This expression, as I am sure you know, is borrowed from French. Literally, it means ‘Long live the difference!’. In truth, we French don’t use it that much (if at all). In fact, once again, I think of ‘Vive la difference’ as a British idiom, even if the words are French. What can I say? Life is incredibly complicated.
Let’s go back to the definition, shall we? ‘Vive la difference!’ is an expression of approval of difference, especially between the sexes. When I hear it reminds me to appreciate the uniqueness of everyone and everything. Of course variety is great!! Embrace it. Don’t be afraid of it.
Well, that’s the theory, right? The reality is, indeed, different (pun intended!). Why is is so hard to be different, even if it’s just a little bit? I really wonder. But let’s face it, it’s bloody hard.
For instance, what is it with this obsession with the French First lady, Brigitte Macron? I read yet another article on how her dress was matching her husband’s. Seriously? What can I say? Unlike in France, women in the UK seem to become invisible after a certain age. We French still value mature women, and have timeless icons such as Catherine Deneuve (73 years old), but the British have difficulties in accepting an older French lady. Maybe it is her sense of style? It is more likely her Frenchness, and, let’s face it, there isn’t much she can do about it. She is not going to apologise for who she is anyway. Can’t we just leave her alone?
What can I say? Maybe French women really are different. I met my friend Alice among the other mums at the school gates. Alice stood out from everyone else because she smiled and understood my English despite my strong French accent. She was chatty. She had a self-effacing sense of humour. I really thought she and I were both the same under the skin, but that illusion was completely dashed when I suggested that she might like to come lingerie shopping with me. She hasn’t talked to me ever since. I think she believes I am some sort of pervert. Once again, I got it completely wrong. I used to go lingerie shopping all the time with my female friends in Paris, and we didn’t think much of it. In fact, it felt completely natural. But here, I quickly understood that you are supposed to hide while purchasing your granny pants (you can read more about M&S granny pants here: http://frenchyummymummy.com/sexy-not-slutty/). Lesson learned. I will buy my lingerie in France from now on. And I will try to hide my Frenchness even more. Maybe I should write a ‘I’m sorry’ card to Alice? What do you think?
Princess Tam Tam Lingerie. One of my favourites French brands.
But I digress. So what did I do again (apart from thinking I could buy some lingerie with a British female friend)? I am running a 50k marathon again on the 9th of September (The Thames Path Challenge). I wasn’t intending to fundraise because I have been working on other things recently, but with lots of friends living in Texas, and my Facebook and Twitter timelines full of distressing pictures, I have set up a page, with any donation going directly to the British Red Cross. You can see my page here: https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/team/the-french-yummy-mummy-is-running-for-texas-will-you-help
I suppose it is this time of the year: I keep reading about how we French do everything better: French women are oh so chic, our food is oh so fresh and our parenting is, apparently, second to none.
Really? I must have missed something while I was on holidays. I see no other explanations.
So what makes us French women so chic? I have to break it to you, and you might not like it, but we French women are, well, just human beings, warts and all. For instance, we have digestive issues from time to time (just like everybody else). We are sometimes in a bad mood, or tired (or even both). And we sometimes get it wrong -as in, completely wrong. So what’s so special about us again? I really wonder.
We French love our holidays. Don’t get me wrong: there are lots of holidays scattered throughout the year but July and especially August are the months of les grandes vacances, or literally the “grand vacations”. Most people take at least three weeks off in either July or August. What does it mean?
Well to cut a long story short, most emails I have sent for my French business have come back with an out-of-office reply. It sounds funny, but believe me, it can be very frustrating…
With everyone on holiday, business is almost non-existent in August (except for tourism, of course). So if you are in France and need to get some kind of administrative paperwork done during these months, don’t bother. Just try to relax and go to the beach just like everyone else. Nothing is going to get done until September anyway, you might as well make the most of your down time.
Even in Paris, a short walk around the capital will reveal that things just aren’t the same in August. Of course, lots of stores and restaurants remain open, but Paris looks and feels empty (except for the tourists spots, that is).
It’s going to be time to go back home soon, and I can’t help thinking of the little things in Australia that have made a huge difference during my stay. Because sometimes it’s the little things that matter right? Stuff you don’t expect and that takes you by complete surprise. It made me realise that I take some things for granted, or even normal, when they are anything but. What can I say? I still have a lot to learn! So what am I talking about? Well, here are a few exemples:
- People talk
I know. It’s amazing, right? In London (or in Paris), I have learned to keep myself to myself. Over here, in Sydney, people talk. They are trying to help, they explain things when you queue or when you are a bit lost. They are, well, more helpful. It’s a different pace, and people take more time to speak to each other. Over here, you great the bus driver. I had forgotten what it felt like to be more mindful of others, and it felt good.
