The Top American Foods That Expats Miss Most
Although France is home to some of the world’s greatest delicacies, expats still frequently find themselves craving a taste of home. For some, it’s as simple as a spoonful of peanut butter; for others, deep cultural traditions – think Thanksgiving, summer barbecues, and more – have their stomachs panging for far more than just the potential food on their plate.
We spoke with seven food and wine professionals abroad to hear what their hearts and stomachs long for most. American-based readers, you’ll be counting your blessings (in cheese-flavored crackers) by the end of this read.
“Surprisingly, it’s the access to ethnic foods like sushi, Indian, and Thai that I miss the most. Burgers, however, are slowly making their appearance here – a Five Guys just opened in Dijon last year!”
- Matt Chittick, Winemaker at MC Thiriet and Domaine de Villaine.
“As an expat, there are quite a few things that I miss about foods and traditions in the US. One that strikes me often is the afternoon backyard BBQ. French people adhere to strict mealtimes, so the idea of starting at 2PM or 3PM in the afternoon is quite strange. I do miss those unstructured afternoons in a backyard, drinking beer or wine, slowly grilling, and then the party extending aimlessly into the night,”
- Josh Adler, Founder of Paris Wine Company.
“Peanut butter and all cookies! The replacements I’ve found are Nutella and sables bretons,”
- Icy Liu, Founder of Ungrafted Podcast.
“I miss Mexican! Far more than anything else. Everything from authentic tacos to tex-mex burritos and enchiladas. Also, as amazing and diverse as French wines are, I miss being able to try non-French wines, as they’re so hard to come by in France, and still, even after 12 years in France, I miss Thanksgiving. I also miss good bar culture, with affordable, interesting, and delicious cocktails. A well gin & tonic in France often costs 10-12€, and I don’t even live in Paris where I’m sure it’s more expensive. In the US, you can get a homemade, interesting cocktail with multiple ingredients for often less money than a mediocre glass of wine,”
- Geoffrey Cohen, Sales Manager at Domaine Montrose.
Note: Cohen’s solution for missing Thanksgiving is to host a ‘Francegiving.’ “It’s the best of both worlds,” he says. “It’s basically an entire traditional Thanksgiving feast with the added oysters, Champagne (usually a couple magnums), and an entire cheese course before dessert.)
“One of the things that I miss the most is the sandwich culture, like going to a local sandwich joint or a bodega and getting a fat sandwich and crushing it in front of the shop or eating it on a stoop. Here in Paris, it’s a bit different. There are sandwiches at bakeries, and also some sandwich shops, but they don’t have the same vibe. The sandwich you mostly see is jambon beurre on a baguette – it’s what I get when I feel a little sandwich craving,”
- Robert Mendoza, Chef at Le Saint-Sébastien.
“I really miss good American peanut butter, as well as any cracker with an essence of cheese: Goldfish, Cheezits, etc. Nothing compares! The French only like eating real cheese, not cheese with a "z" in its name. It has been a source of frustration for my 15 years of life abroad. Peanut Butter, which costs a fortune here, can be found in health food stores, but they don't have that grilled peanut flavor,”
- Francesca Hansen, Sales Director and Distributor Relations Manager at Paris Wine Company.
“I think what I miss most are the things you could easily grab at a corner bodega in New York — like a big jar of kimchi. I haven't yet found a good replacement. Once I popped into a Korean restaurant in my neighborhood and asked for kimchi to-go and they were a little confused - like you want just kimchi? They made me a little to-go container and I served it for dinner with white rice and fried eggs. I also miss barbecuing. My brother has a sweet outdoor space in South Slope with a little garden and a yard. We used to go there on weekends for barbecues — hanging around and snacking and drinking all day, with a Jets game playing in the background, depending on the season,”
- Caitlin Raux Gunther, Paris-based Food Journalist.