Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Q & A session:

One of the features of the Feedjit is that I am able to see what google searches bring readers to this site.

The most common are 1) job search in France and 2) travel.

I am no expert - but I do have a unique experience in having worked in France and for French entities in the U.S. So I would like to open this up to questions - feel free to ask me anything, if I can help - I'd be glad to. The same goes for questions about travel to France.

The floor is now open...

Almost French ?

What constitutes nationality? Is it simply an act of citizenship? It is personality, experience, years spent in a country? It is whether or not one wants to be something?

I heard a saying that I really liked - it's not that people change in the face of another culture, it is rather that that culture applauds certain behaviors that people already have, or are inclined to... instead of shunning them. The appearance is that someone changes, but in reality - they are allowed to express parts of their personality that possibly they hide otherwise.

Why are we attracted to certain cultures & countries and not others? Why is it that after living somewhere different, we either take part of it with us - or reject it completely? Can we chose to change or not to change?

In the face of what is most different, we see ourselves - more boldly. I have always thought that in traveling - we learn often more about ourselves, our own country than that one in which we are.

I bring this up to discuss some of the thoughts and dialogue brought up here - http://annesinclair.typepad.fr/journal/2008/11/les-us-et-la-fr.html - and in reference to a new new book, entitled I’ll Never be French (No Matter what I do ).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Yes we did!

If you are interested in following a bit of franco-americain debate on our world post 4NOV elections - I invite you to visit Le Blog D'Anne Sinclair @ www.annesinclair.typepad.fr


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

(In)appropriate questions during a job interview

As a U.S.-based (female) I have many many times had interviews for jobs either with a French entity based in the U.S. or in France. Knowing as much and as little as I do about French culture, I know that rules pertaining to questions permissible during an interview in France are vastly different from thaose in the U.S.
I relay this information without judgment, just as a mere caution and useful information.

1. French resumes all include a picture, age, nationality, and marital status as required items and this is also situated on the resume next to the name and address and is therefore amongst the first informations that a potential employer will see.

If you, as an U.S. citizen, do not place this information on your resume - be prepared and expect to be asked. This is fair play. (It is illegal however to ask about religion).

Drawing from own experience, I have been asked in interviews about my age, my plans to have children, and my current relationship status (even to the extent of being told "great!" when I said I was newly single). When interviewing in France, I am "expected" to answer this; in the U.S. but interviewing with a French entity, I see it as up to me if I want to respond. This may or may not happen to you - as after these experiences, I relayed the story to French friends who were shocked and horrified at the indiscretion.

2. The more you know about France, the better - really. The stereotype that all people from the U.S. know about France is Paris and the Riviera is still somewhat rampant and the more you can disprove this with your knowledge of other cities, of Frnech history, culture, language - the more you will endear yourself to them and therefore to the job you are seeking.

3. Language is taken seriously; so is formality; and so is protocol. Use the vous until you are told not to; default to the proper and formal - always.

4. The French work environment may feel more pessimistic as compared with that in the U.S. (if this is what you are used to) - but look deeper, its not its just a different way of loooking at work. The French are "born" with certain rights in terms of work contracts and they dont see it as it is seen here in the U.S. (as in its a privilege to have a job, paid vacations, health care.... these are rights in France).

5. The French make about half of salaries for comparable jobs as here in the U.S. - know this and be cautious when negotiating salary. They did not pay $60,000 for their studies nor do they pay for health care with high premiums as we do - also they are guaranteed at least five weeks paid holiday. Normally, you also have on RTT per month (day off) and your lunch is paid for through tickets repas on days when you work. These added benefits add up. The French also have a better work/life balance and vacation is to be taken, not paid out.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Le Blageuer a prix reduit

Le Blageuer has mobilized the masses to create a Cheap Paris series on her laugh out loud blog - http://parisblagueur.blogspot.com/2008/10/paris-on-hoof-more-than-any-other.html

Thought I would give her some free advertising.

What's love got to do with it?

Through numerous conversations and personal experiences - I have come to realize that love is a somewhat or very different concept in different countries/cultures.

As an American, I find the French more tragic and therefore more romantic when it comes to love and relationships. We all know the stereotypes that they are more 'pragmatic' or 'liberal' than Americans, whichever word fits your better. But I have come to think that they are more tragic - its OK to have lost at love. In the U.S., it is seen as a failure - where in France it is seen as part of life and you are better off having had a passionate relationship than none at all. To the French: love is messy, complicated, and there are no "rules". Rules - are something Americans, in general, love and love to follow. If person does X then you do Y.

This is my opinion - any others?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Having recently devoured Sarah Turnbull's Almost French in a mere three days; this book was an utmost pleasureable experience - I laughed aloud to the point of crying uncontrollably on the bus back from NYC this weekend - she brings to life so many universal experiences of an expat in a country where the language spoken is not your native tongue. She spins stories of going mute rather than doing a disservice to whatever topic it is that you just cant defend in a foreign language, slapping you in the face with the reality that your personality changes when you live in a foreign country; at home you can be funny, outgoing, and incessantly sociable but plucked up and spat back out in un pays etranger: you are now quiet, SHY even, and well lets face it - boring. This is hard to face and even harder to overcome. Living abroad is a constant effort - being truly open to understanding that things just are because its different - is an effort. In one sense, everything is "normal" - it has its place in its own culture, history, and location. It can be explained, whether or not you agree - and more often than not - its works.

