Bon Appétit!

In the world I know, a lunch break is an hour. During this time you run to the dry cleaners, set up an appointment with your doctor, go to the bank and maybe get a bite to eat if you're lucky. If you are one of the few people who actually have a chance to grab food on your break, you likely have to take it back to your desk and eat it there while you continue your work, all while trying not to get crumbs in your keyboard.

In Perpignan this type of lunch break does not exist. In this city people do a strange thing: they enjoy their lunch break. With the exception of restaurants and cafes the entire city shuts down for two hours and everyone goes on a collective lunch break. There are no trips to the cleaners, no stopping at the bank and no picking up a last-minute birthday present for your mother.

Being from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, I found this concept completely foreign. We are all about the hustle and bustle and working the whole day through until 5 o'clock, sometimes later, so adapting to this Perpignan lifestyle was surprisingly difficult for me.

I never realized that relaxing could be such a chore until I had to do it when there was work to be done. It seemed like there was so much that I needed to do during my daily two-hour break that I was unable to accomplish because the city shut down. I couldn't go to the grocery store, run to the post office or pick up a trinket at the local art shop. I was forced by the town to actually sit and enjoy my lunch break.

Once I finally accepted that the city wasn't going to open all of its businesses back up for me, it was actually a pretty nice change from the hectic way of life that I am used to. I enjoy having two hours in the middle of the day to eat a delicious lunch and enjoy a glass of wine with friends, have a Skype session with my mom or even take a quick nap. I am able to return to my classes refreshed and I perform better than I ever did at 2 p.m. at home.

The Europeans were on to something when they came up with this concept and Perpignan is no exception. The people are clearly more relaxed than the majority of Americans I know and seem to be happier as a group. The residents of Perpignan use their two-hour window to enjoy delicious food, sip a glass of fine wine and discuss the hot topics of the city.

While not being able to run errands on your lunch break can still be inconvenient, I have actually become a huge fan of the concept. The discussion during my next two-hour lunch break will be how I can bring this custom to the States.

Recent Posts

The Cloth of the Sun by Su Kim

The Sculptor and his Wife by Mary Barczak

The Language Barrier by Jim Cameron

The Sixth Sense: Understanding by Christina Cocca

Bastille Day Bees by Annie Petersen

Reaching New Heights by Sarah Raghubir

Vive Perpignan by Chelsea Boone

The Changing Collioure Art Scene by Ariana Bacle

Having a Boule with Pétanque by Kristin O'Brien

Corridas in the 21st Century by Victoria King

Controversy Fermenting? by Marika Washchyshyn

A Different Culinary Landscape by Simon Arseneau


About the Program

Fifteen college students came from North America to Perpignan, France, in June 2011 to produce these videos and stories. To find out more, read a welcome letter from program director Rachele Kanigel, meet the program faculty and explore the 2010 website.