France, Recent, Travel
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Eating like the French and the Beginnings of Culture Shock

Dinner last night was an event.

I ate dinner Saturday night on the airplane, ate breakfast Sunday on the airplane…and then I was in route or sleeping or meeting my host family…so suddenly in the evening I realized I was hungry and hadn’t eaten in a long time. Just as I was about to text my mom to complain about not eating and not being sure that dinner was actually going to happen (ok yes, you caught me, I was hiding in my room and trying to discern whether the noises from outside my door were the noises of cooking or just people moving about the apartment), my host mom called me in to eat.

At 8:15pm. Apparently that is typical, and will be the time for dinner most nights.

By this time of night it was just my host mom, my host brother, and me. If I heard correctly, the others in the family that had descended upon the house earlier in the day when I first arrived actually live father away and just happened to be in town for the week. That explains why they were more focused on each other, since they probably don’t see each other very often.

Anyway we sat down and there was a loaf of sun dried tomato feta cheese bread on the table with salad, cheese, bread, water and wine alongside it. I thought that would be a decent sized dinner, if a little small. I just copied what my host mom did—taking a piece of the tomato/cheese bread and eating it with a knife and fork, cutting it up into little pieces (not sure I understand why that was necessary).

THEN. just as I was thinking it would be sufficient enough for dinner, my host mom goes into the kitchen to grab a pan of potato gratin and a plate of cooked pork. It was delicious, but I made the mistake of letting my host brother serve me. He gave me a pile of food and asked me if I wanted more. Of course I said no, but it was too late. There was so much food!

I did my best to eat everything on my plate, fending off offers of bread and extra salad and cheese. I thought I made it clear that I was full….but then my host brother disappeared into the other room and came back with bowls of chilled strawberries, sugar and whipped cream. I passed on the additions, and just forced my way through most of the strawberries in front of me….probably what I would have served for two people T_T I didn’t really appreciate that casual home cooked French meals are often multiple courses… All together we had the bread as a starter, the potato/meat main meal, followed by a salad, followed by bread and cheese, followed by the strawberries. Had everything been served at once it probably wouldn’t have been a noticeably large meal, but served in such individually large portions at separate times, it really felt like a five course meal.

Also. My host brother (who is still of a mystery age) is a sneaky little bugger.

He totally speaks English. Like, really decent English. But they pretend not to know anything and just speak French—which I think is good in the long run. I do want to hear French around me and I want to try to use it, but at the same time yesterday was such a struggle and I am a little bit in awe that he didn’t try to use a little bit of English here or there to smooth the way.

After dinner and the worlds quickest shower, I headed to my bedroom. The awkward thing now is that my host mom and host brother and I share the toilet/shower rooms. And I don’t know what their schedules are…and they keep the hall light off and there are no windows in this area of the house, so while I really want to go to the bathroom sometimes during the evening, I don’t want to run into any of them or let them know that I am awake…. oh dear. I guess I will work through this soon enough. This is what its like to live with other people. Its a good life skill.

This morning I woke up at the ungodly hour of 6:30am—my body thought it was 11:30pm so that was horrible—and went into the kitchen for breakfast. I found my host mom on her computer in the living room wearing a robe, and she mentioned that breakfast was ready for me in the kitchen.

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And by breakfast, she meant a loaf of bread next to some butter and jam, and a cup waiting to be filled with tea. Not being particularly hungry, it was actually a perfect breakfast. However, if this is the situation every day of the week I think I might need to pack some protein bars so I can make it through to my 1:00/2:00pm lunches!

Also on the table during my breakfast was a slice of pie made yesterday and wine from yesterday…covered with a tissue held on with a rubber band… I thought this was hilarious.

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I went off to school—which I will talk about in a later post—and around 1:30 I ventured out into the Old Town with a new friend to find some lunch. We walked around looking for a good place to eat, and eventually came across a miniature hole in the wall called Boston Cafe which my friend had been to previously (she being from Massachusetts it called to her).

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It was the most perfect lunch I could have imagined. We had paninis on baguettes and tea, sitting outside the restaurant at one of the four tables the place has. Not only did they have a wide variety of sandwiches to choose from, they had a long list of coffee drinks….AND BUBBLE TEA! Of all the places in the world to come across bubble tea, I had no idea I would find it here.

This is only 1/4th of the drink menu, and as you can see near the top is the bubble tea!

This is only 1/4th of the drink menu, and as you can see near the top is the bubble tea!

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I think this is a good time as any to bring up some of the things I have noticed in the last 24 hours since I have been here. Some of them are the source of culture shock, and others are things are just different from what I am used to in my life in the US.

I’ve been keeping a list of things in my journal, so I am going to bullet point them out for you:

  1. Toilet paper is pink. What.
  2. Everyone keeps their bedroom doors closed, even when not in them. The door between the kitchen and the entry way, and the door between the bedrooms and the entry way, and the bathroom door are all always closed as well.
  3. There are floor to ceiling window/doors in my bedroom. On the ground floor. Facing the sidewalk/parking lot. I have the choice of lowering really intense shutters that don’t let in any light whatsoever, or drawing some “curtains” that are basically just a more attractive version of a net strung up in front of the window. I can see everyone walking around like 4 feet from my window.
  4. Dinner is later. Like legitimately past 8:00pm later.
  5. The toilet is in a closet. With a bunch of shoes. The sink is with the tub and laundry machine. The clean laundry is drying on a rack in the living room.
  6. Nobody has asked me how old I am.
  7. Unlike my host mom in Japan, the TV at home has not been on as background noise or otherwise as far as I can tell the entire time I have been here.
  8. Sometimes when my host family is speaking French in front of me, I want to curl up on the floor and fall asleep. Like some kind of primal animal defense move.
  9. People don’t wear open toed shoes. I am the only one in the entire city wearing sandals today.
  10. It is May. The coldest it has been in the last day is 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter coats are not necessary. And no, I am not cold, you don’t need to worry about my lack of winter coat.
  11. French people actually seem more laid back about basically everything. Surprisingly so when it comes to things like money and scheduling things.
  12. People are surprised to find that I am American AND have brown hair. I have been asked multiple times from people of multiple ethnicities why I don’t have blond hair. I didn’t know that was such a huge stereotype of the US and I didn’t know that I would find it bothersome.
  13. It is perfectly acceptable to basically just eat bread for every meal of the day. Bread for dinner. Bread for breakfast. Bread for lunch. Its not like people need protein or vegetables or anything 😛
  14. Lots of people own cats. Most of the cats seem to live outside most of the time. I think my host family’s cat has been inside for 5 minutes in the last day.

Wow that was a super long post…mostly about food… >_<

Hopefully you enjoyed reading about some of my food and cultural adventures of the past 24 hours! I didn’t take as many pictures as I thought I would today, so I plan to talk about the city and my school once I have more pictures to help illustrate it!

Check back tomorrow for more adventures! A Demain!

1 Comment

  1. Bread is not a dish nor a starter . In France bread is an accompaniment for nearly every food . People break a small bit of bread and chew it with the “real” food .
    French people don’t snack in general . Nothing between breakfast and lunch, sometimes a little thing between lunch and dinner, which usually starts around 8 PM. Not snacking between is normal everywhere in the world except in the US and their cultural colonies such as Britain . That’s the main reason why people stay thin, with smaller portions and non-processed chemical garbage .

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