3 Tips To Survive Food In New York & America

DON’T be spontaneous and go to a random restaurant…Yelp or Google it before

14 Restaurant Horror Stories That'll Make You Want To Order Takeout

I (unfortunately) speak from experience. There is nothing more amazing than discovering a cute little restaurant while out and about and leaving with a smile on your face and a new favorite place.  It recently happened to me in Lisbon, I was too hungry to make my way to the restaurant I had in mind, and didn’t have Wifi to check reviews. I ended up eating the best cod quiche in the world. While this would be a common story anywhere else, I would consider it a miracle in New York, and the USA in general. The only few times I trusted my instinct to pick a random spot turned out to be a disaster. Don’t be fooled by candle-lit restaurants or French/Italian sounding menus…some places in the City spend more time “fluffing up” than in the kitchen. If you need to eat and don’t have Internet access, do yourself a favor and avoid restaurants with photos of the food on their menus (eeew,) or even worse, fake food displays outside. These are kind of “universal tips” but they will keep you away from tourist traps. Another way to make sure you eat the best that New York has to offer is to know your neighborhoods. You have better chances to find a good restaurant where New Yorkers go out, like in the East Village, Lower East Side, Nolita, or Williamsburg than in touristy areas such as Times Square, Little Italy, or the Upper East Side.

DON’T be cheap with food…Buy quality products, your body and wallet will thank you later

If there is one thing that all New Yorkers and tourists can agree on, it’s that eating in New York ain’t cheap. Whether you are dining out or grocery shopping, it seems like feeding yourself is a luxury. When you are new to the City, it’s very tempting to adopt a low-cost mentality because prices get so overwhelming. As an exchange student, I used to either buy enough stuff to cook a basic pasta dish, order Chinese at home, or eat cheap Mexican food while out. But I was doing it all wrong! Even with those sad options, most of my money went towards eating, not to mention the 5 kilos (10 pounds) that I gained in 7 months. The bottom line is that food is expensive in New York, good or bad. So if you are going to eat – and frankly, you should – just spend it on good stuff! Yes, organic vegetables and antibiotic-free meat is overpriced, but think of it as an investment. Money you spend on healthy food is money you save on a gym membership, stupid diet products, and eventually…doctor’s appointments. Most importantly, things will actually HAVE a taste.

DON’T rush while grocery shopping…take time to read labels 

Now you understand that when it comes to eating right in the City, you need to know your New York restaurants and accept to buy quality products. But what does quality even mean in a country where food regulation is so loose? Shopping at Fairway, Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s doesn’t necessarily guarantee getting good stuff. You have to learn how to spot the “fake” shit. While a package that reads “All Natural” in France is likely to be so, you should assume that it’s the opposite here in America. Organic labels tell me a products is not as bad as the rest, but the best quality indicator is always the ingredient list. You can have something organic with high-fructose corn syrup or canola oil in it, which, by the way, are my two worst American enemies. They don’t make life easy because they are literally EVERYWHERE. Just to give you a quick example, Coke in Europe has real cane sugar, whereas it’s high fructose corn syrup here in the US. It’s one of the many things I grew up with and still have at home but not in America. I’m not a scientist, but I know that there is no reason why we should use artificial crap like corn syrup instead of sugar and canola instead of olive oil other than economic profit. If you can avoid these two things and make sure to buy at least some organic food (especially animal products like meat, eggs and dairy,) you can survive American food!

 

What have been your challenges with food in New York or the US?

 

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Charlie Hebdo Explained By A French Expat

Starting 2015 with a post on terrorism was definitely not on my list, but I figured it would be hypocritical not to. Although the recent attacks on the staff of Charlie Hebdo happened miles away from New York, they touched America deeply. As a French person exposed to American people and media’s perception of the event, I feel a responsibility to tell my side of the story.

