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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

It is the end of a very long, and very nice Bank holiday weekend in London. I feel a bit sad. You see, I don’t want to go back to the old routine, hubby has left for yet another business trip on the other side of the world, and I have a to-do list longer than my arm. Where to find the time? I started indulging in a bit of self-pity, and it got me thinking of French expressions such as:

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Pleurer comme une madeleine (lit: crying like a madeleine). It means ‘crying like mad’. The expression comes from Mary Magdalene, called Marie Madeleine in French, who confessed her sins to Jesus, and cried all the tears from her body.

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Posted by / Category London /

In case you have been hibernating, let me share the big news with you: Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, had a baby daughter yesterday. Both mother and baby are doing well, and, unlike the rest of us mums who looked dishevelled after giving birth, Kate looked immaculate, and waved at the crowd with not only perfect hair, but also a relaxed smile.

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Me after giving birth. Much more realistic, right?

I might be French, but it took me a tad longer to look back to my former self. Lesson learned. If there is a next time for me (which is highly unlikely), I will have my make-up artist and my hairdresser at the ready. Oh, and a maternity nurse of curse, to avoid those dark circles that never go. I wish…

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

As you know, I am committed to improving your French vocabulary. Today, I am going to tell you all about a French expression ‘Poser un lapin’ (Literally: to put -down?- a rabbit). But first of all, you need to have a little bit of background.

Here it is: I caught up with a French friend of mine today, and she was in a terrible mood. You see, she was stood up by a guy on (what was supposed to be) their first date. Boy, she was angry. She hated men in general, and this one in particular. Between two sobs, it is fair to say that she hated the whole world.

‘ Il m’a pose un lapin!’ she said.

Sob, sob, sob.

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

Things were incredibly busy, and you may remember that I was close to a full-blown burnout last week (read here if you don’t believe me). Well, I am pleased to say that things have improved. As in, they have improved a lot.

Right, where do I start?

Well, I am proud to announce that I am the latest columnist of Match.com, and you can read my first post here: My Top 10 Tips To Look & Feel French. What do you think? I have been jumping up and down all day, because it looks great, and the response so far has been nothing short of amazing. I have been telling the whole world (and his sister) about it. However, the reaction of some of my French friends was a bit disappointing. One of the comments I got was:

” Well, not bad!”

What? Not bad? I have been singing “Diamonds” of Rihanna in the shower since yesterday ! Then I remembered. We French don’t say ‘great!’ or ‘well done!’. No, instead, we say ‘not too bad’ or ‘not shabby at all’. Damn it. I have become British. Lesson learned.

So, if you want to sound French, next time somebody does something great, just tell him or her ‘Not bad’. And wait for the slap.

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, Politics /

I might be a self-proclaimed French Yummy Mummy but, as some of you know, I also have a British passport. I am not sure that it makes me fully British (I will let you be the judge of this), but it allows me to vote at the next general election. Obviously France and Great Britain are both Western democracies, but there are a few notable differences between the two. As a first-timer in the UK, here are the main ones as far as the voting system is concerned:

1. In the UK, ordinary citizen like you and me vote once, and your vote will be used to elect the Members of Parliament who will then choose the Prime Minister (the leader of their party). In France, there are two elections: one for the President, and one for the MPs (‘deputes’). Obviously nowadays both elections happen at the same time, or within a few days. It used to be different, and it led to having a President of one political party, and a Prime Minister of another political faction. We used to call it ‘cohabitation’. Ah memories! ‘Cohabitation’ is a bit like the polyamory of politics: the French decide to commit to two different parties with the consent of all people involved (they didn’t have much of a choice, to be honest with you). What can I say? My home country used to be very progressive: it clearly anticipated this new polyamorous trend (politically speaking, of course). Things have slightly changed now. Cohabitation has disappeared, we talk about coalition. And it is the same in the UK of course. Coalition is much more of a practical arrangement, come to think of it. It is a bit like choosing another flatmate when the rent is too high. The main party will choose the flatmate who will make the most compromises.

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Posted by / Category London /

My French friends keep asking me how I can cope with the bad weather in London. Because, according to them, everything is so grey, right? Well, they say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. And grey doesn’t have to be boring, right?

