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You already know it, we French are different. No, seriously. I mean it. Right now my home country is torn because Gerard Depardieu, one of the most famous French actors, has left France to avoid paying punitive taxes. I have never seen France so polarised into two opposing factions: those who support his move, and the others who can not find words that are harsh enough to blame him. It is a good thing that we don’t have any guillotine left, because I am darn sure that some rich and famous would be sent to it.
That’s not the end. We French have what we call a ‘cultural exception’. We are special. Different. We have our own film stars and our own movies. What I didn’t know (how naive of me!) is that we pay a hefty price for this. Most French movies are heavily subsidised by the government and our (internationally unknown) actors are paid more than global superstars.
Here is a comparison: Philippe Lioret, a French director (have you heard of him? No? Well, me neither) earns twice as much as Steven Soderbergh (I am pretty sure that you have heard of him). Basically, the gravy train that benefits some happy few is financed by French taxpayers. Don’t get me wrong, there are good French movies, but the sad fact of the matter is that most French movies loose money, whereas an acting elite is getting paid a lot more than their anglo-Saxon colleagues in the process. (You can see the article explaining it all -in French if you click n this link:
This got me thinking: is there such a thing as a cultural exception? What exactly does it mean?
Look: this is my British face:
And this is my French face.

Which one do you prefer?
Look closer: this is Marion Cotillard’ (well-known French actress) arm.

This is Angelina Jolie’s.

Which one is better? Which one should be paid more? I am not so sure.
Come to think of it, it is unbelievable to see how many people believe that they are different. The French are, in this instance, no exception!
And let me also tell you that I recently got into Bollywood movies and I love them. I highly recommend ‘like stars on earth’ with Aamir Khan, about a dyslexic boy. The movie cost 2.20 Millions dollars, or less than a fourth of a medium-sized French production and is simply fantastic. Here is the trailer:

In short, I think that we French need to realise that there is a world out there, and that it is high time not to hide behind the walls of our cultural exception.
On this note, I wish you all very good festive season.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

I have to break it out to you: in France, we don’t celebrate Boxing day. We simply don’t have it. Tough but true. It is common practice to go back to work on the 26th of December. Usually, you celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve and you have a big lunch on the 25th. That’s it, celebrations are over. See, contrary to popular beliefs, the French are sometimes working when the Anglo-Saxon world just stops for a massive shopping spree! I thought that I should clarify this point. Somehow it makes me feel better. It might have something to do with the fact that I used to be told all the time that ‘we French’ never work.

When we first moved to London, I didn’t understand why you don’t have to go to work on the 26th of December. It took me a while to get it. That said, there is a Tube strike in London today and I won’t venture anywhere near a shop today. Not a chance.

Boxing Day is just a bonus for us. London is empty and it is a good time to catch up with family and just take it easy. I might even go for a lovely jog outside it it doesn’t start to rain again. I might be British now but I can’t really run in the rain. What are treadmills for anyway?

I hope that you are all having  a lovely time, and that you don’t have to work today!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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It is this time of the year, I suppose. There are some good news. First of all, I had the silver award in the English expat blogs category (see here if you want to know more). Thanks for all your support and kind words. I had never had any award in a competition before, so it was nice to finally get one!

But it doesn’t stop here. I have been nominated by my friend and fellow blogger Sonia (you can read her here) for the Liebster award. I don’t normally pass awards, but it is Christmas, Sonia is lovely and I have met her in the flesh. This means I thought that I could make an exception, so here I am.

The rules are:
1. When you receive the award nomination, post 11 random facts about yourself and answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
2. Pass the award onto 11 other blogs (while making sure you notify the blogger that they have been nominated!)
3. Write up 11 NEW questions directed towards YOUR nominees.
4. Of course, do not nominate the blog of the one who nominated your blog!
5. Paste the award picture onto your blog. (You can Google the image; there are plenty of them!)

So here we go – here are 11 random facts about me:

1. I think that I like Bikram yoga. Who would have thought?
2. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without marrons glaces. I have had far too many of them.
3. I am not doing much right now but I feel like yawning all the time. What is wrong with me?
4. I don’t intend to have any new year’s resolutions in 2013. I never keep them anyway, so what’s the point?
5. I am not religious but I like going to a Christmas mass on Christmas’ eve.
6. I might move in 2013.
7. I am not sure where home is any more.
8. I am not a morning person
9. I haven’t bought any new clothes for far too long.
10. I need to exercise more.
11. Why do I keep scratching my head all the time (no, it is NOT nits)?

