Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, Politics /

As you know, Netflix is releasing House Of Cards Season 3 today. I happen to be a huge fan. But I can’t watch it. I am banned from watching a single episode or reading any spoilers, because my husband is on a business trip, and I need to wait for him to start watching the series. It is hard. I don’t know if I will resist the temptation. What is it with marriage and always having to make compromises? In order to make it easier, I have decided to write the summary of what the French version would look like. Here is what I came up with. How do you like it? Should I continue? Let me know.

Disclaimer: all characters are fictional and the product of my vivid imagination.

 

PILOT

The French President, Arnaud Duchemol, is clinically depressed since his mistress, the gorgeous journalist Isabelle Demoulin has dumped him for the leader of the opposition, the charismatic (and very rich) Benoit Pouledor. This is an open secret amongst politicians and journalists, but the rest of France doesn’t know (obviously. That’s how things work in France). The president self medicates with cognac and is feeling suicidal. His Chef de Cabinet, the driven Arielle Boisneau (Chief of Staff) is running the country for him, always finding excuses when she has to lead the Conseil Des Ministres (Cabinet meeting) in his absence.

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

Count on my to brush up your English skills. You might think that because you were taught to speak English at school or at work you will be fine, but you couldn’t be more wrong. The British are very precise about how things must be said. Here are a few tricks that will go a long way to gain a better understanding of what the British really mean and how to make sure that they understand you.

– Use as many works as possible

A simple ‘yes’ in response to a question will betray the fact that you are not familiar with the way people talk over here. You need to say instead ‘Well, I sort of said I would’. Or ‘yes, I hear what you say’. Keep the conversation going at any cost.

In the same vein, never say no. Except in a life or death situation, of course. ‘No’ is much too direct. It closes the debate and the British love to talk. Instead, you can always buy time by saying ‘this is an interesting point of view, isn’t it?’. OK, let’s practise now. Let’s suppose that someone tells you: ‘boys and girls need to be educated separately because they learn in different ways’. If, like me, you feel strongly that this is a backwards idea coming straight from the Middle Ages, don’t say so. Bite your tongue. Breathe. Instead, say something like ‘This is an interesting point of view. That said, I really enjoyed being educated with boys during my childhood’. Do you see the difference?

– Pay attention to what is NOT said:

You need to question everything you are told. ‘Is this school any good?’ I asked one of my friends. Oh yes, it is a good school, she said, very sporty. What she meant of course, was that they were not very good academically.  But how could I have guessed it?

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

Here, when you don’t know what to talk about, you just talk about the weather. You simply can’t get wrong if you stick to this rule. If there is an awkward silence, all you have to do is to say something like “terrible weather, isn’t it?” and you are sure that the conversation will pick up. Guaranteed.
 
But be prepared: talking about the weather can happen anywhere, even in the most unexpected places. At work, I went to the loo the other day and the lady who was washing her hands next to me started a passionate conversation about how cold the weather had been over half term. I ended up having to pretend that I had an urgent meeting otherwise we would probably have spent the whole afternoon chatting away and we would still be there. I kid you not. That’s how intense the whole exchange was.

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

I will always remember my first day at work in London. My then-boss gave me my security pass and my phone, and immediately started a lecture on the fact that I wasn’t supposed to drink any alcohol during my day at work, not even a small glass of wine. I felt like I was being lectured by my headteacher. Except that I wasn’t at school any more. Not nice.

Apparently, he felt strongly that, because I was French, he needed to make this point really clear. He also said that they would be random drug and alcohol tests. Now I was warned.

Random-test me all you want, I thought: I will not turn up sloshed at work just because I am French.

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Posted by / Category London, Looking Good /

Have you noticed how often we are judged? People judge each other all the time. Well, as you probably know, when you are a woman, it is twice as bad. And if, like me, you happen to be French, it gets even worse. For some weird reason, we French judge each other all the time. And why do people always have an opinion of women’s choices? I have heard countless times comments like ‘she is so selfish: she doesn’t want another baby’, ‘she needs to dress her age’ , or ‘it’s normal to be overweight after having babies, your children must be your priority. Don’t exercise too much!’. I am sure that some people mean well. Well, most of the time anyway. As for me, the penny dropped when I made the cover of The Times (see here). The picture was nice, but I was, well, a bit fat (As I happen to be French, I judge myself all the time. Not nice, I know). I decided to take action. Fast forward to now, and I have never felt better. And I think that I have never looked better…What do you think? I shall let you be the judge of that…

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Posted by / Category Looking Good /

No, not me, silly! As you know, we French women don’t do cosmetic surgery. Because we don’t have to: we don’t age. We mature. We get better. It’s a genetic predisposition. And if some of us indulge in a little bit of nip & tuck occasionally, we will never, ever admit it. That’s just us, I suppose. What can I say? We are beautiful naturally, and that’s all there is to know. Did I also tell you that I wake up already made up? No seriously. It’s a French thing, we all have it. It is in our DNA. And no, I didn’t go to the hairdresser to have a blow-dry. Somehow, my hair places itself naturally. I promise. As for my dress, well, it just happened to be placed in my wardrobe and was just, well, perfect. So lucky, right? And of course I am naturally slim. After all, I am French. I didn’t go to the gym this morning. It wasn’t me, you must be mistaken.

