Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Petite Anglaise

I read Petite Anglaise’s (Catherine Sanderson) book a while ago and for some inexplicable reason, I am just now getting around to posting about it. I used to be a regular reader of P.A. and at some point, I guess I got tired of her navel-gazing (her term, not mine) and tapered off. I was still a semi-regular reader when the Brit gave me a copy of the book.

It starts with Petite’s stay abroad in France and suddenly jumps forward many years to her life with Mr. Frog and Tadpole. It was difficult for me to get past the overly flowery writing style and if I hadn’t been a reader of her blog, I’m not sure I would have continued. But I persevered and ended up in the “behind-the-scenes” version of the blog. Overall, the book was enjoyable, however I wouldn’t call it a must read.

If you followed Petite’s blog anytime during the past few years and wonder about information she didn’t share online, borrow a copy of the book. For people looking for insight into what it’s like living as a foreigner in France, this is not the book for you.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A French Award

I was given A French Award by Marilyn Radzat at As Seen Through My Eyes. The rules for the award are:
1. Please put the logo on your blog
2. Place a link to the person from whom you received the award
3. Nominate at least 7 or more blogs
4. Put the links of those blogs on your blog
5. Leave a message on their blogs to tell them

So here goes:

1.
Stuff Parisians Like
2.
Chitlins & Camembert
3.
News From France
4. Life in France
5.
Everyday France

I cheated a bit and didn’t do 7, but I want to give
Paris Daily Photo (which was already given the award) and The Paris Blog, honorable mentions.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Starbucks

It’s been on the chilly side here in Paris, but that doesn't stop people from freezing their bums off for a caffeine fix. This is a photo of a Starbucks near Bastille this past weekend. The line was so long it extended out the door. Apparently Seattle isn't the only place where people need a Starbucks fix.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Market Etiquette


After returning from my first long weekend chez les faux in-laws, the Brit and I went to the market. We stopped at one of the stands and when the man finished helping his customer and got us I told him (in French) that we would like a small roast chicken with potatoes. His reply was “s’il vous plait”. Oops…

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Fingers Crossed

4 years ago French people asked me wtf was wrong with Americans. Well, they were more diplomatic in their questioning, but that was my reaction when idiot Bush’s reign was extended for another term. I couldn’t explain it and I’m hoping this time around Americans come to their senses and elect the only rational candidate. Because another term with Bush III and scary Alaskan lady would not only be frightening but would continue the country’s downward spiral.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Is the Capital in the Country?

During a recent conversation, a French person expressed confusion about Washington D.C. and Washington state. Another French person piped in and asked if Washington D.C. was really in the US because it wasn’t a state and wasn’t in a state. I hope she was joking, but after the experience I had with someone thinking that Alaska was an island, I may need to carry a map of the US ready to show to the US-geography-challenged.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Metro Manners

I was on the metro on my way to an appointment when, at one of the stops, a middle aged woman yelled to let her get on. I guess people near the door weren’t moving out of her way fast enough. She passed two empty fold-down seats, nudged a lady on the shoulder and told the lady to let her sit down. She said she wasn’t well, she was handicapped.

The lady gave up her seat without a word and went to one of the empty fold-down seats, while the rest of us stared. The handicapped lady kept coughing loudly without making any attempt to cover her mouth. She asked the young man sitting next to her for the time and then argued with him about what time he had said (she thought he gave a time 15 minutes later than he actually did).


Her supposed handicap was not evident, at least I couldn’t see anything physically wrong with her. Perhaps it was mental. But handicap or not, shouldn’t some “basic” manners be commonplace? How much effort does it take to politely ask someone for her seat rather than commanding her to give it up? Or how about sitting in an empty seat?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hungry Knee

This past weekend the Brit took me to a fabulous restaurant on Ile St Louis for my birthday. There was a couple at the table to my left and during our main course, they had dessert. While enjoying a delicious osso bucco, my peripheral vision caught something flying from the other table. I felt something damp on the side of my knee, looked, then wiped it off with my napkin. The woman at the other table turned red and began apologizing profusely, while her companion laughed and jokingly held up his napkin between us. The Brit looked at me with an unspoken question written on his face. “Some of her sorbet ended up on my leg”, I answered and kept eating.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Office of Babel

I intentionally avoid posting about work for several reasons the main one being that I’d rather not get dooced. However, this post has more to do with languages than my job so I’ll make an exception. At the moment, about 40% of the people in my office are French with the rest of us being from various countries. All of us, except one guy (an English speaker), are fully fluent in a second language. One coworker speaks 4 languages, another one speaks 3 with knowledge of a 4th and a few others have basic to conversational knowledge of a 3rd language.