Now, I need to answer Sonia’s questions.
1. What is your biggest accomplishment so far in your life?
I really don’t know. I am very proud to have been able to start a new life in a different country. I am also very proud of my two daughters, obviously. That said, I also believe that you can’t aways think of your accomplishments. It is best to look at the future and keep reinventing yourself all the time. 
2. Where did you first meet your spouse (if applicable)?
We met at university, and, to cut a long story short, I didn’t really warm up to him at first!
3. How do you see yourself at 80?
I see myself living in Bali, in a house at the top of a hill.
4. What do you hope to accomplish in the next 5 years.
I hope to travel a bit more, take my blog to the next level and expand my business.
5. What is your biggest fear in life and why?
I have no idea. When I was little, I was living in the South of France and I was terrified of forest fires. 
6. Are you a Gutsy woman? In what way?
I am just doing what I can (aren’t we all?), I suppose. I might be gutsy, but I am also incredibly fortunate because I managed to set up my own business from the comfort of my own home.
7. Where do you see yourself living when you retire?
I see myself travelling around the world for a while. I have always dreamed of going around the Mediterannean Sea, visiting as many countries as possible.
8. Do you regret any decisions you’ve made in your life?
I regret a lot of things. For instance, I should have taken English as my first foreign language instead of German. I also should have left France right after my studies, but I didn’t see it like that at the time. That said, we all have regrets, don’t we?
9. Is there a profession you would pick today if you could start over? Which one and why?
I think that I would try to be a journalist. Don’t ask me why!
10. What are you looking forward to in 2013?
I am looking forward to new travels and adventures!
11. How do you stay motivated?
I go for a run when I feel stuck. It usually does the trick. 
Right, and now, here are my nominees. Please pay them a visit!
1. Hajra, who lives so far and yet shares so many concerns. You can read her here
2. I love Doreen’s words. She is sensitive and kind. A mist-read. See here to read her.
3. Sarah is my mirror image: she is British but lives in France. You can read her adventures here.
4. Laura is an American mom living in Belgrade. She writes with humour and gusto. See here.
5. Check our Barbara’s yummy recipes here.
6. Read Corinne’s inspiring blog here.
7. I have been following Joy for a long, long time. You can learn more about her here.
8. Thom will always find a word of wisdom for you. You can read his blog here.
9. Pandora is a seasoned writer, and she has remained nice and approachable. Check out her wonderful blog here.
10.If you like poetry and words, you absolutely need to have a look at Sweepy Jean’s blog here.
11. And, last but not least, Janine’s inspiring adventures and travels. You can read her blog here. Janine has been supporting me from the very start and I am hugely grateful to her.

Right. And now, here are the questions that I would like the nominees to answer:
1. Why did you start blogging?
2. What is your favourite book and why?
3. Where would you like to live?
4. What are your new year’s resolutions for 2013?
5. What is writing for you?
6. How do you find time to write your blog?
7. What is your biggest regret?
8. What are you most proud of?
9. How do you stay motivated?
10. If you could be a character, who would you be? Why?
11. What makes you happy?
I do hope that your busy schedules can allow time for your acceptance of this award!
Merry Christmas!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Nice Airport, 22nd of December 2012
Unbelievable. You may remember it, but the post that started it all (and can be found here), was about a British mum, at the school gate, who inadvertently showed her bottom and acted as if nothing had happened. At the time (ah, memories!), I thought that it was a very British thing to do. Well, it turns out that I was wrong. Completely wrong.
You see, the picture at the top of this post was taken yesterday, at the airport in Nice (you will be pleased to know that I have made it back. YAY!). The lady was playing with her pet. She stayed like that at least 15 minutes, perfectly happy with showing the top half of her bottom while she was cooing at her puppy. I can assure you that she was French.

I couldn’t believe it. I thought that French women were known for their class and restraint but she might be the exception that proves the rule. I am baffled. I still don’t know what to say. What was she thinking?

My daughters found the whole situation incredibly funny and kept shouting  ‘Look, Mum, look!’. The lady in question was completely oblivious to the noise. In the end, I took the first possible excuse to sit elsewhere while we were waiting for our (delayed, as always) flight.

