Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Chan poot tai mai bpen

And here I was thinking I wouldn't have any fodder for an April Fool's post this year!  Those of you who guessed it was true were right on - there is indeed a possibility that we could move to Thailand a year or two from now.

So obviously I've been thinking a lot more about the practical side of living there - starting with the weather.  Oh, the weather! And the humidity!  During my last trip, I was out on site in the middle of nowhere for a week and working in 110°F/43°C with no fan, while wearing long pants and rubber boots and no about gross. Let's just say it was a killer and I was in major need of a hose down when I was done every day.

And then it comes down to a place to live.  What is the housing like? Is there reliable internet access?  Are gyms popular?  Will I be able to adapt to the food?  What kind of budget will we need?  How will we pay our mortgage in Paris?  So I've been asking a lot of questions about how much a 2 bedroom apt would cost, where are the best areas, how do people get around, where do they buy groceries. And of course the visa/work permit question comes into play, as it seems like a pretty complicated process (although to be honest - is it ever an easy process??).

Then there's the language. At least when I started learning French, I was able to tell myself that I already knew about 40% of the language, I just needed to learn how to pronounce it properly.  That doesn't really work with Thai. My brain is pretty much already full with English, French, Finnish plus the basic communications I have learned in Arabic, Japanese, Mandarin, etc, and for whatever reason, Thai is just not sticking. I cannot seem to get past Hello (Sa wat dee kah), Thank You (Kob Khun Kah) and Water (Nam).  The words are just so darn long.

Plus there's the whole issue of tones....the Thai language uses long and short tones, high tones and low tones to change the meaning of a word. For example: "kao" can mean: nine, knee, rice, come in, news, etc depending on the tone used.  And to my farang (hey, wait, I know a 4th word!) ears, they all sound exactly the same.  Though I guess it's similar how many Americans can't hear the French nasals, and have trouble distinguishing between vent/vin/vont.

But of course Bangkok would be a great city to be based out of, and my work would likely require a lot of travel elsewhere in SE Asia, which could also mean some fun side trips for the two of us.  Plus the people are absolutely lovely - even though I stand out like a sore thumb, I feel like much less of an outcast in Thailand than I did in Bretagne. I'm also lucky to have a wonderful husband who totally supports my career and is willing to follow me anywhere in the world.  And I guess at least one good thing is that it would give me a lot of new blogging material, which has been sorely lacking as of late.

So who knows, we'll see how things play out over the next 12-18 months with our Asian market expansion. We could continue living on in France, or a year or two from now, I may need to make a blog name change to "Totally Bangkok'ed Out"...although that sounds a little dirty.  Maybe "Totally Thai'ed Out"?  or "Totally Thai'ed Down"?   A voir !

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Is change in the air?

As some of you may have noticed, I've been making quite frequent trips to Bangkok lately, and I'll likely continue going at least a week per month between now and July.  Like most global companies, mine is working on expanding East, and as the only specialist in my subject matter for The Company, this has meant an increased need for my skills in Asia. It also does not hurt that for whatever reason, despite me not being a people-person, I am quite popular with the aging bigwigs of the companies we work with, which makes them more likely to sign contracts with us.  I guess if ever it doesn't work out with C, I know I'll always be able to find a rich second husband abroad. ;)

Seriously speaking though, because of its geographical location, my company is considering possibly open up an office in Bangkok in a year or so, and given my specialty and the fact that I am part of a young, mobile (and childless) couple, there is a good possibility that if we open the office, C and I will be asked to at move to Thailand for a year or two.

All of this has had me looking at my trips there in a new light.  Like - could I really move across the globe?  I guess I've done it once before. But I've been in France for 12 years now.  And we have a good life here.  I was so much younger and more adaptable when I initially moved now we own our own home and have (high) monthly mortgage payments to make. Can I deal with the extreme humidity? And the time difference would be killer with my US colleagues....So needless to say, there's a lot for us to consider. Luckily though, C will be able to accompany me during my May trip over so he can take a look at Thailand with fresh eyes too.

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Le pere Noël

We spent the Christmas holiday in the Alps with C's brothers & sisters and their families, and I actually ended up being a bit disappointed in how un-Christmas-like it was.  They weren't into my holiday music or Christmas movies, there were few decorations besides the tree and we didn't have an all-out Christmas dinner like most French families do.  My Christmas cookies were poo-poo'ed (though they did end up liking them in the end). The whole thing just seemed more like any-old weekend than the festive holiday get-together that I was hoping for.   But I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, my in-laws are all very non-traditional and not at all into commercial celebrations.  I just thought that things would be a bit different now that there are young kids in the family...

