Posted by / Category Politics /

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I have told you countless times that we French are different. We can do things that the rest of the world only dream of doing. In fact, we can even make people come back from the dead. For instance, yesterday, the leading news agency AFP (Agence France Presse) announced the death of French billionaire Martin Bouygues. This was big news, and the rumour spread fast on the Net -as you would expect. Martin Bouygues is one of France’s industrial leaders, and such a news would inevitably impact the French economy, the share price of his company, and so on, and so forth. In short, it was a big deal, and could have massive consequences.

Except that there was one tiny detail: Martin Bouygues was alive and well. At least that’s what he tweeted. And his company formally denied that he was dead. Apparently, the AFP got it completely wrong, and got confused because someone of the same age died in the village he was from. The AFP apologised profusely for their mistake, and promised that they would investigate what went wrong. That said, I have just had a look at Yahoo News and it still says that Martin Bouygues died on 28th of February 2015. It looks like things got out of hands. You don’t know who to believe these days, right? Is he dead, or is he alive and well? It really makes you wonder. I know that we will all die eventually, but let’s say it once and for all: this is a massive cockup.

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, Politics /

As you know, Netflix is releasing House Of Cards Season 3 today. I happen to be a huge fan. But I can’t watch it. I am banned from watching a single episode or reading any spoilers, because my husband is on a business trip, and I need to wait for him to start watching the series. It is hard. I don’t know if I will resist the temptation. What is it with marriage and always having to make compromises? In order to make it easier, I have decided to write the summary of what the French version would look like. Here is what I came up with. How do you like it? Should I continue? Let me know.

Disclaimer: all characters are fictional and the product of my vivid imagination.

 

PILOT

The French President, Arnaud Duchemol, is clinically depressed since his mistress, the gorgeous journalist Isabelle Demoulin has dumped him for the leader of the opposition, the charismatic (and very rich) Benoit Pouledor. This is an open secret amongst politicians and journalists, but the rest of France doesn’t know (obviously. That’s how things work in France). The president self medicates with cognac and is feeling suicidal. His Chef de Cabinet, the driven Arielle Boisneau (Chief of Staff) is running the country for him, always finding excuses when she has to lead the Conseil Des Ministres (Cabinet meeting) in his absence.

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Posted by / Category Politics /

Today we are all French. The turnout of the rally in Paris was huge, with almost two millions participants there.This is simply amazing, and it shows that the attacks were perpetuated by a minuscule minority, and that we can still win the war against extremism. That’s good news. That’s actually reassuring.





Can I just say that I was worried about the possibility of another attack during the march? The brutality of the recent events in France made me wonder whether my home country was under siege, and whether such atrocities were going to become more and more common. The fact that all went well today proves that we will not be defeated by a bunch of scattered terrorists. This is a fight we can win. This is a fight we have to win.

Now is time to regroup and fight for our values. It is time to stick together, respect each other while at the same time being able to make fun at each other.
And maybe, just maybe, it is time to appreciate the freedom we have a bit more. 

On this note, I urge you to get in touch with your French side and repeat after me #JeSuisCharlie
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Politics /


I was about to tell you how the filming of my commercial went, and how happy I was with the whole experience, but because of the recent events in my home country, all of this seemed a bit futile. I am in shock. All of France is in shock. The only think that I would like to post today is something that I wrote a long time ago, about the 2005 bombings. Here it is:


As you know, despite my British passport I will never be truly British. My manners are terrible, and I care about substance rather than style. I often forget to send Thank You cards and when I am bored I can’t stop yawning. The only way I get around this is by doing my pelvic floor exercises (25 reps) sitting at the host table or on a chair, and also by sucking my tummy in and then gently releasing it (25 reps). I once was so bored at a Christmas party that I managed to do 5 series of each. My husband credits this technique for my reasonably flat tummy.  On top of the physical benefits, it prevents me from yawning.

