Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

Whether you are French or British, some things never change. This is my convoluted way of saying that I hate Monday mornings. Today was a little bit worse than usual because I couldn’t eat or have my daily cappuccino first thing in the morning: I had to have a blood analysis first. A routine test, but not nice.

Of course, my daughter found out that she didn’t have her coat just before we were supposed to leave. Of course. Exactly what I needed. And she broke a glass while looking for it. Of course she did. I found the bloody coat eventually. Of course I did. Because that’s mum’s job, right?


We walked to the car. No car. Instead, we saw the neighbour’s car being towed. Right in front of my eyes. Lovely. I started to panic. Where is the car? You need to understand that, over here, in London, parking fines are hefty and you can’t escape from them. They use cameras to spot cars parked in the wrong places. You can’t hide and nowhere is safe. I suspect that they have a special task force dealing with us drivers trying to do the school run. I once got a fine for dropping off my daughter on a double yellow line. We just stayed a couple of seconds, but that was enough for the camera to take a picture of the car. I have been traumatised ever since.

It turns out that the car was parked around the corner. Phew!
On a brighter note, it can only get better from here, right? I certainly hope so.

NB: In order to brighten up the dull month of October I will try to post once a day. Watch this space and wish me luck…

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

It started with an exchange on Twitter, and it brought back some childhood memories. In France, when I grew up, all bathrooms had a bidet. The bidet was a sign of social status. A modern house had to have a bidet. Preferably with green or orange tiles, actually. Ah, memories…I never understood what a bidet what for. I think that you use it to wash your bottom without having to have a full bath (honestly, what are showers for?). That said, my mum used to wash her feet in it too. Go figure. Frankly, when you think of it, it is all a bit disgusting, isn’t it?
Bidets have always seemed strange to me. My daughters absolutely loved it when they were toddlers, because they thought that it was a loo for kids. I have had to clean up the grandmother’s bidet countless times. Lovely. That said, maybe the reason why my daughters were so good at potty training is that they could use the bidet? Just a thought.


Bidets are French and were invented in the XVIIth century. Some say that this is because bidets are popular in countries where people don’t like to wash. The French have hence invented something that would allow them not to take a bath for several days (see here to read that the good old clichés are still true). How practical!
I haven’t seen bidets in this country. Mind you, I have seen a lot of other things, such as dirty carpet in the bathroom, but no bidets. I am told that bidets are making a come back. Really? Where are they?
In France, the older generation swears by its bidet. I have asked my bidet-loving family why they love it so much. Apparently, it is more hygienic. And you make savings on toilet paper (yeuuuurk!). As I have yet to find how to use a bidet properly, I asked around and was even given a step by step guide of proper bidet use by an old aunt who kindly wanted to help. As you are very lucky today, I am sharing it with you.
1.     Undress (Obviously);
2.     Ride the bidet, as if you would ride a pony. Actually, the word ‘bidet’ means ‘pony in French’;
3.     Adjust temperature and pression. Beware: you don’t want to burn yourself down there;
4.     Wipe, wash, rinse (preferably in this order). Apparently, it feels quite nice (still according to my aunt. What a perv!);
5.     Dry, etc…and voila!
What can I say? I think that I will stick to my daily shower. What about you?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

 

I am guest posting at the hugely successful blog Lover Of Creating Flavours. Thank you, my dear friends Anita & Caro. You have got to love the blogging world for meeting such fantastic people…Come and say hello there!

