Category Archives: Les Francais

Today…

the French are sucking the lifeblood out of me yet again. For some reason, they are simply incapable of the concept of customer service.

Today…when pointing out a minute error that I would like easily corrected, the girl simply said “désolée”. I wanted to say “Merci, but I don’t need a ‘désolée’, I would just love it if you could correct this, and that would be perfect.” Unfortunately, I’m not oftentimes very good at coming up with this on the fly in French.

Today…when trying to go to the bank the teller actually had me answer a slew of questions and show my bank card through a video monitor as proof that this was my bank before letting me in through the second set of security doors. Today…apparently, I look like a criminal. Once through, she informed me that since this wasn’t my main bank branch, she didn’t recognize me and that’s why she treated me like a second-class citizen. I wanted to reply, “Oh, but I remember you, as this actually isn’t my first time at this branch. You weren’t very nice to me last time when I wanted to do a bank withdrawal and told me my French ID, my NYC ID and my bank card weren’t enough proof that it was actually me taking money out of my own bank account.” Again, I’m not good with quick comebacks in French.

Oh, but I can’t forget about yesterday…when I went to the RSI office to tell them I don’t need a carte vitale/French social security as I already have international health insurance. Well, “c’est obligatoire,” they responded. But I don’t need two health insurances. “Mais, vous l’avez.” (“But, you have it.”). My comeback in French, “umm, merci?”.

To sum up these past two days, I’m going to use a phrase my friend Whitney coined…”I got Frenched”.

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Recently on Instagram

Wow – it’s been more than two weeks since I’ve last posted! With work, vacation, planning vacations, socializing and overall laziness resulting from the heat in Paris without any a/c (but I’m not complaining!), I’ve been so bad about posting. So here’s a little Instagram post to catch you up a bit. Because you’re all so interested, right?! Riigghhhhtt.

I do oftentimes think about all the topics I’d post about if I made the had time. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. But I do hope to write some posts soon about my recent Amsterdam trip, a visit to the “I love you” wall in Paris, a delicious financier from Normandy and more.
On Instagram
Clockwise from top left:

  • I can’t escape photo booths post-The Knot, and that’s just A-ok with me! Here are some of the boys at Lindsey’s (of Pictours Paris) birthday party posing. This photo helped me realize what the duct tape prop was for as I wasn’t sure at first…
  • I got to see the Tour de France at the Champs-Élysées for my first time! We were supposed to go to a pop-up rooftop bar to watch the race, but alas, RIo was wearing flip-flops, so we were denied entry and ended up on the ground with the rest of the minions. Here’s a link to an Instagram video I took too. Those bikers sure are speedy.
  • The long queue at the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. We ended up waiting on line for an hour and a half. Tip – if you want to go, make sure you book your tickets online at least two weeks in advance. I tried to do this the week before and it was already sold out – thus, the waiting on line. For your reference, this line is shorter than the one at the Vatican Museum in Italy.
  • Rio’s office recently moved from La Défense (the horrid soulless Financial District area, which even got some NYT attention recently) to the Trocadéro neighborhood! This means I’m actually willing to have lunch with him during the week now – and why not when you get to pass by this gorgeous lady right around the corner.
  • Last Tuesday was my first expat lunch date anniversary with one of my besties here Robin. We naturally celebrated with nine hours of drinking and about four bottles (maybe more??) of rosé.
  • August = vacation time in France. If you thought Mondays were dead in Paris, well, just experience Mondays in August. The city is desolate, sauf for the tourists, and many of your local shops and restaurants are closed for the month. All this makes me wish I was away as well. Thank goodness I have a vacation to the South of France coming up. It’ll be our first big road trip and we’ll be hitting up Provence, the Pyrenees and the Basque country. The phrase you’ll hear often now is “à la rentrée”, which essentially means “see you in September” because that’s pretty much when the city is returned to Parisians. So if you ever visit Paris, don’t come during August – you won’t truly experience la vie Parisienne during this month.

Bon lundi, mes amis!

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La Fête des Voisins – Time to Party with the Neighbors

Apparently this Friday is “La Fête des Voisins” AKA “Neighbors’ Day”. I know this because I bumped into a bunch of my neighbors in the lobby today while they were discussing the organization of said party. At first I thought it was just someone’s bonne idée to plan a soirée for the building, but nope…it’s because there’s an actual “holiday” to celebrate your neighbors.

Started in 1999, the idea was conceived to “break the isolation of the residents of a building, street, neighborhood or even city” and takes place on the last Friday of May. During this potluck meal (or most likely apéros), you’re supposed to share wine and simply a good time with fellow neighbors – just like a block party I’d imagine. I didn’t think an actual holiday for this existed in the US, but after a quick google search, I was proved wrong. There is, in fact, a “National Neighborhood Day” that takes place on the third Sunday of September. Who knew?!