I also found myself shaking my head violently in agreement to the notion that once you leave home; something is always missing and it will be forever bittersweet. You always miss somewhere, someone, something even - and you become the mathematical formula of many things added to many other things, sometimes divided by a factor - or multiplied by another factor (even subtracting a few qualities, likes... to create, to equate to - a new you, a different you. Its then up to you how these mesh together.

Every experience changes us - sometimes we want to retreat back to the former, but when we visit it - we realize it no longer looks the same: as we now no longer are the same. I've always loved the saying that you dont step in the same river twice. Life changes you - if you let it is what most people say - rather I think life changes you - if you have the courage to admit that it does.

Friday, July 18, 2008



I read the above article this morning and was instantly flustered, frustrated and angered. This is a sophisticated and complex issue and I do not pretend to have the answers. I do however, have opinions on the subject.

I think that nationality cannot be denied to someone because of a piece of cloth. For a laic state, the burqa can be nothing more than a piece of cloth - as religion does not play a role in the French state. Where religion does not play a role - it should have no INFLUENCE.

The main problem with the burqa I think is that you can see it - from far, far away. What does the French state truly not want to see - women in a state of submission to their husbands or the ever changing demographical makeup of the French society? What "French, republican" values does the burqa truly go against? If it has to ro with religion I think that this is unfair and religion plays no part in this laic state - therefore should have no bearing on nationality. The decision makers only knew of this women's religious stance because they could SEE the burqa - they are not allowed, legally, to ask. So if they legally cannot "know" - how can this play a role in the ruling?

I see that the issue is more complicated than that - if someone's rights are being violated or subjugated - shouldnt the state protect an individual's rights? Wouldnt it do that for a child? Yes - but this is not a child, this is a full-grown woman. Is she being then treated like a child or someone who cant or isnt autonomous?

The greatest problem I see is that in the fight for equality and women's rights - we are still telling women what to do instead of allowing them to make their own choices. Do they have those proper vehicles to make those choices? That is a different question alltogether. By denying this women French citizenship because she wears a burqa and is therefore deemed subservient to her husband - do we empower her? Do we treat her equally? No, we dont.

I remember flying back to NY from Paris one time and being sat next to a man of the muslim faith - he and I chatted most of the flight and discussed islam and different cultures. He asked me to think about one point - in western culture, the hijab and the burqa and often seen as "shocking" as a "shocking way to treat women" - but he asked me to think about how it must feel for someone who comes to the "west" for the first time and either on a kiosk on the street or in a magazine store sees, openly, pictures of naked women, of women in subservient sexual positions out in the open. Isnt this too shocking? How do we describe this treatment of women? It is not to say that either is right, or better - but we cant forget that our norms and ideas are not relevant or even "normal" somewhere else.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Through the looking glass...

While eternally beautiful, France can certainly be a dangerous place sometimes. For instance, you will stroll the streets eyes looking up, down, and all around at the stunning architecture, the tree-lined streets, the monuments, the people - all the while making sure not to step on any crottes, so how on earth would you have time to notice these?

One could even be looking through one, at say a monument and not even notice it - don't you think? This very thing happened to a friend of mine recently, fresh off the Airbus from New York City; roaming the streets in utter glee busily taking in his surroundings at a mad pace and - SMACK - he walked straight into a France Telecom phone booth (quite a rarity nowadays since the advent of mobile telephones). He had actually been looking through it to see a beautiful monument just on the other side, with some sun in his eyes, and never saw what hit him. What hit him being a large, immobile phone booth completely transparent save the FT logo near the top.

In pain, feeling a welt emerging on his forehead, he managed to walk home to his host family's house. As he entered, his host father looked at him aghast as he saw the large, red welt taking over the upper half of his head. My friend, seeing the horror in the face in front of him - asked sensibly for some ice to soothe the pain. His host father responded to his request with an odd, quizzical look but turned and went away seemingly to oblige.

No less than five minutes later, the host father returned with this:

In French, the difference between ice (glacon) and an ice cream (glace) is simple and easily misspoken.

My friend had a good laugh and instead of licking his wound by putting some ice on it, he licked his vanilla ice cream cone. It did help, nonetheless.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Decadent Dictator

During a year of studies in Southern France, my American roommate and I were both picked for a three hour Modern World History class that met each Wednesday. She and I sat next to each other and for three full hours we wrote madly every single mot that we could grasp out of the air bursting at its seams with facts and figures and politics that poured out like hot lava from our Professor's mouth at TGV-like speed. We neither looked at each other during class nor breathed, I think, for the full three hours. After class, we would compare notes and try as we might to piece together the broken phrases and words and ideas to map out the history he had recounted for us. It was a difficult class and we always returned home fatigued - both mentally and physically.

