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French eating habits: 7 rules for dining like a local

Updated: Sep 23, 2022


Are you eager to impress your new French friends with your mastery of authentic French dining? Then you should be well-versed in these seven distinctive practices of French cuisine.


Changing your diet to match that of the locals is one of the best ways to assimilate into a new culture. And if you are thinking about making the move to France, you should know that the French have several eating habits that are uniquely their own. It seems to reason that the country in issue would have its peculiar eating practices, given that it is the birthplace of one of the world's most sophisticated and well-regarded cuisines. So, if you want to make a great impression on your dinner guests, try these seven simple suggestions.


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1. Forget all you think you know about French eating habits


To kick things off, let us look at some unpleasant realities. The most important first step in entering the arena of French eating habits is getting rid of your preconceived beliefs about French eating habits. That is right, and contrary to widespread opinion, not all French people spend their days dressed in horizontal stripes and a beret while dining on caviar and sipping Dom Pérignon. While frog legs and foie gras may be native to the country, not everyone enjoys eating them regularly. On the other hand, common perceptions of French wine, cheese, and baguettes are accurate.


In France, baguettes are a staple of every meal and can be found on most people's breakfast, lunch, and dinner plates as well as in the complimentary bread baskets at many eateries. The French love their baguettes so much that they have three different names for them. Unsurprisingly, wine is also a staple in their diet, accounting for more than half of their daily alcohol consumption. Almost 30 kilos of cheese is eaten yearly by the typical French person, making France the nation with the highest per capita cheese consumption. Still, who could blame them, given the dizzying array of options, from timeless staples like brie and camembert to more experimental varieties like fruity Compté or Brocciu?


2. Expect to eat dinner a little later


French custom dictates that dinner be eaten significantly later than in many other European countries like Germany and the Netherlands, where it is customary to eat at 18:00 (local time). Not until after 8:00 PM, if at all, do we see them gathered around the dinner table. Some families with young children may not sit down to eat until after 21:00 after the kids are in bed. If you are moving to France from another nation, it may take some time before you feel completely at ease with the country's culture and customs.


To fit in with this typically French eating habit, you may need to make a little change to your circadian cycle. If you are already suffering from jet lag, however, it is recommended that you immediately adopt the French lifestyle rather than sticking to your typical mealtimes. If you are planning a trip to France, this is extremely important to remember. After all, it will be to your great advantage and will help make the transition much easier on your stomach. Nonetheless, try to remember that things may always be worse. Maybe you are now residing in Spain, where dining establishments do not start serving until far past midnight.


3. Don't expect to eat every night at an upscale restaurant.


The widespread belief that every single French person spends their weeknights at upscale eateries imbibing in pricey vintages of wine and dining on multi-course meals is not true. Home cooking is popular and preferred over overeating at restaurants. Also, unless it is a special occasion, making a reservation at a restaurant is not something people often do. Given the sheer variety of delicious French foods that can be made at home, it is easy to see why this is the case.


However, if you ever find yourself in Lyon, we will have an entirely different talk. Since you will be leaving "the gastronomical hub of the world," you should try some of the great Haute cuisine that is on offer before you go. As the country that gave the world braising, flambéing, and poaching, it should come as no surprise that the French have a deep and abiding love for food and cuisine. Then why not use the advice in the French cookbook to whip up some tasty meals without leaving the house? You might one day become as famous as Raymond Blanc!


4. Get ready to up your grocery shopping game


The French, it is often held, have an unhealthy fixation with food. The next time you go food shopping at your local French supermarket or grocery store, be prepared to face a world of exquisite joys. In France, you may choose from several different types of supermarkets. They also provide an overwhelming selection of mouthwatering dishes and beverages that clients may try before they buy. To put it another way, a hypermarché is not called that for no reason.


Alternatively said, once you go to France, you will never again see a trip to the supermarket as a chore. However, if you want to make the most of your time in the store and get where you need to go quickly and easily (and with a smile on your face), it will do you well to brush up on some basic French terms and phrases. With so many resources, like French for Dummies and Talk in French, accessible online, learning French will not be a challenge. If you want to push yourself, enrolling in French classes is a logical next step. I am not trying to put any pressure on you.


5. Never eat when you're on the go.


Walking down the street with half a baguette in your mouth while wanting to make a good impression on the locals is not the way to do it while you are in France. This is because French people are notoriously bad at eating on the road. Therefore, consuming anything when out and about is seen as very offensive. The same holds when using public transit. If you eat your breakfast croissant on the subway on the way to work, you can count on getting some sidelong looks from your fellow passengers.


The French cherish a meal's formality and the time spent at the table with family and friends. The best time to eat and be polite is at the dinner table. However, it is officially forbidden to bring any Epoisses de Bourgogne aboard the Paris Métro, due to the cheese's strong odor. Check out some other baffling French regulations.


6. Quit snacking between meals


Moving to France might be a bit of a wake-up call if you are the kind who likes to snack intermittently throughout the day. The French may be able to keep their slim figures because they are notorious for never eating between meals. This may seem ironic given that they are responsible for some of the world's greatest baked goods, candies, and wines. If you wish to imitate French eating habits, however, and maintain a healthy weight, you will have to forego the snacks. Sorry.


But do not fear; you will not be fighting hunger pangs all day long by yourself. This is because lunch in France is often regarded as the tastiest and most indulgent meal of the day. France has a more leisurely lunch culture where people frequently eat a whole meal instead of grabbing a quick sandwich or salad on the go like many other countries. In most cases, this will consist of a salad, bread, entrée, and dessert. As a result, they often have dinner much later than their European counterparts. Thus, if you want to eat like a local while traveling, you may anticipate some extremely hearty meals.


7. Be prepared for smaller portions.


We saved this one for last, and there was a solid reason for it. After all, no one enjoys being told to reduce their snack intake after already being told to eat their snacks more quickly. Truth be told, one of the most noticeable aspects of French eating habits that will quickly stand out to you is their emphasis on portion control. When given the option between a mountainous mound of food and a more manageable quantity, the French will often choose the latter.


Let us put a more upbeat gloss on things before you go away to the woods or the United States to enjoy the "supersize" lifestyle. Why? Because cutting down on food intake has its advantages. Therefore, you may enjoy carb-heavy meals like pasta and bread regularly without jeopardizing your ability to maintain a healthy weight. Have I convinced you yet? You may rethink your position after sampling these delectable traditional French dishes. Happy eating!


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