How are the French different from other cultures?
What makes France so amazing, silly, serious, annoying, joyful, and fun?
Find out, chat with us, and ENJOY! or ENJOY ! (as the French would write it, with a space between the word and the explanation point).
Thursday, September 29, 2011
This is a ad in for a magazine in the La Défense train station in Paris.
The cover of the magazine says "Paris, the most beautiful city in the world."
That's about all I have to say about that. The picture says it all.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
The French are big on strikes. You can always expect a big strike or two in September. The reason is, most people are back to work after summer break, the government is in full swing, and this is one of the major months out of the year when the majority of the French population depends on government infrastructures (school, post offices, trains, etc).
Last year, there was a huge public transport strike. That was really fun for me (my commute to work takes me through every form of public transport out there). Anyway, schools like the whole striking too.
As part of the plan to lower the deficit, the government has been cutting back on public employees; school staff is part of that plan, the idea being not to replace teachers who retire.
As a result, in the past couple of years the number of teachers has diminished, and schools in small towns have closed.
So French schools went on strike this week. In Paris alone, more than 25% of the staff in 420 schools out of a total of 660 went on strike on Tuesday (ouch for the kids and the moms out there). 136 of those schools were 100% on strike, and thus shut down for the day. This year, 16 000 teacher jobs were eliminated and next year the plan is to cut another 14 000. And for the first time (in a long time at any rate), private schools have joined the strike.
You know, I understand that this creates an issue, and may the force be with you. But, the striking thing is really annoying and effects parents and children more than the government. Can't they find another way to fight this?
And now I have a cranky child who doesn’t want to go to bed, but who has the chance to go to school tomorrow…
This is Lindsay, signing out before I get too carried away.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
1. My first advice is, don't. If you are in a hurry, get a sandwich at the local bakery.
2. If you still want to, first things first, tell the waiter when you sit down that you are in a rush. The more you smile, the easier it will be.
3. When you get the menu, order your drinks right away. That way the waiter will be back in a couple of minutes (or should be at any rate).
4. As soon as you're done with the menu, put it down...don't look at it! If the waiter catches you doing that, he (let's go with 'he' in this article) will walk away.
5. As soon as the waiter comes with your drinks, be ready to order. This is a crucial step in the process. Do not miss this opportunity to order. If you do, you will not get your food on time.
6. When you get your meal thank him; tell him you're sorry but you're in a rush so you'd like a coffee (if you do) and the check right after your meal. This is phase 1 of the process.
7. Phase 2 - during the meal, when you're just about finished, ask for your coffee and the check.
8. Phase 3 - the coffee will come, the check will not. Trust me. So when you get your coffee, ask nicely (being nice throughout the whole process is crucial) for the check.
9. Phase 4 - get your credit card / cash out. In France they come around with a handheld device for credit cards. As soon as the waiter comes over, show him your credit card. He won't take it. He'll come back with the device. Three times out of four this phase takes at least 5 to 10 minutes.
10. Phase 5 - get up, go to a cash register; your waiter will appear. You will pay faster and get out faster if you do this.
This is Lindsay wishing you a happy and 'fast restaurant experience,' signing out.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Hard to say...But let me tell you, the park at 'Chateau de Versailles' has a lot to offer
1. Versailles has a castle - 1 point for Versailles
2. Central Park was designed by Olmstead - 1 point for Central Park
3. You can get food in Central park, everywhere... - 1 point for Central Park
4. You can go row boating in Central park - 1 point for Central Park
5. Wait, you can go row boating in Versaille too! - 1 point for Versailles
6. It's cheaper to row boat in Versailles - 1 point for Versailles
7. There's a playground for kids (of course, who else?) in Central Park - 1 point for Central Park
8. There's an ice skating rink in Central Park and a ball field - 2 points for Central Park
9. Cars can't drive through Versailles, even during the week - 1 point for Versailles
10. A tree from Marie Antoinette's era is still in Versailles (see picture) - 1 point for Versailles (because that's pretty cool)
11. You can visit Marie Antoinette's house in Versailles - 1 point for Versailles
Who's winning here?? It's a tie - unless you have something to add to my list...
Sunday, September 25, 2011
There are a lot of things that seem 'normal' to me now, but as an American or an expat, shouldn't:
I'm feeling pretty sick tonight (laryngitis), which made me want to talk about health care in France:
1. When you go to the doctors to get a shot, you have to bring the shot with you (yup, you have to go to the pharmacy to pick it up first)
2. In order to get the shot in the first place, you have to see a Doctor who has to give you a prescription - that's kind of annoying.
