Sunday, December 9, 2007

Culture Shocked

I have spent my entire life living between different cultures; as a product of French-Canadian/Catholic heritage living in a town where everyone was either Italian or Jewish, the only daughter surrounded by brothers, the youngest amongst my siblings and friends due to a birthday late in the year, growing up in a city and spending summers in an extremely rural area, growing up middle class in a upper middle class milieu, living as a foreigner abroad, working as a foreigner in my own country but for foreign governments... and the list goes on and on. I have always been too other for the one that I was with. What has happened is that this is where I am most comfortable.

What I have learned from all this is to stop (to the best of my ability) being shocked by differences, other cultures - this is the direct result of always having had to explain differences/nuances to others - to ease their shock.

I went to a premier of a French movie recently and at the event afterwards I was with a French friend - at the bar when someone who worked on the film festival came up to us and asked my friend - so were the Americans shocked? To which I said, well I wasnt and cant understand why people found the film shocking but I cant speak for my fellow countrymen. The response to this was a "mais bien sur vous ne pouvez pas" well if it is so obvious that I cant speak for a country of multiple millions of citizens - why did you just ask me to?

Then I found myself trying to explain why I am American and wasnt shocked - as this seemed odd since a lot of audience members left looking shell-shocked and hadnt applauded. Could there be an age difference? It depends on what you have done and seen in your life - I have lived most of my life in major cities - so seemingly "alternative" lifestyles dont really shock me.

I left frustrated at having been put on the spot and then somewhat disregarded since my opinions didnt measure up to someone else's expectations. I was brushed off as being different since I didnt agree.

Since I am often on the receiving end of these conversations - I really try to the best of my ability to relativise things - while it may look "bizarre", "etrange", or shocking to you - it is perfectly normal or maybe there are reasons for it in another place and time. Isnt it more interesting to look into that?

I think I take offense as I find the word shocking to be very violent. It is a violent reaction to something the clearly isnt understood by the "other".

I say this but everyone has things that shock them - prejudice shocks me. I just wish that before judging we could ask questions instead of seeing the "other" as bizarre or shocking. I find that that means you really dont understand something and you dont care to look inside.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


During the cumulative time over my life spent living in, working in and/or with, and traveling to France - I have had beaucoup d' experience in France with strikes (les greves).

I applaud the right and courage of anyone to stand up for their rights, for wrongdoings - as this has normally been a harbinger for needed and impending societal change. When and where this has been executed, if it has been hard to do then it was much, much needed.

Last month, there was a series of crippling strikes that lasted almost 8 days in France and were only stopped so that negotiations could take place - but the talk has already begun for the next set of strikes to begin soon.

As someone who has spent the majority of my life in the U.S., our collective experience with strikes in wholly different than that of France. They are FEW and far between and they do not paralyze cities, not regions, nor sometimes the entire country (depends on how you measure this) here.

A few comments:

1. My first and most important lesson about French strikes was learned during a year of studies in Paris. There was a strike one day that I had been unaware of so when I set out for my normal commute to school and realized that no bus or metro would take me there and that I now had to walk, I arrived for a three hour lecture probably two hours late. After the lecture (a room filled with at least 300 students), I approached the teacher to apologise and expected punishment in return. The teacher 1) had no idea who I was and 2) said something to the likes of mais bien sur you were late there was a strike today - no problem.

I was utterly surprised - as normally in the US schools I attended, lateness bore no valid excuses, ever. That day, I realised that strikes in France work in part because the country allows them to, they are part and parcel of life in France. Explained by small signs posted on banks the day before notifying clients that they will be on strike the next day, by and elderly lady driving past a bus stop where she saw two young Americans with loads of baggage - the lady not only stops to tell them but offers a ride to the airport as the bus is on strike that day (true story), and that teachers freely and wholly except students' missing 2/3 of class due to strikes.

They dont work to the same effect in the US as this country does not accept them nor work together to maintain life during them as selflessly.

Where I disagree with les greves is here - normally the dialogue is between the striker and their big boss - e.g. the president of Air France, the head of the RATP... peu importe. Yet those who strike are normally people like myself - making a decent living, but not the highest paid. En bref, they send an indirect message to their big boss by directly affecting those just like them - people trying to live their daily life - but who have NOTHING to do with the issue.

For example, when stewardesses or pilots or whomever at Air France go on strike, plane service is disrupted. Who does this hurt? People like myself, or even worse people who save up for years to take a trip to France only to have their flight cancelled (while the last time Air France refunded those whom they could not re accommodate) but what about hotels? Should hotels in a third country reimburse because stewardesses at Air France decided to strike and therefore someone couldnt make it to their destination? No and they dont generally. Does this affect the big boss - well first off, he - I am betting doesnt fly on Air France commercial flights.
And while it affects the bottom line - isnt this just always passed on to the consumer, again the people like you and me who might have also just lost $$ on their booked hotels - as well as having had to re arrange their vacations, business plans - whatever it is.

For those people, - this seems unfair. Doesnt it?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Le Divorce

Well it just has to be mentioned...

