2016 is finally over. What a year!
Now bring it on, 2017! I am happy to report that I am spending the first days of the year in Australia, and I love it. Despite the very high temperatures, things are very chilled over here. I find it incredibly relaxing. I just wanted to share with you my initial findings on life down under. Let me know if I forgot anything. And this much I know: it will be hard to go back to London. I have read somewhere that it was cold and foggy, and I am not looking forward to it at all…
- First of all, nobody, and I mean really nobody, has asked me where I was from. In the same vein, nobody has commented on my French accent. In London, I am asked where I am from on a daily basis. In fact, I think that it has become some sort of national obsession. Over here, nobody cares. The only questions I get are ‘How are you?’ and ‘Where did you buy your bodyboard?’. Period;
- Australians are a lot fitter that their British counterparts. In England, I often get the gym all to myself. Well, over here, the gym is always full, even at 5am. Having young little ones is not an excuse to skip a workout, and I have seen mums who bring their toddlers, put them in a pram in the corner of the fitness center, and exercise as if there were no tomorrow. Wow!
- Australians talk to each other. This really came to a revelation, and at first it made me feel uncomfortable because in England you tend to keep yourself to yourself. And if you have to, you start your sentences with ‘Excuse-me,…’. Well, things are clearly different in Oz . Simply put, you don’t have to apologise to talk to somebody. People greet me on the street all the time, and this morning, a fellow jogger even wished me a happy new year. Unbelievable. I tried to smile and say something nice, but I must admit that after years of being looked down upon when I open my mouth to say something, I felt a bit rusted. What can I say? I have become British;
- Everyday, I am in awe of Australia’s outstanding beauty. Seriously, what more do you need when you wake up and see this?
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Whether you live in London or in Paris, some things never change: you live a fast-paced life. This means that you are always rushing around. Always.
I hadn’t realised how fast-paced my life was until a few days ago, when I landed in Australia for some much-needed holidays. To cut a long story short, things are a lot more chilled this side of the world. And although I was a bit surprised at first, now I like it.
In London, we look down on whoever dares to walk too slowly. We expect a quick service when we go to a restaurant. Our grocery shopping is done in less than 10 minutes. We moan when the Tube is a few minutes late. We are always in a hurry, and juggling far too many plates. Of course, I am no exception. I always have something to do, somewhere to be. It never stops.
I have been asked countless times why I didn’t put my children into a French school.
Obviously after so many years in London I have learned (sometimes the hard way) the art of understatement, because my immediate thought after such questions is usually ‘Over My Dead Body’. I answer that the French lycée was oversubscribed and change the conversation.
You see, it took me more than 30 years to escape from France, I am so not going back. I don’t get this idea that French parenting and French schools are somewhat superior. Apparently, we French know how to be more strict, our children behave in a much better manner. But of course. Let’s not sugarcoat it: whoever wrote this clearly hasn’t been brought up in France, and wants to feed parents’ insecurities to make a quick buck. Spending a bit of time in Paris posh districts doesn’t make you a French expert. The reality is, once again, far more complicated.
In France, there is a darker side than meets the eyes. What am I talking about? Well, what still often passes as acceptable in France, such as smacking or insulting your children, would be unacceptable to your average British household. Don’t get me wrong, all French parents aren’t the same. That said, I am convinced that French children are better-behaved because their parents wouldn’t mind exercising some unpleasant means of punishment should they fail to stay silent. It is also pretty common to see parents ignoring their children: for instance, adults and children usually don’t mix during family meals or at the restaurant, and children are routinely left to their own devices.
Recently, during my travels, I have had far too many comments regarding my nationality. I keep saying that, yes, I am French-born, but I now have a British passport, to no avail. Once again, whatever I do, I am ‘the French one’. That said, we French are the envy of the world, right? We also have the reputation to be rude and arrogant. I have therefore decided to make the most of it. Here is how…
Let’s start with the obvious. In order to be true to your reputation, don’t check in online, turn up as late as possible and change the seat a few times. That will teach them, right? Stay hydrated: this means that it’s OK to arrive at the airport already drunk, and continue the party onboard. Make a huge fuss to be upgraded -we French moan all the time, so just go for it… Jump the queue, and argue that it can’t be possible that all these people are travelling business class anyway. Just do it. There is always someone who does it. Why not you this time?
