One of my very first social breakthroughs in France was being invited to have ‘le gouter’. I had only been there for a few months and didn’t know a lot of people yet. So, when my 5-year old daughter made her first friend, his mother invited us over for ‘le gouter’.
I was so happy that my French social life was about to begin, but it also provided me with my first challenge – what the heck was ‘le gouter’? I had never heard of it before and had no idea what it was. All kinds of questions came to mind. What time should I be there? Should I bring something?
I googled ‘gouter‘ and found that it was ‘a light meal that you take at the end of the afternoon’ (Wikipedia). I also found out that it might be a proper (cold) meal around 5 o’clock which consists of fruit, cake, milk, bread and chocolate. So, with my research in hand, I had my first impression of what this gouter might be – a sweet meal at the end of the afternoon between lunch and dinner.
At what time and should I bring something?
But I still wasn’t sure of the time yet, so I decided to come straight out and ask the mother who had invited me. Just asking things if I am not sure about something has become second nature to me since I started living in France – I highly recommend it. It turned out that she was not offended at all. The final piece of the puzzle? She expected us at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
When the big day finally came there was a huge chocolate cake on the table along with soft drinks and coffee. I decided not to bring anything with me in the end which, when I look back, wasn’t very friendly at all. But hey it was my first time, right? Looking back on it now though, it would have been much nicer if I’d brought something along too
The Gouter really is an important part of the day in France. When you visit a bakery, you see lots of people devouring their sweet treats, mostly children who have just finished school. But also, friends and colleagues taking a break.
When my daughter goes on a school trip for the day, the school always reminds us to send in a gouter with them. The children even have gouter whilst ‘on the road’. It is not something to be missed! 😉
So in short
To summarise, when you’re wondering what a gouter is?
- It’s a cold snack/meal taken around 4 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon
- It’s usually very sweet (think cake, pain au chocolat, crepes, biscuits) accompanied by juice or coffee
- If you’re invited or do it with friends, bring something over yourself
- Remember, you can never get enough sugar!
- Gouter can/and is taken most days
So, there you have it, I survived my first gouter challenge and after that, a lot more followed. I now know what to do and what to expect when I am invited for gouter and I hope you do too.