The first and most frequent reaction that I noticed among Americans while discussing this tragedy is to question the legitimacy of Charlie Hebdo as a publication. No matter how much discrimination Muslims suffer in the US, the respect of religion ironically remains a golden principle in America. “Between you and me, what’s the deal with Charlie Hebdo?” “Some of its content seems questionable,” “Is it even a real newspaper?” Behind those typical ice-breaking questions, I could hear the real and simpler one loud and clear: “Is Charlie Hebdo anti-Islam?”

My answer would be just as simple: absolutely not.

Let me get this straight, islamophobia is a major problem in Europe and particularly in France, a country that accounts for the largest Muslim population in Western Europe. In 2013, 226 anti-Muslims acts were registered in France. Since the 2015 attacks, islamophobic incidents increased by 110% compared to January 2014. Marine Le Pen’s “Front National” – a far-right party that paints Islam as incompatible with France’s values, demonizes immigration and the place of diversity in society – represents 25% of the French electorate. So yes, France has 99 problems and Islam is (sadly) one.

Now back to Charlie Hebdo, the left-wing satirical magazine that lost much of his editorial staff in the recent terrorist attacks. This historical newspaper is known for its commitment against not just Islamic radicalism, not just Christian and Jewish fundamentalism, but against all forms of obscurantism. Charlie Hebdo expresses this stand through investigative journalism and humor, particularly satirical cartoons. It’s the latter mean of expression – used to caricature the Prophet Muhammad among many other religious, political and social subjects – that sparked off a series of attacks against the publication, which eventually led to the murder of ten of its employees on January 7, 2015.

Islam clearly forbids the depiction of the Prophet, which is why Muhammad cartoons in Western media have always provoked mixed reactions in the worldwide Muslim community and violent protests in fundamentalists circles. It has never been about the actual meaning or intention of the cartoons. There is a big difference between doing something non-Muslim – such as drawing a religious figure – and committing islamophobic acts, like vandalizing a Mosque or discriminating a Muslim job applicant. If Charlie Hebdo’s staff is islamophobic for not following the proscriptions of a religion that isn’t theirs, then wouldn’t that make anyone who drinks alcohol guilty of the same crime?

Many Americans assume that France has very little limits when it comes to criticizing religion because it’s an “atheist” country. To those, I will simply suggest to look up the definitions of Atheism and Secularism…Spoiler alert: they are not the same. Terrorists attacked the people who fought for humanism and defended the very value that allows Muslims, Jewish, Christians and Atheists living in France to be one people: secularism.  It’s the death of this ideal that eventually allows Marine Le Pen and friends to infiltrate ignorance and fear of Islam into the society.

But Al Qaida chose not to attack their direct target – islamophobic groups – first. The organization’s ultimate goal is to conquer, but no one can conquer without a war, and any conflict needs two opposite sides, two extremes. Eliminating the voices of moderation can then fairly be interpreted as a Al Qaida’s strategy to facilitate its overall mission. With the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, terrorists didn’t kill the enemies of Islam, they shook the European heritage of the Age of Enlightenment while delivering the most brutal message: even tolerance won’t be tolerated.

 

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10 Ways New York Changes French People

#1 Eating sausages or bacon in the morning doesn’t totally repel you

#2 Drinking is no longer an after 6 PM activity

#3 You discovered the concept of wearing colors

#4 Taking the train has become a last resort option

#5 Online dating is nothing to be embarrassed about

#6 It’s not weird that everyone is on a constant diet

#7 You said things like “the service was terrible” because you waited 10 minutes for your food

#8 You got used to checking your bank account before ordering cheese and wine

#9 You think that going out on weekends is for tourists

#10 The amount of French people in New York overwhelms you

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Working in New York vs. Working in Paris

Work is probably the best way to get to know a city, its people, and vibe. Even after working in Manhattan for a year and a half now, leaving the office at 5.30 PM still feels like a luxury, and I haven’t gotten used to the fact that coworkers bond over mani pedis. Based on my experience in both Paris and New York, here are a few typical work situations that would be completely different from one side of the globe to the other:

It’s 9 AM in the office…

Paris: You’re early today

New York: Why are you late?