In fact, look at this picture, and tell me what is boring about it…

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

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I might look good but I am not relaxed at all…

I keep being asked whether I had a nice break. Of course I had a lovely break. But the truth is, right now I have so much to do that I don’t know where to start. The Easter break has lasted the best part of a month. This is completely bonkers! A whole month! No wonder I need to play catch-up! The worst part, if you ask me, is to have to prepare my French taxes. Total and utter nightmare. And because the after-school clubs haven’t started yet, I simply have no time to do anything. I keep starting stuff that I can’t finish. So yes, I am in a foul mood. How do women manage to work in this country? And to top everything up I get condescending comments on a daily basis. I can’t take it any more. So, if you see me, please avoid the following comments. For your own good, I am telling you.

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

Elina started following my blog a few months ago. She happens to be a cosmopolitan mother of two, blogger, fitness and health enthusiast and geek.You can read her at UrbanMumble and you will see for yourself that despite her young age (why am I feeling so old?), she is incredibly mature and well-grounded. She wanted to defend British men (you know all too well that I never miss an opportunity to criticise British men, right?), and in the interest of fairness and freedom of speech (yep, you read that right, I am in a militant mood today), I offered her to guest post on my site. Here is what she had to say…

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Ville Valo. [Note from Muriel: I think I could go Finnish, Elina…]

 

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon Muriel’s brilliant article “To flirt or not to flirt”, a post about some of the romantic differences between French and British men. In a nutshell, the French Yummy Mummy estimates (quite accurately in my opinion) that British seduction is about 10% words and 90% booze whereas the opposite holds true for the French. This observation immediately chimed with me, being a foreign national who has lived both in the UK and France, for a number of years.

However, this is all very relative. See, where I come from, Finland, the country of the socially awkward and painfully timid, things are way worse. I would go as far as to say that Finnish seduction is about 99% booze and 1% incomprehensible blabber. Compared to that, British men appear deliciously eloquent, exquisitely charming and exceedingly friendly. No wonder the small talking and friendly British men are in pretty high demand amongst Finnish ladies (I should know because I ended up with one too).

In fact, Finnish ladies love British men so much that they come in the top 5 of foreign spouses to Finnish women. These marriages can be counted in the thousands per year, an impressive figure considering our tiny population. These couples end up divorcing more rarely than almost any other combination. This phenomenon does not seem to work both ways though. Finnish men do not marry British women in abundance.

To find out what is behind the magnetic pull British men have over Finnish women, I did two things. 1) I asked my friends, many of whom demonstrate a preference for British men, 2) turned to some obscure internet forums where people speak their minds without censorship. I had to censor some of that content for this post to remain politically correct but in short, the verdict is this:. British men may not be the most handsome in Europe, nor do they have the sophisticated flirting skills of the French. However, their cool charm, politeness and ability to converse (with a distinguished accent) appeals to the attention-deprived Finnish women.

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London, Looking Good /

If you read the papers over here, there is a good chance that you will find at least one article about child obesity. The irony is that, in France, we don’t talk about this issue much. That said, I understood more about the issue last week when I saw teenage girls in school uniforms queuing at a local restaurant to get a takeaway for their lunches. Guess what the lunch consisted of: a huge portion of fries (like, a whole paper plate), with dollops of mayonnaise (or ketchup) on top of it. I couldn’t believe it. The owner even had a special deal for them, and was calling them sweetheart and darling. They were clearly regulars. My lunch never ever consisted of a huge portion of fries. It is just something that a French person wouldn’t do, you see. If you are in a rush, you have a salad or a sandwich, or even a kebab. Never just fries. It simply wouldn’t cross my mind. 
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Posted by / Category Travel /

I think that I am now a true Brit. It is the only possible explanation, right? Hear me out: I am insanely happy to spend a few days in Provence. Seriously, what’s not to like? The light is to die for, the beaches are empty, the food is fresh, tasty and healthy, and so on, and so forth…

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That said, it turns out that I seem to be the only one to be happy. Restaurant terraces are empty, and owners are grumpy because of the ever-rising taxes. Shops are desert. People don’t smile. They don’t joke. They don’t laugh.

Despite the sun and the outstanding beauty of my region, everybody was complaining about the wind today. Seriously?

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