But I am a Londoner. Oh yes. How do I know it? Well, in July 2005, I was back to work after a 6-month maternity leave. On 7th of July 2005, I dropped my elder daughter to school at approximately 8.40 am and took the Victoria Line to go to Euston station. As usual, I was rushing –life as a Mum is about having to hurry up all the time-. I had a main line train to catch from Euston station at 9.25 am, to visit yet another factory.
London was in a jolly mood. The city had just been selected for the 2012 Olympics and it was a beautiful day. Then, on the Tube, something happened. My train started to go very slowly from Warren Street Tube station on and, when we finally reached Euston, all tube services had stopped. We were all evacuated at the same time, which seemed to take forever as the tube station was packed. The messages were mentioning a power surge over and over again. I didn’t realise that a bombing had happened. All I could think about was that I was going to miss my train. I was next to two gorgeous women who seemed to come from Eastern Europe. They were talking about catching a bus. I don’t know what happened to them, and I found out that a bus departing from Euston station was bombed half an hour later. All the passengers seemed relaxed –incidents on the Tube happen all too frequently-. Unbeknownst to us, four terrorists had detonated four bombs, three in quick succession aboard London Underground trains across the city and, later, a fourth on a bus. Fifty-two people, were killed in the attacks (excluding the bombers), and about 700 more were injured.
I managed to catch my train. Only later in the day did I find out about what had happen and the full scale of the horror didn’t dawned on me until a few weeks later. The rest of the day passed fast. I couldn’t call anyone as all the networks had all been shut down but I managed to reassure my family by text messages –go figure!!!- 
Don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t a victim or anything, and I got an easy escape. The whole experience has an unexpected impact on me: I am a Londoner. I belong here despite the fact that I am French. I have changed too: I used to think the terrorists were “freedom fighters”. Now I don’t think that they deserve any compassion whatsoever. They certainly didn’t show any to the commuters and tourists who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The whole episode made me more grateful about what I am, and also helped me to put things into perspective: life can change pretty quickly. And, by heart, I am a Londoner.
Well, this weekend I feel very French. I promise, I will be back soon with something more light-hearted, but right now words simply fail me. Thanks for your patience and support!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Politics /

Photo by Alejandra Moral, prep by Anastasia Parquet
France is under siege. There was another attack today in Paris and the police is closing in on the terrorists as I am writing.
What to do? Well, I think that we must keep on doing what we are doing. I certainly will, and I have enclosed a photo to prove it! Let’s not be intimidated by some extremists. That said, I can’t help being angry at French security services because apparently the two perpetuators were well-known jihadists, and they were given a free pass to carry on doing what they were doing. Seriously what were we thinking.

I hope that these atrocious attacks will bring the French back together, and that we, French or British (or whatever), will get better at preventing such terrorist acts.
Again, #jeSuisCharlie
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Politics /


Just imagine: you are starting your day at work when armed men burst into the room and start shooting everyone in sight. You are not armed, you are just doing your day job. You don’t stand a chance. You die.


This is what has happened today to ten journalists and two policemen in Paris. They were husbands, fathers, sons, brothers or uncles. The policemen were executed in cold blood with military precision, with a shot in the head, according to the latest news. They just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. The attacks took place at Charlie Hebdo’s offices. Charlie Hebdo is a satirical publication. It is a small newspaper with a hugely irreverent tone. Yes, it is an offensive publication, but it is offensive to anyone in general and religions in particular.

Whether you agree or disagree with Charlie Hebdo isn’t the point. Such attacks, in my view, could happen to anyone. Because, one way or the other, we all upset someone at some point, don’t we?

France is a secular country. In France, you are not supposed to show any sign of your religion. It is all about creating a common ground, whatever your background might be. This is why you can’t wear a cross at work, or a veil. France has always prided itself to be a model of integration. Things are slightly different in the UK, where you can show your religion in a more open manner. France has always thought that it was less at risk of such terrorist attacks because of its secularism (we call it laicite), and because it didn’t go to war in Irak. Well, France needs to wake up and smell the coffee: the threat is international and nobody is immune to it. 
Let’s face it: I am worried because such attacks might become more and more common. I am worried because our President, Francois Hollande, has apparently used the secret services to follow his ex-girlfriend Valerie Treirweiler rather than tackle Islamic terrorism (because that’s what it is, right?). He needs to get his priorities right. This is not only an attack against freedom of speech. This is an attack against humanity. Of course we must stick together, but we have to fight back. I am in shock. Complacency isn’t an option. 
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Politics /


In French a ‘boulette’ (lit. ‘Small ball’) is a blunder


I am trying to catch up with the French news. Imagine my surprise when I read that the ‘super tax’ for the rich (75% for those earning more than €1m) will be ditched in the new year after barely two years of tumultuous existence.
Me being me, I couldn’t help thinking that this controversial tax had lasted longer than Valerie Trierweiler’s stay at the Elysee. Mind you, not by a lot.


