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...