Let’s face it: there’s nothing glamorous or exciting about commercial air travel, especially if you have to go to Stansted airport at the crack of dawn. That said, that’s not an excuse to dress down. High heels are a must, and will amaze your fellow passengers. And don’t forget your sunglasses at all times to complete the look.
As I am in a good mood today, and as I have had enough of the doom and gloom, I thought I’d share with you the accumulated wisdom of my many years spent travelling the world – a definitive guide to make air travel palatable for you, but not necessarily for those around you. After all, if I am the French one, warts and all, I need to act like one…Every cloud has its silver lining, right?
I have already told you: we French are special. We French are different. Of course we are. That’s why there is such a strong anti-French sentiment. Love it or hate it, we want the world to know that we do things our own way. It’s in our genes. So, what do we do differently? Here are a few examples…
The French cultural exception of course: we have our own singers and movie stars. Of course we accept that most global culture is in English, we just want our own to get funding too. To cut a long story short, the anglo-saxon world considers arts as an industry making profits, whereas we French consider culture as the product of ideas that extend beyond strict commercial value. We are a bunch of idealists.
The food. French gastronomy was added by the UNESCO to its lists of the world’s “intangible cultural heritage”…We French have a very high opinion of our cooking. We explained to the whole world how things should be done. Not to mention that nothing tops up the Michelin guide. In short, don’t you ever try to explain to us what food is about. Especially when the bread this side of the Channel is systematically under cooked. Just saying. And do not dare to mention a straight croissant to me.
If case you haven’t noticed, right now it is freezing in London. If, like me, you are not used to it, well, it’s time to do something about it. Let’s be positive about this, right? Anyway, it’s not as if we have a choice, so let’s make the most of it. It feels like Christmas has come in advance this year. Let’s just accept it, and make the best out of it. So what to do?
Buy a reindeer jumper. I have found some very nice ones for the little ones. Have a look here: kids knitwear. In fact, I am even thinking of buying one for myself. After all, if you don’t wear a reindeer jumper when it’s cold, you never wear one.
This morning there was a car waiting for someone in the middle of the street where I live. A black cab wanted to drive through, and could not overtake it, because the street was too narrow. The driver started honking his horn, lowered his car glass window and profusely shouted at the car. It was a colourful exchange. I witnessed the whole thing, and asked myself:
‘What happened to British good manners ?’
Seriously, I thought that this country was all about gentlemanly behaviour, fair play and the likes. Now I am not so sure. Come to think of it, British athletes want to win as much as any other athletes. In fact, young people I talk to are unable to make eye contact and speak to me without incoherently mumbling (Maybe it’s old age. I might be becoming deaf?). I don’t want to name and shame, but this morning at the coffee shop someone didn’t mop up after himself in the loo. And the neighbour’s dog keeps peeing on my porch.
Very. Bad. Manners.
I might be French but I have brought up British daughters. This stark realisation came yesterday evening when my younger daughter was taking far too much time to go to bed. To speed things up I decided to switch the light off (otherwise she would probably still be reading -or playing-) in her bedroom. That’s when she protested with a loud
What? Did she just say ‘Oi’? I couldn’t believe it. A well-behaved French little girl would have said
‘eh oh, I still need the light’ or
‘Mummy, can you please switch the light on?’
It happened again today. What am I talking about? Well, I received another dick pic on Twitter this morning, as a DM. I deleted it, and blocked the account, as I usually do. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t like it, but, frankly, it didn’t bother me. I am used to it by now. I still don’t understand what men expect me to do when they send me such pictures. Do they want me to reciprocate(No way!) ? Shall I admire them? What is the point exactly? I don’t understand but hey, we are where we are.
I then opened my email box, and this time found a love declaration (not from the same guy, I think). It’s amazing how people believe that they have a special connection with you when they don’t know you at all. I ignored it. That’s not entirely true: I thought of forwarding it to my agent to see whether we could publish all the love declarations I have received at some point. It could work, couldn’t it?
It happened during a race. As you know, I sometimes run ultra marathons. What can I say? I like to push myself. Anyway, one of the (many) things I love about races is that I don’t have any filtering system when I run. It was the end of yet another long ultra, and I was exhausted. My running watch had died a long time ago, and I had no idea how much longer I needed to run. Which is why, when I saw a fellow runner, I asked him how far from the finishing line we were. He said something like ‘about a mile’.
I was delighted. I was almost there. I had made it. Which is why I blurted out:
” Oh really? I love you for this!”