Recently, someone from one of the local offices in another country visited and it turns out that he speaks 6 languages - but then again he’s Dutch and they tend to polyglots to the extreme. In addition to realizing that we should be careful about what we say in any language, because someone might understand, I felt a bit inept, since I speak “only” 2 languages with very basic knowledge of a 3rd. Anyone started working on a universal translator implant yet?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Rant

If you have big hair, long hair or a ponytail - please be careful with it while on public transportation. Your fellow riders don’t want a face-full of your hair.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Arènes de Lutèce












This past weekend, the Brit and I finally made it to the Arènes de Lutèce - a park in Paris that was once a Gallo-Roman amphitheater. There were some kids who appeared to be training for parkour and other kids played soccer in the middle of the park. There was one boy with glasses playing with a ball by himself. I felt bad that the other kids weren't including him in their game. But he'll probably grow up to start some tech company, make gazillions of euros and hire the other kids to mow his multi-acre lawn.

Read about Les Arènes de Lutèce
here or here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

La Rentrée


What does la rentrée mean for Seattleite? A crowded commute both ways and at least one crying/screaming child on the bus every single morning…

Monday, September 8, 2008

Parisian Bitchy

Warning – big generalization coming up.

What is it with Parisian women and the high bitchiness/aggression level? A colleague and I went to grab lunch and as I was paying, a middle-aged woman came up right beside me and clearly thought she would be next. This, despite the large number of people waiting in several lines.

When my transaction was done I angled myself trying to block the lady so my colleague could go next, but the lady reached around me to give her ticket resto to the cashier. I could tell the cashier wasn’t going to say anything so I did. I looked at the cashier and the lady and said that my colleague was next in line. The woman behind my colleague also piped in and told bitch-lady that there was a line.

Bitch-lady replied that she already had her money out and might as well pay. When that didn’t work, she acted innocent and said that she didn’t see the line and went to the back.

A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have said anything. But I find this kind of behavior to be not uncommon with women in this city and I was tired of it. Is this taught in Parisian schools? The girls take Intro to Bitchiness while the guys go to Dragueur 101? And it seems to get worse with age- little old Parisian women are professors of bitchiness! If this lady (who looked around 50ish) had been 20-30 yrs older I wouldn’t have bothered saying anything, because after 60 or so, the nastiness level can increase exponentially (each year).




Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Alaska is an Island?


On the way back from lunch, a colleague asked me the name of the island state near Hawaii. I asked her if she meant Guam or the Mariana islands which are territories rather than states, but those weren't it. I told her Puerto Rico and the US virgin islands are other territories, but are in the Atlantic ocean. She said she had looked at an electoral map and it had a large island near Hawaii.

I couldn't help but laugh when I explained that the large island, wasn't an island at all, but was Alaska. I told her that the electoral maps usually stick Alaska and Hawaii near the continental 48 so we don't have to look at the non-US land in between (i.e. Canada).

When we got back to the office she showed me the
link then went on about how there should be a box around Hawaii and Alaska on the map so people don't think that's the actual layout. I pointed out that it wasn't made for foreigners who can't vote in the election.

But based on how much red there is on the map...there may be a lot of Americans who also think that Alaska is a large island next to Hawaii.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Crosswalk Art

I was crossing a little street in the 12th when I glanced down and saw the first face. The second face was in another crosswalk perpendicular to the 1st one. I have no idea if the 2 faces mean anything, but it’s kinda neat having “art” somewhere you wouldn’t necessarily think to look for it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Public Nose Picking

Digging in your nose in public like you’ve got diamonds in your head is DISGUSTING!!! Use a tissue! Or here’s an idea – keep your finger out of your nose until you are alone! An old woman on the bus was digging (not picking, but digging) in her nose continuously. She took out a tissue to blow her nose and then continued her digging WITHOUT THE TISSUE! To top it off, she then pushed the “descendre” button with her booger-digging hand. I was already a germaphobe about public transportation, now I’m a booger-phobe too.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Talk to the Snail