2. You don't have a maximum number of sick days at work. You go to the Doctor, he/she gives you a form to fill out (if you really are sick), you bring it to your office when you feel better as proof that you really were sick. If you are out of the office for more than 3 consecutive days, the French government and the company you work for reimburse you; under three days, you don't get paid.
3. If you want to consult a specialist (like a cardiologist), you have to see a general practitioner first.
4. Most medicine in France is reimbursed - you can leave a pharmacy with a bag full of medicine, for free.
5. When you get an MRI or an x-ray, the Doctor (not yours) at the hospital gives you the results right after the exam. You don't have to wait for your Doctor to get the results.
6. Doctors in France make a good living, but far from what American Doctors make.
7. Every French citizen has complete access to healthcare.
8. To become a general practitioner in France, you have to go through 9 years of school after college.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
'Priorité à droite' / The RIGHT of way
When you are driving down a street, any car coming out of a side street to your right (without a stop sign), now matter how small it is, has the right of way. See the drawing above: Car A is driving down a main road. Car B is coming out of a smaller side street. Car A has to yield to Car B. Wierd right? And I'm talking any kind of side street (except if it's a street coming out of a parking lot or a small passage parallel to the main street).
F anybody who has left/right issues (I do) this becomes very confusing.
So basically, driving down any street with several intersections is an issue for me. It's like bumper cars without the bump (at least let's hope so).
And to make all of this even more confusing, French people don't always respect the rules (I'll get into that at more length another time), meaning that even if they should stop, they don't always. So, add that to the equation and all I can say is, either don't drive in France, or slow down at intersections JUST IN CASE.
Friday, September 23, 2011
French women live for glamour and femininity, and heels are an essential part of achieving that.
So here's the dilemma...Paris is filled with cobblestone streets; the ones that make Paris so beautiful, that remind us of its historical past. So basically, if you want to overcome this obstacle, you've got two options:
1. Wear flats on your way from point A to B. This is not always easy, like if you're going out to a restaurant you can't really show up with another pair of shoes.
2. Learn, and suck it up.
Here's a little tip (I now pretty much consider myself a master at this form of art) to help you get a head start. Shift your weight to the balls of your feet. Don't overdo it; you don't want to look like a kangaroo. Your heels should be ever so slightly off the ground. You should also try to avoid the big gaps between cobblestones; those are killers for your heels.
The other advantage out of this is it's great exercise!
If you're interested, I'll make a step-by-step video...
Thursday, September 22, 2011
The most common conversation starter when you meet someone...anyone, whether for business, or with friends is, "Do you miss your country (in my case US)?"
First of all, word of advice; unless you want to play 'psychologist' for the evening, please don't ever ask that question to anybody who moved within the past year to a foreign country....the answer is YES!
So, let's go to the second scenario.
You're talking to someone who has been around for at the very least a year. Unless they fled the country for a specific reason (and in that case you would probably know about it and thus would not have to ask the question in the first place), the answer is pretty simple - yes and no.
I never really answer the question completely because frankly I'm bored of being asked.
So, here's my real answer:
Yes, I miss certain aspects of life in the States and there are also things that I don't miss.
I miss bagels, going to the supermarket at midnight, not sounding strange (accent) when speaking...oh and I miss cream cheese.
I miss having my friends I grew up with around me, the spontaneity of Americans...
I don't miss - running shoes and kaki cargo pants representing a 'fashion staple for men', restaurant chains sprouting up every 100 feet, the AC blasting in every building, huge servings of food, having to drive everywhere (unless you live in a city of course). I don't miss the sameness of everything. I miss Bed Bath and Beyond (actually, no I don't), I miss 8$ manicures and walk-in nail appointments, I miss HUGE supermarkets, and motorcycles that drive within the lane and not between two. I miss stores being open on Sunday, making life easier for anybody who works. I don't miss bad food (except for Dunkin Donuts - yummy) or bad wine (unless you buy the expensive stuff), but I do miss getting great coffee to go in any place and on every block. Oh, and I miss kinkos. Why doesn't France have a store like that? I don't miss the diluted coffee is in the States, nor the fact that it's nearly impossible to find a nice place outside where you can sit down and enjoy a cup of diluted coffee. I did miss Doritos and (kind of good) maple syrup but halleluiah you can now find them in your local supermarket in France! I miss being able to talk loud in a public place without getting stared at and being able to take children out to a restaurant. I don't miss going to restaurants and having to listen to screaming (though very adorable) kids. I miss volunteering, sarcasm (or people understanding sarcasm), and great TV shows. I don't miss eating fast oh but I do miss being able to eat a quick lunch over vacation. I miss straight to the point meetings, but I don't miss the lack of vacation days in the States. I don't miss i-phones, because they have them here...and that's what I'm using to write this. Ok. I'm getting bored here.
