Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

This morning I went to buy my Sunday’s newspaper. The newsagent smiled at me and, after hearing my strong French accent, told me that he must know me from somewhere. Yes, I live around the corner. He looked disappointed.

For a French woman living in London, it is a double whammy: you have to deal with the causal sexism -the old boy network is still alive and kicking over here-, and, to top it up, you have to live up to the French cliches. This basically means that you are supposed to be a sex goddess, a great cook, you don’t get fat, your kids must behave impeccably, and so on, and so forth. Honestly, where does it end? 

I keep being asked whether there is some truth in such cliches. I hate to break to to you, but no, I don’t think that there is. There it is. Sorry if you are disappointed. If I had a magic recipe to achieve what is expected of me, I think that I would know by now. I am tired just like any other woman. Not to mention the fact that, this Christmas, I finally tried some brandy butter, and I am pretty sure that it made me fatter. Just like the rest of us, really. The only truth is that, in France, life doesn’t stop when you become a mum, and there is a strong pressure on you to go back to work. After all, the maternity leave is only 16 weeks. You can get more, but it will be unpaid. 

In short, it feels a bit like we are pre-programmed to think that we are different, when in fact we are not. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of cultural differences between the French and the Anglo-Saxons. But the perceived differences are a lot bigger than the real differences. Am I making sense?

So here it is: I am tired of the French cliches. I am very normal and proud of it. So please stop asking me how many lovers I have -I am happily married-, or why French women look so sexy -I have no clue, except that I stole my teenage daughter’s top today-. Oh, and I don’t like drinking (except a cup of champagne from time to time).

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

It is this time of the year, I suppose. A time to stay indoors, read, relax, and stuff your face. Travelling during the Christmas break is always gruelling. This year is no exception. There was a massive storm in London. I am glad to be staying here, in the comfort of my newly-redecorated house. The news coming from my home country are not very uplifting anyway.

That said, this year is different. You see, I have discovered brandy butter. It was a gift from our decorators, in a hamper. There was some brandy butter in it. I had never tried brandy butter before. I wouldn’t even know how to translate it into French. Brandy butter is simply made of butter, sugar and brandy, but it tastes so much better than what it is made of. You can eat it with bread, a warm mince pie, or with some pudding…The butter will melt with the heat, and the cake will be deliciously moist when you eat it. What’s not to love? 

How come I had missed this? Why didn’t anyone tell me what brandy butter was? Why hadn’t I tried it before? I wonder what else I need to discover…

It looks like 2014 will have to start with a diet…
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Back To London

Paris, Gare du Nord, 5pm. We are queuing at the Paul boulangerie in the Eurostar terminal. We want to buy some bread and French pastries before going back home after after a quick trip to visit family. It is now or never, because our Eurostar is leaving in 20 minutes, and the boarding has already started. There are 3 or 4 persons before us. It should be fine.

As it turns out, I spoke too soon. It isn’t fine. I had forgotten about Gallic service. Silly old me. Basically, the two young shop assistants couldn’t care less about their clients. They don’t hurry up, they keep chatting to each other, and they are taking their own sweet time. They are in their late teens, maybe 20. I am not very good at guessing ages anyway; I only know that they would consider me to be old.

One of the assistants eventually serves the next client, a young woman. There is something about her which mesmerises him. He keeps looking intensely at her face. She is about the same age than him and has long, blonde hair. He is totally under her charm. She asks for a few pains au chocolat. He gives her some free chouquettes, carefully wrapped in a brown paper bag. She can’t find her purse to pay. He tells her to go to the end of the till, and dutifully follows her. He patiently waits for her to empty her bag; and tries to get her to look back at him. She eventually finds her purse, but doesn’t have any cash. She leaves the lovingly-prepared bag on the till. The shop assistant seems sad, and gazes at her. I am getting angrier by the minute. Surely he isn’t getting paid to hit on girls while he is working. There is also something strangely sickening in watching this lazy guy being struck by love. Or lust. I don’t care, I just want my bread.

He doesn’t move, and doesn’t seem to want to serve the two Japanese girls standing right in front of him; his colleague is fighting with the coffee machine. I will not be able to get my bread if I want to catch my train. I leave empty-handed and head back to London. How did I put up with Gallic service when I was in France? I can’t remember. What about you, how do you put up with bad service?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

Guess Who Is Having A Photoshoot For A National Newspaper?

Never say never. I should have known better. Why do I keep doing the same mistakes again? Do I ever learn? I don’t know. 
Ok. Here it is. I didn’t want to participate in any more blog competitions to focus on my writing and on my blog, but I have just submitted an entry here. It is about the main differences, from my perspective, between British & French men. I thought that it would be a funny thing to do. Please read, comment, and share. I hope that you will like it.

