Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Topological Spaces

London is now a French city. I hear people speak French all the time. Most of them are quants. Quants, or quantitative analysts, are maths whizzes. They gained a prestigious degree from French universities and came to London to work in a bank, usually right after graduating. They make more money than in France. They gain some international experience. And the icing on the cake is that they can jump on a train and be back to Paris in a couple of hours. Apparently, one in three quants is French.

They produce one mathematical theory after another. As, helped by the structure guys,  they implement their latest mathematical models, their financial products become more and more complex. I am pretty sure that it must some sort of mind game for them. And I am not surprised that they are French. Education in France is mainly about maths. The emphasis on pure maths is unbelievable, and starts at a young age. I learned about topology at 13. Yes, 13. And no, you don’t want to know about it.

That said, quants usually remain just number crunchers. I have yet to see a Frenchman high up in the banking hierarchy. Don’t get me wrong, I am pretty sure that there are exceptions, but my point is that, given that there are so many French junior analysts, why don’t we have more French at the top?

Maybe it is because the derivative market is declining and there is less need for such skills. Or, maybe, this says something about French education. After a decade in London, I can’t help thinking that most French graduates have a very limited business acumen. We are not taught how to do business when we study. I was led to believe that, if I ever were to set up a business, it had to be in a complicated field such as quantum physics. A bit narrow, don’t you think? It had never occurred to me that a business could be simple and make money. There was some sort of intellectual snobbism when you talked about a “normal” business.

In short, living in London has opened my eyes. My children are in the British system and I don’t have any plans to go back to the French system -frankly, I am not sure that they could cope. OK, they do less maths, but they have more fun & and enjoy their life. After all, it is what matters, right?


Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

Do you know what a mews is? Well, I didn’t. Mews are the very essence of Britishness. It doesn’t go any more British than a mews. Mews is a very British term to describe a row of stables, usually with carriage houses below and living quarters above. They are often built around a paved yard or a court, or along a street, behind larger and higher terraced houses.

Today most mews stables have been converted into dwellings, some greatly modernised. They are highly sought-after residences. If you walk on a mews and close your eyes, you can almost hear the horses walking on the pavement. I like it. When I am in a mews, I feel like I am travelling back in time.

On a different note, I like the fact that a cul-de-sac is so posh over here. In France, a cul-de-sac is quite common. The word itself is, well, a bit rude as ‘cul’ is actually the slang word for ‘bottom’. Over here, it doesn’t matter, living in a ‘cul-de-sac’ is totally cool. Amazing, isn’t it? 

Who would have thought that stables and cul-de-sac would be so popular?


Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

I wish I were on a desert island sometimes

I should have been flattered. Should I really? Whether you are in France or in the UK, some things never change. Casual sexism is one of them. I thought that, being 40 and a mother or two, I wouldn’t be talked to on the street again. And, frankly, it is not something that I miss.

It turns out, I was wrong. No later than this morning, after the school run, I was hurrying back home to start working on the zillion things I have to do. There was a mini cab driver getting out of a coffee shop. He was on his own. He checked me out – and not in a discreet way. And then, he said (actually, he shouted more than said):
“- Hello, Gorgeous! Fancy a ride with me?”
I was stunned. If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I am not a morning person. On a normal day, I would have ignored him and walked a little bit faster. But I hadn’t had my coffee yet and somehow I was simply outraged. Far angrier than I should have been. Without even thinking, I replied back. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, the words just came out of my mouth:
“- No, Stupid. Not in a million years.”

And I walked off, without leaving him any time to reply. I should have shut up, shouldn’t I? On the bright side, nobody commented on my French accent, he understood what I was saying perfectly well. Deep down, I always knew that the British understood my French accent.

So tell me, what should I have done? 

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

It is official: the British summer has gone. Over the last few days, temperatures have plunged. I am not used to this. Actually, I will never get used to the cold. I am freezing, and as I keep forgetting my umbrella, I am wet most of the time too.

That said, the Brits have some innovative ways to cope with the cold. Apparently, it is all about tricking your body into thinking that it is nice and warm. That’s why the latest chic for my daughters is to go to school with their summer uniform on. No, they are not cold.

And it also works for some adults too. Despite the freezing cold, it is perfectly normal to go out with only a short-sleeved T-shirt. It shows that you are made of sterner stuff. British stuff. I shamefully admit that I am not there yet.

