesn’t have one end nibbled off in the time it takes to travel from boulanger to table isn’t a proper baguette. Besides, why should your children enjoy all the treats? 

We’re not saying ignore the nutritionists, but if you lead an active, reasonably healthy lifestyle, a bite to eat in the middle of the afternoon isn’t going to do any harm. So, if you want to join them, feel free.

What do you give for goûter 

It’s a relatively light snack – we’re not talking afternoon tea here. Think a couple of biscuits, a piece of cake, a pain au chocolat (or chocolatine, for right-thinking people in southwest France), piece of fruit, pain au lait, a croissant, yoghurt, compote, or a slice of bread slathered in Nutella.

Things might get a little more formal if friends and their children are round at the goûter hour – a pre-visit trip to the patisserie may be a good idea if you want to avoid scratching madly through the cupboards and don’t have time to create something tasty and homemade.

Not to be confused with

Une collation – adult snacking becomes socially acceptable when it’s not a snack but part of une collation served, for example, at the end of an event, or at a gathering of some kind. Expect, perhaps, a few small sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a few small pastries, coffee and water.

L’apéro – pre-dinner snacks, often featuring savoury bites such as charcuterie, olives, crisps and a few drinks, including alcoholic ones, as a warm up to the main meal event, or as part of an early evening gathering before people head off to a restaurant or home for their evening meal.

Un en-cas – this is the great adult snacking get-out. Although, in general, snacking for grown-ups is considered bad form, sometimes it has to be done. This is it. Call it un en-cas, pretend you’re too hungry to wait for the next meal, and you’ll probably get away with it.

Le goûter in action

Pour le goûter aujourd’hui, on a eu un gâteau – For snack today, we had some cake.

Veuillez fournir un goûter à votre enfant – Please provide an afternoon snack for your child.

J’ai faim ! Je peux avoir un goûter ? – I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?