Category Archives: French Culture

Random news about France…

By   February 25, 2008

Gastronomy: Sarko declared French food the best in the world and wants it recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Umm, how does food qualify as a place? And is anyone else really sick of people saying French food is better than all other food? How snobby can you get? Anyway, if you register on the World Heritage website, you can receive a free wall map of the 851 actual sites. I’m sorry, but French food would not fit nicely on this map.

Cost of Living: The price of some staple foods (bread, rice, pasta, butter, yogurt, etc.) has risen as much as 48% since November. Even the price of one baguette will be 0.90 € soon. (Back when Francs were still used, one baguette cost one Franc, or 0.15 € !!) The price of gas has been rising too, of course. I recently calculated that a gallon of gas in France would cost $7.50 in the US, so no American should ever complain about how “expensive” gas is there. This is why I’m so poor, people.

Education: There’s a new website for French students to rate their teachers, Note2be, which has outraged French teachers everywhere. Teachers are trying to get the site shut down but that’s not really what surprises me about this story. has been around for like 10 years, hasn’t it? I can’t believe a site dedicated to rating French teachers hasn’t already been created. Yet another reason why I feel like I’m living in the past.

Film: Marion Cotillard won the Oscar, César, BAFTA, every other major award for movies in the world for her role as Edith Piaf in La Môme. She’s the only winner of an Oscar for a role in the French language. En plus, her father is Jean-Claude Cotillard, the mime in French in Action! I love the Cotillard family!

Politics: Gaston Flosse was recently (re-)elected president of French Polynesia (Tahiti and all those other islands that no one knows about) and France isn’t too happy about it. Similar to New Caledonia, French Polynesia is an “overseas collectivity” and the citizens are technically French citizens. However, some Polynesians want full independence. Flosse is actually “pro-autonomy” – he wants French Polynesia to remain French – while his main opponent of 30 years, Oscar Temaru, is “pro-independence.” But that didn’t stop them from forming an alliance that ensured Flosse would get elected. Temaru suddenly withdrew his bid for presidency and gave the support of his 20 MP’s to Flosse, who beat out Gaston Tong Sang by a vote of 29 to 27. France had been supporting Tong Sang because he is pro-autonomy (and not supporting Flosse because of past corruption issues…). As a result of the Flosse-Temaru alliance, the UMP (Sarko’s party) has broken all ties with Flosse even though he remains a member. Doesn’t this sound like a movie???

That crazy Sarkozy!

By   February 24, 2008

Sarko insulted a random man at the Salon de l’Agriculture yesterday because the man told Sarko not to touch him. Politely translated, the exchange went something like this:

Man: Don’t touch me.
Sarko: Then get lost.
Man: You disgust me.
Sarko: Get lost, poor jerk!

(Sarkozy actually said casse-toi and pauvre con, which can be much more rudely translated…)

It’s great to see the president of the Republic of France act so polite and reserved to the general public. Maybe he’s just grumpy about his record low approval ratings or maybe he really is that big of a meanie.

In any case, I think it’s a little suspicious that all of the videos of the insult have been deleted from Dailymotion, the French counterpart of YouTube. Of course you can still watch the video on YouTube:

And someone has already created a Casse-toi, pauvre con blog, which I find hilarious.

Making fun of awful presidents is fun in any language!

French shopping my way

By   February 18, 2008

To encourage my agoraphobia even more (ok, I’m not really agoraphobic, I just hate people and I hate shopping), I ordered LaRedoute and 3Suisses catalogs so I could shop from home. I could just as easily shop from their websites, but I prefer looking through real pages rather than adding even more minutes hours to the exorbitant amount of time I spend online already.

Plus shopping in France is 10,000 times more stressful than shopping in the US. It doesn’t matter what day or what time you go, the stores will be packed with people young and old, which you assumed would be at school or work. But you were wrong. And there will be no salespeople to help you. Ever. This is why I choose to avoid French stores like the plague.

Anyway, both catalogs arrived the same day. Both are ridiculously heavy and include a Chèque-Réduction as well as offers of a Cadeau Gratuit. LaRedoute will give me 20 € off of a purchase of 50 € or more, whereas 3Suisses will give me 11 € off of 20 € or more. 3Suisses wins round one.

And the free gifts? They’re almost exactly the same. Orange and yellow silverware with either table mats and napkins (LaRedoute) or plates (3Suisses). Ooh, 3Suisses wins again because momma needs more plates.

Plus if I order 3 items from 3Suisses, I will get another free gift: un superbe collier STAR ACADEMY. Umm, no thanks. LaRedoute wins for not shoving a crappy “gift” from a crappy show at me.

If anyone wants to order stuff from either place, they have parrainage (invite a friend?) plans. From LaRedoute, you would get un sac week-end et sa pochette, 20% off your entire order, and the catalog for free. From 3Suisses, you would get un sac Ines de la Fressange, 25% off one item and the catalog for free. I would get to choose from 5 or 6 gifts, none of which I really want (luggage, bedding, a wok, a vacuum?), so I’d end up giving it to you anyway. LaRedoute wins the final round.

