Tuesday, March 30, 2010


My partner and I were in the supermarket the other day and we were looking at buying some charcuterie for the week.  We always buy a fair amount of chorizo, as I could probably live off the stuff.  So we were talking about how much we would need, and we decided on about 12 slices.  So when he was speaking to the charcutier, may partner said "une douzaine."  So of course, this directly translated in my mind.  It was too similar to a dozen to not make the connection. 

Now a week later or so, we were with my sister in law.  She was buying something and we were talking about how many we would need.  So we were thinking about how many people we were buying for, all that, and eventually we decided on about 10.  So when she's speaking with the woman at the counter, she uses the phrase "une dizaine." After realizing she had not in fact said "douzaine," my little American mind was blown.

Apparently this is something rather common in France though.  The "-aine" ending can be put on just about any number of things.  So you could have about 20 of something, resulting in French to be described as, "une vingtaine."  You can do the same with any number in the tens, except once they start to get too high.  However, once you're back in the hundreds place, you can do it again.  Let's not go crazy with this theory though.

That's all on this end for now, but I should be back with some interesting information on filming in France.  I'm going to be in a movie here!  I have lines to learn and all that kind of stuff.  I will try and post a link when/if it's available. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Oh, that's Alsace!

Pauline Lefebre on the Elections!

If you go to about 18:00 into La Partie 2 you will understand.  Well, really, if you heard about the French elections that happened on Sunday, it was a pretty thorough rout of the UMP (Union Mouvement Populare), and a pretty solid win for la PS (Parti Socialiste).  The clearest victory was in Poitou-Charentes for Ségolène Royal.  She took 61 percent of the vote.  Overall, the popular vote finished the second round with 49 percent for the PS and and 35 percent for the UMP.  The other party that was involved in the elections had a pretty miserable showing, but for them, 16 percent was pretty impressive.  They are known as the Front National.

French elections are quite a bit different from American elections, especially in that a party is outright calling itself socialist.  They also vote twice and by popular vote.  The first vote is to determine who makes it to the second vote.  So in the first term there was the UMP, PS, Front National, MODEM (Mouvement démocrate), Front Gauche, and Europe écologie.  Out of these different possibilities, only the first three continued through.  So in the second election, you could only choose from between the UMP, PS, and FN. 

The UMP is the main conservative party in France.  I should really say the more conservative party because even some of the stuff they believe in wouldn't fly in America.  They are what we could consider center right, to right.  They are also the party of the current president, Nicolas Sarkozy.  For most of the French people I know, he is basically George Bush, Jr. with a brain.  There have been a lot of caricatures of him, much like Bush and really any world leader, but lately there have been a lot of Petit Nicolas references.  One thing that may really be none of my business to also mention is that shortly after his campaign he divorced his wife, and married Italian model turned French chanteuse Carla Bruni shortly thereafter.  Carla was his third wife.  Did I mention he ran on a family values platform?

The PS is the main left party in France.  They are more of what we would call Progressives in the US.  The  best known is, of course, Ségolène Royal.  She ran for president against Sarkozy and did fairly well.  Being a Progressive, this is more of how I see my self and how I would vote in France. 

There are a variety of other parties here.  The Front National is the extreme right party here.  It's headed by Jean-Marie Le Pen and his daughter Marine Le Pen.  It's a pretty nationalist outfit.  They want to take things to extremes.  The MODEM party is the center party, but probably what we would consider center left.  Front Gauche would never do well in the US.  They are beyond Progressives.  Europe écologie is similar to the Green party in Germany.  I would say the Green party in the US, but they accomplish nothing, especially if they keep putting Nader on the ticket. 

I am generally pleased with the outcomes.  Lets see where it takes us. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

St. Patrick's Day

I will already tell you, there was no big thing for St. Patrick's Day here.  No hangover, no green beer, and that would be unthinkable to do to wine.  I also don't think you'd really want to drink naturally green wine.  On the positive side, no pinching and no blatant expositions of Irishness.  No decorations either though, which was nice.  My mother tends to take the holidays a bit overboard.  It's reassuring though.  Should you ever have a psychotic break, you always know what month it is.