On a different note, today, a whole team went to my house for a photo shoot: make-up artist, fashion assistant, fashion director, illustrations editor, photographer and his assistant. It was quite an experience. Where to start? First of all, I am not skinny. I am in my forties now. I studied science and never worried too much about my appearance. And to top it all up, I had a huge pimple on my chin. Simply massive. The make-up artist managed to hide it really well. Oh, and you should have seen the clothes! They were just gorgeous. I would never have dared to buy such colours and labels. Never. But they were right. I can’t say more…You will have to wait until start of January (probably the 4th) for the whole story!

NB: and I might be French, but the fashion team thought that my high heels were not, well, high enough. Damn it.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

New design…

No, not for me, silly! I have changed the design of the blog. I know, I know, it was long overdue. But doesn’t it look much neater? Wasn’t it worth the wait? I couldn’t have done it myself, obviously. The lovely Bobbi, of Ready To Blog, patiently listened to me and helped me. She got what I wanted instantly. She made the whole process painless, and I just had to sit back and relax. I wish I had contacted her earlier!

I also wish I could do the same for myself. You see, I was so against cosmetic surgery a few years ago. Well, now, I am a lot less judgmental. It must have something to do with age. And if so many people are doing Botox, well, it must be good, right? And I am starting to worry about a little brown mark on my cheek (probably an age mark…). Surely it can be lasered off ? I need to talk to someone about it. Ah, the joy of growing older!

That said, growing older also brings its share of good surprises. There are lots of new exciting developments to come, and I wanted to thank you all for your support and your patience. Nothing would have been possible without all my readers. Let’s just say that you will soon be able to read me in a national newspaper. Can you believe it? It will be featured in January, and a photographer will come on Wednesday to ‘style’ me (what am I getting myself into?) and take some pictures…Watch this space! I feel really privileged to be able to do this. Thanks again to all of you. All your kind words are much appreciated!

On a different note, I am still shattered, I have huge bags under my eyes and I don’t feel very yummy at all. But hey, French or not, you can’t have everything, right?


Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

One Of My Cards Designs: Do You Like It?
Is Christmas the time to be nice and helpful? Or is Christmas the time to tell the truth? I sometimes wonder. Right now, I have to admit that I am tired of being nice. Shattered. Exhausted. Don’t get me wrong: I am a glass-half-full sort of person.  I just feel that it might be time to be more French and less British, and get out in the open all the things that bug me.  Shall we call it a much-needed Christmas mind detox?

Right, where do I start? I received a phone call from a French acquaintance. I was pleasantly surprised to hear from her. Then, she told me that her family was spending Christmas in London, and wanted to know if they could stay in our house as she assumed we would be in France. Rent free of course. I managed to keep polite and say no. What I wanted to say was: how dare you? We haven’t talked in 18 months and all you want is my house? No need to call me. Ever. Again.

Every month or so, I get a request from a friend/an ex-colleague/a friend of a friend looking for a French au pair or whose daughter wants to become an au pair in London. I usually reply politely with some links to various agencies. And the exchanges suddenly stop, without so much as a Thank You. Right, let me spell it out for you: I am not an au pair agency!

To make matters even worse, my mother is staying with us for a couple of weeks. She is starting to get on my nerves because, in a bid to rewrite our dysfunctional family history, she keeps boasting about what a good job she did with my education, my upbringing, and so on, and so forth. In order to maintain some appearance of familial unity, I shut up. The truth is: I can’t take it any more. She didn’t protect me from a bipolar father, and I still resent her for not standing up for me.  I just have to suck it up. It is Christmas, for God’s sake. At least that’s what I keep telling me.

This year, I am also wondering whether I am going to send any Christmas cards at all. I used to send at least a hundred of Christmas cards. I used to design my own Christmas cards. Well, I have stopped now. I got tired of receiving 25 cheap supermarket cards in response to my lovely cards. I am really toying with the idea of not sending any Christmas cards. I know, I am going from one extreme to the other. I will find a middle ground. At least I think I will.

So, tell me, how does it work? When do you stop sucking it up? When do you start voicing your opinion in no uncertain term (i.e., the French way?)? The funny thing is that I have the reputation of being direct. That said, I feel like I keep a lot to myself! Sigh.When does it get easier?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

I was at the school’s Christmas celebration tonight. I have to go out every day because the Christmas season is in full swing. It never stops, and I prefer not to think about what I will see on the scale after so many lovely glasses of wine and mince pies. Let’s take it one day at a time, right? Tonight was quite enjoyable, and also very international.
The mum sitting right in front of me was Chinese. I had a British couple on my left, and Filipino parents on my right. Behind me was an Australian mum and her French au pair.

How many nationalities were represented? I don’t know the exact number, but probably a lot. In France, everybody was French at my daughter’s school. It went without saying, really. Well, not over here. London is a truly international city and it feels, well, nice. It also feels very different.
Nationality doesn’t seem to matter over here -what does is having a strong accent, apparently. Sigh.