This was our first Christmas celebrating with C's family though, and I love finding *the* perfect gift for people, so I put a lot of thought and effort into present shopping, especially for the kids.  After opening the gifts, one of our nieces was playing with a gift we gave her, and I started telling her mother where I found it and why, and she interrupted me and said "You mean where SANTA found it".  And I was like - "No, this was a present from us".  And she said "No, you mean from Santa" a little more forcefully. 

I was confused, so once the little one had left the room, I asked what that was all about, and she explained that the kids thought all of the presents had come from Santa.  I couldn't really understand why Santa had to bring every single gift - but her rational was that the kids wouldn't believe in Santa anymore if some gifts came from other people.   But it went as far that even gifts from the neighbors or from the grandparents a few days after Christmas were also from Santa, with the explanation that "Santa made a mistake and dropped them off at our house for you".  I tried to explain that made the whole Santa theory even less credible, because come on - the guy's been delivering presents for millions of kids around the world for years, and he's still making delivery errors??  But she wasn't having it.

I guess my whole problem with this theory is - why it would be so bad for the kids to thank whoever gave them the gift? Growing up, in my family, we had a few presents from Santa and the rest from family members, and we had to go around and say thank you to each person and give them a hug.  And that seems like it would be much more in line with the French obsession with politeness.  Kids are taught to do the "bise" before they can even talk, and "hello, goodbye, please and thank you" are drilled into them once they do start talking, so what's wrong with showing gratitude for a gift? 

We had a NYE party at our place last night, and one of my French friends confirmed it was the same in her family, and said again "But they wouldn't believe in Santa if we didn't do that".  So I'm curious how things are done in other French families and if it is a French tradition I just haven't come across yet?  I guess there are still things for me to learn about French culture even after 12 years here!  I'd also be curious to hear how things are done in other countries that celebrate Christmas (or other bi-cultural families in France), so please leave a comment below.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A year in review

*knock knock*  Is this thing on?

It's been so long, I've almost forgotten how to blog.  Plus I've noticed fewer and fewer feeds in my blog reader...I wonder if blogging is dying a slow death while other social medias take over, or maybe 2014 has just been a busy year for everyone?

I was thinking though about all 2014 has brought, as one tends to do at the end of the year, and man, what a crazy year it has been.  Mostly positive - becoming homeowners, lots of travel and some personal growth in there as well.  But also some stress - mainly work-related, but also some due to me trying to be a supportive wife for C's top-secret project.  Trying to balance the fear of financial risk (especially after you just signed a 15yr mortgage) with encouraging a spouse's dream is a tricky thing.  But more on that some other time...

I was able to visit some pretty amazing places over the past 12 months- I had to actually flip through the calendar in order to remember them all:
  • France - too many trips to count
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • Japan
  • Morocco - two trips
  • Taiwan - three trips
  • Thailand 
  • US - four trips
  • UK - three trips
Plus we managed to sneak a few fun trips in there - I spent a week in Bali with my bff, and C and I took two trips to the Alps, plus romantic weekends in Lisbon and Strasbourg. 

2015 isn't looking to be any slower for me work-wise.  I was in the US the week before Christmas, and a lot of our time was spent visiting Very Important People in the Dept of State and International Trade Offices.  Our quest for global domination continues, one chicken at a time (though I guess that is only funny for those who understand what I do).

My goals for 2015 include maintaining my healthy/fitness as a priority and practicing daily gratitude. Some of the places I travel to remind me on a regular basis of how lucky I am to have been born in the US and to have had the opportunities I've had, and I have been trying to make the effort to be actively grateful for it.  For example, I was able to get home 4 times last year - not many expats get to do that, and while the trips are tiring when they're coming after a multitude of other trips, it also means I got in some very precious family time (including being able to attend my brother's wedding).

Speaking of work, we've been going through some pretty intense training sessions that have had me thinking a lot about my approach to life and my interactions with people.  I'm a pretty blunt person and I'm slowly starting to realize how abrasive that can be at times, so I would like to work on finding the balance between being honest and delivering the message in a non-hurtful way.

My other work goal is to attempt to not always assume the worst, ie to try to give people the benefit of the doubt.  For example, if a co-worker is rude or hasn't delivered on a project, I would like to be able to take a step back and say "Ok, hold on, they've maybe got X,Y, or Z going on in their personal life and are just having a bad day" instead of getting worked up or taking it personally.  I don't think it will be easy for me, but I do think (hope) it is a skill that can be learned over time, ie you can't control other people's reactions, but you can control how you react to them. 

I also hope to be able to disconnect a bit more from the Internets when I am home - C and I have much less time together than your average couple, so focusing on quality time instead of quantity time becomes all that more important.

So hopefully 2015 will be the year of being intentional - of focusing on the positive, really thinking about how I spend my time, and working on personal growth.  It sounds really cheesy when I put it down on paper, but it's where I'm at right now.  I wish all of you an equally productive 2015 (and hopefully you've all got some tasty champagne chilling in the fridge now to toast in the New Year).


