Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I've been meaning to blog about this for a few weeks now, but kept forgetting. Now C & I normally speak in French, but he does speak fairly decent English and has an interest in learning more. He is pretty exposed to it just by association (ie. soirées with my friends, movies in VO, American TV, etc), but he's always resisted my suggestion of speaking English a few days a week. And to be honest, I never really pushed it much since I'm happy to finally be speaking French outside of my work.

But before we left for the UK, he asked if we could speak English there. I wasn't really too excited about it because 1) it would be weird to speak to him in another language and 2) it's kind of nice to have a secret language (that not too many people can understand) while abroad. But I realize I'm lucky that he actually wants to improve his English, so I decided to go along with it. For the first days though, it was really weird. Like incredibly weird. Like talking to a complete stranger weird. It was almost awkward - you just get into this rhythm of relating to someone one way, and switching languages mixes that all up.

But then I sort of got used to it, and it made for some funny, direct-from-French, translations. Like C calling me "my little bug". I didn't dare tell him that puce was flea in English.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sorry for the lack of posts - I've been in all four corners of MN in the past week, which has meant endless of hours of driving (many through mountains of snow). And now I am up in NE Minnesota, helping my mother move into her new house.

Moving sucks on any day, but in freezing temperatures, it's even less fun. Add to that the fact that my mother seems to have been in denial about having to move and thus had not packed a single box when I showed up. She just doesn't seem to see the urgency in this - when I woke up this AM, she'd been up for 2 1/2hrs and had spent the whole time surfing the internet instead of packing/moving. WTF?? Let me point out here that we only have 2 days to pack & move her entire house, and that the builders haven't yet finished the new house so we really have no place to put everything over there. I believe this may be what hell looks like.

On the positive side, I made about 150 trips up and down the stairs yesterday carrying heaving things, so at least this is serving as my work-out for the day/week/month.

Always end on a positive note, right?


Friday, December 25, 2009

Blow out them there candles Jesus!

Merry Christmas everyone! Things are going fairly well here in Minnesota, minus the blizzard we've been experiencing for the past few days. I cleaned off The Company's vehicle last night, and here's what I woke up to this morning:We braved the wintry weather last night to go to the local Christmas Eve church service. I've been feeling a bit under the weather here - something in the air always makes my throat close up and it feels like I've got an elephant sitting on my chest - so I wasn't feeling much like changing out of my PJ's. But I figured - come on, it's church and it's Christmas - you can make an effort.

Turns out my effort was for naught - I swear there were people wearing their pyjamas to church. One girl was even wearing slippers! I guess that's what you get in a small town though. The best part though was at the end of the service, when they turned down the lights and brought out a cake. I was thinking "Hey, it's somebody's birthday here" - but then everyone started singing "Happy Birthday Jesus". I just about choked! I mean, yeah, if you believe in that stuff, Christmas is Jesus's birthday and all, and it's important to remind people that Christmas is not just about the presents, but it just seemed so.....tacky. Non?? But hey, I love me some sheet cake, so who am I to complain?

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Continuing on with the French eating habits...

At the end of every year, The Company sends out a letter saying that each of our customers saying they can buy pizza for their employees who deal with our product, as a sort of Christmas Thank You for their hard work. Since they send it out in English, I usually send out an email/fax in French to all of my customers, reminding them that they can do this. This morning I got back the following reply:

Bonjour Samantha, moi personnellement, je ne mange surtout pas de pizza en fin d' année; il faudra dire à votre chef que les français mangent du foie gras pour les fêtes et le foie gras= caneton = (our product) = money pour The Company. A défaut de pizza, je veux bien des chocolats.

"Hello Samantha,

Personally, there is no way that I would eat pizza during the holiday season. You need to tell your boss that the French eat foie gras during the holidays, and that foie gras = ducks = (use of your product) = more money for The Company.

So instead of pizza, I will take some chocolate."

I just about died laughing after reading this - I mean, how much more French can you get??