One day when our professor was detailing for us the tragic events of World War II (I repeat the subject of the day was World War II), all of a sudden my roommate elbows me sharply and whispers every so quietly and ever so completely obliviously - "please for the love of dieu - tell me who is ECLAIR?". Yes, eclair like the cream-filled, chocolate-topped, calorie-ridden pastry. I looked at her, then at her note book - a notebook that was filled with sentences the likes of " ECLAIR started the war with France, ECLAIR stormed in to occupy Paris, ECLAIR sent 6 million to the camps..."

I immediately burst into a very loud laugh as I realised her faux pas : the French do not pronounce the letter H outloud.

I will let you figure out the rest.
And if you are good, someday I will tell you the story about (h)appiness.


Before anyone tells me what a clever title (anglicized take on the word bouquinist - vintage booksellers festooned along the quais of the Seine)- it is the name of a restaurant in Paris - so not my own creation by any means.


Having recently devoured these delicious novellas - both of which treat the same subject - Paris as an expat - but with hilariously different tones; the former is of a Brit turned permanent Parisienne, and the latter recounts the adjustments of a New Yorker to Paris during a temporary stay. Both are filled with humor, jabs at the French, and insights into two different reactions and vantage points of an "Anglo-Saxon" experience in Paris.

La Jolie Presse

I have the privilege of being involved with an incredible organization that was founded by one single women, a survivor of rape and war - who took those experiences and used them as undying reason and energy to start an NGO to provide (micro) financial, emotional, and educational support to women in war-torn countries - WOMEN FOR WOMEN INTERNATIONAL.

Today, I awoke to find some quite glamorous and important news online. The sexy samaritans - Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have donated money to WFWI. This is wonderful press - as whatever these two touch turns into front page news the world over.

(ASSOCIATED PRESS) - Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's love for children is by no means limited to their own: The couple has donated $1 million to help kids affected by the war in Iraq, the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict announced Wednesday.
The organization will distribute the donation, made through the couple's Jolie-Pitt Foundation, to four organizations working on behalf of children who have lost parents, homes and schools in Iraq. Children in the U.S. who have lost parents in the conflict will also benefit.

"These educational support programs for children of conflict are the best way to help them heal," said Jolie in a written statement from Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, which she co-chairs.

"We hope to encourage others to give to these great organizations," Pitt added in the statement.

The money will be divided between the Armed Services YMCA Operation Hero Program, which provides military children with counseling and educational support; Women for Women International, which will provide books, school supplies and other basic necessities to Iraqi women and children; the International Rescue Committee, which will repair three schools and offer classes for more than 2,500 students; and NineMillion.org, which will give school uniforms and learning materials to more than 2,000 displaced Iraqi kids.

If you want to learn more about Women for Women International:


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ricksha Wallah

I am departing from my usual subject matter as I recently returned from a trip to India and witnessed something that was gut-wrenching.

I had visions before I had left of most of what I was to see there, in terms of living conditions of the average person. What brought me to tears and saddened me beyond belief was the following:

Chaotic, busy, horn-honking, lights, faces, shouts, smells, traffic moving at all speeds with people walking, cyclo-pousses, auto-rickshas, cars, carts, cows - anything that can move was and was darting in and out of each other's way with rapid and loud movements... moving forward in a million directions. You can see the sounds - they are so loud. The noise is as thick and pungent as smog. We were watching it all happen outside of the tunnel-vision view from our own ricksha when all of a sudden, in one single beat, traffic stopped Instead of calm and quiet inertia - this sent horns, people's voices and animals into mania - trying to see what had happened and get it out of the way. The one rule of traffic here is that it never stops.

After a few minutes (but what seemed like an eternity to people who were late getting to an airport for not one but two international flights) things dwindled down and our own cart began moving again... moving forward to allow us a view to see that some type of accident had happened - to watch clients in flourescent orange and deep blue saris getting out of a unmotorized ricksha that had fallen - shouts coming from a man on a moped who had most certainly caused this and wanted no blame or responsibility.

But as all this cleared in my vision, one sight remained - the look of the most deep despair and sadness I have ever seen as the ricksha wallah (ricksha man, or driver) picked up the broken and bent pieces of the wheels of his ricksha - he moved with a slowness that spelled out his pain and utter attempts to not accept what was happening to him; this must be the speed of sadness, of total loss - looking at what fate had just dealt him - this is most certainly his only means of a living, this means a night without pay and who knows if he has the money to pay for the reparations - but the look on his face told us he didnt and this would certainly mean future hunger or worse. No insurance, no cares from the moped driver nor the clients both fleeing the scene as quickly as possible to get to their party or take on the next client. In the chaotic, hurried scene of the streets of Varanasi - everything moved in a slow, desperate, tristesse motion for this one ricksha wallah.

I will never forget his face, nor how quickly and deeply I felt sadness for him and the unjust, unfair situation that happened in a split second.