We walked in at 6pm (very early for a French dinner, but we had a babysitter waiting at home) and we had a choice as to where we wanted to sit. The covered veranda looked nice, but we looked over and there was a cat sitting under one of the tables. Now anyone who knows me also knows my incredibly horrible allergy to cats. They can cause me sneezing, fever, and a swollen face. Of course we chose not to sit on the veranda, and instead found a very cozy place inside the restaurant. Our waiter had just brought the appetizer, when that cat (who was actually kind of cute) decided that he wanted to watch us eat. "Ok", I thought, "As long as he doesn't get too close." Two minutes later he darted under the table, jumped right up next to me. As much as I try to be an accommodating person this just wasn't going to happen, so I picked him up gently and moved him to the floor. A few minutes later we saw a waiter take him to a back room.
Honestly, the whole thing didn't bother us a bit, and really made us laugh. However, I realized that in the United States a cat in the restaurant could cause some major problems. Customer complaints, health regulations being broken, a lot of local press about a cat in a restaurant. It surprised us a little to see a cat in a restaurant, but didn't completely take us off guard. The French seem to have a different idea about what health regulations should be reguarding food. Here are some other major differences.
-They serve beef raw with a raw egg broken on top and call it Steak Tatar.
-In the boulangeries (bakeries) they hand you your bread with the same ungloved hand that takes the money and don't wash in between.
-Sandwiches can often be found prepared and sitting out on a veranda sandwich shop for several hours (we don't recommend eating one of these. Jonathan got sick with one. Go to an inside refrigerated shop).
-The kabab shops have a slab of meat cooking by an open window all day long.
-Eggs are never refrigerated at the grocery store or market. We refrigerate them when we get home just to save on counter space. I'm not sure what the difference is between the eggs in the States and the eggs here, but it did take me a while to get used too.
-At the market, you find slabs of fish (prepared and whole) just sitting out in the open air. They are on ice, but they are definitely not covered. :)
These are just a few of the differences in food preparation and keep that we find over here, but we have gotten used to them. In fact, when we went back to the States this last spring we commented on how "strict" the Americans are with food. Haha!