Today, I had another reminder of how different the Brits can be. I was nicely queuing at my local coffee shop when the lady right before me made a big fuss about her French baguette being too brown and, according to her, over baked. The placid and polite shop assistant swapped it for a white, flat one. For some unknown reason, she was a lot happier with the flat bread.  It dawned on me there and then: she didn’t know what a French baguette was. I should have tried to educate her but, frankly, I didn’t really feel up for it, especially before my morning’s coffee. Read the rest here

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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That’s just me. And I will stick to it.
Today I caught up with a friend who had just spent a couple of weeks on the French Riviera. She was in shock.  She told me: “All French women were sunbathing TOPLESS. Can you believe it? Disgusting.” It brought back some memories. Things don’t seem to have changed much in my home country. It remains acceptable and fashionable to go to the beach, well, topless. Whether you are old, young, fat or skinny, nobody cares. On the beach, you can see whoopee cushions and bee stings, and everything in between, really. It is totally fine. Last time I went I even saw a woman who had clearly undergone a mastectomy and she was completely at ease with her body, which I admire. Frankly, I have seen so many boobs in France that I am not shocked any more. That’s what I tried to tell her but I am not sure that she agreed with me. Cultural shock, I suppose.


Mind you, this love of boobs hasn’t reached London just yet, but there is something else going on over here. Have you noticed that dresses and tops tend to be, well, bustier? It is all over the streets, and women seem to endeavour to show their best assets. Maybe that’s why there is a surge of women undergoing boob jobs in the UK. I really wonder. It is so hypocritical, you see. In France, you just go naked and all shapes seem to be pretty much accepted. Over here, you must suggest that you are perfect. Just suggest. What a difficult conundrum for women. As for me, I didn’t spend a penny on my best assets. I am what I am, and I feel much too old to change it anyway. For once, I wish we could go a bit more French in London: women of all shapes and ages, just accept your breasts as they are! What do you think?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

My Beautiful Life
Just imagine: you have just arrived at your daughter’s school. The gates will open in about five minutes. You are quietly waiting with her in the car and listening to some music on the radio. Then, a middle-aged man with his son walks towards your car and tries to open it.
Obviously he can’t open the car door because the car is not his. He just mistook your car for his. You start staring at him, a bit puzzled because he keeps trying to open your car.
When he finally sees you, he realises that he has just made a mistake and apologises. He walks five yards away and open his car to start his school run.

This is what happened to me this morning. It made me a bit confused rather than scared, and it got me thinking: are we all interchangeable? Apparently, a lot of us have a grey car and start the school run at the same time. He probably lives in a house similar to mine. His kids have the same age than my kids. What would have happened if he had entered my car and done his school run?  Would he eventually have noticed that it wasn’t his car? 
What I am trying to say here is: are all middle-class parents like me living the same type of life?
Come to think of it, it is not as crazy as it sounds. We go to the same restaurants, drive the same cars, read the same papers and have similar jobs. I am pretty sure that we could swap life just like that, without anyone noticing. We would change family for a couple of weeks, and then come back to the original one. And it would be alright, nobody would care, right?
Maybe, after all, it is a good thing that I have kept my strong French accent, my very dark hair, my wrinkles and my wobbly bits. It just adds a bit of colour to my life.
  
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Some deserve a kick in the butt…
Can someone tell me why I keep getting unwanted advances all the time? OK, not all the time, but, say, once a month? Today was no exception. It was actually quite shocking. I was on the Tube and this guy was travelling with his girlfriend. His arm was on her shoulder. He kept looking at me, then smiled at me and eventually blew me a kiss! His girlfriend was next to him, looking in the opposite direction. I had never met them before. I couldn’t believe it. Maybe I should wear a sign saying that I am a 40-year-old, happily married, mother-of-two. Oh, and I have a stone to lose.

The guy was probably in his late twenties/early thirties. What did I do wrong? Who said that the British were stuck-up? I didn’t talk. I didnt do anything. When I start talking, I usually get a funny gaze -especially from men-, and a comment like “Oh, you are French, aren’t you?” and shortly after ” Come and have a drink with us tonight! ” This is all very nice and integrating but no, thank you.

As much as I like the attention, I have to admit that it is all a bit too much. What is it with French women? I was born this way. I studied Engineering. Is it just casual sexism and, basically, all women experience the same? I really wonder.

