Category Archives: French Culture

It has been a while. (For me, anyway.)

By   February 13, 2009

I suppose I’ve been too tired and sluggish to do anything on my site or blog since we still have no heat in the apartment. It’s been snowing most of the week too, so double yay. I also recently discovered that the building where my office is located on campus does not have a heating system either. The entire building. Three floors of classrooms and my office. Am I the only person who thinks this is crazy?? Every time I walk past a class in that building, the students are shivering in their seats with their coats on. I feel so bad for them. And this means that I can never use my office since it’s hard to type with numb fingers.

Wednesday evening began my 11 days of winter vacation. So far I’ve done nothing but finish up lessons for my various classes for the rest of the semester so I will be tranquille later on in March when I know something bad will happen. Let’s face it, something bad always happens in March and it stresses me out and makes me curse the fact that the month even exists. Hey, remember last March when my car broke down on the highway on a Friday afternoon while it was raining and snowing? And remember how I had to pay 1200 euros to replace the engine? Man, that was awesome.

Though perhaps the strikes and manifestations happening at other French universities will catch on at mine so I can have a longer vacation, or time off in March… I wonder if that was the plan all along… So far, my classes haven’t been affected, though I do have a lot of absences. But I think my students just like to skip. But hey, when you can retake the final exam and retake the classes even if you fail miserably, why not?

Anyway, since I’m always working at my computer, I decided to move my desk because I was tired of being in the dark corner. Now I’m in front of the window so I can always see when the dark clouds full of snow are approaching.

So what is on my desk? My computer, a book, and a cat.

P.S. A lack of heat and sunlight makes me incredibly cranky.

Exchanging French Francs for Euros is Still Possible?

By   January 31, 2009

I just saw an article on that mentioned today is the very last day for exchanging 100 franc bills (the “Delacroix”) for euros.  Apparently at the end of 2008, there were 12.14 million 100 franc bills still in circulation? All other franc bills can still be exchanged until February 17, 2012.  I had no idea!

Can you imagine American currency featuring a topless woman?

Sculpture of European Stereotypes: Get angry or just laugh?

By   January 14, 2009

A Czech artist, David Cerny, was supposed to lead a project to create a sculpture to represent all 27 member states of the EU, working with an artist from each country.  Instead, he worked with two of his friends to produce a sculpture that shows a (usually insulting) stereotype of each country, because he wanted to see if Europe could laugh at itself. Or because he’s a jerk, I can’t decide.

France is depicted as just an outline of a country with a banner saying Grève (strike) written on it. Oh, how utterly clever and original.

Spain is a bunch of concrete, Italy is a soccer field, Germany is full of highways, Denmark is a bunch of legos that look like the infamous Muhammad cartoon, Luxembourg is for sale, the Netherlands is flooded and full of minarets, Belgium is a box of chocolates, Sweden is an IKEA cardboard box, Romania is a Dracula theme park, Bulgaria is full of Turkish toilets, and Poland has Catholic priests raising a gay pride flag. The UK is missing from the sculpture, supposedly because they’re too eurosceptic – but look who’s talking Czech Republic!

Spiegel has a photo gallery if you want to see more of the stereotypes. It doesn’t include all of the countries though, and now I’m intrigued as to what they look like… And I wonder how Cerny depicted his own country?

Strike Time

By   January 5, 2009

Pôle Emploi, which is replacing ANPE & ASSEDIC, is already beginning its first days with a strike even though the organization doesn’t technically become effective until Thursday.

The employees of the organization that is designed to help you find work refuse to work so that you cannot find work because they are upset about their own work.

This is similar to the SNCF’s strikes where you cannot get to work because the employees are upset about their own work, so you have to miss work which could lead to the loss of your work.

And in the end, no one actually works.

I ♥ France. Oh so much.