Another way to cope with the cold is to say -and actually believe- that things could be worse. For instance, when someone says that it is cold -which it actually is, the reply is:
“- Come on, it could be worse. We could have a typhoon/a snowstorm/ a flood/ a thunderstorm…”
Of course it could be worse. That said, I am freezing. I mean: here and now. I would like to have this amazing capacity to put things into perspective but the sad fact of the matter is that I don’t. I don’t like grey and cold weather. Never have. Never will.

I am having one cup of tea after another to feel warmer. I might be more British than I thought, after all.

Right now, I am dreaming of a trip in Australia to soak up some sun. If only it were possible. What about you: how do you cope with the cold?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

I am happy in London. Don’t repeat it, but for some reason I am far happier than in France. I really don’t know why. That’s just the way it is, I suppose. The only thing I sometimes miss over here is the taste of French food. I remember its seasoning, its freshness…You can find good food in London, of course, but it is not the same. There are markets everywhere in France. There are some in London too, but it doesn’t come cheap. And I miss the small things, such as the ‘Epiphany cake’ (la galette des rois), some types of terrines and other specialties. Am I homesick? No, not at all. It is just that, from time to time, I miss a French treat that I used to take for granted when I was still living in France. It is the small things that matter!

That said, I found out about a new service to soothe my addiction to French food. It is called Bonjour French Food. Basically, you need to register, and, for a fee of course, they send you a packet with French food. There is a catch: you don’t know what is in the packet. It is meant to be a complete surprise. I love surprises. And they prepare a new packet for you every month.

I received my first packet last week. I decided to wait until everybody was home to open it. It was exciting not to know what was inside. We were very curious. We finally opened it, and instantly I was sent back to the smells and the tastes of my childhood. There was a good balance of sweet and savoury treats. The best one was, to me, the pepper saucisson. I haven’t had one for ages. I am not talking about the industrial thing is. No, this is an artisanal pepper saucisson, dried in the mountains of Haute Savoie. It was all nicely wrapped and felt a bit like Christmas in advance.

Maybe I miss France more that I would like to admit it, after all. Or maybe I just need to treat myself a bit more often. 
What about you, what do you sometimes miss?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

The latest fashion in London is to hire a tutor for your kids. I hadn’t realised how widespread this trend is until I volunteered to help my daughter and a group of friends to do a school project. It was impossible to meet up because one of the girls had a tutor for each subject. When we finally managed to go to her place, we had to wait for tutor number 1 to finish. We then worked on the project, and the next tutor was already there, waiting in the living room, when we left. The girl in question was seven. Yes, seven!

I am not going to patronise anyone and say that you shouldn’t tutor your kids, because, after all, it is a personal choice. Often, teachers say that you shouldn’t do it when in fact they have a business on the side tutoring children. They are doing some parents a favour, they say. Talk about British double standards.

This episode sent me back twenty years ago when I was a student. I was tutoring children to make ends meet. I was getting paid for the few children I was teaching, and I was also doing it for a charity, in a deprived area, as a volunteer. In both cases, it was a nightmare. The rich kids were expecting me to do their homework, the poor ones couldn’t wait for the lessons to be over.

I stopped everything after a couple of years to start a job. It was a huge relief. Basically, I couldn’t help the children because they were not eager to learn. That’s not something that you can teach, right? How do you become curious and eager to learn? I have no idea. But if it is not there, well, it is not there. Believe me, I tried everything. I explained that you can’t buy something if you can’t count. I tried jokes, games and the likes. It didn’t work. And I was exhausted.

Things haven’t changed in twenty years. Why do some parents tutor their kids to death? I know that it is a competitive world out there, but come on, kids need to have a life.

Having said this, I don’t pay a tutor but I do take care of my daughters. I try to cook with them and explain what quantities are. We read together and I try to teach them some French (with limited success only). In my household, there is no TV during the week. And mum is doing the tutoring. How about you, how do you manage?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

Today, I wanted to share with you a few expressions that might be useful if you want to travel to France. The thing is, without even realising it, you might say something that will not be interpreted correctly.
The best example of this is “J’ai besoin d’une poule”. The British guy who said this meant “I need a jumper”. He was cold, you see. The way French people understood it was “I need a chick”. Not quite the same thing, right? Well, now you have been warned.
There are lots of idioms and expressions in France. One of my favourites is “Don’t push granny in the nettles”. This basically means ‘Don’t push too hard”. I love it.

