Thursday, November 18, 2010

"C'est pas moi qui décide."

**Article written for "La Une," Dickinson en France's monthly newsletter.

Ever since my arrival to france, I've been on a mission to sample as many french delicacies as possible. Independently, I have discovered french pastries, cheeses, wine, vegetables, fruit, and crepes. My host family has exposed me to rabbit, kidney, liver, duck, and countless sausages. Anywhere I turn, there is no shortage of delicious food. Even "malbouffe", such as master crumble and kebab, is better than their american counterparts.

One strange difference between American and French food relates to decision making. In America, you enter a sandwich shop, choose from various toppings, and the person behind the counter makes your sandwich. It's your sandwich, you decide how you want it. In the words of burger king "Have it your way". In a restaurant, people make all kinds of crazy requests. More cheese, undercooked, no onions, french fries instead of salad. In any case, the server will graciously bend to your will and make the change. On one hand, people are able to order the food that they want. Unfortunately, many customers take advantage of the system.

France does not abide by the same customer service policies. In a sandwich shop, your choices are pre-made. In a restaurant, options may be offered, but there is little to no flexibility. A specific request will earn you strange glances. If you explain in detail what you want, the server will nod and make a note, but no change will be made.

In my opinion, this cultural difference has evolved from the perception of the "expert." In America, "the customer is always right." In France, the chef is the culinary expert, and no customer is going to usurp that power. Luckily for me and my fellow consumers, the food is always amazing. I am content to leave the responsability of creating tasty food to the French experts.

*translated from French.

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