Category Archives: French Culture

Food confusion

By   August 17, 2007

Last night, David decided he wanted to make fajitas. So we went to Leclerc and finally found the tiny international section (international meaning Mexican and Chinese). There was one brand of fajita mix, Tex-Mex something, so we grabbed it and started collecting the other ingredients… onion, pepper, chicken… and corn? I never ate Mexican food much in the US because I can’t handle spicy food, but I’ve never heard of a fajita made with corn.

A lot of French people ask me about Mexican food because they seem to be fascinated by it. Unfortunately, I don’t even really know the difference between an enchilada and a burrito. I described tacos to David and he seemed to want to try them. Though there was a little miscommunication with the word tortilla. Apparently in North America, a tortilla is the soft shell used to wrap up the food, while in Spain and South America, a tortilla is an omelette with potatoes.

There was a similar confusion with the word kebab. In France, kebab refers to döner kebabs, which are similar to gyros or shawarma, eaten with pita bread. But when I hear the word kebab, I think of shish kebabs, pieces of meat shoved on a stick and cooked over a grill (les brochettes).

Not that I ever really eat these types of food. I’m still a pasta, pizza, nutella, and cereal girl.

Nerdiest post of the month

By   August 16, 2007

Since I’m slightly obsessed with geography and memorizing states/provinces/capital cities in North America, I decided to finally start learning all of the départements of France. Not just their assigned numbers, but their locations, main cities, and the region to which they belong. The numbers correspond to alphabetical order (somewhat), so it’s not so hard, but there’s just so many of them!

Useful sites for learning the departments (in case anyone is as nerdy as me):

Wikipedia Departments of France – list of numbers, departments, and main cities

Interactive Map of French Departments – roll the cursor over a department to see its number, name, and region

Departments of France Game – I will not stop until I get 100% on this game!

P.S. That last site also has tons of learning games for geography, history, languages, science, etc. My new favorite site!


By   August 8, 2007

I went to another “most beautiful village in France” this morning. Yvoire is on the southern shore of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) and the city walls built in the 14th century still stand today. The weather was horrible and rainy, so my pictures aren’t as pretty as the ones on the official tourism site.

Sometimes I don’t fully appreciate these little places full of history (Yvoire turned 701 this year) because they’re so overrun with tourists and modern things. I had trouble imagining what life was like in that tiny medieval village hundreds of years ago. I thought the way the back of this house was built into the exterior wall of the city was cool though:

The reason I was in northern Haute-Savoie this morning was for David’s job. He had to do some interviews in Thonon-les-Bains and Sciez, but he knew they would be really short, so I went with him and read my new vocabulary books while he was working. Getting up at 7:15 am is hard when you haven’t had to in several months. Also, A LOT of Swiss people drive to France to dump their garbage. One of the interviews at a Tennis Club was located next to the déchetterie and more than half of the people driving in there were Swiss. (This is because Switzerland requires its citizens to pay for household garbage to be collected as an incentive to recycle more – which works since Switzerland is one of the top recyclers in the world. However, this also causes the cheap Swiss citizens to dump their garbage in neighboring countries…)

Désolée, je passe du coq à l’âne… I’m starting to freak out about not having my new carte de séjour yet, so we called the préfecture to see why it still has not arrived even though it was supposedly in Paris on June 26 – but the woman couldn’t tell us anything. And I couldn’t actually go there and talk to anyone since they’re closed to the public on Wednesday afternoons (of course!), so I’m storming in there at 8:30 AM tomorrow morning. I have a fear that the card has been lost and I’ll have to start all over again, or that the card has an October expiration date on it, and I’ll have to start all over again… Plus I’m worried how it will affect my application to exchange my driver’s license. I highly doubt they will accept a récépissé that expires in a week instead of the actual card. Or in the worst situation, they decide to not let me have a carte de séjour visiteur after all because they don’t understand/care about PACSing, which means I would be illegal here AND not be able to get a French driver’s license (at least not the cheap/easy way). I know I’m probably overreacting and jumping to conclusions… but still, I want to be prepared for the worst.

Am I really posting about television?

By   August 6, 2007

Since I spend/waste a lot of time watching TV these days, I thought I’d give you a sample of my channel choices. I do live in a dégroupée area, so I have 150 “cable” channels. However, when you realize what these channels actually are, it’s not as cool. But since our TV/internet/telephone costs only 30 € a month, I think it’s great as we would have to pay 2-3 times that much for the same thing in the US.

No Life – Video game channel (I’m not kidding, it’s really called this)
Poker Channel – Can you say boring? Boring times ten?
Karaoke Channel – You can even turn off the crappy voice singing in the background so everyone can hear your crappy voice instead.
Parliamentary Channel – And I thought the Poker channel was the most boring thing on television.
AB Moteurs – Like a Nascar channel, only French and classy.
GOD TV – GOD WANTS YOU TO SIT ON THE COUCH AND WATCH TV ALL DAY! (Jeux et Television) – Stupid non-stop call-in games that seem like scams to me.

There are several music videos channel that ::gasp:: play music videos. And then there’s MTV Europe. Plus lots of exciting foreign channels, like Romania International, TV Bulgaria, Armenia Public TV and Georgian TV. There seem to be a ton of Turkish, Arabic and Chinese channels too.