Either way, I’m looking forward to spending some QT with my lovely neighbors and hope you get to too no matter where you live. After all, there is a World Neighbor’s Day. Did I mention that the last time I had apéros with my neighbors chez moi, the one pregnant lady ended up going into labor an hour after she left (umm, at 2am) and her husband had to drive to the hospital slightly intoxicated?! Ahhh oui, c’est une histoire vrai. Thank goodness all went well.

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Frenchie Frowny Face

Statue at Napoleon Museum
Rio (pointing at this statue at the Napoleon Museum in Rome): Who does this look like?
Me: A Frenchie! It’s a Frenchie frowny face.
Rio: Yup.

I think most expats would recognize this “look” immediately as well. Frenchies have a tendency to contort their face to a frown while simultaneously making a “pfff” sound. Sometimes for emphasis, they’ll also slightly tilt their head forward while doing so. Think I’m exaggerating? Come live here and you’ll see. I’ve, unfortunately, started doing it a bit myself – it’s like some nervous tic!

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Le Temps des Vacances!

Les Vélibs
You know the holidays are here when all the public bike shares (les vélibs) are still parked in the morning. By the time I walk Tyler in the morning, there are usually only a few bikes left as many Parisians prefer cycling to the office over riding the cramped, stifling métro.

Back over in NYC, the public bike sharing system called Citi Bike is finally launching in May. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out – I hope their bikes are better than the clunky ones we have in Paris!

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French Phrase of the Day: C’est toujours la même chanson.

French Phrase of the Day: It’s always the same song.

This is the equivalent of us saying “it’s always the same old story.” The reason for today’s French phrase of the day is because of the ongoing frustration with the ineptitude of French workers. Technically, I should say that this is with some French workers here… but I’m so frustrated, that today I’m willing to put the whole entire race together. And therefore, here is today’s French ineptitude story of the day:

Rio lost his debit card back in August 2012 and still hasn’t received a new one. Yes – that was seven months ago. He basically gets money each week via me making sure I take out enough for him at the ATM, and when he has to, he uses our American debit card. It’s like an allowance! So post-card loss, Rio contacted our “manager” at HSBC whom I will refer to as J.P. (his initials) three times via email and once by phone to 1) update our address and 2) request a new card. In all of those cases, not once has J.P. ever responded to Rio’s outreach. Not once. And no, we do not have the wrong email or phone number. In what world does someone like J.P. still have a job?? In France, apparently. And they wonder why the economy has gone to merde and are stereotyped as lazy.

So, I finally decided to take things in my own hands and walked my tuckus over to HSBC in the 9th arrondissement and make the request in-person. I brought all my forms with me and some extra just in case. Everything seemed to go well and the front desk receptionist told me that the request to change the address was made and to come back on the 22nd to then request the new debit card. Knowing how slow things take in France, I sure as hell wasn’t going to go back on the 22nd and decided to give them an extra day and went back today. I was partly prepared for them to tell me the request was still processing… but what I wasn’t prepared for was them saying that the request didn’t go through because the bill we showed them as proof of address wasn’t recent enough. Umm – so how come no one called me to tell me this so I could come back with a newer bill and why didn’t the bankman notice this when he took it in the first place?? Pourquoi, people, pourquoi??

Well, I’m embarrassed to say that I was frustrated to the point I started tearing up at the bank. Oui, at the bank. In public. And ok… maybe a bit more than teared up. Apparently, they will be giving me a ring in two days to let me know if they will be able to authorize the change in address and send us the new debit card. I told them I wasn’t hopeful that was going to happen. On va voir. Oh, and for the record, I did tell the banklady “c’est toujours la même chanson” and she chuckled. C’est vraiment comme une blague.

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My One Year Anniversary And How I Know the Parisians are Rubbing Off On Me

One year ago today, I looked around the empty apartment that Rio and I had bought and shared for five years, locked up and said goodbye to New York. I was off to Paris and despite having incredible worries about risking my career and not being able to make a single friend, I was willing to leave it all behind for Rio and the other love of my life: Paris.

Do I ever miss New York? Sure – there are some hard, lonely days where I think about what the NYC version of me would be doing at that exact moment if I were there. How my friends are probably all having easy laughs with each other and not having to share their “story” with each other… because we all already know each others’ stories. While I’m sitting through “blind friend dates” wondering whether the other person likes me and if we’ll actually hang out again. How I’d be running off to a studio with Starbucks in hand in the hectic craze of preparing for a TV segment for work and bumping into celebrities in the green room. While I’m sitting at home working at a tiny uncomfortable desk in sweatpants and unwashed hair with no human being in the vicinity to have a conversation with. How I’d be going to Long Island with Tyler in tow to bask in the sun and go swimming at my parents’ house. While I’m still shivering in a coat with grey skies overhead.

