So as most of you will know, I’ve spent the past year working in Paris. I study French at university and part of my course involves living and working in a French-speaking country for 6 months or more. France is the country closest to the UK and you’d think that the culture wasn’t all that different given that we’re both in the EU and we have a similar standard of living yada yada yada. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. The transition from London to Paris was surprisingly difficult and ‘culture shock’ was a real issue.
Whilst there is an infinite list of differences, one thing I was surprised to discover in France was ‘Fat Fridays’. I know that many American and British offices participate in this tradition but I thought that a country like France, which prides itself on its great food, would be above that. Never heard of Fat Fridays? It basically means everyone gets something really unhealthy and ‘fat’ for lunch as a treat for finishing another long week of work.
A lot of work places have some sort of special tradition for Fridays be it casual Friday, free breakfast or Fat Fridays. However, I really was surprised to find that ‘Fat Fridays’ was so popular in the city of love. Parisian women are known to have this magical ability to stay chic and slim no matter what but Fat Fridays blasted the stereotype that they all live off diet coke and cigarettes clear out of the water. I worked for a social media company called We Are Social, and you’d expect, it was full of pretty social people. There was a Skype group for pretty much everything from Game of Thrones to FIFA to who wanted McDonalds for lunch that day.
The second it hit 1pm each Friday, groups of people rolled out to go to either McDonalds, KFC or the burger place down the road. Once everyone had found something sufficiently greasy for lunch, we would regroup in the cafeteria area and all eat together. What’s interesting is that fast food chains such as McDonalds don’t have quite the same reputation in France as they do in the UK. It is not seen as a hugely unhealthy place to eat, and instead, French people love it! I think the quality of food at McDonalds in France is higher than it is in the UK, and you will regularly see people ordering a salad as a side – something that is basically unheard of in Anglophone countries. In addition, you can even get a salad meal, which I can’t imagine selling very well at all here in the UK.
Personally, I think that Fat Fridays is an absolutely fantastic way to get everyone together to finish off the week with a cheeky treat. At first I thought this tradition was really bad for you and it was promoting an unhealthy lifestyle, but actually I found that the existence of Fat Fridays encouraged people to eat healthily on other days of the week because they knew that they could have a treat on Friday. In addition, it was great for team spirit and getting the whole company together and the groups in the cafeteria were noticeably larger on Fridays.
What do you think about Fat Fridays? Does your office participate in this or any other special Friday activities? Let me know in the comments below!
I’m thinking about writing more about my experiences abroad if people would be interested in them and if anyone ever has any questioned about living or working in Paris, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.