You can learn a lot about a country and its people by taking a stroll down the aisles of a grocery store. Grocery stores in France are awesome and range from your little neighborhood markets to giant hyper markets that have everything (almost) your heart desires. I love going to the supermarket — it’s the prices I’m not too in love with though — and while nothing is too shocking now, there have been quite a few culture shock moments over the past couple of years.
Culture shock moments at grocery stores in France
You can buy horse meat? And rabbit that, uh, still looks like a rabbit?
I’m all about being open to new things but there’s a limit when it comes to tasting new foods. My limit is horse meat. I don’t know if it’s because I rode horses growing up or the fact I used to watch Mr. Ed with my grandparents, but horse meat is just not an acceptable dinner option for me. Not now, not ever. I will say it’s not super common but every once in a while, you see a few packs of fresh horse meat at the grocery store and the first time was shocking. Most recently, rabbit meat shocked me. Not because it was on the shelf but because it still had eyes and seemed to be treated very roughly, leaving the mangled animal all contorted in the package. Listen, I’m no vegetarian but I think it’s important that we treat animals with respect from the farm to our plate.
Wow, there’s a lot of yogurt.
An entire aisle in French grocery stores is dedicated to yogurt and little desserts. When I say a LOT, I mean a lot. From regular yogurts to ones made with various types of milk and organic ones and those with fruit on the bottom and every variation you can imagine in between, I am not exaggerating when I say the French really do LOVE their yogurt. I love the selection and the cute little cups they come in!
Why can’t I find any blueberries? (or any other fruit out of season)
France, like many nations around the world, makes do with in-season produce. They’re masters at taking advantage of the local harvests and using the produce that’s available to them at any given time of year. So this means you won’t be able to buy Strawberries in January or cherries in March like we sometimes can in the US at astronomical prices. Eating produce that’s in season is better on the environment and your wallet, not to mention the produce is usually fresher and tastes better.
You’re paying by check?
I wrote about this in a general culture shock in France post, but yes, in 2015, many people still pay for things with paper checks! This happened just the other day actually and I don’t understand it because a debit card does the exact same thing but in a quarter of the time. These check paying types will hold up the line while they carefully fill out their check and wait for the cashier to validate it and no one seems to care that it’s 2015 and we’re writing out checks like it’s 1985. Except me apparently.
Why are the milk and eggs not refrigerated?
The first thing I noticed about French grocery products was that milk and eggs are on the shelf and not refrigerated. Once you open your bottle of milk, it goes in the fridge until you’re done with it, but not the eggs. To save counter space, you can absolutely refrigerate the eggs, but it’s not necessary at all. I still feel weird buying my milk and eggs at room temperature but I haven’t gotten sick yet so I roll with it.
That chicken is how much?
Sweet Jesus is chicken expensive in France. Chicken was an economical meal option back home and you could grab a pack of normal chicken breasts for a few bucks per pound on promo. In France, it’s rare to find chicken for less than 10 euros/kg — and that’s on the cheap side. Most of the time chicken breasts cost a lot more than that, like 15 euros/kg or even more (which is give or take US$8-10/pound depending on the exchange rate and type of chicken… organic is even more). Granted, the chicken is excellent and there are all kinds of farm raised chickens and this and that, but even just regular chicken isn’t cheap. Same goes for beef. If you want cheap, stick with pork. And another thing about chicken: The French will look at you funny if you wash your chicken before cooking it. In the U.S., we’d commonly rinse and dry the chicken breasts after coming out of the package before cooking it, but not here.