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It is a well-known fact that, in London, everything sounds sexier in French. You get menus in French in most restaurants (most of them with awful spelling mistakes, I have to say). And just think of a French kiss if you are not convinced. Between you and me, I really don’t understand why we French have such a reputation. I can only speculate. So here is my latest theory: maybe it is all because, in my view, the best descriptions of kisses can be found in French books. Because, let’s face it, nobody describes a kiss (French or not) better than the French. As a geeky teenager completely lost in a sentimental desert, I used to devour every book to get some information as to how a kiss should feel. French authors were my confidants, they taught me everything. I remember reading such descriptions for days on end. It was the sort of stuff that was making my teenage self incredibly happy. 
The first description that I found was in Candide, written by Voltaire. Candide is a child of “the most unaffected simplicity”, whose face is “the index of his mind”. Candide is in love with Cunegund (whom I never really warmed up to, she is quite pedantic), and he kisses her at the end of the first chapter. Here it is:
Cunégonde laissa tomber son mouchoir, Candide le ramassa, elle lui prit innocemment la main, le jeune homme baisa innocemment la main de la jeune demoiselle avec une vivacité, une sensibilité, une grâce toute particulière ; leurs bouches se rencontrèrent, leurs yeux s’enflammèrent, leurs genoux tremblèrent, leurs mains s’égarèrent.

And in English of course:
The miss dropped her handkerchief, the young man picked it up. She innocently took hold of his hand, and he as innocently kissed hers with a warmth, a sensibility, a grace–all very particular; their lips met; their eyes sparkled; their knees trembled; their hands strayed.

What’s not to love about such a first kiss? To me, this sentence still epitomises what a kiss should be about. It gave me very high expectations of how my first kiss should feel, and it is fair to say that the real thing didn’t live up to them. Not to mention that the guy dumped me after a few days. I moved on (Don’t we all?).
I soon found out another description that was at the same time deeply serious and incredibly frivolous. The irony is that Cyrano, the main protagonist of the play (written by Rostand), doesn’t actually kiss Roxanne. He borrows his words to the handsome Christian, who gets the kiss. So tragic. So unfair. By reading it again and again, somehow I forgot about my own heartbreak. I still know the lines by heart. I am pathetic.
Un baiser, mais à tout prendre, qu’est-ce ?
Un serment fait d’un peu plus près, une promesse
Plus précise, un aveu qui veut se confirmer, 
Un point rose qu’on met sur l’i du verbe aimer; 
C’est un secret qui prend la bouche pour oreille, 
Un instant d’infini qui fait un bruit d’abeille, 
Une communion ayant un goût de fleur, 
Une façon d’un peu se respirer le cœur, 
Et d’un peu se goûter, au bord des lèvres, l’âme !