So what I did find amusing is that even though St. Patrick's Day isn't "observed" in the US, they do have saint's Days.  In fact, there are lots of saint's days in France.  For example, my name although there is no saint who directly bears my name, my name descends from St. Francis of Assisi.  So my  saint's day is October 4.  I am not sure how exactly it's determined though, or if you can choose.  That may be something better left to a priest.  (It also may be St. Peter if you go off the name which I took when I was confirmed.  My mother is catholic and it made her happy, so I did it.)  So therefore, you could possibly have people calling you up on your saint's day and wishing you a happy saint's day.

More likely than not though, it's meaningless.  People may comment on it, but you don't really get presents.  It's more of a trivia thing.  I asked my boyfriend when his was, he knew immediately.  It's like how we have horoscopes in the US (which France also has) or blood types in Japan.  It's not something commonly known or discussed, so don't be surprised if you ask someone and they have no idea when it is.

It's funny though, if you ever get your hair cut in France, you may see a pile of them sitting on the counter where you get it done.  Often they are paired with cologne/perfume samples.  It's something more for the novelty of having than something to take seriously of course.  I have never met anyone who took them seriously or really cared about them though.  More of a trivia thing, and it's more common for the older generation to know, or even say something about it to the younger generations.

Just something I thought about today.  So Happy Saint Patrick's Day.  Who wants to go run some snakes out of some countries?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Royal Cheese

So, of course as an American in France, I am overwhelmed at the quality of food.  It's France after all, the mother country.  Wine everywhere, and more pastry than you could shake a baguette at.  I really hadn't missed much in terms of American food, excluding caffeine, but that's a different case in itself.  Every now and again, I might have something that was kind of like an American product, but not exactly the same, or was supposed to be just like something else, but nope, not really.

One place that I had enjoyed all of my life, and still do despite the tone of this article, is Mc Donald's.  I don't know about anyone else reading this, but it was that one place where you always knew what you were going to get.  Everyone had their favorites, and rarely deviated from that path.  In college, it was my lunch every day, and lord help me when they got debit readers in every location.  I was done, and my gut showed it.

I had been to Mc Donald's my first time in France when my partner met me at the airport.  We had to catch a train, but we were both hungry.  So we took a stop on the metro, and we were searching for someplace to eat.  He had found a Mc Donald's, Saint-Graal, as I sometimes call it.  So after he thought for a minute about what the actual name was for things in French (imagine the confusion on the face of the woman running the register when he asked for a "double cheeseburger" with a French accent) we had a nice meal.  Although the fries were smaller, and the drinks were way smaller.  We had to hurry, so I didn't really notice much.

The other weekend, we went to Mc Donald's with our niece.  We're relatively the same age, so it was all good.  They were ordering together and I was ordering separate.  Before we went in, I had to ask a few times to make sure what to ask for, and how.  For example, when you order a combo, it's called a "menu."  Since it's French so the "u" comes out like your mouth is saying an "e" but your lips are saying a very hard "u."

So I am looking over the prices of stuff.  It's quite ridiculous.  6 euros for a combo meal.  I say I guess, and just go with it.  I ended up getting what looked like a quarter pounder with cheese combo, a 6 piece mc nugget, and a chocolate muffin.  14 euros.  I am not joking.  After the initial laughter wore off, I ran my card, which had to be signed because it was a foreign card.  French people are very ill equipped for this.  It literally causes all kinds of confusion.  So I sign and wait.  And wait.   And wait some more.

They were short on fries, and they really didn't seem to be in a hurry about it.  I am used to the American ones where they handle lots of people fast.  they just kind of stood around and waited for the fries to get done.  Not much of a rush place.  I dunno, Mc Donald's in the US just seem faster.  Maybe it's just me.  So we head home and have a great dinner where I know exactly what to expect. 

The next day I talk with my sister in law about how expensive it was.  She said that yes, it's very expensive to be prohibitive.  That way people will not just get fast food.  There is, literally no joke here, a 20% tax on all food at Mc Donald's.  I was shocked.  I saw an article where they were trying to do it in the US, and I just thought it was hilarious.  I was not as outraged by it as I would have been if I were still living in Ohio.  Pretty crazy.  But yeah, part of me doesn't think it's such a bad idea anymore.

