Not sure what program is right for you? Click Here

© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Gap Year Abroad

2 posts from March 2016


Dealing with Dietary Restrictions in Paris

    First, let me apologize for the lack of interesting blog posts. As the year draws to a close, I have been thinking of logistical topics that I wished someone had written about before me, but I will write something actually interesting to read soon!


However, here is another post on a (hopefully) helpful subject:

Dietary Restrictions in Paris!


    Most Parisians seem to be thin and sleek, but it’s not due to the latest diet or fad. While talking to a friend about salad, I discovered that he had no idea what Kale was (Yes, I translated it AND showed them a photo...still nothing. Imagine a world that’s not Kale Krazy!!!). When I asked one woman about the idea of being a vegetarian or a vegan her response was “I understand why an American would do it because your meat is bad, but in France our food is actually good”.

    Needless to say, coming into Paris with any dietary restrictions is no piece of cake (gluten free, of course). As a former vegetarian and a current lactose-free gal, I talked with one vegetarian pal, Susan, and one pescetarian pal, Moses, to see how they go about eating in a country that doesn’t seem to want to accept their diet:

    Note: As usual, French people have it together more than Americans and don’t seem to have the same allergies as we do. Lactose pills are NOT available in France as nobody seems to be lactose-intolerant (I’m now known as that weird American who can’t handle French cheese). I haven’t met anyone with a peanut allergy or any other major allergies in general. As with all medication and supplements, it’s best to bring a large enough supply to last you the entire stay (I started my semester with zero lactaid pills and let’s just say it was a really rough time for all).


Host Family:

In the application you will be asked if you have any restrictions, but you should still talk about it with your family upon arrival. For the first two months my host mom thought I was dairy AND gluten free until I set the record straight. She, being the glorious and wonderful person that she is, was more than happy to work around my restrictions, but not every family is like mine. Nobody should be forcing you to eat a piece of chicken, but both Susan and Moses mentioned that neither of their families eat vegetarian. So, the two of them eat only veg-friendly side dishes or make their own food like they do back in America.



This one is complicated depending on your restrictions. It’s easier for me because I can more or less tell if their is going to be dairy in a dish and I just pop a Lactaid (shout-out to this glorious saviour of a dietary supplement), but it’s not always easy. If you happen to be hypoglycemic or diabetic and need to know sugar contents, you can try to ask but you may not achieve a reliable answer. Susan and Moses said they don’t tend to just try any restaurant because often times the only vegetarian option on the menu is a salad (which often time means a bowl of iceberg lettuce. Nothing else.) and going out to eat in Paris is no cheap ordeal. There are vegetarian restaurants scattered around Paris, but nothing like the U.S. See here for a list of good vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and generally more healthy options:



It’s really easy to think that French people don’t “diet” because they just all naturally diet by eating enough food for a small mouse. Yes, the portions in France are smaller, but French people eat healthy and they eat often. You’re most likely going to be walking a LOT and unless you want to make yourself ill and spend your time in bed (see my previous post “Sick Nasty” for tips on dealing with sickness in Paris), you need to fuel your body. First semester I ate kebab (a glorious and horribly unhealthy fast food) at least once a week and I felt awful because I wouldn’t eat anything else all day and my body was getting no nutrients (my host mom swiftly told me this was a bad idea and re-introduced proper meals). I was basically living like the stereotypical college kid. The beautiful thing about living in Paris on a gap semester/year is that you can eat REAL FOOD before you head off to a dining hall.


So, it is a little more difficult to have a dietary restriction in Paris, but it is still very possible! Go out and try out as much good food as you can and bon appetit!



P.s. Some helpful vocab below

Vegetarian=végétarien(ne)  (Pescetarian is the same as in english) 


Gluten-Free=Sans Gluten

Lactose intolerant=Intolérant au lactose



Shellfish=Fruits de mer

Nuts=Des noisettes 

Vegetables=Les légume

Meat=La viande 

Fish=Le poisson

And...because I know someone will want to know:

Kale=Chou frisé



Sick Nasty!

Disclaimer: this post is more geared towards those who are looking for advice for their own Gap Year in Paris, but feel free to read anyway!

