Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London, Looking Good /

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.

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

I have often wondered how couples get together this side of the Channel. After a friend’s dates with a British guy went terribly wrong (read the story here), I started observing my friends and colleagues to understand how things were working, and quickly came to the conclusion that copious amounts of booze were often involved. To cut a long story short, I think that, over here, the art of seduction involves 90% of booze and 10% of words. The said words usually are ‘should we share a cab?’ If the approach is successful, that is. Obviously.

How unsexy. You see, we French are all about words. I believe that the French art of seduction consists of 90% of words and maybe 10% of wine (And in my view, champagne is even better. But that’s just me, I suppose). The booze’s only purpose is to enhance the whole experience.

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Posted by / Category Politics /

It was mentioned in passing by some newspapers, but for some reasons it didn’t make the headlines. So here it is: you may remember that, in 2012, France decided that even non-residents who were renting out their flat or holiday house in France had to pay French social contributions on their rental revenues (we call it CSG/CRDS). This added 15,5% of taxes for hundreds of thousands of owners who happened not to live in France (and believe me, this can happen to the best of us!). Just like that. And as it was decided end of 2012, of course it was applied retroactively to all rental revenues in 2012. Of course it was.

We happen to own a studio flat in Paris. We decided to rent it out when we moved to London, and as a result, in 2012, our French tax liability almost doubled overnight (from 20% to 35.5%). Obviously I think that it is unfair to levy such a tax because, as a non-resident, I am already paying for National Insurance, Pension and the rest of it in the UK. Not to mention that, in France, we are paying for all the infrastructure through the local taxes. The new tax came on top of everything else. This is, to me, the perfect example of what a populist decision is: as most owners don’t vote in France, they are an easy target. Let’s make them pay more, nobody will complain! Populism at its best. Utterly disgusting.

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Posted by / Category London, Looking Good /

I read something that still puzzles me. Here it is: “Compared with the women of France, the average American woman is still in the kindergarten.” It was written by the hugely talented Edith Wharton. I wonder what she meant. Personally, I think that it says more about her than about us French women; after all, she loved it so much in France that she ended up living there. She understood the culture and the social rules, and after a while adopted them wholeheartedly. That said, it made me wonder whether we French women really have our own ways. Seriously, what’s so special about us? I scratched my head, and came up with a few traits that might (only might) explain such a statement. That said, feel free to add to the list. Simply put, I don’t fully understand what is so special about us. After all, I am still learning (aren’t we all?).

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Posted by / Category London, Uncategorized /

Sometimes, the simplest things are the best ones. It’s good to live a little anyway. I must admit that I have always been a fan of Crème Brûlée. I like it best in my husband’s plate for some reason -he usually moans but always let me have some. Don’t ask me why…Ah, the joy of being married!-.

Crème brûlée, as I am sure you know, is a French term for a rich baked custard made with cream, rather than with milk. The custard is topped with a layer of sugar (usually brown) which is then caramelised (with a blowtorch or under a grill). Suffice to say, it is delicious. Who needs complicated food anyway? Sometimes I just need a treat, and I like real food. Crème brûlée just does the job. What’s not to like about it?

If you are French, there is a proper etiquette to enjoy Crème brûlée. You see, it is all about the top layer. You need to take your spoon and gently tap the caramelised sugar before eating it. The top layer must break. This looks anodyne but it is an important test for us French. If the top layer doesn’t break, then the Crème Brûlée isn’t how it should be. It’s too hard. But it the top layer breaks as soon as the spoon touches it, it isn’t good either. You want something perfect. Now you are in the know. The devil is in the details.

As most good desserts, some argue it is French dessert, others say it is English. Of course they do. Yeah right. Whoever invented it, let me confirm that it is definitively a French name. Just saying. Because for some reason everything sounds better in French. I will never understand why, but I have learned to go with the flow.

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Posted by / Category Looking Good /

Sometimes you have to act fast. As in, when you are about to go on a date.  Or a job interview. You want to look French instantly. There is no time to waste. That’s the challenge I was set today. Let me explain: I bumped into a mum at the school gates, and she told me that she had no time to read my posts: she was going to catch up with an ex-colleague whom she fancied (she is divorced). She wanted to look French there and then. She is deliciously British, and I really didn’t understand why she so desperately wanted to look French but hey, who was I to judge? I know that we live in a fast-paced world, and I love a challenge. So I decided to give it a go. Don’t get me wrong, looking French is a slow process. You need to be familiar with French social rules, which can take a lifetime (sometimes even generations). And I still remember all the dictations at school (Ah, les dictees…). I have to break it to you: being French isn’t as easy as it seems. But if you don’t have it, you can try to fake it, right? It might work, at least to an extent. So here we go:

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, Travel /

Today I would like to talk to you about a little bag usually favoured by men, where you have just enough space to put what you need for an overnight stay. We French call it a ‘baise-en-ville’. Literally, it means ‘f***-in-town’, but funnily enough, it is not rude at all to talk about a ‘baise-en-ville’. Everybody has one, and it is always a smart buy (also for a woman, actually). I suppose that it stems from the fact that we French like to compartmentalise our lives, and remain pragmatic in all circumstances. Hence the bag. That said, it has completely lost any naughty connotation. I assure you. Hand on heart. You can safely talk about a ‘baise-en-ville’ and everybody will be impressed.

