Literally translated this means ‘meal’ and is a social event in your commune/village. During the summer months, you will see many a sign for Repas, practically in every village you drive through. They’ll have bunting out, a big banner telling you the date it’s on and what they will be dishing up. Maybe moules and frites, jambon and frites, porc and frites (seeing a theme here) and so on.
Now, I didn’t know what to expect at a Repas, if truth be told turning up for one can be a little daunting for a newcomer and one that doesn’t speak much French at that. But I would recommend it to anyone looking to settle and integrate into the community.
Some Repas evenings (and daytime) are organised by the village/town, some by the PTA of a local school, the pompiers (firemen) or a sports club.
Firstly, I would recommend you eat first if you have children. Say what? Yes, I know you are going out for a meal but you won’t get that meal until 10.30pm by which point your children will be starving and be thinking what an earth is this Repas malarkey?! But bear with it as, if you know what to expect, then you will accept that the 8.30pm start has nothing to do with the food arriving anytime soon. It’s all about chatting, getting a drink and slowly making your way to the long wooden tables.
You ordinarily have to pre-book your Repas tickets – it might be a private invitation only affair. Much like this summer – the one we went to in the village we were renting in and whereby the mairie came knocking on doors to sell tickets. Or you can buy them in the boulangerie, post office etc if it’s a general all are welcome Repas.
You can turn up on the day and just pay a few extra euros, but a lot of planning has gone into these events. The paper table clothes will have your name (much like a wedding) at the bottom of the table together with a table number and don’t forget your tickets as you will need them later! This will be when they either call out your dish (normally a choice of two and veggies, sorry there is no vegetarian option) or hand it to your server.
So, the private one we went to was recommended to us by our English neighbours. As we had been working flat-out on the house it wasn’t something I was overly looking forward to as we do like a cosy night in by the fire but I’m glad we went. Now firstly dress is smart casual – jeans are fine with a nice top as is something a bit more fancy but nothing really fancy as you will look a bit OTT. It is a relaxed affair and the lights are very bright in the local hall aka salle de fetes. No soft lighting here I’m afraid.
We were put with all the English speakers and some French – I think this is nice of the organisers and whilst yes, I would like to be amongst French speakers (and we were) they obviously want us to feel comfortable on our night out. I will know I have arrived when I’m on the French speaking only table at a Repas.
I did try to speak to the French couples next to us and I cannot wait to be able to have a decent conversation. They asked why we moved here and, after giving our various reasons, they said “you are very welcome here in France” which was just lovely.
Unfortunately, at this particular Repas, the English contingent were not particularly pleasant. One man who was sat next to the French man (who could speak and understand English) promptly moaned about their driving, the cost of a full English breakfast here and other insulting stuff. People had warned us about this but until you actually hear it – it is quite jaw dropping. Prior to his tirade on all things French he was balancing a spoon on his nose before proceeding to play a knife game with his fingers – shame he didn’t miss. So yes, it is real pot luck as to who you come across. Some Brits believe themselves to be far superior to other countries and their people. Well you’re not. No one cares that you live in a big house that you couldn’t buy in the UK blah blah!
So, at this particular Repas we assumed that the meal would probably turn up at 9.30pm at the latest but it was about 10.30pm. The kids did really well but were bored of waiting for their meal. We had starters served, then mains of ham or steak, dessert, bread and coffee. As the evening progressed my daughter got a second wind and was rather enjoying the evening. Less so were my two boys who left with Mr Normandy after coffee at 11.45 pm. We stayed for the music that started at 12am and left around 1.15am – the party was in full swing.
So as evenings go it is good value – normally around 15 euros for an adult and 10 for a child.
On Sunday, we went to another huge Repas arranged by my son’s cycling club. It was a pity it was a good 40 minutes away otherwise we would have stayed longer. As it was we left early at 11.45pm. We, again, were seated with English speakers who we knew – another boy in the club who cycles in the same catergory as our eldest. We were also sat wtih a couple and their daughter who were lovely to chat to. It’s great to hear people’s stories – so as I said it really is pot luck. The company at this one was great so it was a real shame to miss the music etc.
The food this time was called out and you collected it. What I also like about these do’s is that the mairie or president of the club will serve the food. This is so French, in my opinion they don’t do show boating, this is all about being humble.
So the key to going to a Repas is to know how it all works – eating late, dancing into the early hours, a mix array of company, networking, smart casual dress, bright lights and hopefully a wonderful night out.