Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

I keep receiving the same messages from family and friends, and would like to clarify a few things. You know, just to clear the air. Right, where do I start? First of all, we have water and electricity in London. Amazing, right? I know that we don’t have external shutters but I can assure that blinds work just as well.

Now, I know that it will be hard to swallow but the same goes with food. Yes, we have everything we need in London. Yes, there is food, and actually we eat quite well, save for the occasional sandwich of course. And if you are not convinced, just visit the Brixton market. It is a feast for the eyes…and the tastebuds!

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Today, I wanted to share something I wrote a few months ago. Initially it was meant for one of my Match column (you can read what was published eventually here: Why You Should date Outside Of Your Comfort Zone).

Suffice to say, it didn’t make the cut. Today, I give you the uncensored version. What do you think? It is (loosely) based on my own experiences (What isn’t anyway?). Let me know if you like it…


That’s me. So naive I used to believe in fairytales…

Once upon a time there, in a land not too far away, was a woman who thought that her country was the centre of the universe. Her parents had brought her up that way, and she didn’t question them. Of course her country was the best one to live in. Her sunny region was paradise on earth, and her hometown had seen many celebrities settle in. Simply put, it was the best place on earth.

She was bright and went to university in the capital city, where she met other students. She started dating, and eventually found her white knight in shining amour. He swept her off her feet. It was such a romantic story: he was from the very same city, but she had met him in the capital. Everything was simply perfect. She was convinced that it was destiny. She introduced him to her parents, and went to visit his family. Life seemed simple and easy. She was so in love that she didn’t see his true colours, despite a couple of warnings from close friends that she ignored.

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Posted by / Category Stereotypes, Travel /

It had to happen, right? Spending twelve years in London was bound to leave some marks.

Today, I was near my home town, in Toulon, speaking at a conference (see the details here: paperdotcon). It was  good to be back. You see, I love everything about Provence: the light, my childhood friends, the food, and the Mediterranean of course. But today, I was told (half jokingly, but still) that I had a British accent.

Me, a British accent?


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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

Here is the latest instalment…I am still talking about schools (I am still traumatised…). Let me know what you think!

Chapter 10

School Stories

Schools often like parents to help by listening to children reading or supporting other activities. Getting involved in your childrens schools can be a full-time job (unpaid, of course): most schools have a parent-teacher association (PTA). You will be asked to help for fund-raising events such as bake sales and fairs. If you manage to get your child into the school, that is.


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


March 2012 – She’s got a place!


Work is as busy as ever and I still need to find a good school for Alexandra. It just never stops. As I don’t want my toddler to miss out on a good school I have talked to friends and colleagues about the situation. They all tell me that I am far too naïve and that children need to be prepared for such assessments. How the hell was I supposed to know? Apparently, everybody does it but nobody talks about it.


A friend sent me straight to an acquaintance of hers, who, for a mere £300, prepares Alexandra for the assessment and the interview. She has been coming twice a week for the last three weeks. I am not supposed to tell anyone about this, it is all very hush-hush. The tutor, apparently, did me a favour. She said that she has a long waiting list. This is a business opportunity I need to look into, when I have some time. When you tutor a child, you get paid but the family can’t complain. In fact, the family can’t say anything.

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, Stereotypes /

It happened over the weekend. I was reading various newspapers when I stumbled upon yet another article on French women: this one explained that we French women are ditching tampons in favour of -wait for it- ‘instinctive bleeding’. You can read it here:

Seriously? Does anyone believe this? Call me wonder-woman please. I am totally in control of my bleeding and can hold it in. It is one of the many, many superpowers we French women enjoy. Don’t try to argue, it’s in our genes. You will never get it.

Seriously, this article is so wrong that I actually find it hilarious. Thanks for the laugh, guys. Right. Where to start? First, let me make a few things clear:


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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

Right, it’s this time of the year: back to school and back to work. But here is a today’s treat: the latest chapter of Carine & Archie’s story. In this case, it’s more about Carine’s struggle to fit in…I hope that you can relate!

And in case you have missed it, here us the latest chapter:


Chapter 9 – My New British Boss

Speaking English


To apply for UK citizenship or permanent residency, which TWO things do you need:

A A UK bank account

B An ability to read and speak English

C An ability to speak and write Oxbridge English

D A good understanding of life in the UK

E An Oyster card

F A driving licence

E An above-average ability to drink beer without getting too drunk.


Official responses are B and D. Dont be fooled, C and E are life savers in the UK.


Life in the United Kingdom, (almost) official Practice Questions



February 2012


I arrive late at work to find out that we have a new boss. His name is James. He looks serious, and very British too. I can’t help noticing that he is wearing stripes. The stripes are definitively back this year. He introduces himself to everyone, and I like the fact that he doesn’t gather us for a pep talk on his first day.


That said, my good mood quickly fades away when one of my notes on the governance of one of our major projects comes back to me by email with the following words.

“ I don’t understand. Please write in proper English’





Perplexed, I have a look at my note and can’t spot any grammatical mistakes. I can’t see any typos either. I read the note several times without understanding what is wrong with it. Come on, I don’t want to sing my own praises but it is actually quite good! I don’t get it and feel stuck. What is wrong with this guy?

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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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