Cultural

Differences between France and China – Part 1: Food

My internship here is drawing to an end soon, so I would like to take the opportunity to compare the two amazing experiences I have had in the last year.
No. 1: I was  placed on an Erasmus year in Toulouse, France for seven months.
No. 2:  A marketing internship in Qingdao, China for six months straight after France.

InternChina - The two cities
InternChina – The two cities

Since these are two food loving nations, I thought it best to commence with a comparison about the cuisine.

The food in France is delicious, classic and infamously chic. You can expect a lot of crème fraîche, butter, garlic, bread and of course a bottle of wine to accompany every dish (thank god!). Of the many  fantastic restaurants I visited in Toulouse, most of the dishes were made with fresh local produce, steaks, tapas, pastas and vegetables. With an Erasmus atmosphere, there was a real social scene in which everyone loved going out and trying new food. My favourite dish was a duck leg confit with potatoes. Really good restaurants in Toulouse cost around 20 Euros (200RMB) – including a glass of wine.

InternChina - Confit of Duck leg
InternChina – Confit of Duck leg

Chinese food is delicious too and a very social activity to do with friends and colleagues. In fact many people do not cook even here. For example, I go out 90% of the time and cook only 10% at home. It means no buying ingredients and no washing up which suits most people perfectly. During the summer in Qingdao, you may find many street barbecues where for a fraction of the price that it would cost for Western food you can get some tasty food and a great local atmosphere. My favourite dish is crispy pork with a sweet and sour sauce. With a complete meal costing around 3.5 Euros (usually 30RMB), it is very inexpensive to go out to local restaurants on a nightly basis.

InternChina - Crispy pork
InternChina – Crispy pork

Biggest differences regarding dishes: Price
Similarities regarding dishes: Delicious
Winner of dishes: Qingdao, China – great value, great food. 


General snacking 

In terms of snacks there were bakeries to buy fresh crispy baguettes and croissants around every corner  in France– you cannot beat this! The cheese variety was never ending and there were millions of crêpe stalls where you can choose to eat sweet or savory ones. The Christmas market was the best for all of this, with individual shops making delicious snacks as well as mulled wine…

InternChina - Crepe
InternChina – Crêpe sucrée
InternChina - Snack
InternChina – Snack
InternChina - Toulouse Christmas market
InternChina – Xmas market

With snacks in China, there are so many cheap and delicious things to eat. Jack, the InternChina Marketing Manager, loves to eat a spicy styled crêpe for lunch called Jian bing guo zi which is made in many local shops. People also like eggs that have been marinated in tea, baozi and hot dogs on a stick. Most shops also sell small packages of chicken feet, dried fish or shrimp… and other big no no’s for me! However the phrase ‘each to their own’ comes in handy here.

InternChina - Chicken Feet
InternChina – Chicken Feet
InternChina - jian bing guo zi
InternChina – jian bing guo zi
InternChina - Tea eggs
InternChina – Tea eggs

Biggest snack differences: Pretty much everything
Similarities: Snacks are easy to come by in both countries
Winner for snacks: Toulouse, France – Sorry Qingdao, but I would take Nutella crêpes over chicken feet any day!


Food Etiquette

Well ze French are très sophistiqué – Oui? We all know the stereotypical French person portrayed in films who comes off a  little snobby with their manners and haute couture fashion. Even the English struggle to compete with the fancy habits of the cheese plates and wine matching (just give us a piece of cheddar and cracker eh?) So what differs with table manners in France versus China?  When looking back to the restaurants in Toulouse and Paris I visited, most of them had pretty similar decor:  a white linen table cloth, many utensils and wine glasses. The atmosphere had music, candles, sexy French voices in the background and a handsome Jean-Pierre waiting to serve you…

InternChina - Jean-Peirre
InternChina – Jean-Pierre, the typical French waiter

Now scrap all of that!
Make sure it’s all far away from your mind and imagine an average Qingdao local. As I said, the food can be equal or more delicious,but without the pretense of the European flair and hefty price tag. Much less mannerisms and more focus on the food! At any typical restaurant you will usually get a small plate, a cup for hot water and chopsticks. This leaves a lot of room for the many different dishes to arrive.

InternChina - Chinese table
InternChina – Chinese table

You know that horrible stifling feeling when you are  starving to death at a restaurant in Europe and your food has arrived but your date’s/ friends’ hasn’t? You want to eat immediately, but these awkward table rules are holding you back. The stress and tension can be unbearable – your food is there…its waiting for you…it looks so good and hot, but Amy and Sarah meal haven’t arrived yet *Sigh! During this period of time there’s a lot of fast and furious neck turning to the kitchen and finally after what seems hours – you can eat when their dishes arrive.

InternChina - Waiting
InternChina – Waiting

Obviously the biggest difference beside the fact that there’s no music, chic waiter and could well be some animal penis on the menu is that you mostly share dishes in China. If there are five of you, you may order several meat and fish dishes, some vegetables and maybe dumplings. They arrive at different times so as soon as one dish is there – you can all dig in. Another good thing is there are only chopsticks as cutlery so you don’t need to look like an idiot in Europe where they try to trick you; spoon, soup spoon, tea spoon, bread knife, salad fork, fish knife, steak knife, Grrr  – just give me two little sticks any day.

InternChina - Simple life
InternChina – Simple life
InternChina - Too much work
InternChina – Too much work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner differences: Knives forks, mannerisms, …
Dinner Similarities: You can get a doggy bag (In Chinese just say ‘Daobao’)
Restaurant Winner: Qingdao, China – because sometimes its better to eat and enjoy without all the fanciness


 

So, we have established that there are many similarities and differences between Chinese and French cuisine and that both share a passion for food and are generous hosts. I recommend trying dishes from both as they are amazing in heir own way.
Overall winner of food – Qingdao Chinacome and explore all the tasty treats China has to offer and Apply now.

InternChina - Food in Qingdao
InternChina – Food in Qingdao
InternChina - Dinner in Toulouse
InternChina – Dinner in Toulouse