A colleague lent me her copy of Stephen Clarke’s book Talk to the Snail: Ten Commandments for Understanding the French. While it wasn’t laugh out loud funny like his Merde books, it was still an amusing read including commandments such as: Thou shalt be wrong (if you’re not French),Why every Frenchman is ‘Monsieur Right’ and Thou shalt be ill, Getting the best out of the French national drug habit. Anyone who doesn’t like generalizations should stay away from this book. But if you’re coming to France (or are already here) and want a quick explanation of French behavior and customs, this book can save you the pain of having to figure some things out for yourself.

Friday, August 15, 2008

How Ironic

Jean Marie Le Pen, the leader of the FN party has sold the FN headquarters just outside of Paris to a Chinese university. That's right; the former headquarters of France's xenophobic politic party is going to foreigners and not even European foreigners. Looks like the FN decided the non-French aren't so bad after all, at least when they have sufficient funds. Read about here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dell Saga Continues

So I called the number supplied by Dell in their email, which stated "Ce numero vous permet de nous joindre pour ce dossier sur une ligne prioritaire." This apparently translates in practice as - this priority line means you will have to wait just as long as usual.

I called the priority line and was put on hold for 5 minutes. When I ended up speaking to someone in the non-warranty department and had to point out that my warranty was still active, I was transferred to the under-warranty line and you guessed it – put on hold. Ironically the hold music was Bobby McFaren's Don't Worry, Be Happy. At long last, when I had the privilege of speaking to a person again I had to give my office telephone number because the guy claimed they had tried to reach me several times without success (despite evidence to the contrary). It's funny that Dell support appears to be the ONLY people who can't reach me on my mobile number. Once again I was put on hold.

At the end of the call the tech had the nerve to ask me if I was satisfied with the service. Uh, let me think about that. NO!! I told him that I was not satisfied because it took too long and was too difficult to resolve the problem. He said that someone would call me back today and we would definitely resolve the problem. Mr Tech Support then added that I had a nice accent in French. Sorry buddy, but that was not the time to try charm me.

So far I've sent 2 emails and have spent about 40 minutes on the phone with Dell (at least 30 minutes of which on hold) and my computer issue still has not been resolved. At this rate, I may need to steal the Brit's idea and send Dell an invoice for my time.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dell Support SUCKS!


I hate dealing with Dell tech support. First I tried calling the number for people outside of their country. The guy didn't deal with Inspirons and transferred me - I got cut off. Next I called the French number and was immediately put on hold. When I finally talked to someone I explained that I had an Inspiron still under warranty and gave the service tag. He transferred me. The hold message said it was for computers not under warranty and to have your credit card ready. When someone finally came on, I explained that my laptop is still under warranty and gave the service tag again, he looked it up and confirmed that it was still under warranty then transferred me to someone else. I tried to explain the problem to this guy (who doesn't speak English of course) he didn't understand. I tried to explain again and he gave me an email address to send photos of the screen. 15 friggin minutes of being on hold and getting transferred just to get an email address!!!

All of this was over a week ago and I didn’t get a response to my initial email so I sent it again pointing out that it was the second time. Dell responded that they had tried to contact me and I wasn’t reachable. This despite the fact that I don’t have any missed calls or voice mails on my mobile phone (the only number I gave tech support) since sending the email. So now I have to call them again. Every time I have to deal with Dell support in France (I have no idea if it’s any better in other countries) I become more convinced that they take classes in how to give customers the run around in the hopes that we’ll just get fed up and disappear.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Facebook

A few months ago a friend was going on about how she refused to join Facebook because she didn’t believe in the idea that a social networking site was needed to keep in touch with her friends. However, she didn’t have any issues with business networking sites like LinkedIn (I still don’t really understand that logic).

Well, when I returned from vaca, I had a Facebook link invitation from guess who – yup, this same person. Of course, I couldn’t resist giving her crap about it. After I sent her a note saying I didn’t believe she was the same person who so vehemently resisted joining a while back she updated her status to say “___ has given up on traditional social interactions and set up a Facebook profile as people don't know how to stay in touch the way they used to.” In other words, she finally joined modern society… (Btw her boyfriend as been on Facebook for quite a while.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Germany photos

Here are a few pics from the trip to Germany....


