Continuing with the week’s theme of reflections on my recent trip to Paris, I was thinking this morning how concepts of sharing are apparently more broad in Paris than the US. Perhaps personal boundaries as well. I say this because apparently one’s fries are not considered personal property in Paris.
My wife and a friend and I were sitting at a sidewalk cafe in Paris. We were right next to the railing on the other side of which was the public sidewalk. An Australian couple was seated at a nearby table by the railing. The couple had not finished eating, but the husband went inside to use the water closet. Two older women went walking by (not ethnically French but they did appear to be Paris residents). One of the old women reached over the rail, grabbed one of the husband’s fries, and ate it as she kept walking.
Now, personally, I would consider my food at a sidewalk cafe to be my personal property. As such, I would not expect that other people nearby would consider it appropriate to share food from my plate…certainly not without asking permission. However, this does not appear to be the case in Paris. In Paris food on a person’s plate is apparently communal.
Australia appears to be more like the US on this. I say that because the wife just stared in shock as the old woman ate the fry. She then discussed her outrage over the incident with us. She indicated that she hadn’t done anything after their picnic at Notre Dame where a kid grabbed her bag of chips and she tried to stop him only to have another kid steal her cell phone while she was distracted. She thought it better to just let the fry go, or was to shocked to do anything.
Regardless, I think this is an important thing to keep in mind. In Paris, whether or not this is the general custom, your food may not be regarded as your exclusive property. Other people may think they have the right to share. Fries and all.