I miss my friends and family. I miss the sunshine. I miss having anything you want at any time of night and having it delivered to your apartment door.  I miss my NYC life. But do I regret leaving? Not one bit. In one year, I’ve built quite a life for myself here. New friends, new clients, a new home that actually feels like a home, and new adventures. Paris does me good. So in the spirit of my “one year anniversary”, here is my top 5 list of how you know these lovable Parisians are rubbing off on you:

5. You walk straight ahead and make people jump out of the way on the street. It’s not your fault if they get bumped into – they’re in your way.
4. You automatically order un apéritif when you sit down at dinner. It’s to whet the appetite, after all.
3. You go to three different boulangeries in one trip and think that’s completely normal. One for your favorite baguette, one for your favorite croissant, and one for some other favorite baked good.
2. You’re willing to wait on line for 20 minutes for a block of cheese… and don’t think you’re wasting time.
1. You catch yourself making incoherent noises that pass off for words in France. i.e. “uh nah nah nah nah nah”, “plffff” and “upppp”. Fellow expats, you know what I’m talking about.

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French Residency Card Part Deux

Fiscal Stamps
I have to head back to the prefecture again to get my new residency card. Pourquoi? Oh, because the French messed up the first time. Quelle surprise! Hopefully there won’t be a replay of the first time I had to head to the prefecture.

And did I mention that even though the French government messed up, we still have to pay for them to reissue the new visa? That’s another 106 euros I had to spend on these fiscal stamps. Ugh, France is robbing me blind!

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Quel Brouhaha! The “Lazy” French Worker and Le Grizzly Américain

The hot topic in French news this week is a scathing, no-holds-barred letter from Maurice Taylor, Jr., the executive chairman of tire company Titan International, to France’s industry minister Arnaud Montebourg in response to their pleas to take over a Goodyear factory that’ll be closing in Amiens, France. Known as “the Grizz”, Taylor’s letter basically said that he was not going to save the factory (and approximately 1,000 French jobs) as he’s been there several times and all he’s ever seen were highly-paid French workers who have an hour of lunch, chat for three hours and end up working a mere three hours. Apparently, he had made a comment about this to the French union workers and they responded saying that was “the French way”. Ha!

I think my favorite section of Taylor’s letter that truly reflects the stereotype of the French mindset is the following:

“Sir, your letter states that you want Titan to start a discussion. How stupid do you think we are? Titan is the one with the money…”

Why do I like this line? Because it’s the French who want Titan to save the factory and all the jobs, yet they say they want Titan to start a discussion?? It’s that type of thinking that’s the fundamental problem. The French should be the ones who have not only started the discussion but started actually doing something about it.

I can provide several scenarios of the “lazy French worker” I’ve heard over this past year from both French and expat friends, but I’m not going to do that. What I am going to do is give you one example though, as I just can’t resist. A friend told me how their HR person hadn’t responded to numerous calls and emails about receiving some French lessons that her company was paying for. She literally had to resort to stalking this person so he could just sign off on these lessons the company had already approved. She quickly learned that he just doesn’t respond to emails or calls. What?? In what world does someone, particularly in HR, still have a job and not respond to emails or phone calls? In a French world, apparently. Well, I’m glad to say that after several months, she was finally able to corner him one day and got her damn lessons.

So are French people lazy or not? Obviously, I do not (repeat, do not!) think French people are lazy. In fact, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development consists of a group of 34 industrialized countries that includes the US, and the French work the fourth fewest hours of any OECD member but come in 7th when it comes to labor productivity. It’s not always about working longer; it’s about working smarter – and that is what the French do (when they work, that is).

Here’s a good article from The New York Times about the uproar in France surrounding the letter. And here’s the letter from Taylor in case you’d like to read it. It’s definitely not the most diplomatic…

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The Proper Way to Drink when Dining in France

Whiskey Aperitif
Rio had a nutty day in the office, so I made him un petit apéritif last night after he got home from work. After that, we had dinner (a pasta with eggplant and mushroom dish I made), I cleaned up and then made him some sandwiches for the next two days to bring to work. (If I don’t make him lunch, he’s so busy at work he doesn’t even eat!) OMG, what has happened to me? I feel like I’m living in “Mad Men”.

In France, you generally have un apéritif (pre-dinner drink) when you’re at a restaurant. I usually have une coupe de champagne and Rio usually has whiskey or une bière. Technically, you have un apéritif, then whatever drink you’re having for dinner (usually a bottle or two of wine for us lushes), and then un digestif. I usually skip the digestif, but when I don’t, I do enjoy a nice glass of Manzana. It’s like an apple liqueur that’s not too sickeningly sweet.

When I first moved here, waiters would only occasionally ask us if we wanted to “commence avec un apéritif”. This is probably because they thought we were tourists and didn’t know the proper French way to dine. Well, no more! On most occasions, I get the apéritif question and if I don’t, I make it a point to ask for a glass to show them that I am one of them, damnit! That is if I feel like having an apéritif that night… which most times I do. It’s to whet the appetite after all!

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