I will approach the subject of the France's current President's (and first ever siting President's) divorce by looking at only what it says about the "pipolisation" of French politics - (and the French people?).

Sarkozy says that it is not the French people who are pipolizied, rather it is the media. Is that true? He reprimanded a reporter from Le Monde for asking about the divorce during a press conference in Portugal which was supposed to speak about the two day EU summit. He said that a reporter from a newspaper of the calibre of Le Monde shouldn't ask questions of a subject of a calibre beneath said newspaper i.e. the private life of France's politicians - "It interests them much less than you, and they are right, and, perhaps, they have a greater sense of propriety, and more discretion.". Simultaneously, his wife premiered on the cover of (French) ELLE magazine - offering an intimate tell-all of her side of the divorce.

What do these opposing actions say?

Let's look first at how some French officials and others have seen the media treatment of this (non?) issue:

Noël Mamère, député Verts : "Il est temps de refermer la page de l'américanisation de la vie publique".

I love this quote - it is time to turn the page on the americanization of public life - below I will argue that there is a frenchification of French public life too.. possibly before it had a place in the hush hush or in magazines that no one admits they purchase - but it has been there, a long time.

Annick Lepetit, secrétaire nationale du PS : "Alors que les rumeurs sur la séparation de Cécilia et Nicolas Sarkozy bruissent depuis six jours, l'Elysée choisit ce jeudi, jour de forte mobilisation sociale, pour officialiser l'information. Aux Français de juger s'il ne s'agit que d'une simple coïncidence".

To which Raffarin responds:
Jean-Pierre Raffarin, ancien Premier ministre, à propos des soupçons du PS sur une "coïncidence" avec le grève : "C'est une remarque profondément déplacée".

There are two discussions here:

The first is about the "pipolisation" or "americanisation" of French political life and/or of the French people or media - whoever you think the shoe fits...either through a manifested interest on the part of the French media or the French people.

The second, is the idea that announcing the divorce on the day of a huge, national strike diverted major media attention from the strike to the private matter of the Presidential divorce.

Again, is it the media or the people who demanded this information and who gobble it up? Is the U.S.'s fault? Since this phenomenon carries our name on it, either directly or indirectly as the term pipolisation comes from the frenchification of the word PEOPLE as in PEOPLE magazine. Does this follow a simple economic rule - the people demand it and the media supplies it? Or does the media supply it to influence the people to demand it, or consume it? I, as an American, find it interesting this term of "pipolisation" - which plays on the U.S. magazine PEOPLE - why was this chosen and not the LONG standing French versions entitled Voici or Gala? Are magazines that supply photos and blurbs about celebrity and politicians lives truly an American creation? Or are they just thrown in t he mix of everything that we dont like we liken to American culture? The reality TV culture is closely associated with US culture while Big Brother was not a US invention. I remember living in Nice a good ten years ago and constantly seeing images of the royal Monegasque family all over Voici, Gala, Hello...etc - at the time there was a scandal involving Princess Stephanie and her at the time husband. Is this really new? Is this really a US thing, a US-only thing, or even something that we invented? Look at the media relationship with Princess Diana or any of the British royals?

Here follow the French media discussion about the coincidence of the timing of both announcemnents:

Il a reproché à Nicolas Sarkozy d'avoir «pris le risque de la surexposition et d'introduire un dangereux mélange entre sphère privée et sphère publique». «Il est temps de refermer la page de l'américanisation de la vie publique», a-t-il dit.

Un avis largement partagé à gauche. Pour l'eurodéputé socialiste Benoît Hamon, «il est temps qu'on sorte de la pipolisation de la vie politique». «Le couple Sarkozy a été l'un des plus gros contributeurs à cette évolution de la vie politique française en mettant lui-même en scène sa vie privée», a-t-il estimé.

A droite, les alliés politiques du président préféraient ne pas commenter l'information, avançant qu'il s'agissait d'une «affaire privée».

I dont have the answers, but I do have some questions:

1. Did Sarkozy time this announcement to downplay the media coverage of the strike?? If the answer is yes, that is a horrible, horrible thing to do, in my opinion.

2. Is the media obsession with Celebrity and/or Politician's lives truly a US thing? It is part of US culture - did we inspire this in other countries or did this already or simultaneously exist? Lastly, does this not exist in France - possibly the French see it as a private matter - not bearing any weight on a politician's capability to serve in office or not something to discuss at a dinner table - but all the while still reading it not only on PEOPLE magazine but in Voici, Gala and any other French versions of celebrity mags as well as something the they do discuss with one another - via the internet, over a coffee or drink? Does this have a place in French society? And if so, is it not a French thing too?

I will end this with one comment - during the trial of Queen Marie-Antoinette, her "private life" was alleged and put on trial - for all to see in books & in pamphlets she was accused of sexual/romantic wrongdoings. Was the public's fascination and at the time judgment any different from what we see in society today?

After all, when Bernadette Chirac was questioned about her sufferings through President Chirac's infidelities and asked why she never left him - she responded that the day Napoleon and Josephine split - his demise began (and hers as well).

Has anything truly changed? Can this truly be claimed as a result of a US cultural influence?

A few of my favorites things...

