11 Foods Americans Miss When Abroad
Updated: Feb 7, 2022
I had been planning to spend my whole summer going back and forth between Greece and France, but a family emergency brought me home sooner than expected. It's always hard coming home and adjusting to certain parts of American culture. One example of reverse culture shock I have when I get home is how often people eat.
I don't know if this is just my family, but everyone is eating at different times of the day until we get to dinner. My littlest brother wakes up and has a bacon and egg sandwich at 8am, I have my smoothie around 9am, and my littlest sister is whipping up crepes or pancakes, or some other concoction at 11am, which is when my little brother and I start to get hungry. In France, people are pretty strict about their meal times and so this threw me off when I got back.
But, reverse culture shock aside, there is a positive side to all the eating: stuffing my face with all the food that I've been missing when I was in France.
1. Pita Chips
Most of my friends in France know what I'm talking about when I say "my favorite hummus." The grocery stores in France had this sun-dried tomato hummus that was so creamy, my vegan friends couldn't believe there wasn't a dairy product in there somewhere. The same brand also sold basil hummus and roasted red pepper hummus and they were both almost as delicious as my favorite hummus. But, both the things I usually eat with hummus (pita chips and those flat pretzels) are nowhere to be seen. I've searched high and low and it's one grocery store must-have I just couldn't get when I was in France. But, a baguette fresh out of the oven wasn't too bad of a replacement.
2. Peruvian Food
I love Central American/South American food. Give me some tomato & onion salad, plantains, steamed rice, and black beans, and you'll have my love forever. It's the perfect mix of fresh & cooked and salty & sweet that you'll feel satisfied after meal. They do sell plantains in France, but black beans are practically impossible to find. Also, I just can't do it like my friends at Super Chicken do.
3. Indian Food
There are actually a good amount of Indian restaurants, but I will go to my grave saying that the Indian restaurant near my house is the best Indian food you'll get outside of India. It's seriously so delicious that I've had dreams about their Gobi Manchurian, which is fried cauliflower in a garlic chili sauce. Masala is always my last meal before I go back to Europe.
I only lived about an hour and fifteen minutes on the train from Paris aka the only location of Chipotle in France, but there's so much good food in Paris I could never bring myself to go to Chipotle. You'll also find yourself spending quite a bit more than you're used to with prices for burrito bowls starting at almost 10€ which is about $11.
5. Real Tacos
In France, tacos consist of tortillas filled with french fries, up to 4 different meats (I've seen someone order chicken nuggets, cordon bleu, and chicken tenders), cheese sauce, and then another sauce like ketchup or mayonnaise. It's disheartening. In my town there was this Chipotle-esque place that sold "tacos" but it's pretty hard to get good Mexican food outside of Mexico and the SW U.S., so trying to get it in Europe is pretty impossible.
Cava is my go-to fast casual food when I'm back in the U.S. Mediterranean food is my favorite type of food so Cava is really a dream for me. There are a good amount of falafel places, and some Mediterranean places in Paris, but there is no replacement for Cava.
7. Veggie Burgers
The French are about 10 years behind us when it comes to vegetarian and vegan food. There are options, but you don't have nearly as many options as you do in the U.S. The veggie burgers in France are mostly just made with rice or other types of grains. I've also eaten a veggie burger that were literally just a hash brown. When I get home I love my chipotle black bean burgers, my sweet potato and brown rice burgers, and my spinach burgers.
8. Corn On The Cob/Mexican Street Corn
I know this is the third Mexican-type food I've put on this list, but you really can't get Mexican street corn anywhere in France so I felt like this one needed a separate number. You can't even find fresh or even frozen corn in France to make it on your own. They only have canned corn or corn on the cob that is covered in plastic and whatever juice is in canned corn so they both taste the same. You really can't get a lot better than some grilled corn on the cob, but Mexican Street Corn managed to do it.
9. Bagels & Flavored Cream Cheese
The French actually do have bagel stores, but they are treated more like sandwiches, and have nothing on American bagels. French bagels might have eggs and cheese on them, but it's more likely to have a variety of veggies, plain cream cheese, and some type of meat. When I come home I love to get a good everything bagel with veggie or scallion cream cheese.
10. Classic American Breakfast
Going off bagels, it's hard to find a good American breakfast in France. I usually am fine with something simple for breakfast, but when I wake up on Sunday morning after being out late and drinking a few too many Mai Tai's with my friends, I want nothing more than a greasy American breakfast. I want some shredded, golden hash browns, scrambled eggs, and toast. I also miss eggs Benedict from time to time, but this is actually getting easier to find!
11. Hearty Salads
There are pretty good salads in France. One of my favorites is one that is served with warmed goat cheese on toast, but you don't have the same variety of satisfying salads as you do in the US. In the US there are entire restaurants devoted to salads, but in France you'll maybe have 3-5 options on the menu.
Let me know in the comments if you think I'm missing anything!