Is that answer good enough for all of you?
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
In this day and age, everything you want to know about products can be found on the internet. But you know, there's something wonderful about going to a pharmacy in France and getting a touch of that old school medical advice; who doesn't love that one on one consultation for a cold remedy, learning which toothbrush is best for your child, or how to treat your stomach ache? That doesn't mean that the medecine in France in of itself is old school. On the contrary, you can get the best, strongest and most effective medecine in French pharmacies.
The icing on the cake is getting along well with your local pharmacist. And get this...I can get any prescription meds without a prescription! (most of the time)...It's like having a whole CVS store staff concentrated in aisles 4 and 5!
The flipside is for some of the more personal stuff, which is often behind the counter. "Hi. I'd like a pregnancy test please... No. Not that one. Clear Control... What? You don't understand me? The Cleeer Controlle brand" (with a French accent and 15 people standing in line behind me starting to get impatient). "Nevermind. That one's fine...Do you have anything to stop my face from turning bright red?"...
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
5 tips on how to get help in a store
let's say that the person working at the store is a 'she' (to simplify the text below)
1. To start off, smile when you get to the store and say 'hello' / 'Bonjour'.
2. Allow the salesgirl to finish her conversation with her fellow collegue.
3. Once she's finished, ask her if you can 'bother' her for a second or two.
4. If what you want isn't in stock, DO NOT ask her if she can call another store to see if they have it; ask her if she would mind telling you if she knows of another store that might carry it.
5. AND, if you want to be helped next time, thank her for her time, tell her to have a nice day, and you're off!
Happy Shopping! By the way, France has loads of GREAT stores and brands, so even if getting help can be a bit frustrating at times, you won't be let down by all that great stuff you can find!
picture credit: liege-urbain.skynetblogs.be
Monday, September 19, 2011
I know that original names are interesting and all, but the world is turning into one big community (maybe that's a slight exageration on my part, but you get the idea). In my opinion, the new trend is names that work in several different languages. It's makes life easier. Names like Michelle, Marc, and Isabelle are easy to pronounce in many different languages and accents.
Let's use my name to illustrate my point: Lindsay.
I like my name, always have. I like it a little less now that I live in France.
The French pronounce it,
So, imagine you're on the phone and you ask to speak to Jon Doe. Try making yourself clear with an accent on top of it all... It's a hard task that I'm faced with on a daily basis as an American in France.
Just some food for thought for any of you who are thinking of baby names and want to live abroad one day.
(ps. the video is my voice illustrating the difference between the normal way to say 'Lindsay' and 'Lindsay' with a French accent).
Sunday, September 18, 2011
The fish 'SPA' concept originated from Turkey where people used it (and still do) to treat skin diseases. Now 'Fish Spa's are sprouting up in Europe and the States.
WHY, oh WHY did France include Florida in the deal?
I passed my test in Florida, in an empty parking lot. That's right; I didn't even leave the parking lot. And I'm not talking about a French style parking lot where you have to turn around and around in a tunnel into the depths of the earth to a point where you get dizzy. I'm talking, a simple, empty parking lot.
In France, on the contrary, it is very hard to pass the test. So here's what we're going to do: I'd like anybody who reads this article to please look at picutre below and tell me what they think is the correct answer. This is just one of the easier questions. If I get a lot of answers from you, I'll give you another tomorrow.
A: 110 km/h OR
B: 90 km/h
Friday, September 16, 2011
I'd like to dedicate this to a fellow blogger, Keith Ekstein, author of 'A Taste of Garlic', who has expressed his interest in my blog (thank you), but also (or perhaps mostly) his interest in learning more about my 'work'...
I work for a French lingerie company called LOU. Lou is one of the main players in the selective lingerie market, known for its unique style and corsetry expertise. What does that mean exactly? French lingerie is basically the art of combining a great bra that does its job, with beautiful craftsmanship. In other words, yes, a great fit is important, but the way it looks is just as, if not more important.