Friday, August 1, 2008

Creepy

A man in Canada was beheaded by a fellow Greyhound bus passenger. Read about it here and here.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh

After Germany, the Brit and I popped back to Paris for a couple days before flying to Dublin. I’d never been to Ireland before, the Brit went with his family when he was 3, so it was pretty much his first time too. We stayed at the Shelbourne across from St Stephen’s Green. When I saw the bed, I was tempted to stay in during the entire trip.

We did some of the typical touristy things like the hop on/off bus and a ½ day tour to the south coast. I was even a good girlfriend and accompanied the Brit to the Guinness brewery and old Jameson distillery, even though I don’t like Guinness or whiskey (except in a hot toddy). Funnily enough, during the whole time we were there, almost all of our servers were Polish. An American who lives in France and an Englishman who will soon live in Germany, in Ireland being served by Polish waitresses – gotta love globalization.

I had a wicked hangover the day we left, not related to either of the aforementioned beverages. Fortunately for me the Brit has some experience in this area and found some Lucozade for me (I’d never heard of it before). A couple of those and a good Irish breakfast and I was able to move around without worry that I’d hurl at any moment.

In general, Dublin was ok, but I have no desire to return any time soon. If we go back it will definitely be to another part of Ireland. But at least now I can say that I know the tune to Molly Malone and discovered another way to drink whiskey – with ginger ale…

Monday, July 28, 2008

Apartments in Deutsch

The next few posts will be sans photo because the pics from Germany and Dublin are still in the camera with the Brit in England.

Our trip to Germany was for apartment hunting. As part of the Brit’s relocation package we had a person accompany us to view apartments she had found. On a completely unrelated side note – her relationship is just as odd as ours. She’s Brazilian and lives in Germany, her husband is Dutch and lives in Belgium. All except one of the apartments we visited were a definite no.


The first apartment used to be a hotel and was cheaply remodeled. It was also on a main road and we could hear the road noise with the windows closed (the Brit is VERY sensitive to road noise). Apartment two was so disgusting I was tempted to leave as soon as we walked through the door. It was on the top floor and had a slanting roof/walls, which is a problem due to the Brit’s height. But the ceiling was not the main problem. The current tenant (who appeared to be high on something) lived in the apartment with a couple of large dogs and, since there was a climbing/scratching post, I’m guessing at least one cat. The apartment smelled like he’d lived in it with the animals for decades and hadn’t bothered to clean or open the windows since moving in. I have never been in an apartment that smelled so nauseating.


The third apartment looked amazing in the photos. It was on the lower level of a two story house. The ad didn’t show photos of the kitchen, or bathroom, which set off alarm bells in our heads, but we visited anyway. It turns out the snazzy new glass part shown in the photos had been added to the much older house. The apartment was previously used as an office with the bedroom serving as a recording studio. The landlord didn’t even bother to remove the bright blue carpeting or padding on the walls. The kitchen consisted of two plaques/eyes and a mini-fridge. I’m sure that bathroom is older than I am and the entire apartment smelled damp and moldy.

This brings us to the last apartment. The Brit had some reservations about the small kitchen and road noise, but it was the only decent apartment we visited. After viewing the apartment, our guide informed us that the landlord lived in another part of Germany and didn’t want to rent the apartment to someone he didn’t know so if were interested in the apartment we’d have to meet the landlord’s brother. We thought this was odd but agreed since we didn’t have any other apartment prospects and drove to meet the brother in a café in another town.


The journey was supposed to take 45 minutes. It took us more than an hour due to some odd TomTom directions. The meeting was going well, but the brother suddenly asked me who I was going to vote for. I glanced at the Brit and thought “Uh oh, you might lose the apartment because your left wing girlfriend can’t figure out a quick and diplomatic way to avoid answering this question.” When I responded that I was going to vote for Obama, the brother seemed pleased then began a small tirade against the current administration. He said we seemed like nice people and didn’t have any issues with us, but we did get the impression that his brother would prefer a tenant who could agree to a longer lease term.

