Thursday, 30 October 2014

My Friend The Maneater


Artichokes


am spending a few days back home, in France, and taking this as an opportunity to catch up with friends and family. The thing is, one of my good friends happens to be a maneater. She is bright, beautiful and absolutely charming. And of course she happens to be irresistible. She is French (I have yet to meet a British maneater). I love her to bits, but it dawned on me that I would never, ever, introduce her to my male friends (am I over-protective?), let alone my husband.

Does it make me a bad person or just someone who mitigates risks? I hope it's the latter.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Growing Older, French Style

Me, French, 40-something 

Last week was all about growing older gracefully - or not so gracefully, in some cases. You can't have missed the articles on Renee Zellweger: she was trashed in the press for not looking her age (45). What a load of rubbish! I personally thought that she looked lovely, and I didn't notice any drastic changes to her face. Speculation is rife as to the type of cosmetic procedures that she might have had.

Seriously, can we give her a break? Not to mention that I loved her dress, and she had a great body. What is wrong with people? Why can't they just, well, be nice?

Thursday, 23 October 2014

10 Things Not To Say To A French Expat In London


I learned the hard way that despite my brand new passport I will never be truly British. That said, the worst comments I get usually come from friends and family back in France. And to make matters even worse, I keep hearing them again and again. Frankly, it is becoming a bit tiring. Here they are...
1. 'Now you are a tax exile!' Well, here is a newsflash: I have to pay taxes in London too...and as I am renting out my flat in France, I still have to pay taxes there. Double the red tape for me. Not very efficient for a tax exile, right?
2. 'Don't you know any cheap hotels in London?' Nothing is cheap in London. Don't come here for cheap holidays. A single zone 1 tube ticket costs £4.70.  If you find a deal that's too good to me true, well, it probably is. £20 won't get you a night in Central London. This much I know.

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Best French Kisses...In French Literature


It is a well-known fact that, in London, everything sounds sexier in French. You get menus in French in most restaurants (most of them with awful spelling mistakes, I have to say). And just think of a French kiss if you are not convinced. Between you and me, I really don't understand why we French have such a reputation. I can only speculate. So here is my latest theory: maybe it is all because, in my view, the best descriptions of kisses can be found in French books. Because, let's face it, nobody describes a kiss (French or not) better than the French. As a geeky teenager completely lost in a sentimental desert, I used to devour every book to get some information as to how a kiss should feel. French authors were my confidants, they taught me everything. I remember reading such descriptions for days on end. It was the sort of stuff that was making my teenage self incredibly happy. 

The first description that I found was in Candide, written by Voltaire. Candide is a child of "the most unaffected simplicity", whose face is "the index of his mind". Candide is in love with Cunegund (whom I never really warmed up to, she is quite pedantic), and he kisses her at the end of the first chapter. Here it is:
"
Cunégonde laissa tomber son mouchoir, Candide le ramassa, elle lui prit innocemment la main, le jeune homme baisa innocemment la main de la jeune demoiselle avec une vivacité, une sensibilité, une grâce toute particulière ; leurs bouches se rencontrèrent, leurs yeux s'enflammèrent, leurs genoux tremblèrent, leurs mains s'égarèrent.
 "

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Bread & Yogurts, London Style

Usually, when I am in France, friends and family taunt me because they assume I can't find decent bread in London. Well, they couldn't be more wrong. I have better bread than when I was living in Paris. There is a lovely French boulangerie just around the corner. The owner happens to be from Bosnia, and learned to become a baker while working for the French army in Sarajevo. It is a very London story, isn't it? As a result, I have fresh bread, croissants and pains au chocolat every morning, and the short walk to get my morning pastries is always a pleasure, even when it is pouring. I just love it. Let's face it, it is even better than France. There it is. I said it.

In fact, in a funny way, I miss French yogurts in London. This is what the yogurt department looks like in my local supermarket, and even after more than 10 years over here it puzzles me.


Monday, 13 October 2014

Let's Not Talk About Sex, We Are British

image by stockarch - stockarch.com 

 The relationship between sex and the Brits never ceases to amaze me. It is all or nothing: they don't talk about it, and suddenly you can't stop them. This week, I witnessed such a behaviour again, in an odd and slightly creepy way. Let me explain: at 14 (almost 15, actually) my teenage daughter is getting more independent by the day. Seeing her starting to spread her wings is a pleasure, apart from the occasional panic attacks when she arrives home later than expected. It is hard to let go, but it is part of being a mum, I suppose. A few months back, despite being in an all-girls school, she told me that she had a boyfriend. He is the same age, and from a similar school. They seem to enjoy each other's company: they keep texting and snap chatting all the time, they meet up at the tube station, and once or twice a month they see each other with friends somewhere in London for a couple of hours.

