Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Friday, April 30, 2010

The one in which I complain a lot

C is gone this week - he's in Toulon finishing up his marine reservist training - and I'm currently in the middle of packing two suitcases. One for this weekend and one for Monday. But let's backtrack a bit - had things gone as planned, I would've been gone this week as well. I had scheduled several customer visits, and was thinking how nice it would be to kill two birds with one stone and be gone a week that C was also gone.

Enter in my condescending co-worker. ie. the one who simultaneously talks to me like I'm slow and treats me like his b*tch.

I'm the only French-speaker in The Company, which means I get stuck with all of the francophone clients. Which also means I now have twice as many customers as my co-workers. So I took a look at my client list, found a handful who *cross-my-fingers* speak decent enough English, and asked my boss if I could give them away to a colleague to try and lighten my load. He said "Sure" - and then proceeded to give them to the aforementioned condescending co-worker.

Who then decided he absolutely HAD to come to France this week or hell would freeze over. And since he's the most senior person in my team, his needs take priority over mine and I had to cancel my I could translate for him. WTF? That was the whole point of me choosing customers who spoke some English. He says it's just a one-time thing, but I highly doubt it. So way to go self, you just added even more to your workload.

The worst part is that he ended up changing his mind at the last minute and canceled everything. For whatever reason, he decided he wanted to move our visit to next week instead - ie the week that C has off and that we were supposed to spend together. Which means that not only could I have kept my original schedule, but also now I won't see C until late next week. The man essentially f"ed up two entire weeks for me. Thank you kind sir.

The one bright spot in the week is that I'll be leaving for Finland this evening with Miss Leyla - we're going to relive our glory days there and celebrate Vappu. (Though considering there is a high of 8°C this weekend, our celebrating might have to be indoors). The downside is that I won't get back until around 12:30am Sunday night - which normally wasn't supposed to be a big deal since I was supposed to have the week off - but now I have to head over to the train station at 6:30am Monday morning (again, thank you dear co-worker).

I don't take kindly to being talked to like an idiot, and even less so when I'm exhausted, so if you hear of one American off-ing another in Brittany early next week, you'll know exactly why....


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Now that the weather's getting nicer, I've seen a lot more bachelor and bachelorette parties out and about. One of the biggest differences I've noticed in France is that they usually make the bride/groom-to-be dress up in a ridiculous costume and wander around town, collecting bisous and/or money.

Exhibit A:
Exhibit B:The other day at the gym, a girl walked in dressed up as a giant bonbon. Her hat was decorated with candy kebabs that she was trying to sell in order to raise money for her honeymoon. I thought a gym was a sort of weird place to choose - though I guess it could go either way: she could've either sold them all at once or not sold a single one at all. Too bad for her it was the second option this time around. I don't take my wallet to the gym, so I couldn't have bought one even if I'd wanted to.

After she left, I walked into the changing room and asked the elderly Portuguese woman if she'd seen her. She said no, but "De toute façon, nowadays people are married today, divorced tomorrow". I was a bit taken aback by her cynicism - I'd like to hope there's still at least some chance that 1) I'll get married someday and 2) that I'll stay that way.

So has anyone out there had a French-style bachelor/bachelorette party? If so, what did they dress you up us? And what kind of défis did you have to do?


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Yesterday, as I was waiting for C to meet me at St Michel, I came across some people holding this banner:
How random is that? You can check out their website here.

And then we were off to profiter du beau temps at the first BBQ of the year chez Ms Juliet. She's one of the best hostesses I know, and we all had a fantastic time lounging around in the sun, catching up with friends, and, most importantly, EATING. Roll on Summer!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Yesterday, my boss asked me to take a day trip to Grenoble to visit a new client. I was pretty excited since it's a new region for us - most of my clients are in "le grand ouest", and I've seen pretty much everything there is to see in their areas. I unfortunately didn't get to see as much as I'd hoped due to the train strike - I basically just had time to get there, see my client and get back - but it is definitely a region I would like to explore more someday.

My train wasn't due to get in until after 9pm and I was starting to feel peckish, so I decided to head over to the bar car. I obviously wasn't the only person with this idea, since there were a good 10 other people in line in front of me. Which meant I spent the next 20 minutes preciously guarding my place in line and fighting off all the wannabe line jumpers. When it finally came to be my turn, I ordered their "menu saveur" - it had a cold entree, a sandwich and a drink.

The waitress grabbed the entree and turned back to me and said: "What sandwich?" I was like "Pardon?" And she repeated "What sandwich?" again. Now y'all know it's a major pet peeve of mine when people start speaking to me in English. Especially in bad English. So I replied back in French, saying I wanted to roasted chicken one w/veggies. I give her my (American) bank card and we proceeded to have the following conversation.