A kiss, when all is said,—what is it?
An oath that’s ratified,—a sealed promise,
A heart’s avowal claiming confirmation,—
A rose-dot on the ‘i’ of ‘adoration,’—
A secret that to mouth, not ear, is whispered,—
Brush of a bee’s wing, that makes time eternal,—
Communion perfumed like the spring’s wild flowers,—
The heart’s relieving in the heart’s outbreathing,
When to the lips the soul’s flood rises, brimming!
I watched Cyrano de Bergerac the other day, and I could still feel the magic. Seriously, it is an incredible text, right?
Growing older, I became passionate about a French author called Zola. I liked the realism of his books; I could live and breathe the characters. The most dramatic kiss of the Rougon-Macquart series can be found, in my view, at the end of Germinal.
Catherine and Etienne are trapped in a mine’s tunnel. Just before she dies, they share an intimate moment that starts with a kiss.
D’un élan, elle s’était pendue à lui, elle chercha sa bouche et y colla passionnément la sienne. Les ténèbres s’éclairèrent, elle revit le soleil, elle retrouva un rire calmé d’amoureuse.
With a sudden impulse she hung on to him, seeking his mouth and pressing her own passionately to it. The darkness lighted up, she saw the sun again, and she laughed a quiet laugh of love.
Very dramatic, right? And then she dies.
As I grew older, I started reading other authors. I also realised that all kisses were not happening center stage, and that some were actually harder work than others. This one is coming from The Great Gatsby (Scott Fitzgerald). I like its simplicity, it just sounds true, almost familiar.
It was like that. Almost the last thing I remember was standing with Daisy and watching the moving-picture director and his Star. They were still under the white-plum tree and their faces were touching except for a pale, thin ray of moonlight between. It occurred to me that he had been very slowly bending toward her all evening to attain this proximity, and even while I watched I saw him stoop one ultimate degree and kiss at her cheek.
So here it is. Here are the best kisses of all times. What can I say? I feel in a romantic mood tonight…I sometimes wish I was a teenager again to be able to feel the way I felt back then. That said, I learned one thing over the years: nothing beats living your own life. Not even the greatest French kisses of all times.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Usually, when I am in France, friends and family taunt me because they assume I can’t find decent bread in London. Well, they couldn’t be more wrong. I have better bread than when I was living in Paris. There is a lovely French boulangerie just around the corner. The owner happens to be from Bosnia, and learned to become a baker while working for the French army in Sarajevo. It is a very London story, isn’t it? As a result, I have fresh bread, croissants and pains au chocolat every morning, and the short walk to get my morning pastries is always a pleasure, even when it is pouring. I just love it. Let’s face it, it is even better than France. There it is. I said it.

In fact, in a funny way, I miss French yogurts in London. This is what the yogurt department looks like in my local supermarket, and even after more than 10 years over here it puzzles me.

Because you see, in France, yogurts come in individual pots. You buy them by the dozen, and it lasts a whole week. In London, you buy a big pot, and it only lasts two to three days. Not to mention that you never now how much yogurt you are really having unless you use a kitchen scale (which I don’t). The taste is sort of the same, but not exactly. The brands are different. Apparently, there is a company that sells French products (at a London price obviously) around here, but frankly, I don’t think that it is worth paying extra to have, let’s admit it, something similar.

This means that I have to get used to British yogurts. I am still learning. I know that it is a first world problem but right now I feel a bit homesick. I suppose that it is this time of the year. 
Don’t get me wrong, it is not all bad: I learned to love fishcakes and Yorkshire puddings over here. I suppose that it is my lot in life to be stuck somewhere between France and the UK.

On this note, I leave you with a video that sums it all up… 

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

image by stockarch – 
 The relationship between sex and the Brits never ceases to amaze me. It is all or nothing: they don’t talk about it, and suddenly you can’t stop them. This week, I witnessed such a behaviour again, in an odd and slightly creepy way. Let me explain: at 14 (almost 15, actually) my teenage daughter is getting more independent by the day. Seeing her starting to spread her wings is a pleasure, apart from the occasional panic attacks when she arrives home later than expected. It is hard to let go, but it is part of being a mum, I suppose. A few months back, despite being in an all-girls school, she told me that she had a boyfriend. He is the same age, and from a similar school. They seem to enjoy each other’s company: they keep texting and snap chatting all the time, they meet up at the tube station, and once or twice a month they see each other with friends somewhere in London for a couple of hours.
The other day, she was with him and other classmates on the Tube. His arm was on her shoulder, and one of her teachers saw her. The following day, her form tutor asked to have a quiet word with her. She explained to my daughter that she had been seen ‘fraternising’ with a boy, and that she needed to be careful ‘because boys might want other things’.