The other funny thing is that some Christmas songs are the same than in French. I mean: the  tune, not the words, obviously. I wanted to sing in French and had to try hard to sing in English. It is tough to sing in an international environment!

in short, Christmas in London is a very international experience. What about you, how are Christmas celebrations where you live?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

In Full Bloom

It had all started so well. I was taking the bus and it was packed, as usual. Then, this young guy -I am not very good at guessing ages; I would say that he was in his twenties- gave up his seat for me.
I was stunned.
Why would he feel the need to do this?
Honestly, do I look THAT old? I started to worry. Should I dye my hair? Have some Botox injections? Do I look pregnant? My tummy seems flat enough.
Am I now entitled to a priority seat given my old age? Should I make an application to have one on all services?

I must admit that panic was creeping in. I didn’t say anything and got off shortly afterwards at my bus stop.

Talking about this to various friends, I was told that I got it completely wrong. British guys, apparently, are chivalrous. I should have felt important and respected, not old. Some even said that I should have explored what else I could get him to do. The thought didn’t cross my mind. Silly old me! 

The thing is, we French love older women. We have Catherine Deneuve and Claire Chazal, and everybody envies them. Actresses around 40 are not considered old. Quite the opposite. they are the epitome of class and glamour. Look no further than Marion Cotillard and Audrey Tautou if you don’t believe me. We French women don’t get old. We become more mature, but, just like good wine, we improve with age, right?

So what is wrong with me? Have I lived in London for too long? Did I stop being French? Am I starting to age disgracefully? I believe that it is high time to reconnect with my French side. I don’t want to become old. I want to become more mature. From now on, I will be more careful.

And next time a young guy offers me his seat, I will invite him for a coffee. Lesson learned.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

Boys will be Boys, by Hania Farrell – Image curtesy of the artist
I keep hearing that we all have hidden talents. Well, let’s face it: some of us are more talented than others. Today, I wanted to talk to you about my very talented friend and artist/photographer Hania Farrel ( I have the privilege to know Hania in real life. From the way she designed our daughters’ primary school memory book, it was pretty obvious that she had talent (and perseverance, but that’s another story). Well, fast-forward two or three years (was it really that long ago Hania? How quickly they grow up!), and here she is, having her first photographic exhibition in central London –no less. It is called TEAL, and you absolutely have to go.

Hania’s pictures were taken in her native Lebanon. Her work has this Mediterranean vibe that I miss so much in London. I believe that there is such a thing as a Mediterranean identity, and it is clearly ingrained in Hania’s work. She has managed to capture the light, the skies and, most of all, the energy. And it doesn’t stop here.   This is Lebanon, and you can feel, in subtle ways, the complicated past and the remains of a long war. TEAL is about resilience, and how life goes on despite everything that can happen. Children are jumping in the water, always full of energy, as if the water had rejuvenating effects.

Hania is also a multimedia artist. There is a projector over a filled bathtub, a swimming pool on the floor, and the results are surprisingly realistic.

Finally, the venue itself, an un-modernised Chelsea house, is worth a look. It adds to the dramatic effects of the pictures, especially in the evening.

Hania kindly agreed to answer a few questions. Run to the exhibition, and let me know what you thought of it!

“What does the name TEAL mean?

Once I’ve layed my images down for the curation of the show, they were all either mostly blue or green …TEAL is the mix of the two colors

“How did you become a photographer?

My passion for photography stemmed from the lens of a vintage Kodak ……….., passed down from my grandfather at the age of 16. This was the birth of my fetish with point and shoot.This love was not sufficient to make ends meet and I had to manage my artistic time in parallel with work. As my passion matured, cracks of my dream emerged when I was recently selected a prize winner in the “Saatchi Magazine – Point & Shoot competition”, with ‘Boys will be Boys’ , taken on the Corniche in Beirut. Project “TEAL”  opened on Nov. 13 and is a result of the love with my camera which walks through my lifetime experience which began in Lebanon.

“What are the next steps? How will you take your artist’s career to the next level?

The plan is to make TEAL travel once the show closes in London.Without revealing too much, ‘Science and Religion’ will be one of the projects as work in progress in 2014 

I am hoping TEAL will open doors for challenging commissions be it big or small.

I wish Hania every success. I am sure that she will go very,very far !

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

London is the sixth biggest French city, with 400 000 French citizen. It is bigger than Bordeaux or Nice. There are French everywhere, and the French community keeps growing. It even downed on me that, in fact, you might be able to live in London and speak very little English.

There are French schools, French libraries, French medical practices, French grocery shops, French estate agents…the list is simply endless. In fact, it is entirely possible to live in a French bubble in London. And it is getting easier by the day with all the businesses coming over.
French companies are everywhere, and more seem to be coming every day. You can live and work in French over here. The thing is, why would you do it? Living the French life in London would make me miss out on so much stuff. If I hadn’t had to learn to speak English (I learned mostly German at school), where would I be now ? Would I be as happy? Would I even have started this blog? Probably not.

I understand the need to stay in a French bubble if you are only going to stay for a a year or two. But at the same time don’t you think that the best way to make the most of your life abroad is actually to go local and embrace life the British way? What do French Londoners fear?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London