This is, apparently, what everybody believes. Seriously, guys,  how gullible can you be?

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, Travel /

Today I would like to talk to you about a little bag usually favoured by men, where you have just enough space to put what you need for an overnight stay. We French call it a ‘baise-en-ville’. Literally, it means ‘f***-in-town’, but funnily enough, it is not rude at all to talk about a ‘baise-en-ville’. Everybody has one, and it is always a smart buy (also for a woman, actually). I suppose that it stems from the fact that we French like to compartmentalise our lives, and remain pragmatic in all circumstances. Hence the bag. That said, it has completely lost any naughty connotation. I assure you. Hand on heart. You can safely talk about a ‘baise-en-ville’ and everybody will be impressed.

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

 

Happy Valentine’s Day! Today here is a post I wrote for TheLocal about the dating rules in France. It is light-hearted and written for a younger audience, but I hope that you’ll still enjoy it!

If you are still on your own for Valentine’s Day, it is time to step up your game and make a move.  But how do we French make a move? Well, I am not going to lie to you: it will be hard. For starters, you need to forget everything you have learned, and do it the French way. Here are some pointers.
A.     Don’t smile. Don’t look happy. Pout. I know that this sounds completely counter-intuitive, but it works. We French love making things complicated. He/she will notice you. Just don’t smile.
B.     The guy has to take the initiative. It sounds old-fashioned, but that’s how it works. But if the woman does take the initiative, she has to make the man believe that he did all the work. It’s exhausting. But if you don’t do it, you will look needy.
C.     For condoms. Always have (at least) one in your purse. Because sleeping with him/her on the very first date will not be held against you. That said, don’t get your hopes up.
D.    Men need to be very forward. Women expect the whole shebang: flowers, dinners, love declarations, text messages and even small gifts. French women need to play hard to get. Sad but true. My tip for him: text her as soon as the date is over to tell her you already miss her. For her: always look busy, and never accept a date immediately.
E.     Always be at least 15 minutes late. Personally I hate it but that’s the way it is. We French are always late. And no cheap date please. McDonalds or Burger King won’t make the cut.
F.     Look gorgeous, but don’t overdo it. Of course, you need to make it look like you haven’t made an effort. I know, it is easier said than done.


G.     The man is supposed to pay for the romantic dinners, the drinks and the outings. In fact, he is supposed to pay for everything, or at least suggest he will. Women can protest a little bit but if he insists you have to let him pay.
H.    The man is supposed to compliment the woman at every possible opportunity.
I.      Women should avoid showing too much flesh. In France, it is always better to suggest rather than be half-naked.
J.     No beer please. Champagne is the only acceptable drink to celebrate.
 K.    Having your espresso with milk is a deal-breaker. Yes, even a little bit of milk.
L.     If you have the slightest doubt of whether he/she is faithful, then he/she probably isn’t. Dump him and go back to point A.
M.   If, after a few repeats of points D to K, you still haven’t used the condom mentioned in point C, you might want to cut your losses and move on.
And read the rest of the article here

 

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

 

 
I have tried to deny it countless times, and I will continue to do so. Despite everything you have read in the newspapers (especially the British ones), we French haven’t invented extra-marital affairs. That said, I must admit that we do have a very specific figure of speech for a visit to one’s mistress.  We call it a 5 a 7 (five-to-seven). It is derived from the time of the day a Frenchman would make such a visit. So, next time you hear a French person say that they are going to their 5 to 7, you will know what they are talking about. You will understand and nod quietly. Everybody will understand and shut up. That’s how we French are: we keep some things private. Yes, especially these things.

Mind you, if someone from Canada invites you for a 5-to-7, it has a completely different meaning: it will just be a social gathering with friends and colleagues. Don’t expect anything remotely naughty. In short, get the nationality of your interlocutor right, or you might end up in a bit of a pickle. Now you know.
Come to think of it, the 5 to 7 has always been a mystery for me: can you really compartimentalise your life for a couple of hours? Can you be a perfect family man/women for 22 hours, and escape from your daily routine for two hours a day? I really wonder. Seriously, how do you do this? Is there a switch in your mind that you can use? Where is it? How do you switch it on and off? How come I didn’t know?

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Posted by / Category London /

 

After yesterday’s post, I had lots of comments about the fact that some of you will spend the day on their own, and would give anything to have a partner.
Well, this post is for you. It must indeed be a nightmare to be surrounded by (sometimes) smug couples. On my Tube journey today, people were kissing everywhere. On the platform, waiting for the train. On the Tube, as passionately as possible. On the escalators, blocking the rest of us. I can’t take it any more.

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