One of our relocation contacts was supposed to call us the next morning to see how things went with the brother – she didn’t. Later she said that she had received some bad personal news and wasn’t able to call us, but didn’t clarify what the bad news was. Mid-last week she told us that there were two other potential tenants and the landlord would make a decision by the end of the week. We heard today that he selected someone else, so the Brit has to start his apartment search from scratch next week. I thought apartment hunting in Paris was a pain until this fiasco.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Back

I’m back in hot and humid Paris and the Brit left for England earlier today to visit his family. The first part of our vacation was spent in a small city in Germany apartment hunting. I haven’t gotten into it here on the blog, but the Brit and I have been long distance for way too long. Long story short, it proved difficult finding him a job in Paris so he accepted a job in Germany with his current company. We’ll be only 3 hrs (via train) from each other which isn’t a permanent solution but is a HUGE improvement.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Vacation

The brit has arrived and we're off for a couple of weeks. Will share info once we're back.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Headphones ≠ Rude

On the way home a fellow exited the bus and from the reaction of the woman standing in the aisle next to me, he bumped into her on his way out. She grumbled (for several minutes) to her friend about how the guy didn’t say “pardon” or even “dans le cul” and just because the guy was listening to a walkman doesn’t mean he should be rude. She went on griping about how people with a walkman, phone or stroller were in their own world. This lady was so into her tirade that she didn’t notice 1) I had on headphones and 2) I looked at her rather pointedly a couple of times during her diatribe.

To Ms Grumble, first of all I believe the man was listening to an mp3 player, not a walkman and second, there are some of us who still say pardon or excuse me even with headphones on. Maybe the guy was just a jerk, maybe he was mute or extremely shy. Politeness doesn’t automatically go out the window when the headphones go on, so don’t assume that he would have said anything had he not had on headphones. If I have to squeeze past you in the future, I’ll be sure say pardon. Although perhaps you’d prefer a polite “dans le cul”…

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Rant

This rant is for all of you Parisian drivers. Get off the phone while you drive!!! If there is a pedestrian in the crosswalk, you are supposed to stop, not nearly run them over because you’re too busy yapping on your mobile phone. I’m speaking from personal experience, but in case that’s not enough read this article about driving while talking on a mobile phone.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Heinz controversy

This Heinz commercial resulted in complaints and calls for a boycott. Because some people (at the time, the total was around 200) objected to the ad, Heinz decided to pull it. As a result of the ad being pulled, gay rights groups have called for a boycott of Heinz products. Being from Seattle, it’s not surprising that I fall on the liberal side of the line. I didn’t find anything wrong with the commercial and found the wife-as-NY-deli-guy character amusing. Heinz had to know that it wouldn’t go over well with certain people, yet they aired it anyway. It’s disappointing that they didn’t have the courage to stand behind the ad despite a few objections. Read more:
Telegraph
BrandRepublic
BBC

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Foreign

As soon as the woman sat next to me on the bus, I knew she was mid-west American. Ok, I didn’t really know, but I was pretty sure. She pulled out a book and I couldn’t help but look at it from the corner of my eye. I muffled a chuckle when I saw that the book was in English. The lady could’ve been British, American, Canadian etc. but I had correctly pegged her as Anglophone. Another confirmation that when abroad, some of us really stand out…

Sunday, June 29, 2008

American modesty vs. French sexy

I was having lunch with a friend the other day when I noticed that the blouse one of the waitresses was wearing looked familiar. After a few seconds, it clicked – she was wearing the same blouse I was and in the same color. The blouses were both sheer and black, there was one difference though. I wore a camisole under mine whereas Mlle waitress had on only a bra under hers. When I pointed this out to my friend (who is French btw) and jokingly said it was an example of the differences between how the French and Americans dress, she smirked and said that French women are sexy. I suppose that’s one word for it….

Friday, June 27, 2008

Fire

The roomy nearly burned down the apartment, well not really but she had two kitchen fires in the same evening. And she felt the need to tell me in detail about both. The first one I wouldn’t have even known about if she hadn’t said anything because it happened before I got home. This was one of those times when it might have been better not to share.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Rant

If you take public transportation and want to listen to music, use headphones! Just because you like the music, doesn’t mean the rest of us do.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer Is Here!!!