Getting an early start in New York is a give and take: you get to enjoy life after 5 o’ clock and avoid the Parisian infamous “metro boulot dodo” grind.

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It’s lunch break…

Paris: What are we eating today?

New York: Are you eating today?

I’m not saying that New Yorkers don’t eat for lunch, but they usually skip the lunch break and snack in front of their computer instead of going out for a proper meal. It’s kind of sad but again, that allows them to peace out early and go about their lives.

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It’s 6 PM in the office…

Paris: I hope you didn’t have any dinner plans tonight

New York: You are burning the midnight oil

One thing that I don’t miss about working in Paris is the very thin line between your personal and professional life. In New York, having plans is something your boss and coworkers actually respect. Staying late at work is not rewarding like in France: it’s seen as a lack of productivity.

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It’s Happy Hour…

Paris: Let’s go to the bar downstairs at 8 PM

New York: Let’s get drunk in the office at 5 PM

In New York, most corporate people have dinner at 6 PM, which for me is still apero time (if not gouter.) So having drinks with coworkers is always an early event that can be started in the office.

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It’s the company’s Christmas party

Paris: Make sure you don’t get drunk in front of your boss

New York: Make sure your boss sees you drunk (and end up liking you more)

Again, New Yorkers love their glass of scotch or a skinny margarita. Staying sober is not the best way to make connections.

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From Paris to New York or the other way around…what has YOUR work experience been like?

 

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How To Become European in America

I never thought of myself as a European…at least not until I moved to America. When you grow up in the Old Continent, you are not aware of your own “Europeaness.” You are too busy being French, Portuguese or Greek to see the whole picture.

So when I first came to the US, I didn’t understand why people called me European. To be honest, I thought it was because of Americans’ infamous geography skills. But after six months in a New York College, two jobs in Manhattan, one boyfriend from Atlanta, and many American friends…I finally get it!

Americans and Europeans may be referred as “Westerners” by the rest of the world, but the truth is, they live complete different lives. Here are three basic signs that will not only prove that being European is real, but that you’re officially one:

#1 No matter how long you’ve lived in America, time will never be money to you 

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In the Motherland of multitasking and efficiency, gyms and cabs have TVs, coffee is to go, dinner is at 6 PM, even weddings start on time. You may have become a little more aware of the fact that when people say they will meet you in 20 minutes in the USA, well they actually mean 20 minutes, and not an hour like in Europe. As an expat, you try to fit in and meet friends for dinner right after work, but deep inside you know that you WILL get hungry at 10 PM because your inner clock works differently. A good American day is when you organized your time so well that you got to do a lot. A good European day is one that turned out into your favorite activity: doing nothing.

#2 Your idea of comfort is still in its infancy stage compared to American people 

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America is designed to save people the trouble to do stuff or think too hard. Cars are automatic. Streets have numbers and not names. It’s not about how charming things are, it’s about how convenient they get. A hot day in the USA? Turn up the AC to the point that you have to wear jackets in July. Americans have solutions to all problems and don’t think twice about it, while nothing that Europeans do is practical. It’s too hot in Europe? C’est la vie baby! We Europeans love to think that we are low-maintenance because we don’t believe in changing the nature of things. But in reality, we are too lazy to live up to that noble cause. We deem comfort or gadgets as unnecessary bullshit, but it makes us unproductive. So we end up complaining a lot, which leads right to my next point…

#3 America made you a more positive person, but being happy is a whole other story 

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When Americans are optimistic, Europeans are nostalgic. That’s because people from the Old Continent love to complicate things. We know that there are easy solutions to our problems, but we don’t necessarily trust these solutions, so we’d rather stick to what we know. Just because we have the option to do stuff doesn’t mean we will. We are better at thinking than acting, which is why we don’t have the most innovating technology, but Europe is home to groundbreaking art. While we are still stuck trying to figure out the idea of happiness, Americans are  busy pursuing it every day. We ask too many questions about everything which is why the world loves us, but also makes us suck at life.

 

In the end, the complexity of the Euro swag is both a gift and a curse. What else do you think makes European different from Americans?

 

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