Friday, February 29, 2008

1st weekend

My first weekend in my current apartment was nearly two years ago. At the time, I wasn’t shocked but now that I look back at it I’m amazed I didn’t immediately start looking for a new place to live. There was a big sporting event going on and my new roommate went out with her boyfriend at the time and another friend who it turned out was one of her ex’s. In a previous post I referred to him as Francois, so I’ll stick with that name to avoid confusion.

I woke up Saturday morning to find Francois, in briefs and nothing else, passed out on the clic-clac in the main room. I wasn’t home when the roommate, her boyfriend and Francois left the previous night so semi-naked and unconscious was how I first “met” Francois. The roommate had left a note for me, which I didn’t see, explaining that Francois had a run-in with a drunk and violent guy the previous night. The encounter resulted in Francois getting hit, falling and hitting his head on the ground. Rather than taking him to a hospital, the roommate and boyfriend brought him back to our apartment. In her note she also mentioned that this was the first time something like this had happened and I shouldn’t be concerned. The funny thing is that I wasn’t concerned. Even though I didn’t see her note I didn’t even blink at walking out to Francois in his underwear in the main room. I just thought “oh, there’s an undressed guy I’ve never seen on the clic-clac”, got some breakfast and went about my day. It has to be a result of living in France, because I think my reaction would have been quite different a few years earlier.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

election craziness

It appears that Hillary isn’t the only one losing it over the presidential election. An Obama supporter in Philadelphia ended up in the hospital with stab wounds after being attacked by his Clinton supporting brother-in-law. Read about it here.

Friday, February 22, 2008

credit card for women

It's probably difficult to read the posters in these photos, I noticed them for the first time on the way to work this morning. When I saw them again at a different Bred branch near the office, I had to take photos. Bred bank is offering a credit card called Bred Affinity that is "La premiere carte bancaire dédiée aux femmes" (or loosely translated the first credit card specifically for women). From a quick glance at the site, I can't tell what the big difference is between this card and existing credit cards other than the designs, but since I know I won't be getting one any time soon I don't have the patience to look deeper. This new card plus my recent women are becoming men experience exemplify the (not so) subtle differences between the US and France when it comes to gender and what can be done and said publicly. I can imagine the reaction if an American bank tried something like Bred’s credit card for women. Lawyers would start filing lawsuits before the ink on the posters dried....

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

oui, j'suis americaine

When I moved to France for grad school a few years ago, people would sometimes ask me if I was English, which I found a bit insulting. I already spoke French and even though it had been several years since my study abroad in France, I was able to “me débrouiller” soon after moving. I’m not sure why some people thought I was English, since my accent when I speak French does not sound English (at least not to my ears). After I’d been in France for about a year, my accent would prompt the question - “Vous venez des Antilles?” Umm, getting closer but no.

Other guesses have included The Netherlands, Mexico and the most recent was Morocco. This was from a cab driver who said I had a slight accent he couldn’t place. Inevitably, when I tell French people that I’m American they want to know where I learned to speak French and they’re surprised that I speak French so well (i.e. I can say more than bonjour and merci). I know that Americans don’t have a reputation for being able to speak anything other than US English (and some can barely handle that), but is it really so surprising that a number of us are able to communicate in another language? I doubt I’ll ever lose my accent, so I’ll just continue responding “J’suis américaine” or “Je viens des États-Unis” and hope people won't always ask for the history of my language education.

Monday, February 18, 2008


I understand you smokers have an addiction and you need your nicotine fix, but please have some consideration and exhale completely BEFORE getting on the bus/entering the building. Breathing out a trail of smoke as you come in is quite obnoxious for us non-smokers.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

supermodel first lady = normal

The new Mrs Sarkozy supposedly thinks of herself as normal and simple. Since when is being a former supermodel, coming from a wealthy family, dating rock stars AND snagging the president of France considered “normal” or “simple”?? Read Sarkozette’s L’Express interview (in French) here and to find out more about how the two met, go here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

pharmacy or the sorbonne?