W: I no take
Me (in French): Why not? I use this card a couple times a month on the TGV with no problems.
W: Machine no take
Me (in French): Um, yes it does. See, it goes right there - you just have to slide it through.
W: I try. (runs it through at the speed of a turtle). It no work.

The other people in line have noticed the delay and are starting to get shifty. Everyone else in the near proximity is also staring because of the English speaking. I am starting to get majorly irritated because all those years in Bretagne have made me really testy about people staring at me.

Me (in French): You have to do it faster.
W: No work (who is she, Tarzan??)
Me (in French): Now you need to press that button. (She tries and it works). But why are you speaking to me in English anyways?
W (in French): Because you can't speak French Mademoiselle! (Not only is she telling me my French sucks, but she calls me Mademoiselle on top of it? When I'm all gussied up in professional attire, carrying a work valise and sitting in first class? Nobody puts baby in a corner).

W (continues on): I am doing this for you, to make things easier. You should be happy.
Me (in French - and getting on my high horse): Listen lady, did I ask you to speak English with me?
W: Ah bon? You don't like speaking English? It's the first time a foreigner has ever told me that.

Me (*possibly* stretching the truth just a little bit here to make my point....): You do realize that not all foreigners are anglophones right? That there are other languages out there? I'm telling you, if I'd wanted to speak English, I would've moved to England!

I was ready to expect a round of triumphant applause, but then I was brought back down to Earth and remembered I was the only foreigner there. And that everyone else was still staring. Including the dude in front of me who'd for whatever reason had thought it was humorous to order his "parmentier de canard" with in an American accent. (Who buys parmentier de canard on a train anyways??) So I took my food and quickly walked back to my seat, all the while hearing the waitress muttering to the next customer "Ca alors. This has never happened before. Those foreigners are normally happy when someone speaks English to them".

I don't know why this rubbed me the wrong way so much, but I am glad I got the mini-bottle of wine with the meal to help calm me down. I guess I just felt like I've made so much progress. And for whatever reason, my French is normally a million times better when I'm talking to a customer or to a stranger than it is with someone I know. Hell, in Egypt, the people at our table didn't even realize I was a foreigner until half-way through the trip - and only because of my misuse of 'avant' when speaking about a food item. As in "Ah, tiens, il y avait pas ça avant" instead of "il n'y avait pas ça tout à l'heure".

Same goes for our châteaux weekend - neither the owners of the castle we stayed in nor those of the manor realized I wasn't French - and the owner of the manor even has an English husband! So I was thinking I'd really come a long way, only to get put back in my place by some lowly SNCF chick. Boo on that.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Disclaimer: Those of you who do not enjoy toilet talk may want to skip this one.
A few situations I've been in of late have gotten me thinking about a little-known French phenomenon - the silent peeing.

Silent peeing? But whatever could you mean, dear Ksam?

Let me explain. When I first moved to France, I noticed that most people had the bathtub/shower+sink in one room, and then the toilet in a separate closet. That in itself is fine - but the problem lies in the fact that the toilet room usually has very little insulation, meaning that you can hear anything and everything happening in there. I mean, everyone knows why you're going in there, but do they really need to hear it? Enter: the skill of silent peeing.

I've been doing an informal survey these past few days, and most people, while not having ever noticed this before, do agree with me once they think about it a bit. Think about the Frenchies in your life? Do you ever hear them pee? I remember asking Fab about it once, and he said that while he'd never thought about it, it was indeed something he unconsciously did.

Now we get to the "How do they do it?" part. There's got to be some trick to make up for the fact that their toilet bowls have funny shapes and almost no water. I've been picturing all kinds of contortionism or and crazy positions, but Leah suggested a much more practical solution - she says she's heard they line the bowl with toilet paper so as not to make any noise. Aha! Could this be the secret?

And now I'm wondering - is this something you yourself have noticed? And is it specific to France, or do other countries do it as well?


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

C has been on vacation this week, and instead of heading off somewhere, we decided to just do a staycation here in Paris. We've slept in, gone for walks in the park, seen a few movies and started planning our trip to the US. And on the schedule for tomorrow is a trip to Ikea.

C is a big fan of the outdoors though, which means I am now the proud (?) owner of a new pair of hiking shoes. I'd gotten him a hiking guide for the Paris region for Christmas, so we decided it was the perfect time to try it out and break in my new shoes. As you all know, I love me a good castle, so we ended up choosing an 8km hike that went by the Château de la Madeleine. It was about a 45 minute drive from Paris (or an hour if you're riding with C, lol), and the hike itself takes about 3hrs at an easy pace (including a lunch break). It was really lovely and took us past a field of horses, through a forest and past another farm before arriving at the castle.
I had to laugh though, when after lunch, C pulled out a mini camping burner in order to make himself a post-meal coffee. It reminded me of how when you see French families eating at rest stops, they usually have a huge spread going on, with a tablecloth plus real plates and silverware. Once a Frenchman, always a Frenchman!


