As a Frenchman in banking, I'm appalled by the eating competitions of my British colleagues
I am a Frenchman in the City of London. I like to start the day with a croissant or a pain au chocolate. I like to have a cafe au lait and I like to listen to Charles Aznavour with my AirPods. I like to be meticulous about things.
The same cannot be said for my British colleagues. Especially on a Friday. Even before I get to the office, Friday mornings in the City of London are tainted by pools of crispy vomit around the side of buildings after the heavy drinking the night before. When I arrive on the floor, many of my colleagues aren't at their desks: they're either at the canteen or a nearby cafe buying something greasy to palliate their Thursday night. And things only get worse.
By about 10.30am on a Friday, after four hours of non-taxing work, British people will start discussing what to have for lunch. Because it's Friday, there's a tradition of ordering something from outside, or sending the junior to pick up food. Burgers, burritos and pizzas are the norm. If people are feeling a bit ethnic they might go for Nandos, or maybe Wagamama; maybe even Haz, which is a Turkish restaurant near St. Paul's. Non-calorific options are never on the menu.
When the junior gets back, the fun begins. Friday afternoons are for food competitions. Brits love them. So do Americans. Europeans like me look on in horror.
The worst I've seen is the McNuggets task. This is where an individual - usually a junior - tries to ingratiate himself by volunteering to eat as many McNuggets as possible. The record is around 40. The protagonist is almost always sick and usually comes in the next week covered in acne. If it's not McNuggets, it might be wasabi: how many huge spoonfuls can you swallow for a hundred pounds? It's Friday afternoon spectator sport: people chip-in £10 and if the hapless junior eats the most nuggets or ingests the spoon of Wasabi, he'll get the cash. It's demeaning and it's disgusting.
The strange thing is that it's only really the Brits and the Americans who participate in this eating. Frenchies like myself stay away. I might eat a burger and fries, but I'm not going to eat ten. French bankers in London have style: we live in South Ken, we like to spend time with our families, we're not into gross behaviour at work. Nor will you ever see a Nordic banker indulging in this sort of thing: they're far too elegant to stuff themselves for someone else's entertainment.
So, if you're a British or American banker indulging in a Friday afternoon food binge, I'd like to ask you to spare a thought for people with finer sensibilities than your own. I don't want to see you vomit in the waste bin. Nor do I want to see you covered in spots or gaining weight. Instead of that late trip to Krispy Kreme or M&S for dessert, try a little self-restraint. You might thank me one day: you'll feel much better for it. And if your boss is from Europe, I can assure you that your decorum will be noted.
Sebastian Charron is the pseudonym of a French man at a U.S. bank in London
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