There exists an eloquent equipe of anglophone bloggers who have written blogs about ex-pat life in France that are delicious to read. I salute them all and follow their blogs with much fervor.

Here are a list of my favorites: (soon to be a book!)

As you go through each of these sites, they will refer you to others; dentsdelait, the Frenchification of Mlle Smith, In the Kitchen and on the Road with Dorrie Greenspan...

Bravo to all of you!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Fast News

In order to keep abrest on news, cultural tidbits, the latest scandals, and major headlines from the day, I watch LE ZAPPING daily: - in the bottom right corner, you will see a place to click on LE ZAPPING.

If you want to keep on top of headlines across the pond, but dont have the time to read through - I highly recommend this abridged version - they mix funny with newsworthy with artistic and cultural.


Friday, September 21, 2007


The counter in the upper right hand corner (which I only installed a good month into this blog) has counted over 427 people who have clicked on this blog. Taking into account that I am a good 157 of those... it seems that people are checking out this blog. Yet the only two people that have commented I know personally (and love dearly).

My point is this: what do you think? Has this been useful? What can I add? What am I doing right and what am I doing wrong?

Upon starting this blog and diving deep into the blogosphere, I discovered numerous blogs that discuss France from an anglophone's vantage point; (Petite Anglaise, Same Only Different, In the Kitchen with Dorrie Greenspan...)- there really is an entire world made up of people who are living the dream life (living in France but born an anglophone)and I felt as if whatever I wanted to say had been said, and by someone who is doing it right now - not a few year ago like myself.

So I am thinking of refocusing this exclusively on the job search for anglophones in the niche market of French - US affairs. This will of course be peppered with little tidbits about my thoughts on modern day events, issues etc having to do with France.

Would you read about this?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Josephine : One Woman Who Lived it All

The first time that I read a biography detailing the life of Josephine Bonaparte, I was in awe of the fact that this women had not only lived an incredible life but a life that spanned some of, if not most of, modern day Frances' major events, revolutions, and grands themes... colonization, aristrocracy, monarchy, revolution, Empire...

Josephine was born in Martinique - she was a product of colonial France and suffered discrimination upon her arrival in France due to her accent and mannueurisms.

She is a survivor, above all else - having survived imprisonment (the result of which was severe trauma both physical and psychological, the physical effects most probably left her barren and therefore sealed her sad fate with Napoleon as he would ultimately divorce her for her inability to bare him an heir).

Josephine (a name given to her by Napoleon, her real name is Rose) was a revolutionary in her own right - she was a businesswoman who earned money and took on the responsability of debts on her own (this infuriated Bonaparte), she was part and parcel of the triumphs and losses (sacrifices) of the Revolution as her first husband, Alexandre de Beauharnais, was eventually guillotened and Josephine herself was jailed and awaiting death until a friend got her out just in time.

She was not just a wife, nor a passive actor in this incredible theater of Revolution - Josephien supplied Napoloen with contacts and advice that helped buttress and leverage him to his eventual positions of power, she was an active participant in pre-Revolutionary life in Paris - hosting salons, befriending some of the Revolutions most memorable and interesting characters - I say this all because she is often overlooked, her story is not told enough nor loudly enough.

While her life reads as an incredibly interesting book, it must have been utterly exciting, full of joys and sorrows, and utterly trying, depressing, and scary at times. The uncertainty of post Revolutionary life, no matter where - is an endless land of ultimate possibility and ultimate insecurity. Her friends, left and right were disappearing, being hunted and guillotened, her own debts rose and rose, she feared for her own life and that of her country. She was never able to bring her parents to France and thus received letters announcing their illnesses and deaths from afar, she spent a long time in prison, awaiting death and suffering all the while, and then after finding her great love - she endured constant infidelity and eventual divorce - a divorce she accepted and offered to France so that it could have an heir - but this eventually killed Josephine herself and she never recovered from this last and ultimate blow.

The study of Josephine is interesting in that her life spans what has made modern day France but reads as a diary and allows the reader to live day in, day out - what a revolution feels like - the insecurity, the excitement, the possibility of change -it is very different than reading simple (after the) facts neatly penned in summary style where the reader doesnt taste the sensations of deep and dark emotions and philosophy.

Whilst reading this book, I thought of my country's revolution and how brave those men and woman were and I also thought of all the countries presently in states of transformation like Iraq - how that must feel on a micro level.

Do today's decision makers take this into consideration? Do they read historical books that tell the blow by blow accounts and not a neat and simple summary hundred of years later when all is well and good (and many other factors, leaders, governments etc... have aided in writing the ultimate accounts)?

Friday, August 3, 2007

Le Divorce?

This weekend we visited the homes, universities, and museums of some of the founding fathers (Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe), while learning oodles about U.S. history what amazed me was how closely intertwined the U.S. and France were during this period; financially, philosophically, intellectually, and through numerous partnerships, friendships and alliances. During the late 18th century, both the U.S. and France were in pre and post Revolutionary periods, each was the others' main backer in the fight against monarchy (English or French). France went into debt financing the U.S. Revolution and Lafayette amongst others come over here to lend a hand (or observe and even praise in the case of Toqueville) and formed lastings friendships with Washington and others...