Does she mean, like, sex? That’s what she meant, right? I still can’t believe that she said this. In fact, I find it incredibly creepy: right now, all my daughter is risking is to have her young heart broken when the relationship ends. She is still at a stage when holding hand and kissing her boyfriend makes her happy for days on end. Bless her. Why would the school get involved? Let her enjoy her life! And for the records her school is not a faith school.
In short, you might think that I am a progressive mum, but I am not worried at all. She is trustworthy; she knows what her priorities are. It might be my French side, but I don’t think that I should forbid her to see him. I also believe that what she will learn about friendships and relationships now will be useful later in life. After all, we all learn by experience, right?
Now let’s talk about sex. I am sure that she wouldn’t let a boyfriend coerce her into having sex, if it were the issue (which, once again, it is not). We would talk about it obviously, and I know for a fact that she is strong-minded. I remember her getting elbowed during a sprinting competition. She elbowed back and won. And seriously, it is her first boyfriend, let her live!
I don’t know whether the school will call me. They will probably mention something at the next parent teachers meeting, and I will have to brush it off. I am not French for nothing, after all. But again, what is it with the British and, well, sex? Why is the school so fixated on my daughter’s love life when it is rife with serious mental issues such as anorexia or self-harming? Is it because we are French? I am starting to wonder. I don’t understand why they felt that they had the right to interfere, because it didn’t happen on the school premises, and it wasn’t anything inappropriate. Some girls, apparently, are popping pills instead of having lunch, to cut their appetite. It seems to me that this is a more serious issue, and as far as I know, the form tutor didn’t have a ‘quiet word’ with them. Others are smoking outside of school without anyone batting an eyelid. In this country, getting completely smashed during a party is also completely Ok, but not having a boyfriend. Why the double standard? I don’t get it.
I thought about it and came to the conclusion that the British have a different attitude to sex. They don’t discuss it. They have tea and quiet words instead. The word ‘sex’ must not used, apart maybe during biology lessons. In all other circumstances, it will be referred to as simply ‘that thing’. Lovely, isn’t it? ‘That thing’ implies something dirty and shameful, that you hide behind huge granny pants and opaque curtains of apparent respectability. As a result, we get sexting MPs and religious zealots explaining to us how we should live our life.
We French are a bit more open. Or maybe it’s just me. Despite my Catholic upbringing, I openly discuss sex and relationships with my daughters, and we started when they were eight or nine. We have long conversations about divorce, marriage and even same-sex marriage -one of my best male friends is married to another man. Because of this, most other mums believe that I am quite progressive and possibly, as we happen to be French, a bit promiscuous. That’s the reputation we French have, and despite having lived with the same man for twenty years I have learned that I can’t fight such clichés. Well, I just happen to believe that trust and openness can do wonders. So far I am actually quite proud of having brought up responsible and well-balanced daughters. And I will help them when their heart is broken, or when they are ready to have a sexual relationship.
In the meantime, can we please let teenagers just be teenagers please?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

On the face of it, it was a beautiful day, and I decided to go for a pre-work run in Hyde Park. Everything was going extremely well, as it usually does after ten minutes or so of running (for some reason the first ten minutes are always excruciating, and then suddenly it is all fine), when it started pouring. I was drenched. And I must admit that I didn’t like it. Everybody seemed undeterred, except for me. I am not that British yet, after all. Instead of running my usual two laps, I stopped at one, and waited for the rain to stop. It didn’t. I ended up taking a phone call from a French client under a tree. That’s when it happened: two guys, apparently work colleagues, passed by, heard me and started looking at me as if they had never seen anything like it before. And then, one of them said:
“- French women have a certain je-ne-sais-quoi, don’t you think?”
I couldn’t believe it: I was wearing black leggings and the first sport T-shirt that I could grab this morning, and they thought that I had a certain ‘je-ne-sais-quoi-! Why? I was sweating and dripping at the same time. Not to mention my lovely ponytail. 