I went by the pharmacy to pick up a couple of prescriptions I had dropped off Saturday and when I entered, the (female) pharmacist was speaking with a customer about how women had become like men and years ago something like this never would have happened and today people have no souls. I patiently waited my turn and gave her my slip for the prescriptions. She continued babbling about people buying guns (or something along these lines, I was only half-listening), while I tried a couple of times to tell her that I needed to purchase an additional item. I kept thinking “Just shut up, get my stuff and tell me how much I owe already.”

She lowered her voice even though there was no one else around, other than the two (men) employees and told me that a woman motorcyclist had run over a pedestrian just in front of the pharmacy and kept driving. I responded with what I thought was an appropriate eyebrow raise and said “ah, bon?”. The woman looked at me while one of the other employees commandeered the computer for something. I could tell that she was waiting for my outrage to come pouring out at the unbelievable idea that a woman, a WOMAN (insert gasp) could do something so heartless.

Getting into a long French philosophical conversation about how the genders were no longer distinguishable according to behavior, was really not high on my things-I-must-do list. As I stood there I had a couple of thoughts running through my head 1) how do I get out of this quickly without seeming rude and 2) this is a large city, why is a hit and run such a catastrophe, just because it was a woman driving. Shouldn’t the anger be because any human would just drive off?

Part of me considered using the “I’m foreign” route to try to escape but I wasn’t really sure how to insert that without coming off as an insensitive idiot since obviously Ms. Pharmacist believed that anyone and everyone should be upset at this story. So I just stood there. I guess she got the idea that I didn’t want to talk and rang up my order. I think next time I might go to the other pharmacy down the street. They aren’t as friendly but I can get out much faster without trying to figure out some culturally correct conversation escape…

Sunday, February 10, 2008

high heels = better sex?

According to an Italian doctor, (of course this type of story had to come from either Italy or France) wearing high heels can improve your sex life. I find wearing heels in Paris impractical, due to all the walking, stairs in the metro, crevices in between the stones where it’s easy to get heels caught etc. I’m also skeptical, because of the small sample size used for this study. Dr Maria Cerruto claims that wearing 2 inch heels improves pelvic floor muscles and reduces electric activity (huh?). Read about it here and here. Perhaps I need to go get some heels before the soldes end, just in case this is true…

Saturday, February 9, 2008

seattleites show support for Obama

I’ve intentionally avoided talking about politics on this blog, but this post makes me proud to be a Seattleite. I was split between Obama and Hillary, until the Clinton camp started mud-slinging and trying to make the campaign about ethnicity. That decided it for me. Read more about Obama drawing an audience of 21,000 Seattleites here and here.

you know you’re a Seattleite in Paris when…part deux

Here’s the second part of my composite You know you’re a Seattleite in Paris when list. On a completely unrelated note, the weather is very nice today in Paris (nice for February at least). If this keeps up, we may be in for an early summer.

  • When you're discussing rainforests and volcanoes, you're NOT talking about Hawaii.

  • You remember the Kingdome. (I was working in Pioneer Square when it was imploded)

  • You have tried to forget about WTO. (WTO was a serious pain in the butt, I took the bus to work at the time and the bus couldn’t go through downtown because of the protestors.)

  • The guy at 8:30 am at Starbucks wearing the baseball cap and sunglasses who looks like Phyllis Diller is really a tranny named Eva Destruction that used to play with Hole. (this one doesn’t apply, but I had to leave it in just for the humor)

  • Your mayor is straight, 1/2 your friends are gay, the man who delivers your mail has a bumper sticker that reads "when they pry it from my cold dead fingers....", and your Burger World drive thru order taker was a computer millionaire last week. (ok, maybe a bit longer than last week)

  • You consider Boulogne, Neuilly, Saint-Denis etc to be the countryside. I mean, Porte de Versailles or Porte de la Villette mean there IS a door, and therefore an outside and an inside, right? (not the countryside, but they are definitely not the city)

  • You know that a martini means a martini, and not that gross vermouth and gin mixture.

