Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

I woke up all excited: today is the day of the total solar eclipse. My excitement was short-lived. The sky in London is hopelessly grey and you can’t see the sun anyway. I wonder whether the solar eclipse will make any difference whatsoever. It is probably one of these things: at the end of the day, the pictures that you see on TVs are great but normal people weren’t able to see a thing. Maybe the sky will just be a different shade of grey (no pun intended!)…Maybe not. To be honest with you, I can’t see any difference with a regular day. There it is.

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

Count on my to brush up your English skills. You might think that because you were taught to speak English at school or at work you will be fine, but you couldn’t be more wrong. The British are very precise about how things must be said. Here are a few tricks that will go a long way to gain a better understanding of what the British really mean and how to make sure that they understand you.

– Use as many works as possible

A simple ‘yes’ in response to a question will betray the fact that you are not familiar with the way people talk over here. You need to say instead ‘Well, I sort of said I would’. Or ‘yes, I hear what you say’. Keep the conversation going at any cost.

In the same vein, never say no. Except in a life or death situation, of course. ‘No’ is much too direct. It closes the debate and the British love to talk. Instead, you can always buy time by saying ‘this is an interesting point of view, isn’t it?’. OK, let’s practise now. Let’s suppose that someone tells you: ‘boys and girls need to be educated separately because they learn in different ways’. If, like me, you feel strongly that this is a backwards idea coming straight from the Middle Ages, don’t say so. Bite your tongue. Breathe. Instead, say something like ‘This is an interesting point of view. That said, I really enjoyed being educated with boys during my childhood’. Do you see the difference?

– Pay attention to what is NOT said:

You need to question everything you are told. ‘Is this school any good?’ I asked one of my friends. Oh yes, it is a good school, she said, very sporty. What she meant of course, was that they were not very good academically.  But how could I have guessed it?

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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.