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A few nights after the ice cream discussion, C & I were watching a French program that was following around this French couple. The wife had end-stage kidney disease, and her husband had decided to donate one of his kidneys to her. My first thought was "Oh, that's really sweet" and then I didn't think anything more of it, but C's reaction (along with everyone else on the program) was more so along the lines of "Is he crazy?" Apparently organ donation is a fairly rare occurrence in France - and it's true that once I started thinking about it, I couldn't ever remember hearing about anyone doing it.

Then again, the laws in France also complicate the matter somewhat. Up until a few years back, you could only donate to your parent, sibling or child. In 2004, they finally changed it to include grandparents, aunts & uncles, cousins or spouses - but it's still illegal to donate to a friend, co-worker, etc. All of this has acted together to make organ donation a lot more rare in France. So I was explaining to C how it worked in MN, and even brought out my drivers license to show how you could check on the back of the box if you wanted to be an organ donor and he was really surprised.

But getting back to the show - I could not believe that the rest of this woman's family refused to donate an organ to her - some of them wouldn't even get tested to see if they were a match! The general consensus was "But if we give one kidney to her, we'll only have one left, and what if something happens to that one?" Even her parents said they wouldn't give one to one another. And then it was my turn to be flabbergasted - I couldn't believe that people would actually prefer to let their daughter/sister be on a wait list (and potentially die) than donate an organ.

It's obviously a bit too early on to be asking C whether or not he would donate a kidney to me, so I asked if he would donate one to his mother or his sister - and he was so shocked I had even asked. He said he never even thought about it before and that he wasn't going to think about it because it wasn't a choice he currently had to make. But here I was thinking that it was important to have considered this kind of stuff, because it might happen some day.

It's funny though, because it also made me think about how most of the Frenchmen I know in Paris are just as Americanized as Fab was (if not more). And C has so many sides that aren't typically French, but every once in a while, I get caught off-guard by just how French he really is. I guess it's going to keep me on my toes, but it does make me wonder if we're not in for some interesting discussions (arguments?) ahead.

Though for the sake of our relationship, it has already been decided that the "No, peanut butter is not any worse than nutella" argument is officially off-limits.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Up until now, I was considering myself to be fairly knowledgeable about French culture, but the more time I spend with C, the more I realize how much I have left to learn. Fab was practically American, so we never really had any cultural misunderstandings or differences, but with C, we're sometimes worlds apart. Like I've already mentioned, there's his insistence on eating literally everything with a knife and a fork. Or how his idea of what constitutes a meal is so narrowly defined.

And I had to laugh the other day when we were watching an American sitcom. The female character ended up being pretty mean to one of her friends. They part ways in a huff, but a few hours later she realizes the error of her ways and she shows up at his door with a big bucket of ice cream. Now C will often times pause the show we're watching to ask a what X word means or the meaning of Y phrase, but this time he paused it and just had a bewildered look on his face. He literally could not understand why she would show up with ice cream. He was so mystified by it that I could not stop laughing. And the worst part is, I couldn't even explain why she would bring ice cream. I mean really, he's right - why ice cream? I tried talking about how they would make up and then eat straight out of the carton with a big spoon, but that just horrified him even more. (and made me laugh even harder)

Oh, the joys of a bi-cultural relationship!

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

I don't know what happened to the long post I wrote while in the plane yesterday, but here's a recap of my week:
-frantic last-minute Christmas shopping
-whirlwind trip to Angers for work
-quick goodbye to C, made even shorter due to snow-related train delays
-flight back to the US, made even longer due to snow-related plane delays

Happy Holidays everyone!

