Whenever I tell people I'm studying abroad in France, the first thing they say is "Oh, Paris?" After hearing this enough times, I began to tell people where I live in relation to Paris. Don't get me wrong, Paris is a beautiful city, but I'm thankful that I chose to study abroad in a smaller French town for many reasons, food included.

Tours, France isn't exactly a small town—there are around 300,000 inhabitants including 30,000 students. However, it's that perfect balance between being too small of a town to the point where I get bored and being too big of a town where I can't truly get to know it.

While the reasons I list below are based off my experiences in Tours, I believe they are relevant to other smaller French towns as well. 

1. Lower Prices

berry, strawberry, candy, pastry, cream, sweet, cake, chocolate
Laura Santi

When I visited Paris for a weekend, I ate several wonderful meals, but I noticed that all the prices were higher than what they would have been in Tours. I managed to eat on a budget, but couldn't always justify spending upwards of €4 on a cup of coffee. In a smaller town, you won't fall into tourist traps or encounter unreasonable prices.

Many Paris bakeries also had different prices based on whether you were eating your pastry à emporter (to go) or à place (at the bakery). Prices tended to be around €0.50-1 higher if you were planning on eating à place. In smaller towns, you will rarely see this.

2. Local Products/Specialties

candy, milk, sweet, ham, chocolate
Laura Santi

One of the best parts of studying in a smaller town is the local specialities that you will not find elsewhere. Tours has their own speciality of wine, cheese and meat that are made in the region and are harder to come across in other regions of France. While larger cities have unique foods, it is more difficult to truly get a feel for the specific region's food culture.

3. Unique Restaurants

beef, pepper, pork, meat, vegetable, rice
Laura Santi

Coming to Tours, I expected to mainly find classic French cafés and bistros. However, I was pleasantly surprised with a variety of restaurants ranging from Italian to Indian to Thai (as pictured above). The smaller size of the town gives me the ability to try the different restaurants without feeling completely overwhelmed.

Paris will have its share of unique restaurants, but I saw several Starbucks, McDonalds and Burger King locations. When you're studying in a town that doesn't have these American chains, it forces you to get out of your comfort zone and try foods you may not normally try.

4. Sense of Place

ice cream, chocolate, cream, cinnamon
Laura Santi

This goes hand-in-hand with the unique restaurants of a smaller town as you have the time to visit different restaurants and decide which ones you like best. In a town such as Tours, you have the ability to try five different crêpe places, all within walking distance, and find your favorite kind of crêpe. Considering the thousands of restaurants in Paris, this sense of place just isn't possible.

5. Fewer Crowds

Laura Santi

Fewer crowds mean three things: no wait times, a decreased likelihood of pickpocketers and increased patience of the staff (assuming you are trying to learn French and take longer to order than the average person). Many of the restaurants I ate at in Paris had lots of tables squished in very close quarters, leaving little to no room between the strangers at the next table and me.

Restaurants in smaller towns are less likely to be packed to capacity, allowing you to let your guard down and enjoy your food. You can't count on English-speaking staff in smaller towns, which can be good if you want to practice your French.

Overall, I would emphasize the importance of studying abroad in a smaller French town because you will gain a better feel of the food culture, products and atmosphere. France has excellent public transportation, which makes it easy to go to Paris, Nice or other large cities for the weekend. But the authentic small town experience allows you to truly immerse yourself in French culture.