What’s Changing in France in 2009

By   January 1, 2009
  • France no longer holds the presidency of the European Union. The Czech Republic takes over for the next 6 months, followed by Sweden.
  • Twenty universities will be autonomous and independent from the state. They will be able to make their own budget and charge their own fees & tuition. If all goes well with these “test” universities, all universities in France could become independent within 5 years.
  • No more commercials between 8pm and 6am on all state channels, starting January 5. No commercials at any time starting in 2011.
  • SNCF should announce a new reduction card for disadvantaged and single-parent families sometime in January.
  • The Carte Orange will disappear in Ile-de-France in February, being completely replaced by the pass Navigo.
  • MInimum cost for a taxi will be 6 € with an increase in fare of 3.2%.
  • The owners of cars that pollute at least 250 g of CO2 per kilometer will have to pay 160 € each year as a “malus.”
  • Employers will have to reimburse employees 50% of their abonnement on public transportation for their commute to work.
  • Employees in the private sector who do not want to retire at age 65 may work until 70, even without the consent of their employer.
  • Mutuelles are increasing their prices by up to 4% to offset new taxes designed to finance the health insurance system.
  • Household insurance will increase by 2 to 5%. Car insurance will remain the same, or even decrease.
  • All banks can now offer the Livret A savings account to their customers.
  • The TV tax (added into the taxe d’habitation) will be 118 € instead of 116 €.
  • Passports, which are now biometric, will cost more: 89 € for adults, 45 € for 15-18 year olds, and 20 € for under 15.
  • The new organization involved in the merger of ASSEDIC and ANPE, called Pôle Emploi, starts operating January 5.
  • The revenu de solidarité active (RSA) will take effect July 1st, and replace the RMI (which is now 454.63 € for a single person with no children.)
  • Low-income housing benefits will be révalorisé de 2.95% while the prestations familiales will increase by 3%.

Les français aussi ont un accent.

By   November 15, 2008

I wanted to read Les français aussi ont un accent by Jean-Benoît Nadeau, the same author of 60 Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong, because I thought I would enjoy a Quebecker’s take on expat life in France. This book is in French, which is half of the reason why I wanted to read it, but I found myself more and more homesick with each chapter. Nadeau’s frustrations with France are the same as mine – being corrected for using the “wrong” word or accent in French (European snobs want you to believe that Quebecois French is not proper French just as American English is not proper English), all the ridiculous paperwork needed just to do the simplest things, and even the showerheads that are not attached to the wall (douches-téléphones-sans-fixation-au-mur), for example. Quebec and the US are very different in many ways, but they are both in North America and that culture is what I miss.

En plus, the fact that a native speaker of French has the same problems with France that I do makes me realize that I was partly wrong about culture shock. Before I moved here, I always thought not being able to speak French well would be my biggest obstacle. It was hard in the beginning, but now that I can understand 99% of what people say and can carry on conversations easily, I’m realizing that it has little to do with the language. It’s simply the little things that are different that you never anticipated would be different. Why would stores, banks and the post office close for lunch? Why is absolutely nothing open on Sundays? Why does the whole country shut down for 6 weeks during the summer? Why can’t I choose my own PIN number?  Why can’t I find cheddar cheese? An why oh why is the showerhead not attached to the wall???

I had heard about culture shock being worse for those who move to countries where the same language is spoken (i.e. Americans who move to the UK) because you just expect everything to be the same as well. But I guess I never thought about someone from Quebec adjusting to life in France. Quebec may speak French, but it is not France. It is North America. So even though we’re separated by a native language, I feel much closer to les québécois than I ever will to les français.

Mexican Food! Finally!

By   November 8, 2008

November 5th was David’s and my 2 year anniversary, so we decided to go out to eat last night. I had been wanting to go to a Mexican restaurant forever (since I’d left the US…), but we never got around to it somehow over the past 24 months. Either we’re extremely busy or there aren’t many Mexican restaurants around here – I’ll let you guess the answer.

But last night we finally went to Adelita’s in Sevrier (just down the lake from Annecy) and had a nice dinner of Frenchified Mexican food. As an entrada, we ordered Nacho Jalapeño which looked like this:

I was expecting nachos that you could eat with your hands, but then I remembered that no one in France uses their hands to eat. Needless to say, it was very strange using a fork and knife to eat this.

For the main dish, we both ordered tostadas. (I had already started eating before I remembered to take a picture, so the plate looked better than this when it first arrived.)

Overall, it was good, but I was really missing cheddar cheese. That bland emmental just doesn’t cut it.

The decor of the restaurant was cute though. I’ve missed bright colors in the land of gray and black.

Sombrero & toucan in the corner:

Happy anniversary, mon amour !