FYI - the rainier cherry was created in Washington state.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fluent


I’m well chuffed. I made it through 3 hours of meetings, all in French! I didn’t speak much, but I understood everything and wasn’t completely exhausted afterwards. Now that’s progress…

Monday, June 16, 2008

Peace For A Piece?

On the bus this morning, a man was talking on his mobile phone (as often happens). I didn’t pay any attention to him until another man began speaking to him in a rather aggressive manner. The two men continued their back and forth for a few minutes with phone-man asking what the other guy’s problem was. Argue-guy replied that phone-man should speak more quietly while using his mobile phone because everyone else could hear him. When he said this, my internal reaction was – “Huh? Are you kidding??! I didn’t hear the man on the phone (granted I was listening to music) but I certainly hear you yelling at him across the aisle. If you have a problem with his volume, shut-up and lead by example.”

A few stops later I noticed phone-man go up to argue-guy. This second exchange was much tamer than the first one. I don't know what the men were saying to each other, but it appeared that phone-man was offering a piece of candy. Perhaps his Parisian commute equivalent of a white flag?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What’s That Smell??

Let me preface this post by saying that if something smells like a rotting animal corpse – I can’t eat it.

I was in my bedroom last night when I noticed an extremely unpleasant odor. It wasn’t there when I arrived home and I thought it was coming from somewhere in my room so I started sniffing around try to find the source. We live on the top floor and I was sure I’d find the rotting corpse of a bird (even though a bird has never flown into the apartment). After a few minutes I gave up and went into the kitchen to get something, as soon as I stepped out of my room the stench got much stronger and then it hit me – stinky French cheese!! I asked roomy what she ate for dinner; it turns out she had a cheese from her region of France. To make matters worse, roomy doesn’t rinse her dishes (the many joys of colocation will have to wait for another post) and I had a refresher course on cheese stink when I opened the dishwasher this morning. I put on the rinse cycle and made a quick exit while hoping that roomy finished all of the cheese….

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Your English is really good!

I was at my local boulangerie (which received a write-up in Elle btw) and there were some Americans behind me in line. One of them commented that there were a lot of people and I responded that the line would go quickly. The guy looked surprised and told me that my English was good. Hmmm….thanks.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Do French women need special credit cards?


Société Générale is following in the footsteps of Bred and now has a “toute nouvelle collection de cartes bancaires dédiée aux femmes: la collection pour elles.” If you sign up for this card you get perks such as picking the look of your card (design options are floral, water drop and diamond), €400 towards purchasing a new purse if yours is stolen AND up to €300 is covered if you have a water leak, broken window or electricity outage and need a repair person to come out and fix the problem. I’ve been here nearly five years and I’m still amazed that stuff like this goes on. Are women really signing up for these cards? Who are they and what century do they live in?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Stroller vs. Stubborn

This morning’s bus ride was a study in stubbornness against common courtesy. Halfway to the office, a woman got on the bus with a stroller. There was a woman (we’ll call her sit-woman) sitting in the fold-down chair in the spot “reserved” for strollers and she refused to get up. She and another woman (civil-lady) got into an argument with civil-lady reading the sign next to sit-woman’s seat out loud and saying that giving up the seat to make room for the stroller was a question of “politesse” and civility. When sit-woman claimed that she couldn’t read, civil-lady pointed out the image on the sign declaring that images speak to everyone. The heated exchange lasted several minutes and even when a second stroller entered the crowded bus, sit-woman still wouldn’t stand up, causing several passengers to give her less-than-friendly looks. I thought she’d give in and stand up when the third stroller entered (especially since civil-lady had exited a few stops earlier). Mais non, sit-woman held her ground.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Eavesdropping

I took a day off from work this past week and decided to go to the neighborhood sushi place to get take-out. While I was waiting for my order I heard a couple of Americans at a nearby table. Even though I tried to tune them out, I couldn’t for very long. I’d focus on something else, but a minute or two later I’d realize that I was listening to them again. Then it hit me that this happens quite often. When I’m out and about, I can usually tune out French conversations if I choose to. I just go into “not listening” mode. But English, particularly when spoken with American accents, tends to cut through any other noise. When I’m in France, there’s something about hearing an accent from across the Atlantic that makes my ears automatically perk up. Funnily enough, the same thing happens when I’m in the US and hear French.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Buttes