I guess the score is tied, but either way, I’m never stepping foot in a French clothing store again. Now if only I could do all of my grocery shopping online…

Buying furniture in France, or why I miss dad’s big blue truck

By   February 9, 2008

We had to buy a new sommier (box spring) today because our old one was held up with books. Thank you Harry Potter for not letting our mattress fall to the ground. I’m still amazed at how cheaply-made beds are in France. Thin wood held together with staples, what a genius idea. That wood will never snap in the middle of the night and scare the bejeezus out of someone who was finally catching up on sleep.

Since we know absolutely no one with a truck or van, we had to find a store that delivers furniture for barely anything since a) we were only going to spend 100 € on the sommier, and b) we’re poor. Ikea and Conforama charged a bit too much for delivery, plus we’re too impatient to wait for things to be in stock, and Darty only sells appliances (but they do have free delivery!)

We settled on Carrefour because it was really our only option. We found a sommier we could afford, but of course, could not find a single worker to help us. After trips to the accueil and the mafia-looking security men at the entrance, we discovered that Carrefour doesn’t deliver anyway, but you can borrow one of their trucks and do the work yourself for free (up to one hour). They just need a copy of your driver’s license and a deposit check for 153 €.

So we filled out the paperwork to borrow the truck first and then went back in the store to try to buy the sommier. After a 5 minute chat with one of David’s friends (because there will always be someone you know at Carrefour on a Saturday morning), the worker who had disappeared for 25 minutes when we first arrived had magically reappeared. We paid for the sommier and mafia man escorted us outside, lighting his cigarette as soon as he stepped out of the door. I think we made his day by giving him a legitimate excuse to go outside and smoke. He even gave us extra time so we could stop by the déchetterie to drop off our broken sommier on the way back without going over the one hour limit.

The truck was parked at the other end of the parking lot. Logical, I know. First of all, it wasn’t really a truck, but the dirtiest minivan I had ever seen. Boxes and styrofoam and plastic wrap were all over the place, and there were what appeared to be holes punched into the interior wood walls. I can’t even describe it properly, so here’s a picture I snapped as soon as we took off:

We arrived home at noon, drug the new sommier upstairs, and were about to take the old sommier downstairs when we realized the stupid déchetterie is closed between noon and 2pm. Of course. 99% of places are closed between noon and two in France, including a freaking garbage/recycling center!!

So I set up the sommier, with the help of Canaille, while David took the “truck” back to Carrefour. Though Canaille really just wanted to eat the cardboard…

And generally get in the way….

So now we’re left with an ugly broken sommier in the hallway. It will most likely stay there until the first Wednesday of March, when our town lets everyone put out their old furniture by the road so that the city will take it away to the déchetterie. We just missed February’s pick up date, which was 3 days ago. ::sigh::

I had just gotten my hallway back – we had our dishwasher sitting there for like 2 months because we had no way of transporting it to David’s parents’ garage. So we just moved it back into the loggia (small pantry-like room), where we can’t use it because there’s only one water hookup (for the washing machine), about 2 days ago. ::double sigh::

So I guess the moral of the story is to become friends with a Frenchie who owns a truck.

Super Duper Tuesday

By   February 5, 2008

I had my students vote in a fake primary today. The ballots were just as entertaining as the class. Can you understand the pictures next to the names? I think it’s hilarious.

Barack Obama and John McCain were the winners, although no one had heard of any of the Republican candidates and I did get two write-ins for Alan, the tall funny guy in the class who I’m pretty sure drew the above pictures.

*Le Barack Obama is supposed to be le baraque Obama – the Obama house. Baraque is a slang word for house, stand, shed, etc. The French fry next to McCain is for the McCain brand of frozen potato products. Another student wrote “Vive les frites!” under his vote for McCain. I’m guessing that was the only reason they voted for him…

This amuses me to no end.

By   January 9, 2008

The other night on TF1, the news mentioned Mike Huckabee’s win at the Iowa caucus. But they didn’t talk about his political positions or anything relevant to the election… no, no, they talked about how his home-state of Arkansas is one of ten states in the US that bans the sale of alcohol.

Except alcohol is not illegal everywhere in those states. There are a lot of dry counties in the south, but to say that the sale of alcohol is completely illegal is an exaggeration. But I guess the French will never understand the concept of making alcohol illegal when they drink wine at every meal and even serve it to teachers at public schools.

Here’s the video clip if you understand French.

I like the interview at a Kentucky distillery where an employee said he would get in trouble (and possibly even jail time) if he let the tourists touch or taste the bourbon. LOL Who the heck goes to a distillery as a tourist?