Let’s jump to conclusions: France is the country of short love affairs and badly-designed taxes.
In both cases, we need a bit of stability. The tax has clearly damaged France’s reputation for international senior managers -they don’t want to be based there any more, and the affair has made us an international laughing stock (how can the President manage the country when he can’t manage his girlfriend, and so on, and so forth…).
I am tempted to pretend I am Swiss. Or from Quebec. Because, you see, trust is a fragile thing: when it’s gone, well, it’s gone. And I don’t trust the French government any more.
Seriously, would you trust a guy who dumps his ex so unceremoniously and changes his mind every other year? Don’t you see a pattern here?
Now, I am waiting for the book ‘Thank you for kicking us out’, by all the French entrepreneurs who moved to London. Or is it ‘Thank you for this moment’? I am getting mixed up. 
I need to stop reading the news. After all, I am on holidays, right? What would you do? Am I overreacting?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Politics /

It is all over the news and I must admit that I can’t help feeling a bit sad. Alstom, one of the biggest remaining industrial French companies, might be bought by General Electric. You could think that it is just another Corporate merger. Well, you would be wrong: we French believe that we are different, and as a result there is a last-minute twist in the plot: the French government isn’t pleased with the GE offer (I am unsure as to why, it all sounds like basic antiamericanism to me. Come on, let’s call a spade a spade, shall we?), and would like Siemens to make a counter offer, in order to create ‘a European champion’ -whatever this means-. They have even said that they would consider nationalising Alstom if need be. All of this might sound like it is happening very far from you, but, you see, as a young engineer, I used to work for Alstom. I was the project manager for the Rolling Stock of  the Line 14 in Paris (Ah, memories!). In French, I would say that I have a pinching feeling in my heart (‘un pincement au coeur’). It is the end of an era. Yes, I must admit that I still love Alstom. Alstom is a matter of national pride. That said, things got a bit rough recently. Alstom was bleeding cash. Simply put, Alstom hasn’t restructured its business as it should to stay competitive. Things  came to a head, and the only option was to find a buyer. And GE came.


I wouldn’t want to be a member of Alstom’s board right now. Basically, GE and Alstom have been talking for quite some time, and GE wants to buy the Power/Energy division of the French company. They have put a lot of cash on the table. To make matters even more complicated, one of Alstom’s main shareholders, Bouygues, badly needs to sell its participation to buy a telecommunication company. The French government disagrees with what it disingenuously calls ‘a shareholder’s approach’ -conveniently ignoring Alstom’s difficulties and massive overheads-. In theory, the government shouldn’t say anything, and shouldn’t interfere with private capital. In practice, our ministers are trying to revive a former offer from Siemens. 

The thing is, if Siemens and Alstom were to merge, in the longer run there will be massive redundancy plans because the overlaps between both companies are simply everywhere, from the operational divisions to the headquarters. Siemens is a direct competitor in most markets. To top everything up, Siemens isn’t in that great a shape either (Can two companies in a difficult position make a healthy company? I am not so sure). Oh, and I am also convinced that the European antitrust laws would never allow for this merger to happen. So why is this debate happening at all?

I am worried for Alstom’s future, and for my former colleagues. The French government might manage to stop GE from buying Alstom. But where would it leave my former employer? Would it really save it? Well, quite the opposite: nobody will want to invest in Alstom. Alstom will become moribund, and it would be another blow to the ailing French economy. Foreign investments in France will drop too. In short, even if I can only follow what is happening from London, I fear that Alstom might become the latest victim of a misjudged French interventionism. I really hope to be proven wrong…

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, Politics /

It is all over the press: there is a new binding agreement -some are even talking of a law, which is not the case just yet-, that says that managers of the technology and consultancy sector should switch off their professional mobile phones and not reply to professional emails after 6pm. As a result, the British press is having a field day with the ‘lazy French’, who apparently still indulge in lovely ‘5 to 7’ after work. In short, the good old cliches are back with a vengeance.