A couple weekends ago I went to Buttes Chaumont with my roommate to take advantage of the great weather. Buttes Chaumont is quite different from the more popular and manicured parcs of Paris like Tuileries and Jardin du Luxembourg that are famous with tourists. Going to the Buttes was another reminder of how much I’ve been missing the presence of nature everywhere in Seattle. I was in France for a few years before I began to realize how much I took the ever-present greenery for granted in my home city while I was still there. In a recent Guardian article, English-born write Jonathan Raban perfectly described Seattle this way “By day, it doesn't look like a city at all. The trees out-number the houses…You can't quite tell: is it a city, is it a suburb, is the forest growing back?”

(The photo is from Gasworks Park in Seattle
)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Obama Campaigners And Racism

The Washington Post ran an article a few days ago about the blatant racism Obama campaigners have encountered in parts of the country. While it’s no shock that there are people in the US who will not and would not vote for Obama because he was born with a certain skin color, I am a bit surprised that they would be so overt about it. The fact that Obama has a real chance of becoming president illustrates how far the country has come in a short amount of time – just a few decades after the overturning of Jim Crow. But situations and encounters like those described in the article highlight that we still have a long way to go.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Rant

I recognize that different cultures have different personal space boundaries and I tend to adjust mine according to where I am. That said, there is something that still bugs me about riding the metro here – people with newspapers invading the personal space of others. It’s one thing if the metro isn’t full and you have plenty of space for your paper, but if there are people next to you have some consideration and fold the friggin’ thing! Just because you decided to catch up on recent news during your commute doesn’t mean you should take up someone else’s space in the process.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

London



I’m back in Paris after a 3-day business trip to London and my hate-hate relationship with the city may now be on the track to a less pronounced state of dislike. This past trip across the channel was surprisingly not unpleasant. I still wouldn’t say that I like the place but now I’m starting to think that the brit might be right when he says London has some nice bits...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

International Grass Rules

So I’m in London for three loooooooooong days and the UK immigration checkpoint at gare du nord was as pleasant as ever. Surprisingly, the London weather is sunny and warm (but a bit muggy). I had some time to kill before my meeting started, so one of my colleagues in the London office (an Aussie) took me to a cute little park near the office. The first park we went to was closed so we went a couple of streets over to another smaller one. And guess what this park had – a sign to stay off the grass!! Maybe the English and French aren’t so different after all….

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Grass Is Resting


Paris weekend weather has been amazing lately and to catch some sun I decided to go to a park near my apartment. I expected the park to be flooded with people (as it always is when there’s even a tiny bit of sun). What I didn’t expect, because I forgot about this annoying French quirk, was for the grass to be resting. Those of you who live here or have visited know what I’m talking about - the signs that signal the grass is “en repos”, or in other words “Stay Off!”.

This is something that I still don’t understand. If the grass needs to rest when the weather is crappy – fine, but when it’s sunny and in the 70s the grass is meant to be enjoyed. The French are so strict about this that they even have grass police in some parks. I was having lunch in a well known, large park near the office (I was on a bench) when 2 women appeared blowing whistles and motioning to people who were lunching on the grass to get off. It’s times like these when I miss Seattle and it’s abundance of non-resting greenery…

Friday, May 2, 2008

Le Muguet du Mai

Yesterday was la fête du travail here in France a.k.a. May Day and today Paris was a bit of a ghost town. Since this jour férié fell on a Thursday, a lot of people did a "pont" and took today off to make a four day weekend. This is VERY common in France. We'll have 2 other holidays this month which makes May a bit of a mini-August, because so many people faire le pont and have a month of long weekends. For those of us who work the holiday Fridays, it can be a nice change. Today my commute took less time and the office was very quiet since there were only two of us (both non-French).

It's common for people to sell and offer muguets (lily of the valley) on May 1st as a sign of good luck. I passed three stands selling them in between my front door and the bakery.

