Posted by / Category London /

Life is full of challenges, right? I thought as much. Right now, I find it hard to run in the cold. You see, I don’t do cold. Maybe I am not as British as I thought.

So what is cold for me? Well, anything below 10 degrees Celsius (that’s 50 Fahrenheit, if you must now) is cold for me. What can I say? Growing up in Provence must have left some marks.

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The things is, I have some pretty important races lined up, and I totally need to train. If I could, I would move somewhere warm in a jiffy. Because right now, in London, it is really cold -as in, between 0 and 5 Celsius (and for the record that’s less than 41F). In short, it is freezing, and I can’t stand it.

I don’t think I am a wimp. Well, at least I hope I am not. But hear me out: when I go outside for a run, I literally feel my muscles tightening. Everything becomes hard, and I can’t move my legs. Warming-up takes at least 40 minutes in the bloody cold, by which time I usually give up and have a lovely cappuccino somewhere. After all, life is to be enjoyed.

So what to do?

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

I can’t take it anymore. Christmas is everywhere, and for some reason, the spirit of Christmas should miraculously make everybody happy. Well, here is a newsflash for you: I have it up to here with Christmas. No spirit of Christmas for me. Why?

Well, in no particular order, I had to give countless donations (for presents, for all the fairs, for charities), endure the rehearsals of the concerts, prepare some stalls, bake some cakes, and so on, and so forth. I must admit that filling jam jars with stationery or sweets isn’t my cup of tea. That’s it: I am done. I am going on strike. I am escaping and taking the first flight I can for a much-needed business trip. Yes, now. Some of us have to work, you see. I have a life outside of the Christmas preparations. Am I allowed to say that I miss France? In my home country, schools might have a Christmas tree at this time of the year but that’s as far as it goes. Parents don’t have to do much, if anything at all.

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Christmas lights at Heathrow T5

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

I didn’t sleep well. What can I say? I am stressed. Why? Because today my younger daughter had her first pre-assessment for secondary schools.

She will have to endure 4 or 5 sets of exams over the next two months, with two or three papers each time. Then, there will be the interviews. She is ten years old and a big baby, if you ask me. But that’s the way it is. We have to go with the flow. I am starting to question my choice to stay in the British system. Gone are the days when you just went to your local school, as I did in France.

I am freaking out. What if she doesn’t get into the school she wants? What if we end up with a school that is on the other side of London? And what is it with this testing frenzy?

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Posted by / Category French food, London /

There is no denying it: it’s getting colder and darker. Fair enough, we have had a bit more sunshine than usual, but do not kid yourself: it will soon be winter. That said, fear not, I have come up a few tricks to cheer yourself up. Enjoy without moderation:

  1. Bake, bake, bake. There is nothing like the smell of fresh bread to feel warmer, and generally better.
  2. Go and watch Carmen at the Royal Opera House. Come on, sing along “l’amour est un oiseau rebelle…”
  3. It’s just a little Crushed: come on, have some compote. There is nothing to feel bad about, because there is no added sugar in Crushed compotes. Who said that compotes were for kids anyway? Well, not me. In short, it’s time for a Crushed. After all, it’s just a bit of fruit, right?
  4. Ditch the baggy pants. Go lingerie shopping. You will feel so much better for it. What is it with all the bright yellow green panties this side of the Channel. Nobody looks good in them! It’s time to do something about it!
  5. Mulled wine. Because you can buy the spices in Fortnum & Mason. Believe me, it will lift everybody’s spirits!
  6. Listen to this: the Summer Of Boys. It will wake you up. And it’s all about a summer romance. What’s not to like?

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Posted by / Category London /

According to a study posted on The Daily Mail, 16.8 million tourists flocked to the English capital in 2013, one million more than any other year. And it begs us to question what all the fuss is about? Why does everyone want to travel to London so badly when it rains so much throughout the year? And more specifically, why are there so many French in London?

To be honest, there are way too many reasons as to why people spend their holidays in London, yet there are still a handful of people that need convincing. On the other hand, some like it so much over here that they make London their new home (like me!). Travellers may shy away from the capital which is home to overcrowded airports like Heathrow, but London Gatwick and the other less busy hubs in and around the capital are equipped to provide you with all the services you need to soak in all the city’s offerings, including parking and transportation services. In short, don’t listen to the killjoys who tell you that the British infrastructure isn’t on par with the French one. It’s not true. Oh, and I almost forgot: we even have water and electricity. I kid you not.

Here are five reasons why you should plan your next holiday in London:

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London Skyline

 

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

I keep being asked whether the stories that I write are autobiographical. Well, there is no easy answer. Obviously what I write is loosely based on my own experiences, but have things happened exactly the way I have written them? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes no. To make matters even worse, some of it might be –gasp- parody.

Because believe it or not, we French have a sense of humour. Well, sometimes at least. So yes, what I write needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

As some of you are obsessed with number, here is my scientific assessment of the situation: I would say that 50% of what I have written in my manuscript has actually happened to me, one way or another. 30% is slightly exagerated. The rest might be invented. But here is the twist: I will not tell you which is which. Because it would be far too easy, wouldn’t it?

As for Carine and Archie, I thought that the love story between a French woman and her British boyfriend would be the perfect platform to explore the cultural differences between the French and the British, because, just like in a couple, we love each other, but we sometimes don’t understand each other.

 

As a treat for today, I would like to share with you a chapter that actually has happened to me in real life. I didn’t know it when we moved to London, but the Brits are obsessed with the Napoleonic wars. The thing is, I belong to a generation of French student that never, ever was taught anything about Napoleon. We just skipped it. This much is true…Now read on:

Tapisserie de Bayeux - Scène 51 (partielle) : la bataille d'Hastings, chevaliers et archers normands. Continue Reading

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

What is it with the Brits and pub quizzes? Why do they love it so much? I have been dragged to a few of them and I must say that well, it looks like fun.

Except that I don’t really get the fun. Maybe I have become an old bore.

For starters, I don’t know the responses to all the historical questions. And to the other ones, if I am completely honest.

Which Hollywood sex symbol has the middle name Tiffany?

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Posted by / Category London, Stereotypes /

You have kept asking me what is going to happen to the romance of the summer, Carine & Archie (see the first chapters here, here and here).

Well, to cut a long story short, I have decided to publish their story around spring time and, in the meantime, I will let you know more about them. I will probably go down the self-publishing route as publishing companies keep asking me to ‘tone it down’ -whatever this means-. I was also told that Carine wasn’t really nice, which came to a surprise to the publisher.

Well no, she is not. She happens to be French. And I hate to break it to you, but nobody is perfect, and we French women are no exception. Sorry, I had to tell you. Are you still listening?

While we are at it, I think that it is time for you to know that French women do get fat. Our children are not that well behaved and no, we don’t smoke to cut our appetite. We are just –gasp- normal. Shocking, right?

I am not saying that there are no cultural differences, but they are tenuous. Even subtle sometimes. And not necessarily what you would expect them to be.

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And I keep being asked whether I am Carine. More about this some other time!

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

I will always remember the day my husband came back home saying that he had had a nice job offer in London. I was faced with a difficult choice: I could follow him and change job, or change husband. I know that it sounds like an easy choice, but, in fact, it wasn’t. My job in Paris was an important part of my identity: I had spent long years studying in very selective universities (‘grandes ecoles’) to get it. To make matters even worse, I had studied German and not English, as a foreign language. It is a French thing: German is supposed to get you into better classes. What I am trying to say is that I could barely ask for directions in English. It wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. I ended up following my husband, and we all moved to London.  
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