Although they sit just a hop across the Channel from each other, France and the UK differ hugely when it comes to eating habits and diet.
The UK’s large, milky coffees are replaced by France’s small black ones, trips to the pub become apéros in bars or at home, and quick, early dinners begin later and last longer.
We asked Connexion readers who have made a move to France how their preferences may or may not have changed with regards to food and drink.
‘We haven’t given up the morning cuppa’
Sue and Gerry Walters, a retired department store buyer and cameraman, have lived in Lot et Garonne for the last 26 years.
Mrs Walters, who was naturalised as a French citizen in 2016, said: “We haven’t given up the morning cuppa, nor the grand crème [a large coffee with milk], but ever since our first visit to France decades ago we have always served cheese before dessert.
“This was much to the dismay of our friends in the UK where we lived at the time! It seems so logical and finishes up the wine before serving a dessert wine (the local Monbazillac) with the pud. The habit was not adopted by any of our friends!
“[We] can't say that we've taken to 'proper' French lunches [with several courses] – we still prefer a salad or soup or sandwich and then dinner in the evening.
“As the cook I'm not going to spend my morning preparing lunch when I could be in the garden or going out for the day!
“We eat far more chocolate now than we ever did in the UK, especially the chocolate pralines and a square of bitter chocolate after dinner! I believe the French are about the biggest consumers of chocolate.”
Mrs Walters added: “We eat more fish as a wider variety is available here and, of course, oysters which we never ate in the UK as strictly a rich man's food!
“My cooking style is fairly eclectic and south west France is very much 101 ways with the duck or pig, which can be a bit hefty.
“So I suppose the real pleasure is all the summer fruits and salads and of course the cheeses and vast range of olives.
“We both regret that the French seem not to hang their beef for very long, rendering it rather hard going for our ageing teeth. So, beef stews or daubes have to wait for a really promising piece and roast beef is a non-starter!”
Mrs Walters also said that she and her husband still drink “probably more than the average French person but wine always with meals and my favourite apéritif is kir – replacing sherry.”
‘We eat much the same as we always did’
Credit: Nigel Perry
“After 15 years living permanently in France, we eat much the same as we always did. Why would we change?,” commented Nigel Perry, a retired oncology research manager who lives in Le Pas (Mayenne).
“French cuisine, always seemingly held up as second-to-none-gourmet fare, often turns out to be awful, peasant food. Or pretentious disgusting rubbish - witness a very 'posh' restaurant near Mayenne that served delicate plaice smothered in a thick layer of minced black olives. Or a starter of mixed cold meats that had been sliced on a microtome, thus transparent.
“We have, of course, eaten some superb meals in small country restaurants. But, then so you would anywhere, I guess.”
Mr Perry added that he still prefers “top quality fish and chips, steak and kidney pies and British sausages, with fine sausage meat and more imaginative additions than ‘herbes’.”
“I had occasion to stay at a famous luxury hotel just outside Paris a few years ago. The whole experience was abysmal. Breakfast scrambled eggs were made from powder. An American angrily threw the mess at the waiter, and demanded the correct version. Just to cause annoyance, I asked for the same, which arrived hot and beautifully prepared.
“I bet that the French, who live and work in Britain, do not change their eating habits, either.”
‘I’ve maintained my love of Marmite’
Donald MacEwan, a retired chief executive of a British housing association who has lived in France for 22 years, also stated that his eating habits had not changed, commenting: “My breakfast in the UK was a large cup of sugared black coffee, and it still is now.”
“I started this habit, while working for a few months in Manaus in Brazil in 1963. Then, it was a small, very strong black coffee with honey. Taken at six in the morning, it certainly woke one up!
On his travels around the world, Mr MacEwan, who now lives in Ariège, added that he has always “maintained my love of Marmite and sandwich spread.
“I am not a fruit lover, so the kiwi, apple, pear and fig trees in my garden are not to my taste, but they make good presents to neighbours and friends.
“I do, however, love the cherries, which are just coming into season.”
‘My eating habits have changed significantly’
Credit: Linda Stewart Brown
Linda Stewart Brown, who moved to France in 2010 after 10 years in Canada, said: “My eating habits, personally, have changed significantly
In “Canada I was the fitness and wellness coordinator for McMaster University,” but then “developed colon cancer.
“As someone who always tried to eat well and take care of my body this was quite a shock. I even did the no pasta, no bread thing, trying to eat bio, salads, soups, nothing processed, and yet…
“What has happened here [in France] is that I eat a baguette a day and pretty much anything else I want! I am healthier than anyone else in my family and no longer have any health issues even though I am followed very carefully by the excellent healthcare system here.
“I am not a big meat eater, and am allergic to all fish and seafood, so that makes eating out challenging, but it can be overcome.
“Locally, we have a few restaurants that know my penchant for white chicken meat and borderline well done red meat so all is good.”
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