In all three of the houses we visited (save Madison's which is under renovation)- there were myriad references to France and Europe (Monroe's daughter was best friends with Eugenie (Napoleon's daughter in law whom he married to his brother)), furniture, books (one of Monroe's bookcases was entirely comprised of French books - books on the French Constitution, history...) - and both Franklin and Jefferson spent years upon years in Paris - bringing back furniture, customs, friendships, and a very open view towards Europe. When Jefferson served as U.S. Ambassador in France, his offices were housed at Versailles (i.e. in the "home" of the King!). They went abroad to build relationships and learn, especially from the French. Our countries were not only allies, we were close friends. We were similar-minded and fighting for the same truths and ideals.

During this period we were born of revolution and freedom from religious persecution, we were born of the Enlightenment - we both drafted constitutions and declarations of rights for "all" men - only the U.S.'s had a clause about the right to bear arms. I wonder if this simple sentence comprised of only a few words plays a big, big part in the question that I am asking.

When did this break occur, when and where were the signs that pointed towards the resultant divorce? Will relations ever be what they used to be or having grown and matured, are we just too different now to ever be that close again? We have gotten used to this froid relationship with France, and my generation doesnt have a living memory of anything different. Which is why visiting the grounds of our birth as a country makes this point shockingly real. Visting the homes of the founding fathers is a lesson in US history but also in what was happening in France at the time and a lesson about the love between our two countries.

England has certainly taken the place that was once held by France - which given that we fought a war against England for our freedom and independence is ironic. Or is it? Looking at world history there are numerous stories of countries being allies, enemies, occupying one another... (e.g. France and Germany who now share the drivers seat in the EU).

When did we grow apart? Was it the changes in our countries during the industrial revolutions? Was it during the periods of Empire and colonization? Was it due to when we have (or have not) abolished the death penalty? Segregation? The differences in urban landscapes? The Cold War? The rise of globalization? Was it that one country housed two world wars while the other fought them offshores?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

How Networking works...

Having come across this article deciphering French networking events and supplying a short list of excellent French associations/networking events stateside, I invite you to visit the link below:

Polly Platt's French or Foe has some interesting advice about this as well, feel free to browse her website for additional articles, commentary:


Monday, July 23, 2007

Resource rejoice!

Today, while researching online, I came upon an incredible resource that I wanted to share: EXPATICA. Expatica is a one stop shopping resource with information about relationships, food, job hunting - etc. Couldn't have said it better myself (and, well I didn't...)!

Below is the link to an excellent article that gives an overview on the expat job hunt in France:

And a torturously funny article about the seemingly-universal anglophone allergy towards the use of gender in language:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Brave New Language

Ever sat through a business meeting being held in French and feel as if you never learned a thing during your numerous years of studying this very same language? It is sad but true and happens because there is a whole, brave new language out there that real French people speak that is very different from what you learned in books; it has evolved, it includes slang, and it has a completely different set of rules and customs! Bon voyage donc!

First things first: as a rule of thumb, always default to the most formal. If ever unsure as to with whom you should use the vous or the tu, default to the vous. Unsure about using first names? Default to using Monsieur ou Madame LABLANCHE (in French names are always written as Julie LABLANCHE with the last name capitalized) - wait until invited to use a first name, wait until invited in every situation - this includes going into an office with a closed door - knock first AND wait for the response.



préalable = prerequisite, prior to or warning or forward (in a report)
un sommaire = summary
un échantillon = sample...
un fabricant = manufacturer
un détaillant = store/ seller
un distributeur = distributor
une grossiste = wholesaler
un brevet = trademark
breveté(e) = trademarked
une licence = license
les taux d’ amortissement = depreciation percentages/rate
rentabiliser = to make profitable
une division = a division
un secteur = a sector/section/ division
un pôle = department (a pôle has many secteurs inside of it)
une filiale = subsidiary
une filière = a network, a line of (a specific product)
un(e) stagiaire = intern
démarrer, redémarrer/ éteindre… un ordinateur = to start up, re-start, and to shut off a computer
verrouiller = hibernate/sleep (for a computer)
connecter/déconnecter = log off a computer
brancher/débrancher = plug in, unplug a computer
un produit = a product
le marché, l’économie = the market, the economy
un(e)chef/un(e)patron(ne) = boss
les taux = rates
les taux d’intérêt = interest rates
un paragonnage = a benchmark, while authentic is used very little in spoken French.
une veille = market review (example quarterly)
les notes blanches = white papers
intéressant = interesting/important (as in a client, numbers)
incontournable = dire, of utmost importance
pénétrer le marché = to penetrate the market
s’implanter dans le marché = to set up business in the market/economy
première approche = first contact with the market
un produit phare = key product


les données = statistics/numbers/facts
une société, une entreprise = more eloquent ways of saying a company (une compagnie)
les cibles = targets
cibler = to target
un commercial = sales person
commercialiser, vendre = to sell
un mèl = e-mail, the more proper version is un courriel (this is almost always used in Canadian French)
un fax = fax
faxer = to send a fax
une gamme = quality level
HdG = haut de gamme = high quality
BdG = bas de gamme = low quality
MdG = moyen de gamme = medium quality
(une) Raison Sociale = Name of Company
(la) Politique = policy
(la) Direction = management
le Directeur, la Directrice = CEO, or Executive Director
général = overall i.e. directeur général = head/senior manager
une entretien téléphonique = phone conversation
une entretien = interview or conversation
une interview = interview
RDV = rendez-vous (shorthand)
un rendez-vous = meeting (as in a lunch/or quick meeting between two people)
une réunion = meeting (as in an office/team meeting)
être en déplacement = to be on a business trip (elsewhere)
être en mission = to be on a business trip (elsewhere)
une carte de visite = business cards