2. Healthcare is great
Stuff happens when you travel with children, and unfortunately this year was no exception. My younger daughter became sick on a Sunday morning (of all days!), I was worried and had to get her to a doctor asap. There was an open medical center around the corner, and a GP saw us within 20 minutes. We found an open pharmacy down the road. All is well now. The cost was a fraction (probably a third of) of what I would have had to pay in London for a similar service. My other option, in London, would have been to spend the day at A&E or wait for hours to talk to somebody on NHS direct, and then try to get a prescription, etc. The cost will be reimbursed by our medical insurance. Frankly, the service was even better than France. What am I doing in London again?
3. There are beauty products I didn’t even know existed.
Did you know that bee venom is the latest craze over here? And apparently sheep placenta is full of nutrients and good to make wrinkles disappear. I certainly didn’t know. Goat milk makes your skin and hair smooth and soft, allegedly. Again, I shamefully admit that I had no idea. Where the hell have I been? I might be French, but come to think of it, I am incredibly low-maintenance. It might be time for me to up the ante a bit…But then again, I wouldn’t know where to start. I’ll stick to running and Nivea cream!
I have been in Sydney for 10 days or so now and I have just realised that nobody has asked me the dreaded question:
‘Where are you from?’
Or, even worse, after they hear my strong French accent. ‘Are you from France?’
Do you know what? It’s refreshing. I am glad not to have to justify myself for once. In London, I am always ‘the French one’, and I keep being asked where I am from all the time. I am used to it by now. Sometimes I answer ‘Oh, I come from around the corner’, and then I get something like ‘No, no, where are you REALLY from?’. I promise, I am really from around the corner.
Seriously? Don’t you think it’s a tad offensive to ask someone where they are from?
Over here, in Sydney, nobody cares where I am from. It’s an accepted fact that the society is multi-cultural and yes, come to think of it I find Australians more welcoming.
Maybe one day I’ll be from Sydney
After the Norman Conquest of 1066, Anglo Norman (old French) became the language of the elite in the UK. I’d like to think that this is the reason why, when I moved to London, I was hearing so many French expressions. Mind you, some words were supposed to be French, but I had never used them. Sacrebleu, for instance is a stereotypical and very old fashioned French curse, which is rarely used by we French these days. In fact, I didn’t understand why my British colleagues were saying it all the time. Maybe they were trying to impress me. I will never know. But I digress. There is a French expression that I love, it is having a certain ‘Je ne sais quoi’. According to the dictionary, ‘having a certain je ne sais quoi’ means ‘having a pleasing quality that cannot be exactly named or described. What’s not to like? Now we are talking, right…
A certain Je Ne Sais Quoi
Let’s say, for instance, ‘although she’s not conventionally attractive, she has a certain je ne sais quoi that makes her popular with the boys’. Now, can you hear the sexual innuendo here? I certainly can.
Let’s face it, whenever French words are used this side of the Channel, there is a sexual innuendo. As some of you like numbers, I will take the plunge and make an assessment: when a French word (or a French expression) is used, in 80% of the cases there is a sexual connotation. Shame nobody had told me before, it would have saved me some embarrassing quid pro quo.
Let’s face it, the last few weeks have been tough. Instead of boring you guys with my well-informed inside views of what is going on in my home country and over here, I thought I should write something a bit more light-hearted today, and tell you how to love like a French woman. Yep, you read that right, the cat is out of the bag, you’ve got no excuses now. So, here we go…
It’s not over until it’s over
French women can love and be in love at any age. We never stop being and feeling loveable. Let me explain: over here, in London, it sometimes feel like women shut it down the second they become moms. There is a strong pressure, after becoming a mother, to become an all-sacrificing maternal figure. And if you don’t, shame on you, because you will be considered a narcissistic MILF. We French women don’t fall in such stereotypes. We don’t make our children the center of our universe. Truth be told, we get a lot of help from the state: childcare is virtually free (or very cheap) and we even get offered perineal reeducation sessions. In short, we have no excuse but to get our pre-baby mojo as fast as possible, so we do.
In case you have missed it, Fathers Day is on 18th of June this year. Unlike Mothers Day, the date is the same in France and this side of the Channel. This means that you have no excuses, and you can’t say you got mixed up with the dates.
Fathers Day in France has only existed since 1949 (Mothers in France started to be celebrated around 1909), so it’s fair to say that Fathers Day is relatively new. Fathers Day is a lot less popular than Mothers day in France. Usually you just call your dad to wish him a happy Fathers Day. Things are a little bit different over here: you are supposed to send a card, and give a little present. Visit UncommonGoods to see more gifts for men.
I’ll come clean: I have always wondered what it feels like to be a father. You see, when you become a mother, you are supposed to have nine months (or so) to get ready. You know that you are going to have a baby, your body changes, and eventually you have to deliver the baby (oh joy!). In short, biological mothers have to go through a well-defined process and this, in my view, makes it easier for us women to connect with our babies. Of course attachment can come in many different ways, but what I am trying to say here is that our body is making space for a brand new human being, and at the exact same time we are discovering the existence of a strange new room in the house where we already live (let’s call the new room ‘becoming a mother’). The biological and emotional processes happen at the same time. In short, I felt like I had no choice but to become a mother.