Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /


I know that we haven’t all been blessed with the gift of wit and nerves of steel, much less the skills required to hook a love interest. But, in fact, it’s perfectly all right to be a bit shy or even a bit clumsy. This is probably why the pickup line was invented even! But remember, the pickup line is a double-edged sword too – everything depends on how he or she will take it. And don’t forget that a good sense of humour can depend on culture and social rules as well. What can I say? We live in a complicated world! That being said, some pickup lines are simply deal breakers. You will need to avoid them at all costs.

This morning, for instance, I was coming back home from the gym when this guy stopped, and said:
“- Excuse me, do I know you from somewhere?”
Come on! If he knew me, then surely he would remember me. I would like to think that I am not someone you can forget so easily. So, either he was lying, or if it were true, he had completely forgotten about me. Did I make such a lame impression when we first met? I didn’t even reply. Frankly, there was no point.

I met up with a friend a bit later, and we discussed what had happened. As it turned out, she’d also had to deal with her fair share of really bad pickup lines. We had a good laugh and came up with a short list of the worst ones:

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

And here is the next chapter of Archie and Carine’s story. This is inspired from my own experience. Where I live in London, I discovered that little ones are assessed at the age of three. I was shocked…

You can read the last chapter here:


Education Act


The Education Act of 1944 introduced free secondary education for all in England and Wales. Obviously a lot has changed since then, and now you need to pay hefty fees to attend most schools, especially if you are living in London  and can’t find a decent state school (or don’t want to fake being religious).


Life In the United Kingdom, (Almost) Official Study Guide


February 2012


2012 is in fact much busier than 2011. I am working far too much and I have been talking to various colleagues. On top of everything else, I need to find a primary school for Alexandra. They all make me worry that I might have left it too late. Really? She is not even three yet!

‘Urban legend’ has it that it is very competitive to get into a good primary school in London. It can’t be true, can it? In France, you just have to go to the local school and that’s it, job done. I never had to go to a private school in France. All I had to do was to have good grades. It was a meritocracy. Everything was based on academic results, not interviews. In fact, if you were accepted to universities such as the ‘Ecole Polytechnique’, you might even get paid just to study there. But this is clearly not how things are over here.


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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /


Have you read my latest column on Match? Here it is. It is an ode to kindness…

It was so much easier when we were younger, right? You could get a friend to ask him whether he liked you in the schoolyard, and you would get an answer right away. Well, those days are gone, and sometimes guys can be tough to read. To make matters even worse, in a global city like London people have different backgrounds, and can react in very different ways. It is hard to know what they really mean. French men, for instance, are usually quite forward, and if they like you, you’d know right away. British men can be a bit shy and wait forever before they consider making a move. Some men only open up when drunk. In short, there are no general rules. But I believe that, wherever you are and whomever you have a crush on, there is a telltale sign that will help you know in no uncertain terms whether he likes you. What is it?

Well, it’s called kindness.

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

As the whole world knows, a group of hackers released the list of Ashley Madison users, and day in, day out, everybody is talking about it. Why? Because Ashley Madison is a social networking site marketed to people who are married or in a committed relationship, and its slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair” Not a day passes without new reactions. They range from ‘what goes around comes around’ or ‘it’s karma: the cheaters get cheated’ to ‘it’s a violation of privacy/an act of terrorism’ or ‘I sympathize with the users’. Whatever you think of this whole sorry affair, lawyers are now having a field day, and the full impact of the hack has yet to be assessed. This is compounded by the fact that the website was charging a fee for a full delete of users’ profiles, except that apparently the profiles were never erased (here come the damages!).


As for me, I will not comment on what is essentially a private matter for each user. And, frankly, I don’t think that judging others helps. Seriously, don’t you think that there is already enough nastiness in this world? And I must admit that I hate self-proclaimed paragons or virtue who are all about ‘do as I say, not as I do’. Don’t get me wrong, I am not naïve, but I believe that a private matter is exactly that: private.