We also have “Free Home Video” (no idea why the name is in English) for an extra 6 € a month. We have 24 hour access to several movies and series (only those produced by Warner Brothers though). A lot of the movies suck because they are from the 80’s and early 90’s, but I’ve started watching series that I never watched in the US, such as FBI: Portés Disparus (Without a Trace) and New York 911 (Third Watch). I like reminiscing about New York when I watch these shows, but I think the main reason I like to watch them so much is that I can change the audio to English. I absolutely hate American shows dubbed in French. The voices are always awful and lips that don’t match with the words drive me crazy.

Je n’arrive pas à croire que je viens d’écrire au sujet de la télé en France. J’ai besoin de quelque chose à faire !

Fromage Facile?

By   August 3, 2007

A few months ago, my dad sent me some Easy Cheese in a care package (along with Peanut Butter M&Ms and Paydays, among other American goodies). David was happy to try everything in the box… except for that suspicious spray can full of “cheese.” Cheddar cheese is not as prevalent in France as it is in the US, and although David likes cheddar cheese, there was no way he was going to eat a processed cheese product that one sprays on crackers.

But he couldn’t resist. My French amour loves to try new things, regardless of how awful they look. Surprisingly, he actually likes Easy Cheese. Mr. I don’t know if I can live abroad because I wouldn’t be able eat all 350 kinds of French cheese likes to eat Easy Cheese. An American-made cheese.

Dad has since sent me two more bottles of Easy Cheese. They are nearly gone. Every time we have people over to the apartment, David whips out the Easy Cheese and entices them to try it. The majority of them say non as soon as they see the can. How can cheese that comes in a can possibly be good? But David persists, trying to make his friends experience new things. His friends sit in horror as he eats that orange gel on a Ritz. I laugh to myself thinking of David’s good-natured determination compared to his friends’ rejection of all things unFrench, which are therefore undesirable and unhealthy.

Just wait for Cheez Wiz, ma France. I will force you to like cheddar cheese one of these days!

Le Tour de France

By   July 14, 2007

Le Tour de France is in Haute-Savoie today! Unfortunately, it’s not coming to Annecy, but the route is northeast of here. The cyclists just went through Bonneville and they will end in Le Grand Bornand, a popular ski destination.

Today is also la fête nationale (NOT independence day, even though many Anglophones call it that). The fireworks in our town were last night though, as only the large cities have fireworks on the actual 14th.

Les Soldes

By   July 3, 2007

The semi-annual sales are taking place right now in France. The government allows stores to have sales twice a year, once in January and once in July. I didn’t feel like shopping much in January when I had the worst flu of my life, so I decided to take advantage of the second round of soldes. The problem is… I absolutely hate shopping. I hate trying on clothes. I hate deciding what I might need. I hate spending money. And I really don’t have much money to spend anyway since my bills are more than my measly income right now.

Truth be told, the sales are actually a little disappointing. After being bombarded with bright yellow signs indicating SOLDES in nearly every store, I found that a lot of the merchandise wasn’t actually on sale. The things that I really wanted were still too expensive for me. Though it is nice that most of the stuff on sale was 50-70 % off.

Nevertheless, I managed to buy five shirts and a hat for 60 €. And five new cahiers d’exercices for 20 €. I’ve become obsessed with buying these educational workbooks for foreign languages because they’re 4 € each, and they teach just as much useful grammar and vocabulary as books designed for adults, but which cost 3 or 4 times as much.

La Fête de la Musique

By   June 22, 2007

The first day of summer is celebrated by la fête de la musique everywhere in France. Big cities have huge outdoor celebrations for all sorts of music. The one in Paris is televised, of course.

Since I live in a suburb of Annecy, the local fête here was rather small – it was actually nothing more than one song in Arabic. That was recorded. And lasted for four hours.

David told me the music traditionally doesn’t stop until 6 AM. Luckily there was silence by midnight so I could attempt to sleep, but I still had a lingering feeling that I was somehow still in Egypt.


By   June 20, 2007

I’ve been to the doctor three times already in France (four if you count the visite medicale required for the carte de séjour), but today was my first appointment at an eye doctor. Not only did I finally learn the difference between an ophthalmologist and an optician – I always just say eye doctor in English – I also managed to not forget the alphabet or numbers. I tend to forget the simplest things in French when I get nervous.

My appointment was with a nice young man at the Clinique Générale (which is like a maze when you aren’t sure where you should go), and the appointment took less than 20 minutes. First I looked at a road with a hot-air balloon at the end, and then it was on to the boring letters and numbers. Bright light so he could inspect my retinas and that was it. No annoying puff of air or that bizarre stain to dilate your pupils. I handed over my Carte Vitale, paid 48 € and got two ordonnances, for new glasses and new contacts.

Now I need to go to an optician to choose my frames and turn in my prescriptions. Ophtalmologistes (what I used to call eye doctors) and opticiens are not in the same office in France. The person who checks your eyes and the person who makes your glasses are two different people and professions. I never really paid attention to that before in the US. Actually, I don’t know if I ever even met my optician there…

P.S. Net is clear, and flou is blurry.