The Unspoken French Food Rule Tourists Should Know To Avoid Coming Across As Clueless

Don't eat lunch at your desk in France. In fact, it's illegal! For many of us, leaving the office for lunch may seem stressful. Timed lunch breaks, schedules packed to the brim, and strict 9-5 routines often mean food takes a backseat to more important tasks. However, the French embrace meal times as an escape from the hustle of life, keeping work and leisure separate affairs. One thing's for sure — you'll never catch locals hurriedly eating their breakfast while en route to work or traversing the city streets while munching on their midday meal. So, if you don't want to stick out as a total tourist in France, don't munch on a baguette while walking through the streets of Paris sightseeing.

Anyone who's had the luxury of visiting France has most likely noticed there's a unique respect surrounding food and mealtimes that alleviates the pressure to eat on the go. Dining is meant to be pleasurable, not a rushed experience crammed into the day whenever is convenient. The French also have the leisure of extended lunch hours, with typical lunch breaks lasting up to two hours during the workweek. Locals in France have more than enough time to enjoy the company of colleagues over lunch, while weekends are prioritized for socializing and cooking with friends and family. Next time you find yourself passing by the window of a boulangerie, consider embracing the essential French expression, "joie de vivre" that emphasizes delighting in the simple things of life — including food! 

Sit down and pass the bread basket

Traditional etiquette surrounding the French dining experience can be somewhat of a culture shock to unsuspecting tourists. According to the New Zealand Herald, "In France, eating while walking around or in transit is frowned upon and meals are typically a slow, considered affair." The French are intentional about curating satiating, healthful meals. It's much harder to achieve this concept with on-the-go food, like half of a croissant peeping out from the edge of a brown paper bag. A balanced, colorful blend of nutrients adorns the plates of locals, whose slower lifestyles allow them to prepare meals that taste and look incredible. When it comes to sitting down for a meal, French natives tend to embrace more formal dining standards, including cutlery even for traditional finger foods. Snacks are also rarely considered part of common dining etiquette in France — adding one more reason to why you'll almost never see a local snacking on the streets of Paris or Marseille.

Most importantly, joy is found in the small things in France, down to the simple act of trying new eateries in one's neighborhood. It's much more enjoyable to debrief the day with a friend over lunch rather than rushing around the city leaving a trail of crumbs behind. By taking time to learn about this often unspoken, yet customary rule about dining in Paris (or any area of France), visitors are able to blend in and look like a local rather than give away their tourist status.

Your new favorite idyllic Parisian café awaits

Instead of cramming food in your mouth on the go, try a leisurely meal at a local café. The French café is a space to unwind and embrace the joy of community, and it's been that way ever since the 17th century. Tap in to your inner Parisian and trade a hectic afternoon of quick snacks with an authentic French dining experience at one of Paris' quintessential eateries.

Crammed into the streets of Paris, Le 52 offers an informal dining experience with a rotating menu that uses the seasons as its guidepost for ingredients. Located in the city's 10th arrondissement (an upbeat, trendy district in town), this all-day café boasts indoor and outdoor seating that ranges from tables for one to communal dining at the cocktail bar or in oversized leather benches. That's not to mention the aesthetic, minimalist approach to design that creates a serene, soothing ambiance for guests indulging in a meal.

A laptop-free zone, Maison Fleuret is a bookstore-turned-café that's the epitome of every Parisian café featured on the silver screen. This cozy nook is a montage of coffee purists steaming milk at the bar and waiters carefully delivering artisan sourdough toast to tables. It's the perfect spot to tune out the voices of the outside world with a classic novel underneath the wrought-iron staircase or rejoice in the presence of a friendly face at a marble table on the secluded second floor.