Before visiting France or studying abroad, there are a few things that you should know so that you can be prepared when eating out. As a self-proclaimed foodie who happens to be studying abroad in Rennes, this might be helpful to future students.
Restaurants don't open for dinner until late in the evening
The first time I visited France with my mom, we found ourselves confused as to why nothing was open at 6 pm for dinner; this is because restaurants are generally closed after their lunch service until 7 pm, sometimes even 8 pm. While confusing at first, I’ve found that it is easy to get used to as French people typically enjoy a large lunch and then a smaller dinner. This helps with digestion as your body has longer to properly digest your heavier lunch before enjoying something smaller before bedtime.
A 2-4 course meal is the norm for the French
Typically, a French meal is at least 2-3 courses, and sometimes even 4! This one took a bit to get used to throughout the semester since I am used to having one course for lunch/dinner in the United States. However, having multiple courses elevates the dining experience, even if you eat at home! If you've ever wondered why French people sit at restaurants for so long, this would be why.
With my host family, our meals usually consist of 3-4 courses, especially on Sundays. First, we start with soup or small snacks like chips and peanuts before moving on to the main course, which is almost always served with fresh bread. Then, a variety of cheese will be served before finishing the meal with a dessert, yogurt, and maybe a coffee.
Meals must not be rushed through
The first time I visited France, it was hard not to notice the full cafes and restaurants where people would seemingly sit, eat, and drink for hours. This is because food is an integral part of French life that must not be rushed through. Here in France, a meal is supposed to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace, typically with good company, making mealtime a social event rather than something to rush through so you can return to school or your job. This means you'll rarely see French people rushing down the street to their next appointment while hurriedly eating their lunch.
So, if you love good cuisine, France is the place to be! You don't have to visit a Michelin-star restaurant to have a 5-course meal–though you really should–and there are plenty of options for people who have dietary restrictions or love international cuisine.