Here is the list from iDBUS. Can you think of any other expression? Let me know.

Lost in Translation by iDBUS
Lost In Translation – An infographic created by iDBUS coach travel
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

Apparently, French children are better behaved than their British counterparts. And they are less fussy with food. A British friend of mine was on the verge of tears once when her little ones didn’t want to eat the food she had lovingly prepared for them. She had to prepare a specific meal for each of her kids. Nightmare. It took her an hour or so. I was watching and didn’t dare say anything. The thought that crossed my mind was: why?

In my household, things are, well, simpler. I guess that you could say that I am stricter. There is one meal for everybody, adult or child. Otherwise I would feel like running a hotel. And if you don’t like it, well, that’s tough. There is always a piece of bread somewhere.

As they don’t know anything else, my children eat everything. Salad, vegetables, gratin, marinated chicken, cheese…Don’t get me wrong, I am not a great cook. I love simple, fresh ingredients, and I usually cook simple dishes such as grilled meat or fish, homemade mashed patatoes, gratin…I like cooking with my daughters too. They love seasoning the dishes. We have some rosemary in the garden and it is lovely on meats. They play with garlic, olive oil, cinnamon, thyme or sage. We often bake cakes too.

In short, the thought of preparing a specific meal for kids hasn’t really crossed my mind. The only issue with my approach is that my daughters usually frown on kids menus at restaurants. They want normal dishes, for adults, which is obviously slightly more expensive.

I don’t know whether it is a French thing or whether it is me, but I like to include the kids in whatever it is we do: shopping, eating, going out. And for what it is worth, it seems to be working. I suppose that, as mums, we are all doing what we can. So, tell me, is it a French thing to give your children the same food than for you?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

There is a major difference between London and Paris: London is far more expensive. If you think that renting or buying a property in Paris is expensive, don’t even think of living in London. Lots of friends came here, and at first they were happy when they looked at the rents, until they realised that it also said ‘pw’, which means per week, and not per month as is the case in France. Right now, property prices in London are going through the roof (no pun intended!).

Around the corner of where I live, there is a small house that sold in March this year for £475,000. It is a wreck. It is a wonder that it still stands and, basically, whoever wants to live in it will have to rebuild it completely.

Guess what: the wreck is for sale again, and the new owner wants £2m for it. Yep, £2m! It is official, the cowboys are back. In 6 months, the actual owner actually wants to quadruple the price! I can’t believe it. I would never dare to behave like this. They haven’t done a thing to the house. How is this even possible?

Apparently, gazumping is back too. For the lucky ones who don’t know what gazumping is, let me explain: you have made an offer on a property. The offer has been accepted but the contract hasn’t been exchanged yet. Someone comes along and is willing to pay a higher price for the the property. The owner accepts. You have just been gazumped. Gazumping is a national sport.

Is this how you make money? You ruthlessly flip house in a few months and add a few millions? You gazump someone else? Sometimes I think that I am ill-prepared for this world. Call me naive, but I don’t think that this type of behaviour should be allowed.  

In short, be warned: the cowboys are back to London to make a quick buck. 
Right now, I wish I were living in a desert island. Am gutted.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

For years I have used my French driving license to drive around in London. There is nothing wrong with this of course, but it couldn’t last forever, could it? If I had lost my French driving license, it would have been a nightmare to replace it. I therefore decided to take the plunge and get a British one. It feels a bit like my ‘Frenchness’ is slowly fading away, but hey, what can I do?

In France you usually have to go to the ‘prefecture’ (a town hall for the county) to do such things. You take a ticket, you queue, and you actually speak to someone. Things are completely different over here. You print your application form on the DVLA website, you send a cheque (of course you do) and you wait. As I had to send my original driving license, I have to admit that I was a bit worried. What would happen if they lose it?

But, 10 days later I have received my British driving license. It feels a bit weird. To make matters even worse, my French friend keep asking me what it feels like to drive on the wrong side. My British friends are also asking me exactly the same. This is typical, isn’t it? That’s why French and British can’t understand each other: they drive on each other’s wrong side!

I try to explain that there is no right or wrong side, and they look at me as if I were mad. I say that it is all a question of habit, and you need to be, you know, flexible. But no, they don’t hear me. You have to choose your side, you see. French, or British. Right, or left.

I don’t want to choose. Maybe, after all, I am doomed. What would you do?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London