1 – They eat cheese with almost every meal. Not a slice, a giant hunk of cheese. And the smellier the better. Even children; I watched as Arnaud’s 3 year old niece happily munched on a lump the size of her head.
2 – They drink wine with almost every meal.
3 – They accomplish 1. and 2. without getting fat. How they manage this should be the subject of boundless scientific study so that we may apply their methods in the States. I gained three pounds in six days.
4 – They make a dish called Raclette. First you have special cheese, and you melt copious slices of the stuff which you then pour all over your “charcuterie” – a vast array of cold meats and hams that represent at least one entire animal per person at the table – and a giant bowl of mashed potatoes. It’s like eating joy. And for me, it’s like pouring fat into my thighs. Because I’m not French (see number 3.)
5- Meals are long drawn out affairs where the whole group/family gets together, eats, laughs, shares stories. It is started by the nearly religious Apéros – Cocktails with nibbles to warm up the stomach. Dinner can easily take two hours to complete, and that’s at home, not in a restaurant.
6 – They don’t believe in queuing. You could easily lose an eye as some old lady rams her elbow in your face as she barges past you to get on the metro first. In an emergency, the French die from trampling each other in a mass exodus where everyone is for themselves.
7 – The abysmal service in restaurants is actually quite entertaining if you pay attention. Not caring, and being able to master an indifferent shrug on demand if your patron’s meal arrives cold or very late is part of the waiter’s job requirement.
8 – Kissing. Not French Kissing per se, though I am grateful they gave the name to that loveliest of pastimes, but the required two to four kisses you give to everyone in the room each time you enter and leave it. The sweet panic you feel each time you forget how many times you’re supposed to do it. And how a conversation between two people never commences prior to kissing.
9 – Strikes. The French are very adamant about their right to work only required hours, their right to reimbursed health care, their right to retirement at 62 provided by the state, their right to go on vacation for six weeks every year, and of course, their right to strike if any of these expectations are not met or promised. I love that. In the US, we just expect to, well, get nothing.
10 – They’re not afraid to show they don’t like you. Forget the polite veneer of tolerance, you’ll not be left wondering if someone is genuinely interested in you, or is just pretending.