So I checked my bank account after, and I spent over 18 dollars at a Mc Donald's.  I remember when I used to get dinner for my partner and I, we were talking 12 dollars, and we had two full bags.  But such is France.  More to get used to, I guess.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chez moi est chez toi

Earlier in the morning I was talking with my partner about what was going on that day.  As far as I knew, nothing.  We were sitting in the room with our nieces, one talking one coloring.  He said that he wasn't sure if he was going out, because my sister in law and my nieces were planning on going to pick up some new shoes and pick up some manga.  I wanted to see if the new manga for Ikigami was out, so I asked if it would be ok to go with  them.  They said it was fine, of course, but I would have to endure getting new shoes first.  I didn't really have an issue with it, so I took a shower, and we went.

So as we were going in, one of my nieces said told the other one that we were going "chez [name of store]."  I stood there for a minute, amazed at the usage.  First and foremost, it was a store.  I had heard "chez" used before when referring to someone's house, but it's really amazing at how useful of a preposition it is.  It generally means at someone's place. 

Naturally, you can say "chez moi," meaning my place, but you can also say "chez boucher," meaning at the butcher's.  Additionally, it can be used for a group.  So you could say something like "chez les Bleus," which depending on context could mean any number of the stadiums of any national sports team in France.  [Most typically used for football, but can just as easily be applied to rugby, handball, etc.]  Additionally it can be used for customs, especially when they are peculiar to a culture.  For example, "Chez les Français, on fait la bise." [In France, most people you greet will kiss you on both sides of the cheek, unless they don't know you or want to keep their distance.  Then it's a handshake.  I've found it's easiest to follow the other person's lead.]

It can also mean in the work/writings of someone.  You could introduce something like "Chez Dumas . . . " meaning "In the works of Dumas . . . ."  So this is a clever little announcer that might help you sound a little more native, depending on what you're discussing.  I am not sure of it's level of formality, so it's on the watch list for now.

So I asked what the root was of "chez."  Fairly obviously, it's Latin root is "casa."  It means house, hut, or cottage depending on use.  Most if not all Latin languages share the root. More specifically in meaning, "chez" comes to mean something where someone, or a group of people,  has control over it.  In using "chez" for a house, it's implying that it is relating to the person who has control over it.

"Chez moi" is more saying the place where I have control than specifically, "my house."  If you wanted to generally say that it was your house, you would simply say "ma maison."  In a way, you may be able to compare it to the difference between "house" and "home" in English.

Also, my niece has developed a taste for declaring the United States, "Le plus drôle pays du monde."  I don't think it would be nearly as funny, were she not six. 

Friday, March 5, 2010


Tonight, I was trying to get some stuff taken care of on the telephone, and I needed to call someone here in France.  As I am speaking with them, I realize I am getting the run around.  This happens a lot when you ask the question, "Parlez-vous Anglais?" to a French worker on the telephone.  Also, if you're polite with them.  So after a few more calls, my sister in law said she would call.  She deals with these kinds of people all day, so she'll strike fear into their hearts.  If they started to cry, she said she would put them on speaker phone. All she needed was the number.  So I start reading off the number in the standard American format, "Cinq, Cinq, Cinq, etc."  She is typing in the number, but she missed one.  So she goes again.  I start reading the numbers off again.  She misses the area code this time.  So I set the paper down, and my partner reads her the number.

My niece was also there and she was smiling a little, and then she asked the question, "Is that really how Americans read off telephone numbers?"

I said, "Yeah, this is pretty much uniform.  We read one number at a time, unless it's something that ends in a 5 or 0.  We'll read all four if it ends in two zeros too."

So it was then, I realized the problem.  French telephone numbers are not formatted like American numbers.  All numbers in France are formatted as two number groupings.  So if you were to see a number like, 22 32 60 45 19, it's read as "vingt-deux, trente-deux, soixante, quarante-cinq, dix-neuf."  It would break an American's brain to say something like "four hundred nineteen, seven hundred eighty four, five thousand five hundred twenty-two."  So for telephone numbers it's just what we do.  Just like French people say their numbers as the two digit versions. 

It was really fun to see her in action I have to say.  As my partner put it, "The problem is that you're too nice on the phone." 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

You cough, you die!