There are fewer things I find worse than being sick. I can't stand it. I know some people love taking days off to lie in bed, watch Netflix, eat food and otherwise do nothing...but that's my nightmare. Don't get me wrong, I'm good for the first hour or two, but after that I'm fidgety, moody and downright mad about being less than 100% healthy. What's worse is being sick in Paris. I spent most of my senior year in high school battling this illness or combating that ailment. My goal in Paris was/is to spend as few days sick in bed as possible, but everyone has their downfalls sometimes. Being sick in Paris is hard for me because 1. My hatred of illness and 2. In the beginning, I was clueless about how to handle it. Luckily (or maybe unluckily considering I have had practice in being sick...) I have figured out how to conquer it all!

In America, I would take some medication, eat those go-to snack foods that you have had since you were a kid and sleep it off. Worst case scenario I would call my aunt (she's a pediatrician, but talking to loved ones can't hurt your sickness! Give your grandma a call!) and maybe then visit Children's Medical Atlanta (heck yeah I still see a doctor for kids...the grownup doctors don't even have my favorite lollipop flavor OR stickers!!!).

I figured it would be something similar in Paris and while it isn't too different, I wasn't as prepared as I could have been. Here is my advice for getting back on your feet and in the streets and cafes of Paris ASAP:

1. Be aware that your favorite comfort food may not be available here. Before I left I heard that goldfish crackers didn't exist in Paris so I stocked up in my luggage. I'm glad I did because that's all I ate for two days the first time I got sick. There are still plenty of comfort (and health friendly!) options! Ignore the saying about starving a cold or a fever or whatever it is. Your body needs food and liquids and Paris is no slouch on those two. Just maybe avoid the coffee and wine for a few days :)

2. The pharmacy is recognizable by the giant green plus sign and it is a lot less scary than you think! Even if you don't speak any French, you can usually manage to get what you need by A. Speaking English very politely and B. Miming out your ailment (just don't get TOO realistic...).

3. Going to the doctor's office usually involves going to an apartment down the street turned into a small practice. The first time I went to one, I thought I was about to enter someone's home! In a way, it feels nicer than being in a cold, white room.

4. If you can't/don't want to go to a doctor...they can come to you! House visits are much more of a regular thing in Paris than in the United States and don't cost much more than a regular visit to an office (those usually range from €20-€30 and depending on your healthcare, you can be reimbursed! Think of all the croissants you can buy with that money!!!). The service is called SOS Medicins. A friend of mine has called them to visit her and said it was pain-free and easy! They can also come at odd hours which is really helpful if something comes up where you can't get yourself to a doctor right away! Bonus: you don't even have to change out of your pajamas!

5. Your parents are a phone call away if you're really struggling, but if you're doing this program, take advantage of your host family. They are in charge of taking care of you for a reason. They care about your health and wellness! My host mom (who I am pretty convinced is just the greatest French woman to walk the earth ever) has been there for any little cough or sneeze I've had. She has made the doctors appointments for me when I lost my voice (or was too scared to call a French person), made me tea, let me sleep for a ridiculous amount of hours and acted like my own mom would.

Overall, getting sick is no fun and missing a day to explore some nook or cranny in Paris is less than ideal, but the most important thing to remember is that if you don't take care of yourself throughout this semester/year, you'll be burnt out and feeling bad the whole time. Make sure to drink water and rest (believe me...I know it's hard. I only slept 3 or 4 hours the first week or two and really paid the price) and as I always like to say:

"Positive Thinking, Positive Feeling, Positive Outcome"

And as the French would say:
“Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir” AKA “It is better to prevent than to heal"

Cheers and good health!

Gap Bloggers

  • Eva - Gap Year Abroad in Japan
  • Eamon - Gap Year Abroad in Spain
  • Sage - Gap Year Abroad in China
  • Kira - Gap Year Abroad in France
  • Smith - Gap Year Abroad in Chile
  • Maddy - Gap Year Abroad in Japan
  • Hannah - Gap Year Abroad in Italy
  • Chloe - Gap Year Abroad in Chile