My French friends keep asking me how I can cope with the bad weather in London. Because, according to them, everything is so grey, right? Well, they say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. And grey doesn’t have to be boring, right?
In fact, look at this picture, and tell me what is boring about it…
I might look good but I am not relaxed at all…
I keep being asked whether I had a nice break. Of course I had a lovely break. But the truth is, right now I have so much to do that I don’t know where to start. The Easter break has lasted the best part of a month. This is completely bonkers! A whole month! No wonder I need to play catch-up! The worst part, if you ask me, is to have to prepare my French taxes. Total and utter nightmare. And because the after-school clubs haven’t started yet, I simply have no time to do anything. I keep starting stuff that I can’t finish. So yes, I am in a foul mood. How do women manage to work in this country? And to top everything up I get condescending comments on a daily basis. I can’t take it any more. So, if you see me, please avoid the following comments. For your own good, I am telling you.
Elina started following my blog a few months ago. She happens to be a cosmopolitan mother of two, blogger, fitness and health enthusiast and geek.You can read her at UrbanMumble and you will see for yourself that despite her young age (why am I feeling so old?), she is incredibly mature and well-grounded. She wanted to defend British men (you know all too well that I never miss an opportunity to criticise British men, right?), and in the interest of fairness and freedom of speech (yep, you read that right, I am in a militant mood today), I offered her to guest post on my site. Here is what she had to say…
Ville Valo. [Note from Muriel: I think I could go Finnish, Elina…]
A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon Muriel’s brilliant article “To flirt or not to flirt”, a post about some of the romantic differences between French and British men. In a nutshell, the French Yummy Mummy estimates (quite accurately in my opinion) that British seduction is about 10% words and 90% booze whereas the opposite holds true for the French. This observation immediately chimed with me, being a foreign national who has lived both in the UK and France, for a number of years.
However, this is all very relative. See, where I come from, Finland, the country of the socially awkward and painfully timid, things are way worse. I would go as far as to say that Finnish seduction is about 99% booze and 1% incomprehensible blabber. Compared to that, British men appear deliciously eloquent, exquisitely charming and exceedingly friendly. No wonder the small talking and friendly British men are in pretty high demand amongst Finnish ladies (I should know because I ended up with one too).
In fact, Finnish ladies love British men so much that they come in the top 5 of foreign spouses to Finnish women. These marriages can be counted in the thousands per year, an impressive figure considering our tiny population. These couples end up divorcing more rarely than almost any other combination. This phenomenon does not seem to work both ways though. Finnish men do not marry British women in abundance.
To find out what is behind the magnetic pull British men have over Finnish women, I did two things. 1) I asked my friends, many of whom demonstrate a preference for British men, 2) turned to some obscure internet forums where people speak their minds without censorship. I had to censor some of that content for this post to remain politically correct but in short, the verdict is this:. British men may not be the most handsome in Europe, nor do they have the sophisticated flirting skills of the French. However, their cool charm, politeness and ability to converse (with a distinguished accent) appeals to the attention-deprived Finnish women.
If you read the papers over here, there is a good chance that you will find at least one article about child obesity. The irony is that, in France, we don’t talk about this issue much. That said, I understood more about the issue last week when I saw teenage girls in school uniforms queuing at a local restaurant to get a takeaway for their lunches. Guess what the lunch consisted of: a huge portion of fries (like, a whole paper plate), with dollops of mayonnaise (or ketchup) on top of it. I couldn’t believe it. The owner even had a special deal for them, and was calling them sweetheart and darling. They were clearly regulars. My lunch never ever consisted of a huge portion of fries. It is just something that a French person wouldn’t do, you see. If you are in a rush, you have a salad or a sandwich, or even a kebab. Never just fries. It simply wouldn’t cross my mind.
I almost forgot. You have until tomorrow (12th of April) midnight (UK time) to nominate me (pretty please) in the ‘Outstanding‘ Category. I know, I know, I am a disorganised mess…Just click on the nomination form here and voila, the rest should take care of itself. My Twitter is @FrenchYumMummy and leave the email blank. No need to fill out all the categories.
So why should you nominate me? Right, it is time to do a bit of self-promotion. Here we go:
1. You should (soonish) see me (don’t ask me when, the production company can’t tell me an exact date) in a big TV commercial. If it happens (because let’s admit it, I am starting to lose hope), you will be able to say that you have read my blog for a long, long time. You could show off about it, etc…In short, you will be ahead of the game. So what have you got to lose?
Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware that not all men have been blessed with the gift of wits and nerves of steel, much less the skills required to hook the interest of a woman. In fact, let’s be realistic here: most men don’t have these talents (sorry, guys). That said, it’s alright to be a bit shy. And this is probably why the pickup line was invented. But remember, the pickup line is a double-edged sword. No pressure, but it is a make-or-break thing, and everything depends on how she will take it. And don’t forget that good sense of humour can depend on culture and social rules (see here if you don’t believe me…)
This morning, for instance, I was coming back home from the gym (Seriously, what is it with guys and sweatpants? I will never understand) when this guy stopped, and told me:
“- Excuse me, do I know you from somewhere?”
Pathetic. This was simply pathetic. 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 simply lying, and well, at least he tried to say something. But if it were true, and he really knew me, what a pathetic question! Did I make such a lame impression when we first met? Next time, just shut up.
I just smiled, said “I don’t think so”, and walked away.
I realised that we French had the reputation to be stylish in all circumstances when I crossed the Channel to come to live in London. This reputation also extends to French children who apparently often are the coolest kids on the block, no matter what. I must admit that I never really understood what earned us such a reputation but hey, here we are. Let’s just enjoy it. There is no point in fighting cliches, right? I decided a long time ago to go with the flow anyway.
That said, I also quickly understood that anything remotely French was more expensive this side of the Channel. As in, far more expensive. Come to think of it, it is the same with restaurants, isn’t it? Whenever the menu is translated in French (often with a lot of mistakes), the price goes up. And up. Seriously, brands that would be completely common in France suddenly become super-expensive when they are sold over here. And to make matters even worse, quite a few brands are not available at all. It takes time to find where to shop when you move abroad. Well, at least, it took me some time to know where to shop. And I still stock up on some products in France. Yes, even after 10 years.
It is the small things that matter, right? When I was living in Paris, I remember seeing this painting on a building wall. It usually was at the end of my day of work. I was insanely happy to go home. And for me this was what happiness looked like. I am glad I took a picture of it, because I can’t remember exactly where it was. Well, I thought I did, but somehow I couldn’t find it again last time I was in Paris. Maybe the owners of the building were not too pleased about it and removed it. Seriously, what a shame! Miss Tic used to paint all over Paris walls. It was always about ageless sexy dark-haired women, with a line poetry and a wordplay. I used to believe that it was like a treasure hunt. You took a right turn and Voila! the painting was in front of you.
|Miss Tic, Paris XIII
Have you noticed that we women have a much tougher deal than men? Seriously, why do we have so much pressure on our shoulders? How are we supposed to ‘have it all’? Seriously, just try to list all we have to do all the time:
1. We have to look good
2. We have to be great cooks BUT..
3. We mustn’t put on weight -of course we mustn’t (see point 1)
4. We have to take care of the children, the household, and sometimes a job on top of everything else (don’t talk to me about sharing the workload, we women always end up with more than our fair share. Always. Sorry, guys.)
5. We have to pretend that we are not tired (no, Darling, not at all) when hubby is in need of some affection
6. We must always be a good daughter/wife/sister/friend/person…(doesn’t it upset you that men can get away with murder when we get slammed just because we forgot a birthday card or, even worse, we got a bit angry at someone or something? Seriously, why the double standard? )
7. We have to justify our every move when men NEVER get a single comment about their choices (Yes, I want to run a marathon. But what about the time it will take to train? Now give me a break, this is a question you wouldn’t ask if I were a guy. See what I mean?)
And so on, and so forth. It just never stops.
In London (or at least where I happen to live!), going to a secondary school is a selective process and only the best get their first choice of school. If your child is bright, you will inevitably try to get him (or her) into a grammar school or a selective school. This is called the 11+. Beware: the selection is ruthless and my older daughter had to deal with a lot of pressure. All of this is already well documented, and all of it is true ( the reality is in fact much, much worse). Having being educated in the French system, I am kind of used to this. That said, I wasn’t anticipating such a selective process at such a young age (more than 1200 girls applied, and app. 100 got in). And this year, I have to do it all over again, with my younger one this time. It just never stops. But fear not: here are my top 10 tips to make this tricky phase that little bit easier.