I also sometimes wonder whether things have really changed. We pride ourselves in being a modern society but come on, things are not perfect yetSo tell me, have you experienced casual sexism and how do you deal with it?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

There is a French expression: “C’est une belle plante.” Literally, it means “It is a beautiful plant”. But what it really means is “It is a gorgeous lady.” Right. In France, I used to be told that I was “a beautiful plant”. Now, men say this about my teenage daughter more than about me. I suppose that’s just life…Anyway, the irony is that I don’t have green fingers. I have killed every plant I ever owned. And if you don’t believe me, I have put a picture of my window plants. I don’t understand. I water them at least once week. Every six weeks, I have lovingly put fish bone & blood. What do I need to do? Talk to them? Maybe it is the French accent that’s killing them?  Should I beg them? I wonder. I will never get it right. Sigh. Any advice for me?

Anyway, all is not lost. Instead of killing my own plants, I can simply go to a local park and enjoy the trees and plants lovingly maintained by professional gardeners. And, best of all, I don’t need to make any effort whatsoever for the plants (To be fair, the fact that I am not involved at all with the parks is probably far better). Going to the park also means that my manicure can last a longer time. Well, that’s my excuse to stop gardening anyway.


In London, the list of parks is endless. There are many parks and I am sure that, even if you think you know where they are, well, you might learn a thing or two with this new website: www.parklifelondon.org

I found out about a new park two streets away that I wasn’t aware of. Give it a try and be surprised!

I have to break it to you, but London has far more parks than Paris. I was always going to the same parks in Paris with my children. It was either Parc de Choisy (http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parc_de_Choisy) or Parc de Montsouris (http://equipement.paris.fr/parc-montsouris-1810).

Well, in London, within walking distance, I have Holland Park, Kensington Gardens,  Hyde Park, and a raft of small squares within 10 minutes of walking. I can change every day and I love it, especially when the weather is nice and sunny just like today.

What’s not to like about it? Right, on this note I will put a bit of sun cream on and enjoy the sunshine….
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Today, I had to drop everything to get my little one from school. They called to tell me that she wasn’t feeling well. When I saw her, she had a temperature of 37.5C ( quite normal), but was feeling a bit tired and was missing her mummy. I had had to spend last night at my own mum’s side. She had  just had a routine surgical operation and needed someone to stay with her to be discharged. I am exhausted. I could have done without picking up my little one in the middle of the morning on top of everything else, I can tell you. I feel like I belong to the sandwich generation, taking care of kids & parents. Not nice.

The thing is, in France, when I grew up, all you would get was a kick in the butt (not literally, of course) when you were feeling a bit blue.  Over here, they just say:
“She is a bit sensitive. Poor thing. Please come and get her”
And mummy is called to pick up her 8-year old baby.
This got me thinking: when did being over-sensitive become fashionable? And why wasn’t it fashionable when I grew up? What has changed?
And, last but not least : what about me? Who cares about the fact that I am exhausted? Am I being over sensitive too? Who should I call to get picked up? 
I did what any French Yummy Mummy does to cheer herself up: tea & lemon curd tart. That’s who I call when it gets too much. What about you? How do you stay sane when things get out of control?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

Whether you are French or English, some things never change, especially at the start of the academic year. Basically, as a mum you have to organise the drop-off and the pick-up of your kids. That’s when the nightmare begins. What do you do when they have conflicting timetables, with is the case for two mornings and three afternoons in our case?


Well, you try to find a solution. You talk to other mums to see if you can help each other. You try to find a babysitter for a few hours. I was talking to a friend to explain the situation and the other mum told me:
‘Well, don’t worry, it is only logistics ‘
What did she mean? That it will sort itself out just like that?
I am sure that she meant well. However, I am still struggling to understand how such a comment helps.
Maybe she meant that I need to hire a driver? Or let my little one go to school on her own? Or  hitch hike?
I will tell you a little secret: I now have a new-found respect of the logistical units in the army.
That said, I don’t have the support of an army to help me. Sigh.