Je reviendrai vers vous le 29 septembre ... (I will follow up with you on (this date))...

Je vous prie, Monsieur (ou Madame), d' accepter le sentiment de mes salutations les plus distinguées,

(This is the basic signature of a business letter, e-mail - which says in a very formal way that you wish them to accept your distinguished salutations).

Signatures in descending order of formality;

Meilleures Salutations,
Très Cordialement,

When you are friends with someone;


Compte tenu, (given that)

Merci de bien vouloir ... (verb) (Thank you to please do the following)

Je soumets ce document à votre appreciation. Merci de vos commentaires. (I am submitting this document for your review).

Compte-rendu = feedback/report

Je fais suite à votre mèl du (I am responding to your e mail from...)

Je vous présente .. (I am introducing you to ...)
Prochainement (next, soon)
Très prochainement (very soon) as in Je reviens vers vous très prochainement...
Sauf erreur de ma part... (Unless I was mistaken)

Je fais suite à notre entretien téléphonique de ce jour au cours duquel nous nous sommes entretenus... sur les produits que vous souhaitez commercialiser sur le marché américain.

(I am following up to our phone conversation today during which we discussed ... regarding the products you would like to sell on the U.S. market).

Restant à votre disposition, je vous prie d’agréer, Monsieur, l’expression de ma considération distinguée,(I remain available to you, and ask you to accept my distinguished expressions)

Si vous disposez de compléments d'information sur... (If you have additional information regarding...)

Je reste à votre entière disposition pour toute information complémentaire souhaitée... (I will be available to you for any additional information that you may need)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Is CousCous the new Can-Can?

It has been said that the most ordered dish in the U.K. is no longer fish and chips but rather curry, or "a curry" as our long-lost cousins say it.

Will the same will be true of France, soon?

From this side of the frog pond, we see french cuisine as steak tartare, coq au vin, escargots bourguignons, creme caramel, sole al. But, there is another dish that has made its way to mainstream French households, restaurants and the average Frenchman's vernacular and stomach - couscous. Couscous is a Northern African mini-pasta dish that takes a long time to cook and is served with either vegetables, meats (merguez - hot spicy sausages coveted by all persons French)etc.. today, alongside all the restaurants name Chez Paul, Chez Pierre, Chez Joseph - you will now find a Chez Omar and the reason is it packed nightly is for its couscous.

How did couscous make its way from Algeria and its neighboring countries to the tables of the Martins, Gauthiers, and Rousseau's? It made its way over time through the channel of France's colonial past in Northern Africa, through the "pied-noirs" French who lived there and later returned to France and through the Northern African transplants who have since set up many a restaurant probably to feed themselves and their fellow Northern Africans but this trickled down to the average French.

Colonialism forever changed France - the fact that couscous is now as French as the can-can is but a tangible proof of this.

The Politics of Puppets

A very popular and long running television show, "une emission" in France (there are only a few of these) is GUIGNOLS DE L'INFO. This ingenious puppet show is taped live and is a parody of an actual news show and therefore they take the piss out of real news and real people. Les Guignols, its nickname, is starred and mc'ed by PPDA (the real anchorman Patrick Poivre d' Arvor) as he recounts the days' events and interviews characters.

A few comments:

1. The mechanics, choreography, and utter wit of this show are incredible. Often, they bring these life size puppets out onto the street, they ride the metro, they ride cars... - the engineering itself is top-notch.

2. There seems to be no limit for what they can say - one episode included then presidential hopeful, Nicolas Sarkozy burying alive the then president Jacques Chirac.

3. The most versatile and chameleon character is none other than Sylvestor Stallone - who alone represents the U.S. and goes from being a military man to wall street tycoon to the average American. He is always referred to as Mr. Sylvester.

4. On the macro level, I think that this says a lot about the average French persons connection with politics - one must be up to date with local, national, and international politics to join along in the laughs while watching the show. This shows appears prime time and again on Sunday afternoons and is known by everyone. One can only conclude that the average French person is quite learned about their country's political activities and key players. Even the young know enough to watch and then understand the jokes. It is not that this show dumbs down politics rather it is a reflection of the political knowledge level and interests of the "francais moyen", in my opinion, and says something about the civic and political prowess of the average "hexagon" inhabitant - remember 85% of eligible voters turned out for the presidential election in 2007.

To watch - go to; then go to EMISSIONS and LES GUIGNOLS. You will have to register to watch (free of charge).