Thursday, August 28, 2014

One for the ladies

Because of some of the places I've been traveling to lately, I've been a bit leery about purse theft and have been on the look-out for a cross-body travel bag.  I wanted a bag that was large enough to carry everything I need for plane/train travel (wallet, phones + chargers, tablet, bottle of water, umbrella and a sweater/scarf), but yet not one that was too big = heavy.  It also had to be durable and fairly stylish.

I did a lot of googling and read a lot of reviews, and finally settled on the Travelon Anti-theft Signature Crossbody:
It's a bit larger than the purse I normally carry, but still smaller than a messenger bag.  What I love most about it so far though is the amazing number of pockets.  You see, I have been carrying the same raggedy purse around for years now (and even bought the same purse used off of Le Bon Coin) because I love how many pockets it has.  It lets me keep my purse super organized, and you'll never see me digging around the bottom of my purse for my keys/lipstick/etc.

And this bag is the same - as you can see in the photo above, it's got a small travel pocket on the front flap for easy access to things like boarding documents.  There is also a large pocket on the back of the purse.  And inside there is a padded pocket for a tablet, a middle zippered pocket (great for make-up), a large pocket for your wallet, water bottle etc, and then the 2 standard phone pockets.
As an added bonus, one of the phone pockets is also RFID-protected, so it's great for storing your passport & credit cards.  (Read more about RFID protection here).  You'll also notice on the left of the picture that there is a small clip that you can attach to the main zipper when it is closed, preventing thieving little hands from reaching in and stealing your phone or passport. And the last safety feature it has is the main strap is slash-proof, and also has a carabiner that you can undo in order to secure your purse to your chair or table.

I purchased mine in grey, but it also comes in black or purple. It's available on Amazon, but I ended up buying mine from because they had it on sale for $45 (vs Amazon's $79).

**Note - this is not a sponsored post, and I purchased the bag myself.  I just think it's a really good quality, practical product and thought other frequent travelers might be interested in it too. :)


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Se faire belle

My SIL and her children stayed with us for a very hectic five days (the amount of noise and mess two small kids can produce is really quite incredible).  My niece is at the age though where everything princess rules.  Pink dresses, tutus, crowns, wands - you name it, she loves it. 

Her mother and grandmother are very earthy and don't really bother with external appearances at all, so whenever she comes to see us, she is always extremely interested in my make-up products, nail polish, etc.  She would sit quietly with me every morning while I got ready, just watching me, and sometimes asking questions about what I was doing or using.

Her main question though was Why?  Why are you putting on makeup? Why are you doing your hair?  Why do you paint your nails?  My immediate answer was "pour me faire belle", or to make myself beautiful, but then I thought - what on Earth kind of message is that sending to a young girl?  I certainly didn't want her to think that a woman needed to put on makeup in order to be beautiful, but then how do you explain to a 3-4 year old that you can put on makeup to feel better for yourself, and not just for others?  Or trying to delicately answer that I used mascara to darken my eyelashes without making it seem like it was bad if you didn't do that, especially since her mother doesn't.  But it still didn't stop her from asking "Can I wear makeup?  Can you do my hair? Can you paint my nails pink?"

The whole time she was here, I kept thinking back to an article I read some time ago that brought up the different vocabulary used with boys and girls.  Boys are often told they are strong and smart while girls are told they are pretty or good.  And it's something I've been very conscious about ever since.  I mean, it's true - it must be so much more difficult to motivate girls to excel in academics or sports if they are mainly lauded for their looks or how they act.  Even as an adult, I'm not really anything special but still most of the compliments I get tend to be more looks-related and not accomplishment-related. But luckily I have some pretty great girlfriends and blog readers who also recognize how hard I've worked. ;)

Anyways, I know a lot of you out there currently have or have raised girls, so I'd be really curious to hear your thoughts on this and how you dealt or have dealt with these sorts of questions.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bastille Day 2014

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you know that yesterday was Bastille Day (said no French person ever), or as it is more commonly known "le quatorze juillet".  It's my favorite French holiday, and this year in particular I have especially been looking forward to it because of our view.

I love me some good fireworks, and long before we found our apartment, I often dreamed of us watching the fireworks from chez nous, like I used to be able to do from my shoebox.   So that was my immediate thought the minute I stepped out on the balcony during our first visit here. I could literally already see us popping a bottle of champagne and enjoying the view.... which is exactly what we did last night. And it was magical.
I actually got a little teary during the middle of the show.  I'd been dreaming of this night for so long, and here it was. I could feel my happiness building along with the crescendo of the music, like the culmination of all of our hard work over the past few years that had brought us to this exact moment.
And it was perfect.
Thank you Universe.

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