Whoever said that it takes a whole village to raise a child was right.
In the meantime, well, I try to find solutions. You know, stuff that actually works, not useless comments.
What about you, how do you manage?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

If you haven’t done it already you have to look at this table. It explains what the British really mean when they use certain expressions. It was forwarded to me by my blogging friend Joy.


WHAT THE BRITISH SAY
WHAT THE BRITISH MEAN
WHAT FOREIGNERS UNDERSTAND
I hear what you say
I disagree and do not want to discuss it further
He accepts my point of view
With the greatest respect
You are an idiot
He is listening to me
That’s not bad
That’s good
That’s poor
That is a very brave proposal
You are insane
He thinks I have courage
Quite good
A bit disappointing
Quite good
I would suggest
Do it or be prepared to justify yourself
Think about the idea, but do what you like
Oh, incidentally/ by the way
The primary purpose of our discussion is
That is not very important
I was a bit disappointed that
I am annoyed that
It doesn’t really matter
Very interesting
That is clearly nonsense
They are impressed
I’ll bear it in mind
I’ve forgotten it already
They will probably do it
I’m sure it’s my fault
It’s your fault
Why do they think it was their fault?
You must come for dinner
It’s not an invitation, I’m just being polite
I will get an invitation soon
I almost agree
I don’t agree at all
He’s not far from agreement
I only have a few minor comments
Please rewrite completely
He has found a few typos
Could we consider some other options
I don’t like your idea
They have not yet decided

For the full article in The Telegraph you can click here.



That said, if you believe that with this table you are saved, and that understanding the British will be a doddle, well, think again. Understanding what the British mean is a lifelong job. After 10 years I am far from being there yet.

Here are a few pointers. Feel free to add some more in the comments.

       The art of understatement

Whatever you do, understate, understate, understate. Never admit to the whole truth, it would be a sign of weakness. And if what you are trying to say is too, well, direct, you just need to divert the attention of your interlocutor.

WHAT THE BRITISH SAY
WHAT THE BRITISH MEAN 
WHAT FOREIGNERS UNDERSTAND 
I am a bit lost 
I am completely lost 
We will get there soon 
There was a bit of a blooper 
It is a total mess 
There was a bit of a blooper 
I sort of say I would 
Yes I will
I am not so sure he will do it
You look well 
You have put on weight
You look well 
She is a bright girl
She looks like the back of a bus
She is intelligent
I had a bit of luck and got promoted
I worked like a dog and finally got my promotion
I have had a promotion without really working for it. How unfair!

       Never say No

It is rude to say no over here. You need to listen carefully to determine whether what you are hearing is a no. Really carefully.

WHAT THE BRITISH SAY
WHAT THE BRITISH MEAN
WHAT FOREIGNERS UNDERSTAND
Question: Would you like a bit more pasta?
I don’t mind
Certainly not  
Yes please 
Maybe later 
Get lost
I need to ask again
Of course I will come
What a nuisance. I will do my utmost best to give it a miss.
He will come 
Not yet
 No
Soon
I will try again
I can’t be bothered
He is trying his best.

       Some things never change.

That said, British men will be men and some things just transcend languages. However, don’t forget that in most of continental Europe, we don’t have a ‘date’ system.

WHAT THE BRITISH SAY
WHAT THE BRITISH MEAN
WHAT FOREIGNERS UNDERSTAND
(Guy speaking) I would like to know you more
I want to sleep with you
How lovely! 
(Girl speaking) I would like to know you more
I think I am falling for you
She wants to sleep with me. 
Don’t worry, it is not a date 
It is totally a date.
What is a date? 
Can I get you home?
 I want to spend the night with you
I want to spend the night with you
I will call you back (Guy)
Not interested
(Girl) It went so well!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London