To read more about the May 1st muguet click here and here.
And for a photo pop over to ParisDailyPhoto.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The French Like Playboy

I saw this and had to link to it because it’s so comical. A train in the south of France was robbed and the thieves took (of all things) cushions with the Playboy logo.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Peanut vs. Almond


Like many Americans, I grew up with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and still eat them. Until recently, I was able to get very good organic peanut butter from my neighborhood Naturalia, but the last 3 to 4 times I went in, they were completely out. Each time I asked, they claimed that they would get more in the next delivery. The were either not receiving their shipments or pb is extremely popular in my neighborhood. My personal stash was getting to a dangerously low level, so I decided to give in and go with a substitute - almond butter. The taste is very different, but not objectionable. That said, it’s a temporary fix. I may need to start scouring other Naturalia’s and stock up when I find some pb, because ab&j sandwiches, just aren’t the same…

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sarko = Embarrassment?

When I read this article about the French being embarrassed about Sarko I laughed and had two simultaneous thoughts: 1) you voted for the bling president and you got him 2) now you understand how many Americans feel about Bush. Apparently Sarkozy is not meeting the culture standard that past presidents of the republic did. Some French are even hoping that Carla will reform Sarko – yeah, good luck with that. If Sarko continues to focus on being a celebrity, socializing with celebs and showing off his new trophy wife, then this may be just the beginning of many embarrassing years for the French.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Yet Another Strike

Surprise, surprise – there's another strike in France. This time it's the Le Monde journalists. I'm starting to believe that "Comment faire la grève" is a subject taught in French schools. Following a 20m euros loss last year, the paper is planning to cut jobs, most of them journalist positions and of course the journalists are not happy. Read about it here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

osteopath

A while back, I had a recurring pain in my right should that wouldn’t go away. I had the same thing a few years ago and my doctor diagnosed it as rotator cuff tendonitis-bursitis. She gave me a cortisone shot in the shoulder joint. This time around, following the advice of the boyfriend (a.k.a. the brit), I decided to go to an osteopath. Since I was an osteo-virgin, I asked the brit if I would have to remove any clothing and it was a good thing I did. For some reason I had pictured Dr. Osteo as a crotchety old know-it-all French doctor or an old hippy, so I was in for quite a shock. Not only was Dr. Osteo young, but he was cute. Cute in a “cute-little-French-guy-you-can-take-home-to-your-mother” way. As soon as I saw him I was glad that I wore bum-covering knickers because the only thing worse than having a male doctor see my bare backside is having a very cute male doctor see it…

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

mid-atlantic franglais


As an American, my default language is US English. That said, in the past couple of years, I’ve had problems sticking to it faithfully. I’m fluent in French and speak French with the roommate 90%-95% of the time. When I speak to her in English, she usuallyresponds in French (even though she speaks English). At work, the official working language is English, but I tend to go back and forth with my French colleagues. To confuse the situation even more, I work in the European HQ of an international company. Even though the global HQ is in the US, I write/edit marketing materials in UK English. The result is that my emails, IM messages and speech are often a mish-mash of US English, UK English and French. The boyfriend laughs when I do it and most of the time I don’t notice until he points it out. I told him that living in France has resulted in me becoming no-lingual instead of bilingual. I’m taking Spanish and so far it hasn’t crept into my daily language…fingers crossed that it stays that way.

(The photo is from a couple days ago, the morning after it snowed)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

love graffiti


Following Paris Daily Photo’s posting a few days ago, here’s my own photo of a declaration of love. This is on the floor of a metro station I sometimes pass through on the way home from work.

Friday, April 4, 2008

babysitting

This morning on the way to work, I was walking down the stairs and ran into a neighbor who lives a couple of floors below. This man has two young kids with his wife/partner. We’ve seen each other a few times but haven’t really talked much beyond bonjour. This morning he asked me if I did babysitting from time to time and I replied that I didn’t really have the time. Apparently I still look young enough to be considered for babysitting AND I trustworthy enough for someone who barely knows me to want to leave his young children with me. What a hoot. At the time I didn’t even consider that he might be desperate or crazy…

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

parisian parking

Sunday, March 30, 2008

the sarkos get friendly with the royals

Why Sarko wanted to be president – to hobnob with royalty
Why Sarkozette wanted to marry him – to be with someone who hobnobs with royalty (and let’s not forget the all important possession of nuclear power).

See photos of the royal hobnobbing
here and read some snippets here.