Americans are looking for a great fit and a flattering figure. The French are more into "how sexy do I feel in this bra?" or "does it meet my fashion standards" or "do I love the look of this and have to have it?" In other words, the French philosophy is "feeling beautiful and fashionable in the inside makes me confident on the outside. Who care about the rest."
It's not really about being sexy for others - sorry guys - it's more about feeling good and sexy for yourself... And, it can't hurt if you're wearing beautiful lingerie; you never know how your day will turn out...
GO FRENCH BRAS !!
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Yeah, one of the first things that really surprised me when I moved to France was how they eat shrimp. Mind you, this is probably more of a European thing than a 'French-only' thing...Maybe American's are the odd man out. Anyway...
The French have amazing table manners. They hold forks in such a way that put us to shame. So imagine walking into a room filled with very well-dressed, well-mannered French people, RIPPING the heads off of shrimp...and their little legs. Yeah...
You know, I'm starting to get used to it after 11 years. But still, I can only eat like 2 over the course of a cocktail.
Oh, and they come in all sizes, BIG guys, to very tiny ones. The French say that the flavor stays if you rip the sucker apart at the last minute...I say, 'yuck' and 'who wants to spend their time peeling shrimp instead of drinking champagne?'
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Ok, if there is one thing in France that really bugs me, it's the customer service; that is, the BAD customer service, or more like 'WHAT' customer service??
So, I think I'm going to have to give a lesson or two every couple of weeks on customer service. Mind you, American's have a lot to learn from the French, but customer service is not one of them....
So, there's a place called Berko in Paris. Very trendy, hip place. They make cupcakes, American-style cakes, etc. An exciting concept in France...
So, for my ten year anniversary party I decide to order a cake there.
Here's what happened:
Step 1: I go to the place in July. It was lunch time. The main cook was busy. Ok, fair enough. I was told to come back at 6PM.
Step 2: I went back at 6PM. The main cook was arguing with his owner/boss. This went on for an hour. I finally left the place. They told me to write an email at the end of August to order the cake.
Step 3: I wrote them as told. No reply.
Step 4: (this was starting to get annoying - it's just a cake...). No reply. I wrote back.
Step 5: I received an email saying 'Sorry, it's too late'... What the ****!!!!
Step 6: I called to complain. They told me they'd 'try to fit it into their schedule' and they'd get back to me.
Step 7: Of course, nobody got back to me. I called back and the answer was YES, we'll do it. (why is it that I had to plead these guys? Who's the customer here)??
Step 8: I received the price for the cake 2 weeks before the party. It was over my budget.
Step 9: I wrote them back (three minutes after receiving their reply) and asked for a smaller cake in order to fit into my budget.
Step 10: They didn't answer. At this point, I wasn't surprised. I wrote them an email to ask if they would be 'kind' enough to get back to me.
Step 11: No reply. Never heard from them; and luckily, I found a friend of the friend who made me a cake at the last minute....It was amazing (the picture above is of the cake she made) and it was half the price.
Moral of the story?
> If you want to copy an American-style business, customer service is more important than the product you're selling.
> Don't think you're the only 'cake people' in town. The cake I found was amazing, and the service was perfect.
Here's her info if any of you ever want an American cake in Paris.
Monday, September 12, 2011
What does that mean exactly? A lot of French restaurants in Paris try to appeal to tourists by adding International food to their menu.
What i don't get is, why, if you are coming to France, would you want to eat a hamburger or a bagel??? Try out French food. It's really good.
And the sauce won't make you fat, I promise. The reason is, the servings are much smaller and the French don't snack (most of the time).
Anyway, I'm drifting here. My point is the following: I think that French restaurants also carry 'American' food to appeal to the French, who want to try out a little of the Americano taste.
Take the brasserie down the street from my office for example. They've got this great, yummy, French restaurant, and then, in the middle of the menu, a hamburger (ok), and....
a Brooklyn Bagel...What is a Brooklyn bagel? If anything, it's a NY bagel. And guys (I'm talking to the restaurant here). I you want to make something American, please don't make a bagel.
It's like American restaurants who try to make a croissant (which are always gigantic and filled with oily cheese). Just stick to your good French food.
P.S. I'm going to order it in the next couple of days. Stay tuned to find out what it's like.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Anyway, that won't stop me from saying that my thoughts are with all Americans today, and especially those who lived through it, or lossed loved ones.
