Have you heard of Paris Syndrome? Let me explain: it’s a surprising phenomenon whereby Chinese or Japanese tourists arrive in Paris and seem to undergo some sort of mental breakdown. I was told that they experience raised anxiety levels, delusions, irrational feelings of persecution and hostility, hallucinations, or even collapsing. Some tourists had to be sent back to their home country in a medicalised plane. I kid you not. So what went wrong ? Well, the main theory as to what’s happening here is that they have an incredibly romanticised belief in what Paris is like thanks to countless media and film portrayals. Paris is the city of love, everything is beautiful there. All women are polite and look like they come straight from a French New Wave film. I hate to break it to you, but the reality is quite different. To cut a long story short, Paris is mostly a normal city, coupled with some tangible differences in behaviour and manners between Asiatic and Parisian culture. So for instance, our waiters are not always nice. Our drivers might accelerate when you want to cross the street, and don’t expect apologies when you are shoved on the street. This can induce an intense and debilitating form of culture shock. Dear oh dear. It’s hard to see the reality without any filter sometimes. But maybe, just maybe, it is a necessary part of growing up? Just a thought.
Do you know what the three secret ingredients of French cuisine are?
Well, here it is: butter, butter and butter.
And guess what: as a result of soaring popularity of the dairy product and pastries abroad, my home country faces a massive butter shortage. Dipping your croissant in your cup of coffee might become the ultimate luxury pretty soon. What happened? How did we get there? Is it the end of the world as we know it?
Well, let me tell you something first: if you are familiar with this blog, you know that I am from Provence. In short, I am more into olive oil than butter. That’s just me. I am told that, if I were from Brittany, I would see things in a different light and become very depressed. But fear not: I am fine. Our olive trees seem to be in good shape, and my father even told me that we would get more olive oil than last year. All is well and we will survive.
There is a darker side to London than meets the eye. What am I talking about? Well, here it is: the pattern of anti-female bias across my adoptive city is, in my view and despite many well-meaning speeches and initiatives, disturbingly insidious and still going strong.
Obviously, there is an unwritten rule forbidding any self-respecting female saying that we live in a sexist world because it makes you at best a difficult women, a feminist, or even worse, a feminazi. Enough is enough. The proportion of female senior executives remains ridiculously low, and the same can be said for management boards and for non-executives. As for excuses, well, I have heard them all before: ‘There is nothing stopping women from getting these jobs. Why do they complain all the time?’ Well, darling, first try juggling a household and childcare with a career involving responsibilities and long hours. Add into the equation, in my case, a husband who travels all the time. Maybe then you’ll understand what I am talking about. That said, you probably won’t, because apparently the right way to deal with these things is to brush them under the carpet. Dear oh dear, what are you on about? The wife/mother/girlfriend in the family is the glue that holds everything together, right? She is there to put up or shut up. Preferably shut up. Calm down, dear.
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
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).
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.
I thought that this video was raising some interesting questions. On this note, have a great weekend, and tell me what you think…
Enough is enough. In case you have been hibernating, not a day passes without a flurry of articles mentioning Emmanuel Macron’s unusual marriage with a woman more than 20 years his senior. Forget about unemployment, Brexit, Chechen homosexuals being tortured and killed. From now on, it’s all about Brigitte Trogneux’ style, diet, clothes and unusual family set-up (because in case you have missed it, her children are of a similar age than her husband). Seriously, what is happening to this world? Read here if you don’t believe me: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4483918/How-DOES-Macron-s-wife-defy-age.html
Please spare me the judgmental vibe, and let me speak my mind: who the hell cares? After all, it’s their business. Their private life is, well, private.
And why is it so shocking to see a man and an older woman? Nobody bats an eyelid when older men marry a much younger woman, so why the double standard? I am starting to become prouder of my home country: we French still value mature women, and we have timeless icons such as Catherine Deneuve (73 years old). Over here, in the UK, women seem to become invisible after a certain age.
This post is written in collaboration with Qare, a French telemedicine service in London, and is the start of a new series on the differences between the French healthcare and the NHS.
If, like me, you’re used to the French health system, moving to London will be a steep learning curve. First of all, it can be hard to find a French-speaking doctor. This is where Qare also can help: they set up virtual consultations with doctors -in French, and can refer you to a French doctor in London if need be. I wish I had known about this service when we moved. When you are on your own with a sick kid, things can become very stressful and it’s easy to panic (been there, done it). In France, your physician always listens to you. You’re always given a prescription, a routine examination, and taken seriously. Your symptoms will never be minimised, and if your doctor has the slightest doubt, you’ll be referred for a scan, an X-ray or a blood test. Needless to say, things are slightly different this side of the Channel. The weird thing is that, come to think of it, the health budget is similar in France and in the UK (OK, a bit higher in France, but not massively higher), and life expectancy is, again, very close. So why does it feel so different? I have no idea. But this much I know: for me, it was a whole new experience. Here is why. Let me know if I missed anything. And if you are planning to move here, be prepared! Don’t tell me you have not been warned.
Telemedicine is on the rise and can be the response to French expats’ concern. Picture: consultation with Qare
Over here, the first hurdle, after being registered, is to successfully achieve an appointment. What looks easy in theory is a game of patience and resilience. The line is always busy, and the receptionist will do her utmost to encourage you not to get an appointment, because you’re not sick, are you? In France, I have always managed to get an appointment within 48 hours. After many times calling your practice on speed dial and being hung up on a few times, you might be given a slot, usually two or three days after you need it. Don’t believe it’s the last of the hurdles you’ll have to overcome. It’s just the start.