And you gotta love the Baptist preacher who said alcohol is the drink of the devil! Ooh, and notice the obligatory reference to Al Capone near the end. When French people think of the US, they think cowboys and gangsters. And how many Americans actually remember who Al Capone is or what he did? Besides the ones who saw The Untouchables?

Laws based on extreme religious views are never a good idea. Especially since dry counties actually have a higher number of alcohol-related traffic accidents! I may be against alcohol, and hate the way that French people judge me for not drinking alcohol, but seriously, the drink of the devil?

I’m always amused at French people’s reaction to Prohibition and the strict laws against drinking alcohol that still exist today. I just wish I could make them understand how religious the US still is, and how the separation of church and state doesn’t really exist like it should…

C’est pas TERrible.

By   December 17, 2007

This summer, SNCF introduced new tickets for the TER trains. They are the size of a credit card, so they waste less paper and are easier to carry. However, they are nearly impossible to “composter” in the darn yellow machines. I have to shove my ticket in at least 3 times before it will work; that is, if it does work at all. The composteurs were made for the regular size tickets that you get from the ticket counter or the yellow automatic machines, not for these tiny little pieces of frustration. It doesn’t matter how many times you serre your ticket a gauche, or turn it around, it just beeps at you endlessly.

I’ve been noticing a lot of composteurs en panne lately, in about 5 different stations. Hmm, coincidence? I think not. The station near my work only has two machines, and neither one worked for over 2 months. So we had to wait in line at the counter and get our tickets stamped. Annoying! And now, every single machine in Annecy is hors service. Every single one.

So in rebellion, I was going to continue buying regular tickets from the yellow machines regardless of how much paper it wastes. Oh, but I can’t because with the recent schedule changes between Annecy and my work, I always have to change trains in La-Roche-sur-Foron, which means NO TRAINS show up on the yellow machines because they’re not direct trajets. So I am forced to buy these stupid little TER tickets and swear at the composteurs for not accepting them.

At least I don’t have to ride another train until 2008!

Je suis de mauvaise humeur.

By   November 24, 2007

The strike is finally over! Well, almost. I don’t have to take a train again until Friday, so I’m happy. I want to know why the SNCF thinks they can replace a train with one little bus and think there will be enough room for everyone. Luckily I work close to the provenance of the line, or else I wouldn’t have made it home on Friday night. Just about everyone (mostly students) goes back to Annecy on Friday nights, so I knew there would be a problem with the lame autocar. And sure enough, one stop after I managed to get on the bus, we had to leave 20 or so students stranded at the station because there were no seats left. I have no idea how they got home.

Add to that the stress of being 30 minutes late and most likely missing the connection to Lyon, people were complaining and yelling the entire ride back to Annecy. I couldn’t wait to get off that bus and get home. I was so stressed out just listening to the people around me, even though I knew David would be waiting for me in Annecy.

Most days when I get home from work, I just want to change into my pajamas and crawl into bed right away because I’m so tired. With the strike the last two weeks, I’ve been in a really bad mood in addition to being dead-tired. I’m so angry and stressed for no real reason. Well, I guess the reason is dealing with angry French people during a public transportation strike.

It’s times like these that I really miss the US. And my car. France is so small and crowded; I’m forced to be in close contact with random people all the time and I hate it. I miss the privacy and independence and vastness of the US. And Thanksgiving. At least I had some friends over this year unlike last year. We had escalopes of turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, stuffing, green beans, and pumpkin pie. But having to work the day of Thanksgiving and the day after, as well as trying to teach Thanksgiving to French kids who really don’t care about the holiday, makes me really sad.

Back to searching for an automatic car…

Chez le dentiste

By   November 19, 2007

Good news: Dentist appointments in France last about 10 minutes.

I’ve never had any problems with my teeth in my life (not one single cavity!), but since I haven’t been to the dentist since before I moved to France, I thought I’d better go. The dentist was talking so incredibly fast, so I’m not sure if I understood everything. But he said my teeth looked fine, did a tiny bit of scraping off of tartar, and that was that. No “polishing” with disgusting sandy toothpaste, definitely no painful flossing, no fluoride that makes me drool, no x-rays that make me gag, no berating for not having my wisdom teeth removed. He told me I didn’t need to come back for another year. I love French dentists.

I could understand simple words like carie, gencive, and bactérie, but it took me forever to figure out what type of toothpaste he was recommending. An hour after getting home, I realized he had said dentifrice au bicarbonate – toothpaste with baking soda, a.k.a. the brand Sensodyne (SEN-suh-dine and sahn-soh-deen aren’t that different sounding after all). And a souple toothbrush. I’m still trying to figure out a few other words he said though; something that sounded like chaussement or chaussant… I think it referred to gums?

Usually whenever I have to go to appointments like this, I tell the doctor right away that I’m American and hope they dumb down their language so I can understand them. At least they speak slower, but not this guy. I should have faked the stereotypical American accent (I’m blessed/cursed with a rather good accent in French); but something tells me he wouldn’t have really cared.