I still don’t know what went into me, but as soon as my phone conversation was over, I started running after them, and decided to confront them. Don’t judge me too harshly, I just wanted to understand.
“- Hi,” I said, “Excuse-me, but I overheard what you were saying. What do you mean exactly by ‘a certain-je-ne sais-quoi’?”
I know that it is not British to confront people like this, and it is not ladylike, but you need to understand that we French women don’t mince our words. I desperately wanted to know.
They looked a bit bewildered, and one of them muttered:
“-Ooh la la!”
I ignored him. The other was a bit more composed. I wanted an answer, and somehow he seemed to get this. He looked at me and said:
“- It is the attitude, Darling”
Don’t Darling me, I thought to myself.
“- What attitude? Running in the park?”
“- No. Somehow despite the rain and everything, you managed to pull it off .”
“- Pull what off?”
“- Well, he hesitated, good looks.” He smiled clumsily.
I sensed that I wouldn’t get anything more out of him, muttered a quick “Thank you”, and ran back as fast as I could.
The sad reality was that, because they had heard me speak French, they had simply thought that I looked good. That’s how strong the cliches are over here: you speak French, you look good. It is automatic. Speaking French simply gives you style and beauty, even when you are in your running kit under the rain. Lesson learned. It isn’t rational, it just is.

Because, come on, the simple truth was that I didn’t look good. This much I knew.
On the bright side, after talking to them I ran my fastest km ever (since I started running again), at a bit less than 5 mins (YAY!).

They got it all wrong: I didn’t look good: I was just fast today. That’s the problem with cliches, right? You simply can’t see people for who they really are.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Why is French bashing so popular? Seriously, it is starting to get a bit annoying. Not to mention the fact that, after more than a decade, I have heard it all before. Don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about some constructive criticism here, and I am the first one to admit that I am happier in London than in France, mainly because I find people more pragmatic. But seriously, what is it with the violent diatribes against the French? Things reached a new low last week with Andy Street’s speech (you can read about it here). Basically he said that France was finished, and that we French were lazy lumps (that was implied, actually). He later claimed that his comments were tongue-in-cheek, and ended up apologising unreservedly. However, it was too late, the whole incident had already created quite a stir, and the French told him to go back home to have a fish and chips.

As far as I know, nobody is perfect, but the Brits are extremely quick to point out any flaws of their French neighbours. Given the fact that approximately three millions Brits have French ancestry, this is a bit rich. Not to mention the fact that France is full of Brits. And often, such intemperate diatribes simply miss the point: despite the bad economy, France still has a lot going for itself.
Here is just an anecdote that I thought I should share: a few months ago, my 90-year-old grandfather was diagnosed with lymphoma. As he lives in France, it took him only two weeks to see an oncologist once he had consulted his GP. He started the first campaign of chemotherapy a couple of days later. As he lives in a small village, a taxi was picking him up and waiting for him every time he had to go to the hospital. He didn’t have to pay a cent, it was all taken care of. After six rounds of chemotherapy, he is in remission, and I am pleased to say that he is doing well. He was even able to meet his newborn great-granddaughter. I am deeply grateful that he received such a fantastic care. I hate to think that, had he lived in the UK, things might have been different. I even remember one of the top doctors of this country saying that he wanted to deny cancer drugs to the elderly, because it was a huge burden on the NHS. When did showing a bit of compassion become a weakness? I wonder. In this instance I am incredibly proud to be French.
As for being lazy, the productivity of the French is amongst the best in Europe. The high unemployment rate is mainly due to restrictive labour laws (once you are in, you are in, and jobs for life are still up for grabs).
In short, I urge all French bashers to get a life. They completely miss the mark. Some of them might have been rejected by a a French girl when they were younger. Don’t take it out on us, Love!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Where Do I Go From here?

Where do I belong? I don’t really know. I would like to be able to say that I am a ‘citizen of the world’, but the sad reality is that I am still very French, and becoming more British by the day. How can I tell? Well, little by little, I started to notice some changes in me. It came gradually, and I didn’t see it at first. But here it is: I am going native. And I have identified the main signs of going native. Please reassure me and tell me I am not the only one. I am being brutally honest here…
1. I keep criticising the tabloid press but can’t help having a look at the Dailymail online every day. Especially during my lunch. I know. But, you see, I am telling it as it is;