And I have to say, the French were deeply affected by it as well. This event touched and hurt people from all over the world.
Friday, September 9, 2011
If you weren't so cool growing up, now's your chance to get that 'cool' back.
Oh and I am so in with the guy, that if I don't have enough cash... he'll let me pay with my credit card even if it's under the minimum amount (lots of places in France have like a 5 to 15$ minimum). Up that coolness...
Thursday, September 8, 2011
That's a good question.
The long corridors in French train stations have lots of fancy stores
=> 1 point for Paris!
Getting from point A to B in Paris is always a hassle.
There is no rhyme or reason to the subway map.
=> 1 point for NY!
Trains run 24/7 in NY. They stop at around 11 pm in Paris
=> 1 point for NY!
Trains don't smell in Paris
=> 1 point for Paris!
Can't talk on the phone or even talk loudly in the subway in Paris
=> 1 point for NY!
The seats in the Paris subway cars are cushioned
=> 1 point for Paris!
You can't hear a word a train conducter is saying over the loud speaker in the Paris subway
=> 1 point for NY!
Paris has a tramway, so you can avoid taking the train in some areas of Paris
=> 1 point for Paris!
Paris subways have cafes in almost every subway station
=> 1 point for Paris!
Taxis are cheaper in NY (thus avoiding the subway is easier)
=> 1 point for NY!
The subway signs in Paris are really classy (the retro ones)
=> 1 point for Paris!
There are about 5 strikes (2 of which major) in Paris every year, which means that you have no way of getting to work, or you take about 4 times as long to get there.
=> 1 point for NY!
It's a tie...
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
My son came home with a post-it today with a note that listed the two items out of 24! that were missing.
I'm so sorry if I forget the colored pencils shaped like a triangle and the special cup (that had to be without a handle but had to have a lid)...
Monday, September 5, 2011
While Americans are enjoying their day off today (happy Labor Day by the way) I am experiencing for the third consecutive year the 'rentrée de class' (aka 'Back to School').
So, why all the fuss? Just look at the picture below...
This is my FIVE year old son's list. First of all, even though my French is very good, I've got to tell you, I feel like I'm learning a whole new language. I've never seen something so precise.
The day I went to get all of his school supplies, I had to flirt with the guy at BHV (a mix between Home Depot, CVS and Macy's) to get him to go through the list with me, supply by supply. Here are a couple of examples just to give you an idea of the insanity behind this list:
> A large binder (21 X 29.7 cm) with 4 rings. Make sure the rings are on the middle part of the binder and not on the back.
> Markers (average size) Bic brand, with the little bubbles on them.. (?) huh?
> 12 Big markers/crayons (not so clear) Stabilo brand with a triangular shape - So, I thought they meant highlighters, right? I bought 18 highlighters only to find out that they wanted 18 colored pencils in a triangular shape because they're easier to hold (why didn't they just say that?)
> An apron - BUT NOT plastic. Must be cloth. Must have elastic bands around wrists...
And so on and so forth....Long live the 'Rentrée de Classe'. What is it going to be like when he's TEN?
Saturday, September 3, 2011
Every week, you'll learn about a French star: actors, comediens, models, writers, designers....
I decided to start with an English touch...LOU DOILLON
Born on September 4, 1982, Lou is the daughter of English actress Jane Birkin and filmmaker Jacques Doillon. While Jane Birkin isn't very famous in the States, she's super famous in France, an actor known for her huge English accent that most people think she over exagerates. She started acting at five in the movie Kung-Fu Master alongside her mother (like a lot of actors with famous parents). In 1992, her father gave her a push by giving her a main role in the movie "Trop (peu) d'amour" (Too much (little) love). She's acted in over 15 movies. As a model, she's also featured in a Givenchy film. Lou is often featured in French gossip and fashion magazines for her fame and trendy style.
Tune in next week for more!
Thursday, September 1, 2011
How does it work?
A restaurant ticket can be used in pretty much any bistro / café / take out in France.
It looks like monopoly money, but works like a Euro.
The deal is the employer pays for half of it, the employee pays for the other half. Most of them are worth between 6 and 8 Euros, which pays for most of your meal.
It's a great advantage for employees, and in a country where taxes are very high for companies, employers get a tax deduction.
After 11 years, I still don't know why. It truly doesn't make sense. It's harder to cut into the cake, harder to pick up a piece, and frankly, harder to get into your mouth. The only upside that I can think of is maybe it looks more elegant...