Category Archives for "French Culture"

What is Je Suis Charlie Hebdo

What Is “Je Suis Charlie” And Why Did Terrorist attack In France?

Daughter: “Mama, what is “Je Suis Charlie?”

ME: “Um”

Daughter: Are the bad people in Paris going to come here where we live? (We live in France by the way).

My daughter was asking about the events on the 7th of January where 17 people were killed by what some are saying was a terrorist attack.

Unless you live under a rock, chances are you also heard about it.  But what exactly happened? Why are people rallying? Why did terrorists target Charlie Hebdo? Why, why, why?

I’m no expert but l will do my best to explain things as I know it and give you a point of view from someone who is actually living in France at the time of the event

What is Je Suis Charlie An honest but confused look from someone who lives in France and who is not French

What happened and Why am I writing about this

First the WHAT!  I am writing these words exactly 7 days after the 3 day terror began on the 7th of January 2015 where twelve people were killed at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine that publishes controversial cartoons.

On Thursday, immediately following the tragic events at Charlie Hebdo, there was a fatal shooting of a police officer by a third person who was linked to the first attack. After killing the police oficer, he then entered a Jewish supermarket and took hostages, 4 of which he murdered.

A total of 17 people were killed!

WHY? Part of the reason I am writing about this is for myself. So I can make sense of it all. Writing helps me think.

Another reason is  to perhaps give you; a little perspective from someone who is not a French citizen but who was living in France when the incident happened. And maybe shed some light on certain nuances that you can only understand if you actually live here in France.

Who was responsible?

Je-suis-charlie-gun pencilFrench illustrator Jean Jullien

Muslim extremists took credit for the attack.

Here in France, they have shown footage of the killers admitting they were funded by Al-Quaida branch in Yemen and that the attack was carried out in order to avenge the honour of the Prophet Muhammad.

The three people who carried out the terrorist attacks were all French born.

French born brothers carried out the attack on the Satire magazine Charlie hebdo but were of Algerian descent. Both the brothers were well-known to French police, and their names were on the U.S. ”no-fly” terror lists for years.

The supermarket attack was carried out by one man who was French while his wife is said to have fled the country and was last seen near the Turkish-Syrian border.

All three men were killed.

What has it been like for us here in France?

Although my family and I live in the South of France, about 10 hours drive from Paris, the effects are being felt just as strongly.

There is a tenseness in the air that is hard to explain.

There are roughly 5 million Muslims living in France. Many of which are 2nd and even 3rd generations French born. The divide between the Muslims and non Muslims has always been present but now it seems some French people are using this event to lump all Muslims into one basket and retaliating against innocent muslims.

There have been numerous attacks against Muslims, including several mosques and even a kabob shop that was blown up. (Kabab shops are all over France and are usually run by someone of Arab descent).

The news is non-stop about the events and everywhere I go, I see signs posted that say “JE SUIS CHARLIE”.

Even my 7 year old daughter is aware of the events. She drew a sign for herself while I was cooking diner one night.  (she left out the “E” on Charlie)jesuischarlie-catherine

France remains on high alert while investigators determine whether the attackers were part of a larger extremist network.

Unity Rally: It is estimated that 3.7 people gathered around France. 

Most of Europe and certain parts of the world are rallying together in solidarity against what happened under the phrase JE SUIS CHARLIE.

jesuischarlie-rallyparis

On Sunday, the 11th of January, France had it’s largest Rally in history.

Over 1.6 million demonstrators surged through the streets of Paris behind over 50 world leaders walking arm-in-arm Sunday in a rally for unity described as the largest demonstration in French history.

Millions more marched around the country and the world including London and Ireland.

It is estimated that over 3.7 million people rallied across France in unity to defend freedom of speech and western democratic values against terrorism.

More than 5,500 police and soldiers were deployed that Sunday across France, guarding marches, synagogues, mosques, schools and other sites.

My son’s whole high school class skipped school to attend a Rally in Hyeres France where he goes to school; as did many schools across France.

The Eiffel tower went black for a minute of silence at 8 pm on Thursday.

je suis charlie eiffel tower

This is just what happened in the last 7 days.

Background behind the words “Je Suis Charlie”

The slogan “Je suis Charlie”, which means “I am Charlie” is meant to identify the speaker or supporter with those who were killed at the Charlie Hebdo shooting.