2. I love having eggs and bacon for breakfast. No more croissants for me, thank you very much. Because when I have eggs for breakfast, I don’t have this pang of hunger at 11 am. See, maybe I was born to be British;
3. I don’t judge any more. OK, let’s be frank: I judge less. If I see female friends with huge granny pants, Spanx, Visible Panty Line, or even without any underwear under the yoga pants, I don’t say a word. Who am I to judge? If it makes them happy, it can’t be that bad, right? That said, if I see a guy wearing a suit and sport socks, I still judge him immediately. I told you, I am still French. Or maybe it is just a classic case of double standard?
4. I tend to forget my coat at home. I used to be tightly wrapped up all the time, but not anymore. Maybe I got used to the British weather. What a shocker!
5. When something has gone pear-shaped, like, for instance, it is pouring during a birthday party in the park, I tend to say that it could be worse. ” At least it isn’t snowing, right?”. I don’t know where this is coming from, I must admit. But here it is.
6. The other day, I went to buy my Sunday newspapers. I gave the money to my newsagent, and said something like “Here you are, Darling!”. That’s it, it has happened: I have called someone Darling. In a completely innocent way, for the record.
7. When I travel to Paris, I am disappointed not to find a Pret or a coffee shop at every corner of the street. Having a coffee in a French bar has become a depressing experience. When did it all happen?
8. When I was growing up, in France, one of my treats was Pepito biscuits. Now I talk about Digestives. Times have changed.
9. I want to text my French friends in English. It is just easier. Sometimes I even do it. The words come to me in English. I hope that I am not losing my mind!
10. I seem to start all my sentences by ‘Sorry’ or ‘Excuse-me’. What is going on?

So, what’s next? Are such changes normal? I am starting to worry now.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Picasso

I have heard this one so many times over the last ten years that it is starting to wear me off. After so long, I thought that people would actually start to get to know me, and also to understand my values. But nope, it hasn’t happened just yet, and it probably never will because of all the cliches on the French this side of the Channel. So let me make it crystal-clear for you: I don’t know a single French woman who would accept that her husband has a mistress without being upset. None. Yep, you read that well.

If you don’t believe me, just have a look at what Valerie Trierweiler, the ex-French First Lady, has written about how being cheated on made her feel. Suffice to say, she didn’t enjoy it. Quite the opposite, in fact. She wanted to end it all. What happened to the so-called ‘Gallic shrug’ in case of an infidelity? Well, it didn’t exist in the first place. And to make matters even more dramatic, Valerie Trierweiler took her revenge in a very public manner by writing a best seller. It clearly hurt the President, who was already very unpopular, and made her a fortune along the way. Never underestimate a scorned woman, I say.

Despite such a book, I was asked over the weekend for the umpteenth time how I was dealing with the fact that because he was French, my husband must have had mistresses. I quickly answered that he was British now and that, if he was cheating on me, surely it would make a good book, right? I hope that my interlocutor got the joke. I will probably never know.

Don’t get me wrong: I am the first to admit that French politicians seem to be a lot more inclined to marital indiscretions and sexual proclivities.
But are extra-marital affairs more common in France? I don’t think so. We French haven’t invented them. Just look at Prince Charles and his then-mistress Camilla, when he was married to Diana. I actually think that he expected his then-wife not to make a fuss and accept the situation as gracefully as possible, as lots of aristocrat women have probably done in a not-so-distant past. Some things never change, right? Just be reasonable, Darling. How very British! Keep a stiff upper lip, as we British do. Not nice.
And where does this myth that well-educated French are very accepting of marital infidelity come from? Seriously, the French are like people everywhere, apart maybe from some of our senior politicians who behave like the ‘fathers of the nation’ sometimes a bit too literally. You see, as we don’t have a monarch any more, they fill a strong urge to show how powerful they are by having as many conquests as possible. Pathetic.
And no, women don’t have more complacency for cheaters in France. Some stay in the relationship, some leave. Just like everywhere else.
So please give me break now. Enough with silly stereotypes. Stop asking me silly questions.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

Venice: Lovely Facades, But What About Foundations?

London is the city of all superlatives. I recently read that London has overtaken London as the world’s most expensive city.