The other day, she was with him and other classmates on the Tube. His arm was on her shoulder, and one of her teachers saw her. The following day, her form tutor asked to have a quiet word with her. She explained to my daughter that she had been seen 'fraternising' with a boy, and that she needed to be careful 'because boys might want other things'.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi



On the face of it, it was a beautiful day, and I decided to go for a pre-work run in Hyde Park. Everything was going extremely well, as it usually does after ten minutes or so of running (for some reason the first ten minutes are always excruciating, and then suddenly it is all fine), when it started pouring. I was drenched. And I must admit that I didn't like it. Everybody seemed undeterred, except for me. I am not that British yet, after all. Instead of running my usual two laps, I stopped at one, and waited for the rain to stop. It didn't. I ended up taking a phone call from a French client under a tree. That's when it happened: two guys, apparently work colleagues, passed by, heard me and started looking at me as if they had never seen anything like it before. And then, one of them said:
"- French women have a certain je-ne-sais-quoi, don't you think?"
I couldn't believe it: I was wearing black leggings and the first sport T-shirt that I could grab this morning, and they thought that I had a certain 'je-ne-sais-quoi-! Why? I was sweating and dripping at the same time. Not to mention my lovely ponytail. 

Monday, 6 October 2014

French Bashing


Why is French bashing so popular? Seriously, it is starting to get a bit annoying. Not to mention the fact that, after more than a decade, I have heard it all before. Don't get me wrong, I am not talking about some constructive criticism here, and I am the first one to admit that I am happier in London than in France, mainly because I find people more pragmatic. But seriously, what is it with the violent diatribes against the French? Things reached a new low last week with Andy Street's speech (you can read about it here). Basically he said that France was finished, and that we French were lazy lumps (that was implied, actually). He later claimed that his comments were tongue-in-cheek, and ended up apologising unreservedly. However, it was too late, the whole incident had already created quite a stir, and the French told him to go back home to have a fish and chips.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Top 10 Tell-Tale Signs I've Gone Native In The UK

Where Do I Go From here?

Where do I belong? I don't really know. I would like to be able to say that I am a 'citizen of the world', but the sad reality is that I am still very French, and becoming more British by the day. How can I tell? Well, little by little, I started to notice some changes in me. It came gradually, and I didn't see it at first. But here it is: I am going native. And I have identified the main signs of going native. Please reassure me and tell me I am not the only one. I am being brutally honest here...
1. I keep criticising the tabloid press but can't help having a look at the Dailymail online every day. Especially during my lunch. I know. But, you see, I am telling it as it is;

Monday, 29 September 2014

Do French Women Just Accept That Their Husbands Will Have Mistresses?

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Picasso

I have heard this one so many times over the last ten years that it is starting to wear me off. After so long, I thought that people would actually start to get to know me, and also to understand my values. But nope, it hasn't happened just yet, and it probably never will because of all the cliches on the French this side of the Channel. So let me make it crystal-clear for you: I don't know a single French woman who would accept that her husband has a mistress without being upset. None. Yep, you read that well.

If you don't believe me, just have a look at what Valerie Trierweiler, the ex-French First Lady, has written about how being cheated on made her feel. Suffice to say, she didn't enjoy it. Quite the opposite, in fact. She wanted to end it all. What happened to the so-called 'Gallic shrug' in case of an infidelity? Well, it didn't exist in the first place. And to make matters even more dramatic, Valerie Trierweiler took her revenge in a very public manner by writing a best seller. It clearly hurt the President, who was already very unpopular, and made her a fortune along the way. Never underestimate a scorned woman, I say.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

High Functioning Maybe, But With Serious Mental Issues

Venice: Lovely Facades, But What About Foundations?

London is the city of all superlatives. I recently read that London has overtaken London as the world’s most expensive city.

I am not surprised. That said, I think the London also holds the sad record of high functioning people with hidden mental issues. I attended a party over the weekend. I thought that it would be lovely to catch up with friends and acquaintances. The food was indeed amazing. They served, amongst other things, delicious little pizzas with mozzarella melting on top of them. Who can resist pizzas? I certainly can’t. Neither could my teenage daughter, actually.

So, us being us, we tried the mini pizzas and ended up having quite a few. They were really tasty. Then, it dawned on me that we were the only one eating them. In fact, apart from another woman who had had a couple of grilled prawns, nobody except us had touched the gorgeous food. How weird! I naively thought that pizza was the teenage food by excellence, and there were lots of teenagers. Well, I was clearly wrong. What was going on?

Monday, 22 September 2014

How To Date A French Man

Dating Isn't Aways Plain Sailing (Port Moresby)


It happened again over the weekend. I caught up with a friend of mine. She explained to me that she had just met this French guy, and that she really liked him. And then, she asked me the dreaded question:
"- So, tell me, what should I do? Do you have any advice as to how to date a Frenchman?"
I started to panic. The thing is, I have not played the dating game for a very long time. I tried to mumble something about just being yourself, but I don't think that it made the cut. In short, she left without an intelligible answer. I thought about her question for a long time, and started remembering that, because of my engineering studies and my various technical jobs, I used to be surrounded by men. More often than not, I used to be the only woman in a meeting/project/office...After all, she was probably right to ask the question, because I had to learn how to read guys. It was a survival matter, really. So here is what I should have told her. Better late than never, right? Here we go...

1. There are no rules. 
Unlike in the US, there is no specific plan as to what you need to do at the first, second or third date. You can go as fast or as slow as you want. You are in control. Obviously, he often will want to go fast, but it is up to you to slow him down, if you so wish. Now you are warned.