  • You find it normal that someone is randomly peeing in the street. (unfortunate but true)

  • You peed in the street at least once in your life. (this was in a city in southeastern France, not Paris)

  • You're surprised when someone holds the door for you at the subway exit. (or any door for that matter)

  • You're even more surprised when a sales person asks if you're looking for something in particular. Actually that would never happen. (this has never happened to me in France)

  • "Putain", "bordel", "merde" or the ever famous "putain de bordel de merde" are not considered "bad words".

  • You know that Paris is not a city, it's an attitude. (and what an attitude…)

Friday, February 8, 2008

you know you’re a Seattleite in Paris when…

You’ve probably seen the You know you’re from (insert city) when…lists. I decided to take the applicable parts from the Seattle and Paris lists to create my own You know you’re a Seattleite in Paris when list. It's long so I’ll split it into two posts…

  • You have a very strong opinion about where your coffee beans are grown, and you can taste the difference between Sumatran and Ethiopian. (I’m not that bad, but I am particular about coffee)
  • You feel guilty throwing an aluminum can in the trash.
  • You use the words "sun break" and know what it means. (this isn’t the actual term?)
  • You know at least eight people who work for either Microsoft or Boeing. (I have to include former employees to get up to 8)
  • You invite twice as many people as you really want to a party since only half will actually show up. (I'm not convinced that only Seattleites do this)
  • You know what Lutefisk is. (no I am NOT from Ballard!)
  • You personally know someone from Alaska. (I haven’t kept in touch with her, but a former manager is from Alaska)
  • You consider floating bridges a pain in the butt, not an engineering marvel. (no one who's lived in Seattle would use the term "marvel")
  • You know how to pronounce "Sequim", "Puyallup" and "Issaquah." (btw, for any French people reading this, Seattle has 3 syllables not 2)
  • You use more than 5 words to order a cup of coffee. "I want to order an unleaded, double, short, skinny, wet cappuccino with a shot of Amaretto please." (if isn’t espresso or café crème in France, don’t you need at least 5 words?)
  • You consider it a sunny day if the sun is visible at some point of the day. (That IS sunny!!)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

french flirting begins at a young age

Tonight on the way home I had another cute experience of how friendly French boys can be. The bus was crowded and after some shifting, I ended up standing next to a stroller. During the ride, I felt a slight tug on my coat and when I looked down I saw that the little boy in the stroller had grabbed my coat. He started gently rubbing the coat and I assumed he liked the feel of the leather. I had second thoughts about that when I realized something had changed. The boy’s small hand was now under my coat rubbing the side of my leg, by the knee. He lifted his hand for a second and I quickly inserted the coat between my leg and his hand. He looked at me with big eyes and grabbed my coat again, but this time about an inch higher – grab, rub, pause, grab rub pause. A couple of stops later his mother gently removed his hand (for the second time) and they were off. What do you think he’ll be like in 20 years…

Saturday, February 2, 2008

franglais and sarko gets hitched

The boyfriend forwarded this article about speaking franglais, something which I have been known to do more often than I'd like to admit. A couple of amusing franglais examples come from a friend who lived with a French speaking family in Belgium during her senior year of highschool. Once when she was feeling sick she said “Je suis malade, j'ai besoin de vomiter” (the proper verb is vomir). Another occured when she was have breakfast with her host family and asked if the yoghurt had “preservatifs”. FYI – un preservatif = a condom. Fortunately her family had a sense of humor.

On an unrelated note, Sarkozy has married his ex-wife's sister. Not really, but the Carla-Cecilia resemblance can't be missed. Now that Sarko and Bruni are officially hitched, foreign goverments don't have to worry about protocol issues (i.e. where does she sleep and where does she sit during dinner.)

Read about Sarko and the new Mrs. here, here or here.