I personally believe that the situation is far more complicated that it seems. In fact, I am of two minds. The thing is, I never switch off. I am always thinking of my business. That’s just the way it is, and I don’t want anyone to boss me around about what I should and shouldn’t do, thank you very much. I can’t help thinking that it is ridiculous to have a ‘one size-fits-all’ rule like this. What if you work in a global business and have to call your New York office? It might have to happen after 6pm on a regular basis. Wouldn’t you answer an urgent call from work? Seriously? Well, nobody will want to invest in France if that’s the case, and things will continue to go from bad to worse.

Don’t get me wrong: we all need a break from work from time to time. I take one when I need one. But do we really need a binding agreement for this? I don’t think so, because each business is different. There are good times, and there are bad times. You need to be flexible during bad times. And you have global businesses. And so on, and so forth. It is a fine balance. Of course some bosses are demanding too much from their employees. But no such law can change this, right?

In short, I think that, once again, this binding agreement is clumsily drafted. I am convinced that it just intended to state the obvious: we all need a break.  I am also sure that the intentions of whoever drafted it are good. But it shows in an all-to-obvious way that France is not business-minded. It also shows that France can’t go beyond its narrow-minded parochialism. There is a world outside of France, and there is a need for flexibility within each business. Being pragmatic is simply not France’s forte, that’s pretty obvious.

The British way is very different, and, for me, it is a breath of fresh air. For instance, a year ago, things got to a head when my (then French) husband needed a second passport because his actual one was at the Chinese embassy to get a visa for a future business trip. In order to get another one, he had to go to the French consulate to explain why he needed a second passport. He managed to make an appointment, which was nothing short of a miracle, and went. There, he was given a lecture on the fact that his request needed to be adequately justified and that they needed, amongst other things, a letter of his employer detailing the reasons why he needed another passport (this had already been provided and they wanted more details!!!), and a copy of his local contract and payslips.

What? He couldn’t believe his ears. He went back to his office and called me. He said that he felt he was being watched over by the Stasi. He also added that he didn’t  want to give a copy of his contract to the French authorities. Why would he? He decided to become British shortly afterwards.

When, a year after, he was naturalised, nobody asked him any questions as to why he wanted a second British passport. He paid £25 and, the day after, a second British passport was delivered to our house. No question asked. No additional justification. You have got to love the Brits!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Politics /

A Country With So Much Going For It…

In France, what do you do when things get rough? Well, you just reshuffle them a bit. Look at what happened in January when Francois Hollande was caught cheating on his current girlfriend. Well, he reshuffled his love life. He kicked his official girlfriend out, and kept the unofficial one.

Right now, Francois Hollande is reshuffling his cabinet. He kicked his former Prime Minister out, and replaced it with the Interior minister. This is because his political party was inflicted a major blow yesterday, for the local elections (that’s when the mayors are elected).
So, what now? Well, I am starting to think that reshuffling is a new French specialty: cheat on your wife: reshuffle your love life! Get defeated in an election: don’t go, reshuffle your cabinet! Face some economic difficulties : how about a new organisation (i.e. reshuffle again)?  I can’t help thinking that reshuffling is to solving problems what twerking is to dancing: five minutes of fun -at best!-, but not much else. 

Come to think of it, wouldn’t it be great if, every time we had a problem, we could reshuffle? Your house is dirty: well, if you reshuffle the furniture a bit, you might forget about it, right? When did reshuffling replace resolving problems?
I am getting more and more concerned for France. I doubt very much that a reshuffle with solve the increasing unemployment and the rise of extremist views. I would love to be proven wrong. In the meantime, I am doing my tax return for my business, and I wish I could reshuffle the numbers to pay less. Well, it is not happening. Talk about double standard!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London