I am not surprised. That said, I think the London also holds the sad record of high functioning people with hidden mental issues. I attended a party over the weekend. I thought that it would be lovely to catch up with friends and acquaintances. The food was indeed amazing. They served, amongst other things, delicious little pizzas with mozzarella melting on top of them. Who can resist pizzas? I certainly can’t. Neither could my teenage daughter, actually.

So, us being us, we tried the mini pizzas and ended up having quite a few. They were really tasty. Then, it dawned on me that we were the only one eating them. In fact, apart from another woman who had had a couple of grilled prawns, nobody except us had touched the gorgeous food. How weird! I naively thought that pizza was the teenage food by excellence, and there were lots of teenagers. Well, I was clearly wrong. What was going on?

I had a good look around me. The women were all skinny and smiling. Some were looking enviously at me stuffing my face. A friend of mine came next to me and said:
“- Do you realise that most people are anorexic in this room?”

She was right. Of course she was. I was probably surrounded by high functioning anorexics. But why? Where was this coming from? When did it all started? How could I not see? To be fair, they all looked so happy. What was going on behind this happy façade? I wondered. The sad fact of the matter was that they didn’t look like the kind of persons who would seek help.What a tragedy in waiting!

I saw a teenage girl removing her cardigan. She had bruises and cuts on her forearms. I caught myself thinking: is she self-harming? She quickly put her cardigan back. But she kept smiling and looking lovely. Of course she did. I wondered what kind of silent suffering she was going through.

The food remained untouched, but the white wine bottles were coming and going at a very fast pace. In fact, I noticed that an acquaintance had drunk a couple of bottles without bating an eyelid. I was stunned. I hadn’t realised that she was a high functioning alcoholic. Come to think of it, some mums had already told me that they had a bottle of wine every evening, to ‘relax’. I thought that they were joking. They probably weren’t.

I was in shock: how do you help people who don’t believe that they need help? How do I protect my children from such mental illnesses? Can I protect hem? Just because they are high functioning, with good jobs or a prominent positions in the London society doesn’t mean that they are not putting themselves (and possibly others) in danger, right? For the first time in years, I must admit that I was scared.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

Dating Isn’t Aways Plain Sailing (Port Moresby)

It happened again over the weekend. I caught up with a friend of mine. She explained to me that she had just met this French guy, and that she really liked him. And then, she asked me the dreaded question:
“- So, tell me, what should I do? Do you have any advice as to how to date a Frenchman?”
I started to panic. The thing is, I have not played the dating game for a very long time. I tried to mumble something about just being yourself, but I don’t think that it made the cut. In short, she left without an intelligible answer. I thought about her question for a long time, and started remembering that, because of my engineering studies and my various technical jobs, I used to be surrounded by men. More often than not, I used to be the only woman in a meeting/project/office…After all, she was probably right to ask the question, because I had to learn how to read guys. It was a survival matter, really. So here is what I should have told her. Better late than never, right? Here we go…

1. There are no rules. 
Unlike in the US, there is no specific plan as to what you need to do at the first, second or third date. You can go as fast or as slow as you want. You are in control. Obviously, he often will want to go fast, but it is up to you to slow him down, if you so wish. Now you are warned. 

2. Exclusivity goes without saying.
What is it with Anglo-Saxon guys dating several women at the same time until you declare your love to each other? If you date a French guy, he is with you, and you with him. Period. From the very start. As for the misconception that French men are serial cheater, well, I say that fidelity has nothing to do with nationality. More controversially, I also say that is all about risk management: take as good care of yourself as possible, and you will limit the chances of him having a roving eye.

3. Always be at least 10 minutes late.
I know that it is silly, and personally I hate being late. But it is all about not appearing to be too eager.  And chances are, he will arrive even later than you. It is a French thing, and I can’t stand it. But in Rome, you have to do as the Romans do, right? Well, it is the same with French men.