But it wasn’t the end of our adventures. As I was on my own with the girls, a French guy with a red tracksuit came next to us. He started talking to me, assuming that I was single. Or divorced. Or, in any event, available. He ended up asking me out, in front of the girls. I couldn’t believe it. I turned his various offers down (what was he thinking?). In no particular order, he asked me out for a dinner, a glass of wine and/or a coffee. Why do I always attract weirdos (and dogs, for some reason)? I saw that passport control was finally opened and fled the scene with my little ones as fast as I could. I told the girls -in English, of course-, to hurry up.

We finally boarded the plane and I thought that I could finally relax. Well, not quite yet. At passport control, in London this time, the officer checked our passport and told me that he would happily go to Nice with me next time (wink wink). I couldn’t believe -If I complain, is he allowed to do a body search?- so I just smiled. I told the girls -In French this time-to hurry up and we quickly made our goodbyes. After all, I should be flattered, and I am sure that it was meant it a jokey way. You know, male jokes. I might not get this type of comments in a few years. Or maybe I will. Who knows?

In short, I couldn’t see any noticeable differences between French and English yesterday. That’s probably what globalisation does for you. Or is it that some attitudes transcend nationalities? I wonder. What do you think?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

I am spending a few days in France to visit family. The thing is, I come from a small village and, basically, there is no choice: I have to rent a car to get there. This means that I have to drive my little ones in a country that’s supposed to be mine but that I don’t recognise any more.

Well, driving in France is nothing short of a challenge. It looks like there is a different set of rules over here. People at the wheel become some sort of monsters who will stop at nothing to make your life a living hell while you drive.

For instance, speed limits must not be respected. Speed limits are, in fact, a minimal speed. Unless there is a police van or a radar, of course. I tend to be very disciplined and I was driving at exactly 90km per hour (the speed limit). Well, everybody was overtaking me. Everybody, even lorries and motorcycles. Unbelievable. Maybe I ended up in the middle of a race without knowing it.

If you don’t have any visibility, it is not a problem, you can overtake. I find this behaviour incredibly dangerous, especially on small country roads, but it doesn’t seem to bother anyone. Have I missed something?

If you believe that the driver in front of you is too slow, you stay as close to him/her as possible. Lovely. Maybe it is supposed to be funny. I need to buy a ‘keep your distance’ sticker. I am not sure that it will work but you never know, it might be worth a try, I suppose.

Traffic lights are just a Christmas decoration at night. Stopping at a red light in the middle of the night is considered to be rude because you are hindering the fluidity of the traffic. Of course. How come I hadn’t thought of this?

No car is too old to be driven, preferably fast. I see old cars from my childhood everywhere…Some look like a pot of yogurt and I thought that they might disintegrate on the motorway. But they didn’t. Mind you, they almost flew.

In short, every time I have to drive somewhere over here, I am freaking out. You do have the odd angry driver in London, but it is the exception rather than the rule…well, it is the other way around over here.

I really hope that I will make it back to London in one piece, as I am honestly appalled with such road rage.

That said, apparently I shouldn’t complain. I am told that it is even worse in Italy. Life is full of challenges I suppose. Maybe I should buy an old tank?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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As much as I love London, there are little things that I miss from France. Unexpectedly, I miss the lovely French ties that men wear in Paris. I had a stark reminder of this when I watched BBC news today and the presenter had a tie that was glowing in the dark. Literally. I had never seen so many colours on a tie. 

Over here, most men seem to wear ties that are coming from the sixties. I never understood why. It is simply everywhere. I have seen presenters wearing brown ties, poo-ish style. Or purple ones with light purple bubbles. Maybe it is part of their job description : if you want to be taken seriously, you need some awful ties.

Politicians are the same. Their ties can be awful. Maybe it is because of the recession: they are recycling their dad’s ties? I really wonder.

It is on the street, on the telly, at receptions, everywhere: ties over here can be horrendous. There ought to be a law against some. On the bright side, I am thinking of putting my dad’s ties on sale on eBay for some extra cash. I could make a fortune.

I am struggling to understand where such a bad taste in ties is coming from. I know that fashion is a relative concept but, come on, something has to be done to stop this. Maybe I should set up some sort of finishing school for men.

