French People Never Snack

Food plays a huge role in French culture. And one of the unwritten “rules” around food and meals in France, is that we never snack between meals.

In today’s lesson, I‘ll give you a special inside look at this aspect of our culture.

C’est parti.

1) Meals in French culture

In French culture, meals are kind of sacred. They’re a time to sit down and share quality food with family or friends, to enjoy good conversation with the people you’re eating with. And you can take the time to eat enough, so that you won’t need to snack later.

Le petit-déjeuner = breakfast
Le café = coffee
Une tartine = a slice of toast
La confiture = jam
Les céréales = breakfast cereals, for kids
Le déjeuner = lunch
Le dîner = dinner
La cantine = the restaurant at school or work, cafeteria

2) Quality food

French culture really likes quality food. Eating well is a cultural value.

Le terroir = a French concept, the alliance of land and ancestral culture; it’s supported by the idea that through the centuries, caring farmers experimented with different things, and the products that are still around must be the healthiest and tastiest ones. On the one hand, something like this might explain the French paradox. On the other hand, many “traditional dishes” only date back from the XIXth Century anyway.
Les produits du terroir = products from the ancestral French land and culture. Often full of fat and grease, yet still healthy somehow!
Un label de qualité = a label of food quality, for instance:
Le Label Rouge = “red label” for high quality meat
Le label “Bio (AB)” = organic, “issu de l’agriculture biologique”

Some other labels on the picture from the video:
Le Label AOP (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) or AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) = a label for a terroir product, basically, so you know it’s good. For instance, a cheese with AOP label will need to be made in a certain area of France, with the right type of cows, and the right processes. So the consumer knows it’s not a fake cheese with pasteurized milk and no taste.

Le nutri-score = a recent government invention, giving a health score to each food, from A to E. Self-explanatory, but less popular across the board.

Le label Demeter (agriculture bio-dynamique) = a label for la bio-dynamie, a type of religious agricultural practices inspired by the teachings of 1924 “philosopher” Rudolf Steiner. They tend to be conflated with “le bio” (organic products), though they have weirder practices and might be a cult.

3) Snacking

French language doesn’t really have a word for “snack.”

*** Le truc en plus **
You could translate “a snack” with un en-cas, but that word is uncommon and seems a bit formal.
It’s related to the (common everyday) expressions:
En cas de besoin = In case it’s needed
Au cas où = Just in case (“might be useful,” “you never know”)
(Probably short for “Au cas [il pleut], au cas [j’en ai besoin]” = In case [it’s raining / I need it] etc.)

For instance:
Tu m’appelles en cas de besoin. = Call me if needed.
Je vais prendre un chapeau au cas où. = I’ll take a hat, just in case.
Au cas on aurait faim, j’ai pris des gâteaux. = In case we get hungry, I brought some cookies.
*** *** ***

French culture wants us to share meals together, and not eat in a rush, alone, or standing up. But sometimes, I admit, French people do snack.

For instance, if you’re hungry between meals, you can grab a bite for le goûter, that afternoon light meal, especially enjoyed by children after school. But it’s a bit more culturally organized than real snacking.

The closest French word for “a snack” is a verb, actually:
Grignoter = to nibble, to snack.

As in:
J’ai un petit creux, est-ce que tu as quelque chose à grignoter ?
(= I’m a bit hungry, do you have something I can snack on?)

It’s especially used for grignoter entre les repas (= to snack between meals) mindlessly, and a bit covertly. We’re often warned against “grignoter entre les repas”, including by law. Food advertisements have to include sentences such as:

“Pour votre santé, évitez de grignoter entre les repas” = “For your health, avoid snacking between meals.”

“Pour votre santé, évitez de manger trop gras, trop sucré, trop salé” = For your health, avoid eating too much fat, too much sugar, too much salt.”

And a reference to the public health website of the government called Manger Bouger (= “Eat and Move”, about eating healthy and exercising enough.)

Manger debout = Eating standing up
Manger seul = Eating alone (French people never eat alone!)
Goûter = to taste (verb)
Le goûter = afternoon light snack
Un petit gâteau = a cookie, a small cake
Un pain au chocolat = “bread with chocolate”
Avoir un petit creux = “Having a pothole,” being slightly hungry

La santé = health
Le gras / Un plat gras = fat (food), a fat dish
Le sucre / Un plat sucré = sugar / a sugary dish, a dish with sugar
Le sel / Un plat salé = salt, a salty dish

Keep exploring French culture with me!

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À tout de suite.
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Join the conversation!

  • French people never snack ??? Jamais… Nobody eats the end of a baquet in the checkout queue ?😀
    …Yet with many advertisements for biscuits and cakes sur la télé, there is, as you say “Pour votre santé, évitez de grignoter entre les repas”.😂

    Les Français aiment manger chocolat.. et beaucoup aiment randonner… tous mes amis font ça!!
    C’est peut-être pourquoi quelque français sont maigre..pas tous…
    Bon dimanche Géraldine!

  • Food for thought, as they say. I’ve heard it said that
    people in other countries ask themselves how French
    women manage to stay so slim and elegant. I think
    what you describe in this video gives them all the
    explanation that is needed. Merci beaucoup ..

    • Bonjour Anna,

      Oui, c’est possible mais cela reste un anglicisme.

      Belle journée,

      Comme Une Française Team

  • Le lecon est tres interessante. Je ne rien aucune idee que les francaises jamais mange entre petit dejeuner, dejeuner et te. Je me suis etonne pour me trouver ce information. Je envie vais aller au boulader aujourdhui. Quest que vous croix? Vous trouver ce fait inoublier tres bizarre mais je envoyer email en francaise et en langue italien pour boulot tourisme a dire en advertisement que ce n’est pas necessaire que les applicants aucune experience. Ils sont veut savoir langue francais et savoir langue italian. Je fare un peu de mon note en francais un peu de mon note en italian donc ils voir que je me peut transcibe au ordinateur un peu francais et un peu italiane. Donc je fais un exercise pour un blague comme aucune chose mais jamais savoir jamais, les gens retourner possible range interview ou conversation pour boulot, c’est tres certainment que ce n’est pas le cas mais je essayer.

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