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lest anyone think C is too perfect, I can assure you he does have some flaws. Not many, but they are there. For example, he has some really weird issues with food - I don't really want to go into them here, but they practically merit a blog post of their own. As a quick example - he ate his first orange while we were in Egypt. How do you make it to 30 without ever having eaten an orange??? I mean my grandma did because she grew up in post-war Finland, but come on, nowadays it's insane. Fin bref. Let's just say the issues were almost a deal-breaker for me in the beginning but that to his credit, he's been making a huge effort ever since I told him how much of a problem it was getting to be.

He is also the slowest driver on the planet. For as much as I love discovering new things with him, I dread the car ride there. Our 3 1/2hr drive to Poitiers on Saturday took over 6 hours and our drive back took 7 hours because the man consistently drives 20km UNDER the speed limit. And has to stop every hour for a break. It drives me absolutely insane. He goes 70km/hr in a 90 zone. And 90km/hr in a 110. I think it's probably an American thing - we tend to just get in the car and drive, only stopping for a pee break when it's absolutely necessary. Anything else just wastes time. But the worst is on the auto-route. They're not cheap, and in my mind, you're paying for the right to go faster. I don't want him to speed, but just to go the 130km/hr speed limit. We've yet to have a major fight, but by God, the speed issue just might cause me to explode one day. (Or maybe it will motivate me to finally learn how to drive a manual car LOL).

But I try to be patient because lord knows I am not without flaws myself. The day I brought up all of his food issues, I said "but there must be things that I do that bother you too" - and he just looked at me quizzically and said "Mais tes défauts font partie de ta perfection" (But your faults are part of your perfection). Which has to be about one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.

And that is what I try to focus on when we are stopping to take our gazillionth break along the way.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

We got back late last night from our Château weekend, and for the first time ever, I was a bit sad about coming back to Paris. I would've liked to have had just one more day to explore the region and spend time with C.

The Château was great, minus a minor (major?) hiccup - they'd forgotten to turn on the hot water heater. As you saw in the previous pictures, our room had a fantastic jacuzzi tub and it was one of the reasons I chose this particular place (bathtubs being a fairly rare thing in Paris). So I was pretty bummed out, when, at 10:30pm, we realized there was no hot water and that it would take 3 hours for it to heat up. Plus their dishwasher kept causing the breaker to trip, so we had several minute power outages.

C saw how disappointed I was, and decided to take matters into his own hands. He went and borrowed an electric hot water kettle from the kitchen and then the man spent an hour filling up that damn tub, liter by liter, all the while I was semi-pouting in the bedroom and thinking we should just laisser tomber the whole thing. He finally told me to come take a look, and I was extremely surprised to see his plan had actually worked! Not to mention that he'd thought of everything - he'd brought bubble bath, candles and wine. What a change to be with a man who not only thinks ahead, but then makes the effort to actually do it!

Plus the owners felt so bad the next day that we ended up not having to pay anything besides the 30% deposit we'd already given them - which was a nice surprise that meant we had lots of money left over for yummy dinners and souvenirs. So all is well that ends well.

If anyone else is looking to do something similar, I found our place through a website called Bienvenue au Château. They cover Châteaux in what is often known as "le grand ouest" - ie Brittany, Normandy and the Loire Valley. If you're looking for places elsewhere in France, there's also Châteaux Country or the pricier Smartbox option.


Friday, April 2, 2010

April Fool's

Sorry guys, as many of you guessed, yesterday's post was just an April Fool's Day joke. I've had my cranky pants on for the last few days, and for some reason, I found the thought of causing a mini-hubbub quite cheering. And I was right, reading all the comments, emails & DMs I got definitely brought a smile to my face all day long.** I'm in a much better mood today.

So nope, I am not getting married (or at least not any time in the near future). I was serious about the Château weekend though, and I am really looking forward to a nice weekend away with C, especially given all the hours we've both been putting in lately. Hopefully the weather will hold out. I was also relieved to see there wasn't anyone saying "NOOO!! Don't do it!!" - or if there was, they kept their thoughts to themselves. But so hopefully that means that most of the people who've met C approve. :)

**PS. Katia gets mega bonus points for recognizing the Milkjam reference!!


Thursday, April 1, 2010

I am getting very excited - this weekend, I finally get to use my Christmas present from C - a weekend in a château!

We will be staying in the "chambre du chevalier":Does that not look like the perfect place to celebrate our upcoming nuptials?

Yep, you read that right.

C proposed last night and for once, I decided to just throw caution to the wind and go for it. Enough with all the thinking and the analyzing. The timing is perfect too because we just bought tickets to the US for June, and I figure we might as well just do it then so my family can attend. I've never seen myself spending as the kind of girl who spends a whole year planning a wedding, so it couldn't be more perfect actually. Just give me a fancy dress and I'll be happy!

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