Many an American political figure, pop star, and the like have graced the Guignols - from Madonna to GW Bush.

Picture Source : CANALPLUS (Les Guignols)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Qui se cache derriere le voile? (What is hiding behind the veil?)

The veil, hijab, headscarf, foulard, and its more extreme versions of niqab or burqa is a hot-blooded polemic in todays world. Why? And who is right? Is anyone right? This question, issue - no matter to what country it is applied brings up the bigger questions of women's rights, human/civil rights, integration, assimilation, personal choice, religious freedom and secularism.

What truly does hide behind the veil? A person, a woman, a threat to secularism, a threat to integrated societies, a harbinger that one's country is moving towards becoming a melting pot?

I recently read Azadeh Moaveni's blog ( entitled Lipstick Jihad after her recent bestselling book of the same name whereby she wrote a short article on why she agrees with Blair's newly announced stance on the niqab. She expressed everything that I feel yet with much more eloquent, educated, and persuasive words than I could have chosen. Therefore I am including the link to this article and if it interests you to read further, the rest of her blog is just as well done. One of the most interesting points she makes, in my mind, is how Britain is being faced with a task that Iran isn't - read the article below and tell me what you think...,8599,1547572,00.html

France is very much involved in this issue and has recently made more strict their own laws guiding the wearing of "ostentatious and proselytizing" religious symbols in public places (state schools, government buildings...). As it is a behemoth and complicated issue that strikes at the very heart and notion of the French "nation" (i.e. a laic state (laicite is the French version of a strict secularism)); I will save this for another entry. Ms. Moaveni's analysis of the British issue mixed with her own personal experiences shows one of the myriad applications of this controversial subject and the truly global nature of this issue.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Calling all cinephiles...

The French lay claim to the art and discovery of cinema dating back to the brothers Lumiere. The French film industry is subsidized by the government (etat) and France gives birth to a lot more movies than those few that make it stateside. In the U.S., there are plenty of opportunities to see these, especially in you live in major city like NYC, LA, SF, DC, Chicago, Boston... most major cities have an annual French Film Festival that is sponsored either by the Consulate or the Alliance Francaise.

Here are a few of my favorites that highlight not only the creativity of France's directors and actors but also teach you something about France, its history, culture, and politics.

La Bataille d' Algers : I recently learned that this film was banned from ever appearing on French television and I'm not sure if it played in French cinemas. This film debuted shortly after the end of the Algerian War and is best known for the fact that some of the actors play themselves and that the movie was filmed in Algers.

Une Femme Francaise: This is a movie detailing life on the Franco-German border during WWII and what happens to one family - trying to survive, live, and deal with the war and its aftermath.

La Haine: Cult movie about the outer Parisian suburbs "banlieues" and their youth. Even if you speak French fluently, this movie is difficult to understand as it is almost entirely spoken in argot (French slang) and verlan (French slang language where syllables are reversed in words e.g. femme becomes meuf).

Paris, Je t'aime: the reason I mention this film is that it is comprised of 20 different short films each about one of the 20 arrondissements that make up the city of Paris. This movie shows the viewer the better known arrondissements while also showing the outer arrondissements therefby giving a total picture to this diverse city.

Le Dernier Metro: Another cult film, this time about life in Paris under the German occupation. A must for anyone wanting to learn more about this country and the minds of todays Frenchmen and women.

Indochine: This movie is not only a fantastic love story - it also tells more about France's colonial aspirations and what the lives were like for those French who lived in French Indochina, those who were a different kind of French as Asian foods and customs were more normal to them than those from the hexagon. Yet, they still kept with many traditions such as having a buche de Noel for Christmas dinner.

Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources: These two films make up a very well known movie and its sequel that give you insight into the great art of storytelling and life in Provence. The accents might be hard to understand if you are not familiar with this region and its dialect, provencal.

La Reine Margot: This movie brings to life Alexandre Dumas' story of the Medici family and its rule of France under Catherine de Medici. Back then, religion was the source of many wars and this movie details the war between the Catholics and the Protestants.

There are a myriad modern day films that are very funny and provide insight into what makes the French laugh; Rabbi Jacob, Le Diner des Cons, Le Placard, Bernie, Les Visiteurs...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hammam and cheese

One of my favorite activities in Paris (and many other cities as well) is to go to a hammam (Turkish-style bath house).

Paris has many hammams - some are co-ed, some are every other day men or women, some are chic, some have been renovated into hip nightclubs (e.g. Les Bain-Douches)... no matter which one you chose the experience is amazing and shows you a different side of Paris - once you step over the doorway you begin starting to see the real city - not just the 10% that you already knew (i.e. Eiffel Tower, baguettes, Notre Dame...).

La Mosquee de Paris - believe it or not, France is home to more than 100 mosques and approximately 6 millions Muslims - that is almost 1/10 of the French continental population. France is a secular country, if not the most secular country in today's world. There will be (much) more on this subject later...

