Introducing my French neighbours to English ‘tea’.
History and how the French do it differently, the French ‘Gouter’
In 1997 my husband and I moved to France to a doorless drafty chateau in the foothills of the French Pyrenees. The French Chateaux adventure is an exciting way of life. It‘s the dream in large a great attraction for many Brits of getting real country life by moving to France.
In France space comes cheaper and an outdoorsy lifestyle elusive and exclusive in the UK, is more financially accessible. However townies and chateaunauts be warned, cheaper space demands a great deal of time. Expect a cold shower on the learning curve of country life and an exotic society.
Tea is the perfect pause in the day for new homeowners run off their feet, to have a break and quench their thirst for human companionship. With the longer hours of daylight, after a bit of refreshment and chat, there is still enough time for another go at the endless projects.
In my first few years I had to make sure that I did not get consumed with all the work and become what the locals call a bête de travail, a beast of work who cannot put down tools and spend time idly chatting. Getting into the local culture was an equally important part of my French adventure and time had to be taken to cut my French and Franglaise teeth, talking with a neighbour. This usually happened over a gardening conversation however I wanted to share more of my culture.
In the deep countryside, 40 minutes South of Carcassonne, we found that it is not commonplace to share a meal in the home of a friend or acquaintance. People tend to eat together for special parties and gatherings at the village hall (salle de fêtes) or outdoors, gathered in a beautiful spot to celebrate together an anniversary or charitable event.
There is little traditional dinner party ethos. Even families and childhood friends will more probably support their favourite local restaurant for special occasions. Perhaps it is considered a rather Northern way to behave in the South, that likes to demarcate itself from bourgeois Parisians.