4. Don’t smile too much.
I know, I know, you weren’t expecting this one. But apparently, men just love a woman who pouts. That’s probably one of the reasons why Victoria Beckham became so successful. It is beyond me, because I am a happy-go-lucky sort of person, but it is a tried-and tested thing: if you appear to be too happy, they aren’t interested in you. Men in general (and French men in particular) seem to love women with issues. I had a friend who never smiled or laughed. She always had men flocking around her despite her sad face. So unfair. Maybe French men love to be the knight in their shining armour. It must be their romantic side. So look serious and worried, he will love it. Come on, you can do it. Think of something sad.

5. Ditch the granny pants.
And the M&S nighties. As you know, it is one of my pet peeves. He doesn’t care about your wobbly bits, I can assure you. Especially if you wear laces.

6. Do not take the initiative.
Most French men are quite old-fashioned: they want to be the one to take the initiative and do the first step. So much for trying to be independent women, right? The good news is that it usually doesn’t take them as much time as their British counterpart. But often, it is all about making him believe that he took the initiative, when clearly you have paved the way for the relationship to start. And yes, it is a conundrum. So good luck!

7. Feel free to ignore my advice. Yes, all of it.
After all, you are a big girl, right? This is the opportunity for you to start a clean slate. Come on, I am pretty sure that you don’t need my help. Yes, he might be the one, or your fragile heart might end up being broken again. There is simply no way to tell in advance. Whether he is French or not doesn’t really matter. Just go with it, and enjoy the journey!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

Over dinner, the other day, I was told that a French primary school that had opened recently in Ealing (West London) was already oversubscribed. Because apparently, all French schools are. I couldn’t believe it. Obviously, because I was French (or was it because of my French accent? I will never know), my interlocutor had assumed that I was sending my children to a French school. The thing is, I was not. I was brought up in the French system, and we sent our older one to a British nursery, because the French Lycée was oversubscribed (unless you had friends in high places, that was, but we didn’t. I am told that, following a certain Ofsted report, the transparency of the admission process has greatly improved). I must admit that I was extremely disappointed at first, but as she was clearly thriving, we ended up keeping her in the British system, where she so clearly belonged. We didn’t hesitate for our younger daughter: she went straight to a British nursery. To us, it was all about having happier children.

It got me thinking: if the French love London so much, why do they absolutely want to send their children to a French school? To me, the whole point of living in London is to embrace its international vibe, and have as open as possible an education. The French education is very academic, with a strong emphasis on maths, and I certainly wouldn’t praise it for its international awareness and open attitude. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to study, live and work in France, then you should go for it. But for a truly international experience and a stronger business acumen, in my view nothing beats British schools in London.

Maybe the French choose such schools because they only will stay a couple of years, in which case it makes sense to keep the same curriculum than at home. Maybe it is for the children to be really bilingual. It is true that sending the children to British schools means that I have to try speak French at home to maintain my daughters’ bilingualism (sometimes with limited success). That said, what I love about British schools is that kids try a bit of everything, and the emphasis on sport and art is really strong, which I find great! I also like the fact that learning, as much as possible, is done by playing or experimenting. Finally, children are taught to be confident and to present their various projects to the whole class from a very young age. I was pleasantly surprised that my daughters started doing ‘Show and tells’ from the age of 4. I have never heard of something similar in France. There is also a real sense of community in British schools: at school, with the assemblies and the various activities, but also outside of school, with the other parents. I don’t remember having this in France.

A French mum explained to me that she considered the British system to be ‘too soft’, and that it would be impossible for her offspring to go back to the French system after a few years in a British school.

She might well have a point, but I thought that she sounded a tad arrogant (Is it me? Am I becoming that British?). That said, anyone who has been through the 7+ and 11 + entrance exams knows that the British system is very academic too, probably with a stronger emphasis on humanities and presentation skills than the French one. Let’s be clear, a child attending a French school doesn’t stand a chance at such exams. 

Suffice to say that, in spite of everything I have heard against the British system (uniforms, single sex…), it works for us. After all, it is all about finding the right school for the right child, right?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London