This weekend was the regional retreat for GBU, which was a lot of fun and very much like any other church retreat I've ever been on - very little sleep, not nearly enough showers for the number of people (really, churches should know better by now, they host these things all the time), lots of singing and Bible study and silly games (biblical trivia = excellent, except that all the names are different in French, which tends to be a problem). The biggest difference was that I have never spent that much time on meals at a youth retreat. I know I've already mentioned the sanctity of food in French culture, but really now. The buffet line is apparently just not something that's done. Even with 30-odd college students, we still set the table for every meal and laid out all the food in serving dishes. Thankfully we stopped just short of having one person serve everyone (which would have taken forever), though the curious resistance of the French to the serve-yourself mentality produced some hiccups in the dish-passing, with some people attempting to serve everyone around them as well. Really, I find it quite charming, it's just so different. The fare was pretty typical for big groups - spaghetti bolognese, grilled cheese sandwiches (albeit in the elaborated French version of croque-monsieur), rice and sausage and vegetables. And all quite excellent. No disasters like the infamous burnt scrambled eggs from one UM ARMY trip in high school. All in all, I think I like the food culture here. Just in case I wasn't already aware of that.
Also, another thing that is Just Not Done here: eating in cars. We left Friday night around 7:30 (or 19:30, if you prefer), for a three/four hour drive, so obviously there was eating to be done in the meantime. There were bags of sandwich-makings in the car, and our group was the last to depart, so I figured we would eat on the road. No. The other two cars stopped and waited for us at a Shell station (I was amused that they exist here too), and we went inside, sat down at a table, made sandwiches, and spent a good 45 minutes having dinner. You just can't rush these people with their food. Later in the weekend, discussing this curiosity with Christelle, I remarked that obviously there exist French people who eat in their cars, given the presence of the McDonald's drive-through. Oh no, she said, giving me a half-shocked, half-amused look, that's not what drive-throughs are for here. People pick up their food and take it home to eat. I mean, okay, so car culture isn't as big here - I haven't met anybody yet who lives in their car the way my family does at home (the minivan is more or less an extension of my mom's purse) - but still. On occasion, while doing errands, a hamburger in the car is not all that bizarre a concept. Except that yes, here it is. Vive les différences culturelles, I suppose.