Monday, December 14, 2009

I'm back from jolly England, and I had a grand old time. By some stroke of luck, the weather held out and I didn't need make use of my umbrella even once during our 5 day sejour. Both C & I had been to London several times before, so it was mostly a "get-away" kind of trip, and not a "full-tourist mode" holiday. So we spent 2 1/2 days walking around London, doing a bit of shopping and enjoying the Christmas lights. And then it was off to the North to introduce C to Miss Leyla & Co. Hopefully they approved. ;) We had great (but cold) weather there as well and had our fill of delicious Indian food and fish & chips.
I particularly enjoyed taking a look around the British supermarkets - they have access to so many more "familiar" things than we do in France (even if most of the major things are fairly easy to find in Paris nowadays). And the prices are so much more reasonable too. But so were the restaurant prices in general - both of us were surprised at how cheaply we were able to eat. Most of the time, we ate for less than 15£, whereas in Paris you often pay that much for just one person.
I also introduced C to plenty of American food - things like bagel sandwiches, American ice cream, Subway, donuts and his first burrito at a Chipotle lookalike restaurant (thanks to Kefinparis). And he enjoyed it all, even if he insisted on eating everything except the ice cream with a knife and a fork. You can take the Frenchman out of France.....


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

As we were getting off at Picadilly station, I heard a group of Christmas carolers at the top of the escalators. It turned out to be a class of school children trying to raise money for their school. It was cute, but I found it a bit odd, kind of like child exploitation (especially since it was during school hours).

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I'll give you two guesses as to where C & I are spending the week...

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Monday, December 7, 2009

One thing I've noticed since moving to Paris is that it's so much easier to get into the holiday spirit here than it was in Bretagne. Between all the lovely store decorations and myriad the Christmas markets, you can't help but feel the growing excitement. This past weekend, I was lucky enough to be invited to a few holiday parties, including a cookie-making party. I haven't done that in a long time, and man, was it fun! It's also nice to be able to introduce C to some American traditions - I have to say he's been a real trooper (even if he still refuses to eat peanut butter).

Then yesterday, after a quick stop-in at the combined O-Château wine tasting/book signing, it was off to check out the marché de Noël along the Champs-Elysée. I'm not normally a big fan of the Champs due to all the crowds, but I am a sucker for a good Christmas market (and the mulled wine they normally offer). Even though most of the booths really didn't have anything to do with Christmas, they were still nicely decorated, and it made for a lovely (if muddy) Sunday afternoon walk.It was just what I needed to get me in the holiday spirit - which, considering how many presents I have left to buy, is definitely not a bad thing.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I'm traveling again for work this week, and have had about 2 hours of driving to do each night - which means I've spent a lot of time listening to the radio. I normally enjoy it - in fact, FYI - I'm usually the crazy person you see singing along with the music at the stoplight.

But these days, it seems like instead of playing music, the latest radio fad is to have the host call up your spouse/partner and pretend to be someone else to find out if they're cheating. On some stations, they'll pretend to get the wrong number and then flirt with the person and ask them out to see if they accept. On others, they'll pretend to be a flower shop and ask who they'd like to send the free flowers to. Most of the callers are women suspicious of their boyfriends/husbands, and I'm sorry to say that pretty much 9 times out 10, the guy is cheating. I guess the moral of the story is trust your gut ladies - if something seems off, it probably is.

If you want to listen to an example, click here, then scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on "Défi téléphonique - Les roses". Today's episode involved a woman finding out that her boyfriend of over a year was leading a double-life and had secretly been dating another woman for the past 8-9 months (the other woman was also being fooled) - Though I don't think it will be posted until tomorrow.

I don't know, I find it all so depressing. Here I am, in a still-fairly-new relationship, and it's really disheartening to realize just how many "normal" people out there are cheating. I don't think it's something that's specific to France, but I definitely do think it's more accepted here.

Up until now, I think I've done a pretty good job of not projecting my Fab-related trust issues on C, but man, when ya hear stuff like this day after day, it really makes it hard for a girl to think about getting seriously involved with someone again. And add to that a few recent break-up stories from friends + us being separated a lot due to my job and you've got one jumpy Ksam. Who should maybe be using her trigger-finger to change the radio station instead.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's funny to think that just a little over a week ago, I was sunning myself on the beach at Cap Ferret...