La Mosque de Paris is at the same time a mosque, museum, tea house, restaurant, outdoor cafe, a souk, and a hammam (bain maure). The rules are every other day is either men or women. The secret is out on this fantastic place by the metro Censier Daubenton - and it was renovated and repainted a few years back. When you first walk in you are to choose your formule and the deshabille yourself and walk though the rooms the go from hot to hotter than hell... clothing is optional and when its time for a massage you can sit out in a room that is covered in colorful pillows and sip your mint tea while chatting with friends. You can choose a massage in a private room or out in the main room. It is best to spend a few hours here and really relax - you are experiencing many things French at the same time; 1) a more open attitude towards bodies and insecurities (you will see what I mean if you go 2) residuals of the French Empire and colonialism 3) living proof of a secular states at work and 4) the notion of pleasure for pleasure's sake.

To find the hammam, you want to go in the side where there is a courtyard cafe (on the other side from the museum entrance)on la rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hiliaire - when you walk into the building from the outdoor courtyard you will see a dessert stand/cart on your left - go behind this through the doors and you will then enter the hammam.

Prices/times/details for hammam/restaurant:

Women: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday - 10:00 am to 9:00 pm
Friday - 2:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

Men: Tuesday - 2:00 pm to 9:00 pm; Sunday from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm.

Other notable hammams in Paris:

LES BAINS DU MARAIS, 31-33 rue des Blancs-Manteaux - 75004, T. 01 44 61 02 02.
Women: Mon 11h00-20h00, Tue 11h00-23h00, Wed 10h00-19h00;
Men: Thu 11h00-23h00, Fri 10h00-20h00, Sat 10h00-20h00:
Mixed (swimsuits are mandatory): Wed 19h00-24h00, Sun 11h00-23h00.
Hammam €30, with treatments €60. M Rambuteau, Hôtel de Ville. Modern and sparkling with a cafe.


Article about the Mosquee de Paris - Hammam:

Zee needle in zee haystack

There are many free resources when job hunting in Paris for a job that will use your English speaking skills and knowledge of the U.S/anglophone business world. I have tried here to put these together for you - one stop shopping as it were. If anyone knows of any other useful tricks - please add them.

Les conseils:

Getting a job in France is difficult for two reasons 1) French unemployment levels have rarely dipped below 10% in recent years 2) If the job isn't given to a French person, then it will likely go to a European who already has papers and is possibly already living in the capital.

BUT! As a bilingual American who is savvy in both the French business and cultural worlds as well as the U.S. business and cultural worlds - you have something unique and desirable to offer. While most Europeans speak English fluently (sometimes better than we do...) it is rare that they know the ins and outs of our business world & business practices and can parlay with top CEOs the way a native can.

The easiest way to get a job in France (Paris) is through a U.S. firm that sends you there as an ex-pat. Secondly, is to go there and look for jobs with U.S. firms based in Paris.

There are a myriad French-American associations, foundations, resources etc in Paris that are available to you either for free or as a result of some creative thinking and internet research. Lists of companies and contacts are posted in a lot of places - you just have to look and then send away your CV.

Les ressources:

American Chamber of Commerce in France sells a list of U.S. subsidiaries (filiales) as well as mentions the names of its board members online.

American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union (idem)

U.S. Embassy in Paris - Commercial Services - one of their roles is to sell a listing of U.S. subsidiaries based in France.

FUSAC - free newspaper on the street as well as website that lists job posting for bilingual (English, French) speakers.

American Church in Paris - go to their website or visit the actual church for postings on jobs, babysitting gigs, groups... whether you are religious or not this is a great resource.

FPA - Foreign Policy Association - has a job board that groups job listings (involving foreign affairs) worldwide -

FUTURESTEP - job board that posts positions worldwide and has posts for both the public and private sectors -

USAJOBS - official job board of the U.S. government, lists jobs worldwide including Departments of Commerce and State (there is a foreign commercial service officer exam) -

European American Chamber of Commerce - sells lists and has job postings/company expansions and other news regarding U.S. firms in Europe -

UNIVERSITY ALUMNI CLUBS - don't overlook alumni connections, lots of universities (NYU, Columbia, Cornell...) have a France chapter and could serve as a good contact.


TALENTS.FR - don't forget recruiters (while most may require working papers, some don't)

Lots of French companies allow you to build a profile on their website and/or apply to jobs via their website e.g. LOREAL, CLARINS... many of these large French corporations will be interested in your profile. While time consuming, this can have great results!

While jumping the hurdle of not having papers will be tough, if you have a good work experience background and have honed your CV and lettre de motivation writing skills, speak French fluently and know how to sell your specific skill set - there is no reason why a French company wouldn't want you. You have something that they cant train their staff on (25 to 35 years of being a native and all that goes with it - having worked in the U.S., having a U.S. degree and the ability to bridge the cultural gap and relate to clients stateside).

Friday, June 22, 2007

Work in France, without the visa!

While working on my M.A., I had a lot of time to dedicate to researching jobs for post graduation. At the time, my ideal job involved working for the French government in the realm of economics/trade; but I didn't know where and how. I came across a website for the DREE (Direction des Relations Economiques Exterieures) which seemed perfect, or so I thought. After working arduously on a cover letter and resume in French - I sent them off only to be rejected (very formally and properly) with a written letter sent from Paris letter months later.