I do have to say, there is one thing that never ceases to amuse me.  I can go downstairs, right now, and I can pull out somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 different medications with varying drugs used.  There are syrups for a dry cough as well as a separate syrup for a wet cough.  If it's caused by something in your throat, I can find that too.  Should it be a chest cough; don't worry, there's something for you there too.  There's paracetamol, nurofen, efferalgon, dafalgon, advil, and helicidine just to name a few. 

I should preface this with the fact that I am coming from a different perspective.  I was always taught that it is both stupid and dangerous to take drugs unless you seriously needed them.  As a result, I became terrified that if I took drugs too much, I would someday have something that couldn't be relieved, regardless of the drugs.  So, instead of taking pills when I had a headache, I would take a nap.  If I had a fever, I would take a lukewarm showers.  

Should it mean anything, I grew up in a medical family.  10 of my mother's 11 brothers and sisters were either doctors, nurses, or lab technicians.  My mother was an x-ray technician.  My dad is a registered nurse and still works in the emergency room.  I could always ask them if I was unsure about something, or if I needed to go see a specialist.  However, it was always the rule: "Unless it's an emergency, wait a week on what you have. If it's still there, it's something to worry about.  We'll see a doctor then."

However, I feel I was an exceptionally immune child.  I never had strep throat until I was older, the same for a sinus infection.  I had chicken pox when all my brothers and sisters did, but I never had measels, or really got worse than a cold or a fever.  I remember there were certain classmates who would just disappear for a few days and come back after some sort of illness.  Another friend I had in high school was showing me all the different medications she was on.  I couldn't believe it.  She wasn't even 20 and she was on probably 6 inhalers and/or medications.  So I thought that maybe it was just my family.  Maybe there was something off.  Maybe. 

I really never though much about it until I came over to my partner's apartment one day.  I said I had a headache, and I needed some tylenol.  He pointed me in the direction of one of the bathroom drawers.  So I walked up and pulled it open.  A tidal wave of drugs, pills, and syrups came out at me.  I just had to laugh for a minute, and my thought went back to my friend.  I still wondered if there was something I just wasn't getting.  So I grabbed what I hoped was a headache remedy and went back to make sure it was indeed what I needed. It wasn't.

There were other times, like when his mother came to visit, and she would bring a fairly large bag of different French medications.  We seriously had an entire drawer and a shoebox packed to the gills with medications.  I had 4 of things in this drawer: a bottle of pepto-bismol, a box of nyquil sinus, a bottle of pseudoephedrine my father got for me from the pharmacy at work, and a bottle of Alieve.  But every time he came back from France, or someone came to visit, we had a whole new stock of medications we hadn't come close to using up.

Moving on to France though,  it turns out everyone is like this.  If you have a headache, you take a pill.  If you have an ache, drug up.  A cough?  There's a syrup for that.  People have no issue with just running to a doctor and getting it taken care of.  Since I have been here, I think every member of my family here has been to the doctor at least once. 

Now, obviously the difference lies in the systems, partially.  In the US, you can expect to pay a minimum of $50 to as much as $200 to see a doctor.  In France, it's usually less than 30 euros, and is usually reimbursed.  There are also pharmacies everywhere.  My partner comes from a town of less than 10,000 people and I know of at least 5 pharmacies there.  (You can always tell because there's a green cross out front.)  You also can't just buy medications.  You have to ask for them.  You speak about what your problem is and the pharmacien will determine what's needed for your special case.  And this is for anything, seriously, anything.  Imagine having to speak to a pharmacist every time you want to buy a bottle of ibuprofen or tylenol?  It's bad enough that in Ohio you have to ask for pseudoephedrine at the counter.  Annoying.

Another thing that amuses me is this medication called Actifed Jour &Nuit.  (translated as Actifed Day and Night.)  Yeah, you're thinking Nyquil or Dayquil and so was I.  Well, not exactly.  You don't just take one when your feeling ill, you have to take a whole series.  There's a pill for when you wake up, another when you eat, another in the late evening, and another before you go to bed.  French people are also very serious about taking those pills.  I was asked every morning, afternoon, and night if I had taken my pill.  Even if I hadn't, I just said yes. 

I found another site that explained a bit more about things.  So here's that link:

Things are going well here.  I had a great birthday, and well, let's just say the hangover was worth it.