Anyway, to make it easier, here are a few pointers, and various examples of what to do and what not to do.
Less is more. I have seen ties that have two colours. One on each half (vertically, horizontally or even diagonally. I am not kidding you). Forget it. It is always better to stick to one good colour. Trust me on this one.
Avoid brown ties at all costs. I have never seen a brown tie that works. Never.
Green is a difficult one. Avoid it with a pink shirt because the message it is sending is ‘ I am colour blind’. You are warned now.
Disney characters on a tie are a no no. Unless you want to date Minnie Mouse, of course. In which case, well, go for it!
Stripes and spots on a tie don’t necessarily work. Just saying.
 Little hearts might work for a date but I am not sure that they would make the cut at work. Unless you are killing two birds with one stone and date your female colleague.
A tie must be of the right length. If you have a muffin top, which can happen to the best of us, your tie doesn’t have to stop in the middle of your tummy. 
Ask your wife/partner about your choice. I believe that the choice of ties says a lot about how you communicate with your wife. If you have one obviously. And, from the look of it, sometimes it isn’t that good…
Do yourself a favour: go casual today. Some men just don’t wear formal clothing naturally…
If you are still not sure about your choice, try to draw attention to something else. Wear a kilt!

I hope, that, over time, things will improve. In the meantime, I will just have to get over it!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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40blogSpot is on fire! I have received two awards in the space of a few days. I normally don’t pass them on (I might be a bit asocial, probably something to do with my old age…) but have decided to make an exception because both are two very good blogging friends of mine.
Let’s start with the inspiring blog award (more to come in my next post). This award was passed on to me by the talented Hajra.
This award comes with a challenge. I have to give you seven words, expressions or sentences that I like, as well as revealing seven little-known facts about me. Finally I will nominate 7 bloggers for the inspiring award and it will be their turn to pass it on…
1.    Every cloud has its silver lining: don’t ask me why, I love this expression
2.    Happy as a clam. I didn’t know that clams were that happy but, hey, you have got to learn at all ages…
3.    Weird. A funny word, don’t you think?
4.    Spooky. That’s how the green and red lights in the lifts were. I used to work there. Really spooky.
5.    Bliss: it says it all, doesn’t it!
6.    To mollycoddle : this means to treat someone too leniently. I love it. I happen to know a former head teacher whose first name was Molly. Molly wasn’t mollycoddling her students! I wonder where this word is coming from.
7.    Shenanigan : apparently, this means a prank or a mischief. That said, I have heard it in much broader senses!
Right. Now, I need to share 7 little known words about me. Where do I start?
1.    I might be French but I don’t eat snails, horse meat or frogs
2.    I once was dumped by a boyfriend because I wasn’t cynical enough. No, that’s not a joke.
3.    I am a serial weeper. If I watch something vaguely sad, that’s it, I cry. And I will find any silly excuse to deny it vigorously. It is a dust in my eye, you see.
4.    I hate it when someone I have just met asks me ‘where are you coming from?’. I am from London, mate. Don’t let my French accent fool you.
5.    You might have picked it up from my blog: I am a huge fan of coffee. Cappucino especially!
6.     I do not have green fingers. Quite the opposite. All the plants I had to care for died. I don’t know what is wrong with me?
7.    I couldn’t survive without chocolate.
So, my time to pass the fun now:
– check out Stuart new blog here. This guy wears his heat on his sleeve!
– everytime I read Margot’s blog I feel hungry…you can read her here
– Holly is a seasoned blogger who had won many award. I would love to have her confidence. You can read her here
– If you are after a good laugh, Stacey’s blo is perfect for you…Check her out here
– I love Samantha’s writing. She has this amazing talent of always finding the right words. You can read her here.
– If you are after some words of wisdom, you need to check out Thom blog. Click here to have a peek!
– And, last but not least, don’t forget to check out Lucy’s blog here.
Now it is you time to pass the fun!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

This is what I keep saying nowadays. I didn’t know. Honestly, I can’t understand why people actually bother to go to overcrowded shops when the best bargains are actually on line. How come nobody had told me? Where was I?

The extent to which I was paying more that I should have is actually staggering. Somehow I was always making excuses to pay more. No time, you see. Or… I don’t want to change my habits. And, naively, I thought that you always get better quality when you pay more (which is not necessarily true!).
Most Christmas preparations have now been done on-line and the presents have been delivered at my doorstep or at my next-door neighbour, who happens to be a florist. I am thinking of renegotiating my home insurance and my car insurance on-line too. I will get some cashback on top of that. From now on –and from the comfort of my home, I will be trying to find the best deals.