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

 

Happy Valentine’s Day! Today here is a post I wrote for TheLocal about the dating rules in France. It is light-hearted and written for a younger audience, but I hope that you’ll still enjoy it!

If you are still on your own for Valentine’s Day, it is time to step up your game and make a move.  But how do we French make a move? Well, I am not going to lie to you: it will be hard. For starters, you need to forget everything you have learned, and do it the French way. Here are some pointers.
A.     Don’t smile. Don’t look happy. Pout. I know that this sounds completely counter-intuitive, but it works. We French love making things complicated. He/she will notice you. Just don’t smile.
B.     The guy has to take the initiative. It sounds old-fashioned, but that’s how it works. But if the woman does take the initiative, she has to make the man believe that he did all the work. It’s exhausting. But if you don’t do it, you will look needy.
C.     For condoms. Always have (at least) one in your purse. Because sleeping with him/her on the very first date will not be held against you. That said, don’t get your hopes up.
D.    Men need to be very forward. Women expect the whole shebang: flowers, dinners, love declarations, text messages and even small gifts. French women need to play hard to get. Sad but true. My tip for him: text her as soon as the date is over to tell her you already miss her. For her: always look busy, and never accept a date immediately.
E.     Always be at least 15 minutes late. Personally I hate it but that’s the way it is. We French are always late. And no cheap date please. McDonalds or Burger King won’t make the cut.
F.     Look gorgeous, but don’t overdo it. Of course, you need to make it look like you haven’t made an effort. I know, it is easier said than done.


G.     The man is supposed to pay for the romantic dinners, the drinks and the outings. In fact, he is supposed to pay for everything, or at least suggest he will. Women can protest a little bit but if he insists you have to let him pay.
H.    The man is supposed to compliment the woman at every possible opportunity.
I.      Women should avoid showing too much flesh. In France, it is always better to suggest rather than be half-naked.
J.     No beer please. Champagne is the only acceptable drink to celebrate.
 K.    Having your espresso with milk is a deal-breaker. Yes, even a little bit of milk.
L.     If you have the slightest doubt of whether he/she is faithful, then he/she probably isn’t. Dump him and go back to point A.
M.   If, after a few repeats of points D to K, you still haven’t used the condom mentioned in point C, you might want to cut your losses and move on.
And read the rest of the article here

 

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

 

 
I have tried to deny it countless times, and I will continue to do so. Despite everything you have read in the newspapers (especially the British ones), we French haven’t invented extra-marital affairs. That said, I must admit that we do have a very specific figure of speech for a visit to one’s mistress.  We call it a 5 a 7 (five-to-seven). It is derived from the time of the day a Frenchman would make such a visit. So, next time you hear a French person say that they are going to their 5 to 7, you will know what they are talking about. You will understand and nod quietly. Everybody will understand and shut up. That’s how we French are: we keep some things private. Yes, especially these things.

Mind you, if someone from Canada invites you for a 5-to-7, it has a completely different meaning: it will just be a social gathering with friends and colleagues. Don’t expect anything remotely naughty. In short, get the nationality of your interlocutor right, or you might end up in a bit of a pickle. Now you know.
Come to think of it, the 5 to 7 has always been a mystery for me: can you really compartimentalise your life for a couple of hours? Can you be a perfect family man/women for 22 hours, and escape from your daily routine for two hours a day? I really wonder. Seriously, how do you do this? Is there a switch in your mind that you can use? Where is it? How do you switch it on and off? How come I didn’t know?

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Posted by / Category London /


As you know, Valentine’s Day is coming up. I will be writing about it this week. It’s this time of the year. There is no escaping from overpriced red roses anyway: they are everywhere. You may not know it, but it looks like, once again, the French have invented Valentine’s day. What can I say? Anything to do with love can be linked with France. That’s the way it is. I don’t always like the reputation we French have, but I just have to live with it.


I have always wondered why Valentine day was mid-February. Surely summer would be well, nicer. Or at least warmer. But I was wrong again. Apparently, both in England and France, birds and other animals paired off and mated in the middle of February. It is thought that people started to, well, do the same, and celebrate the 14th of February as the special day for lovers. 

There is another reason why Valentine Day originated from France: the oldest known Valentine still exists today as a poem written by the Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. The greeting was written in February 1415. The Duke of Orleans stayed in captivity for 25 years. He wrote a lot and apparently could barely speak French when he was freed. The only way to reach his lover was to write. You thought that you had it hard? Well, you see, it could be much, much worse.

This story inspired a song called ‘Ma seule amour’ by French singer Laurent Voulzy (I think that he lives in the UK too, actually). The chorus says it all:
” Stay away from the door it’s locked for ever.
Write a song no other way to reach your lover…”

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