Luckily, the story doesn't end there. As I was networking in NYC and trying to speak with as many people in the French-speaking/New York City world - I ended up with an interview with someone at the DREE office in NYC. What began as an informal interview turned into 3 hours of interviews with 4 people, one of whom was the top boss and three weeks later I was hired. MAGIC!

All this to say that there is an entire field out there open to Americans (or other anglophones equipped with proper U.S. working papers) with extensive backgrounds in French/French Studies and who have some previous experience in business. Working as a Trade Attache for the French Embassy Trade Office in NYC was my dream job and an incredible/invaluable experience - serving essentially as a consultant for the French government advising French exporters on their business and export strategies for the U.S. market - you can work in a number of market segments; consumer goods, transportation, wine/food...

If you have the French language skills - there are a myriad of these agencies located stateside; working for the governments of France, Canada, Monaco, Switzerland, Belgium... all these countries have offices that hire U.S. staff as "locals" (agents locaux) to work in public affairs, tourism, trade & investment, and/or cultural affairs.

The following is a non-exhaustive listing of such agencies, based in the States:

French Embassy - Trade Offices in U.S. :
Invest in France:
Invest in Canada:
French-American Chamber of Commerce:
Development Economic Western Switzerland:
Greater Zurich Area:
Location Switzerland:

Monaco Government Tourism Office:
French Government Tourism Office:
Canada Government Tourism Office:

French Embassy - Cultural Services:
Swiss Embassy - Cultural Services:

French-American Foundation:
French-American Cultural Foundation:
Alliance Francaise:

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Have job, will travel

During my undergraduate studies, where I finished with a B.A. in French and Psychology - everyone assumed that I would teach French for my career. I come from a family of teachers so I have nothing against the career - but I 1) don't consider myself masterful enough to be able to teach someone else the language and 2) it wasn't what I wanted to do.

Upon graduating and moving back to the U.S. from France, my childhood best friend was working for an international, educational travel company and suggested I apply for a job. Having never previously heard of this industry sector, I did and thus began a professionally and personally fulfilling career.

The educational travel industry is relatively small but the jobs available in marketing, sales/clients services and operations allow for international travel and a fun, fast-paced job - most positions require language skills and extensive overseas experience. Therefore, these companies are filled with like-minded people who have travelled the world and want to offer that life-changing opportunity to others. The industry is largely Boston-based and some firms have satellite offices throughout the U.S.

ACIS (American Council for International Studies) -
ACIS is the company for whom I worked and is the best in the industry. ACIS offers high-quality, educational travel programs to students (high school and university mainly) from a company that cares and it shows. ACIS is a subsidiary of AIFS (UK based non-profit that organizes study abroad)

EF Educational Tours -
EF is the largest firm in the industry yet sells itself as a budget travel company for students. EF has many divisions and subsidiaries and includes study abroad, au pair programs et al. EF is a Swedish company at origin and its HQ in Boston is impressive.



AAA (Academic Arrangements Abroad) -
AAA is NYC-based.

Post 9/11, this industry suffered and several smaller firms were acquired by the larger ones. While the industry has changed over the past few years - I recommend this field to anyone who believes in travel as a means to learn about other cultures and connect peoples from all over the world. While not a high-paying industry overall, the perks of travel and a fascinating job position are "priceless".

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cherchez le job

My impetus for creating this blog as a resource for those who are in search of a mid-career job in French-American affairs stateside or overseas in France came from my own search and finding lots of resources through endless internet searches, advice from others, and simple trial and error but no ONE resource.

There is so much out there and I attempt to put it all in one place, here. My best advice to anyone looking for a job - know your passion, know your strengths and weaknesses and never give up.

A couple of tips:

Some of the best results I have had in my own searches have come from unconventional practices - buying lists of French subsidiaries from either the French-American Chamber of Commerce, the French Trade Offices in the U.S., or looking online and throughout websites and then sending unsolicited CVs and cover letters directly to top management. The American Chamber of Commerce in Paris sells a list of subsidiaries but also offers a down loadable version of "Doing Business in France" for free as well as listing their board members online (good clue to some prominent U.S. firms based in Paris).

The problem with this career path is that it is unusual and therefore there isn't a box to check off on the normal job boards (i.e. Monster, Hotjobs...). This makes for a laborious job search but also an interesting search with quite incredible results!

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Perfect France

Bonjour a tous;

I have started this blog to serve as a resource for those out there that either want to visit France, work in France, and/or work for a French-American entity in the U.S. This is aimed at either visitors to France who seek to grasp a deeper understanding of this beautiful and incessantly interesting country or to find a mid-career job working in the vast field of French-U.S. relations (cultural, economic, political...).

This is not, as the French say, a palmares - this is rather a listing of advice and experience and useful links that I have acquired over 16 years. I have mixed job hunting items with favorite little cafes, museums, walks, and tried to decipher French business lingo and practices.

Comments/corrections are welcome. I am not expert - I just would like to help others in their search for the perfect France - be it a job, a walk through the street, a delicious meal, the discussion of a hot-blooded issue or a good book.