In terms of grocery shopping, my weekly bill (for 4) has gone from £120 to £90 with the help of on-line comparison websites such as mySupermarket. The process of logging-in on a third party website for your grocery can appear to be cumbersome, but it is totally worth it thanks to the PriceChecker by mySupermarket. It is the Companion app and it is a total helping hand when it comes to comparing prices online: first of all you need to register for a mySupermarket account, then you download the app and shop on line on your usual supermarket site, just like normal. The app does the rest by following your basket, telling you what the best deals are, and if it’s cheaper in another supermarket. Then you have the option to shop elsewhere or stay where you are. What’s not to like about it? It feels like having your own personal assistant telling you where the best deals are.

In short, I shop online as much as possible, especially for my groceries. And when I feel the need for some face-to-face bargains, I head to Camden town to try to find original pieces from new designers.  You see, I am becoming sick and tired of having to follow the flow and buy these expensive brands that everybody has.

From now on, I am trying to think outside the box. And the first results are pretty encouraging!

I have teamed up with MySupermarket for this post but the opinions are my own.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

For once we were on time for the school run. Miracles do happen, after all. I was pleased with myself. I was about to make a left turn on Cromwell Road when I saw them: horses were all over Cromwell Road. At least 50 of them. The traffic had come to a standstill.

Damn it.

That’s the beauty of living in London. You can get stuck on one of the main streets during rush hours because of the Royal Horse Guards taking their horses to Hyde Park for a morning training session. Lucky me.
There was nothing to do but to wait. So we waited and moved very, very slowly.

Eventually, the horses made a right turn on Exhibition Road. Phew!

My Chelsea tractor was right behind the last horse. I was relieved. That said, as luck would have it, just before turning, the horse lifted his tail and, mischievously,  started defecating on my car. The law of gravity can be deceptive: something  fell on one of the car’s front lights. I can’t understand how it happened but it did. Yuck!

The guard was finding it absolutely hilarious. I was a bit, well, surprised, but I suppose that you have got to learn even at my (old) age, and this was a situation I had never encountered before.

Maybe it is part of the exam to get your driving licence over here? How do you react at the wheel when a horse decides to leave a parting present on your car? They should add this to the citizenship test -I probably need to send a letter somewhere about it.

Anyway, we made it to school eventually and nobody said anything about the car. I am sure that I could have put a positive twist on it but I had had enough emotions for a day!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Just go with the flow, in Rabaul, PNG

The problem with growing older is that I become less and less tolerant with silly comments and patronising people. I just can’t stand them, and it is getting worse.
I am not talking about the little white lies we all have to make in order to avoid hurting anyone’s feeling. No, I am talking about all the silly things that I have to listen to or endure everyday. Is there such a thing as a carapace to protect yourself from stupidity, prejudgments and incompetence?

It can happen anywhere. Today, it happened at the post office. I had organised to have a parcel delivered there and had received a message that it had finally arrived. After a long queue, the guy told me that parcels usually take 2 or 3 additional days to be delivered, despite the confirmation message. Basically, he didn’t want to get his bottom off his chair to check whether it had arrived. I had to plead, explain and charm to get him to give me my parcel, which eventually happened but took more time than expected. The parcel had of course arrived.

Sometimes, it comes from a friend or someone close, and it is not nice to be taken for a fool by someone you are supposed to trust. I especially dislike it when so-called friends try to impress me with sweeping statements about ‘the French’, such as ‘all French women smoke’. Unfortunately, it happens.

The thing is, I don’t like confrontation. I don’t want to score points with silly people, French or English. What is the point of telling them that they should know better, they haven’t done a good job or are not behaving well? There is none. Why would I want to educate them? It is not my responsibility and I simply don’t want to spend time and energy on someone who wouldn’t understand anyway.

The French way to deal with such behaviour is to give a lecture or shout. It is all about naming and shaming. I don’t really like it. The British way is subtler. You try to charm and thank profusely (and even a little bit too much). It is all about over killing the whole thing with politeness. You complain afterwards. I like it more.

Sometimes, the best way is to do nothing. I can’t fight every possible battle. I remember queuing at a post office in Brazil to get some important work-related documents. The lady in front of me started talking about her whole life. I am sure that she didn’t mean any harm. It lasted more than half an hour. There was nothing to do, really. So I waited up.

What about you? Do you speak up or do you wait up?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London