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

And here is the 7th chapter. Thank you for all your words of encouragement, I am so glad that you like this story -or that, in some cases, that it made you react! In case you have missed it, the latest chapter is here.
Happy New Year!
Values & Responsibilities
Which values and responsibilities should you have as a UK citizen or Permanent Resident (more than one response allowed)?
A To have lots of noisy house parties
B To stare at women’s cleavages at every possible opportunity
C To treat everyone equally
D To drink booze
I wonder if you can choose all four.
Life in the United Kingdom, (almost) official Practice Questions
Everybody at the office enjoyed the food. Archie seems to like his new job and has invited friends and new colleagues at home for a New Year Eve’s party. I love cooking and I thought that it would be nice to present a united front with Archie. After all, new year, new start, right? Onwards and upwards, as they say over here.

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, French food /

Usually, just because I am French, I am asked to choose the wines for outings, conferences and the likes. The thing is, I have no idea what to do, because I know next to zero about wine. But I can’t say so, because I am French and all French are supposed to be experts in such things, right? I had to learn a few tricks to be able to talk about wine. Why didn’t I just tell the truth? Well, because I would have had to write and print dozens of fliers and distribute them every day to acquaintances, friends and colleagues. That’s how bad it was. What to do? Once again, I learned to go with the flow…Here is how I did it:


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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

In case you have missed it, you can read the last chapter here

Back To London

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Boxing Day

Bank holidays and public holidays are not the same thing. Christmas Day, the 25th of December, is a public holiday because it is a religious festival. Nobody knows whether Boxing Day should be a public holiday or a bank holiday. Dont count on the official books to enlighten you.

p93, Official study guide Boxing day on 26 December is a public holiday

p179 Official Practice Questions and Answers Boxing Day is the day after Christmas day and is a bank holiday

Nobody really understands the difference between the two but the common consensus is that you dont have to go to work on either a Bank holiday or a public holiday, which, after all, is what matters. That said, be careful not to get it wrong on the day of the test.

Life In the United Kingdom, (Almost) Official Study Guide


I wake up and start getting ready for another day of work. Steven half sits on the bed and mumbles, half-asleep:

“-What is going on?”

“-Well, it is Monday, I am going to work!”

“-Darling, you don’t need to, it is Boxing day!”

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Posted by / Category French food, London, Stereotypes /

It is impossible to talk about the French without mentioning food. To cut a long story short, there are two things we French are supposed to be good at: sex and food. When I mention that I am French (which everybody knows by now anyway), we usually start talking about food. Why food first? Well, because the British don’t like talking about sex when sober. It usually comes after a few pints. But I digress. I could write the script of the conversation in advance: my interlocutors start mentioning the restaurants they have been to lately, and try to get my approval. They want me to admire their exquisite tastes. Alternatively, they list the bottles of wine they have recently bought at an auction, and want me to say that they managed to get a fantastic deal. Most of the time, I don’t know the restaurants they are talking about, and I would never buy super-expensive bottles of wine, because I simply don’t see the point. Most of my British friends have a wine cave in their house. To cut a long story short, we don’t. Nor to we have a sex dungeon, for the record.


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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London, Politics /

Back by popular demand, here is the latest chapter of Carine & Archie’s story. You can read the last chapter here.


I need to prepare my citizenship test.

The UK did not join the European Economic Community (EEC) until 1973. Still today, it is a sore subject. You will not read anything else about the EEC in this guide. No questions on this subject will be asked during the Life in the United Kingdom Test anyway. There is absolutely no need whatsoever to revise this paragraph.

Life In the United Kingdom, (Almost) Official Study Guide


Christmas 2011


With a heavy heart I manage to get Alexandra and myself to France, in the small city where I come from near Nice. There is a direct British Airways flight, which helps. There is even a quirky Anglican church there, I don’t know why. My ankle feels a lot better. I think that I overreacted a bit. I must be tired. All I needed was a few good nights sleep.

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