Therefore when you say “Je suis Charlie”, you are in essence a supporter of freedom, of speech, and resistance to armed threats.

Some liken the phrase or say that the meme or slogan is closely related to the phrase made by John F. Kennedy’s at the Berlin wall in his 1962 speech where he says  “Ich bin ein Berliner”. The phrase which roughly translates “I am a Berliner” was said to express America’s support for the people of Berlin by literally claiming himself as one of them.

There was a similar genre made by the French to show support after the 9/11 attack when the “Le Monde” paper printed “Nous sommes tous américans” meaning  “we are all Americans”

  • 1963 : JFK “Ich bin ein Berliner” -> I am a Berliner, JFK expressed compassion and solidarity with the German
  • 2001 : Editorial on “Le Monde” newspaper on Sept, 12th 2001 : “Nous sommes tous américains” -> we are all American. French people felt like and supported American people. See on the right :
  • 2015 : Charlie Hedbo : “Je suis  Charlie” -> I am Charlie, meaning we are all like Charlie people, we suffer from the loss the same way they are, and are as outraged as they are.

How Did the Slogan “Je Suis Charlie” Start and spread so far and fast?PX*13709059

Twitter heat map shows the jesuischarlie hashtag as it spreads around the world on Twitter

It’s a message that was supposedly started by Joachim Roncin, an artist and music journalist for Stylist, who posted on twitter one hour after the attack; (#JeSuisCharlie).

Within the span of 24 hours, the slogan went viral on twitter and it’s estimated that close to 65,000 tweets were being tweeted per hour. A record for even twitter.

jesuischarlie-charliehebdo-

Shortly after the attack, Charlie Hebdo went offline and when it returned it bore the Je Suis Charlie on a black background. (The above photo is a screenshot I took of their website).

The statement was then not only used as a hashtag on Twitter (#jesuischarlie and iamcharlie) but people across France and the world printed or hand-made signs, stickers and displays at vigils and on many websites, particularly media sites and social networks.

Supporters: How are they showing support?

je suis charlie george cloone

Many people around the world are showing support and spreading the word including well known stars who attended the Golden Globe awards by carrying signs and buttons that said “Je suis Charlie”.

George Clooney gave tribute by wearing a “Je suis Charlie button” at the Golden Globe awards and saying “There were millions of people that marched. . .in support of the idea that we will not walk in fear. We won’t do it. So, je suis Charlie.”

Inspirational Art Work and Cartoons To Tribute Paris Victims and Support Freedom

Artists around the globe showed their support by drawing their own rendition of the Je suis charlie slogan.

jesuischarlie-simpsons

Those cartoonists hadn’t launched any Hellfire missiles, hadn’t kidnapped anybody for so-called “enhanced interrogation”, hadn’t even frozen the bank accounts of any wealthy Muslims. I don’t hear anyone saying that they had so much as conversed with unmarried Muslim ladies. All they had done was express on paper what many of my fellow citizens were thinking, without sugarcoating. There is no rational way to interpret the attack on them except as an attack on me and the culture of which I am proud to be part.(source)

The Simpsons homage.

jesuischarlie-ouestcharlie

Martin Handford,the illustrator for the “Where is Waldo” series which is actually called “Ou est Charlie” in France, drew his famous character in homage of the recent events also.

jesuischarlie-dog

Found on facebook, don’t know who this is by.

je_suis_charlie-gun-pencils

From BLAKK on deviant art

What is Charlie Hebdo and why were they targeted?

Charlie Hebdo which roughly translated means “Charlie Weekly” is a French satire magazine best known for publishing cartoons that mock and criticize Islam; Islamic extremism, and the prophet Mohammed. (the main reason the terrorists claimed they targeted the magazine).

Many Muslims consider portrayals of the Prophet Mohammed to be a serious insult and religious offence.

By design, the cartoons were supposed to be raunchy, crude and made to provoke.

Some people are saying the magazine was asking for it because of the type of messages they put out  in their weekly issues.

While the drawings were shocking, you should understand that the French brand of political satire called “gouaille”, (meaning banter) is a very different form of satire than the American political satire in that it is based on free thinking love of provocation that stands against authority.

Parisians even pride themselves on “gouaille.

Blasphemy is a national pastime, not a dirty word in France.

Cartoons That Terrorists Thought Were Worth Killing Over
jesuischarlie-it-hard-being-loved-by-assholes

This was not the first time Charlie Hebdo was targeted, nor was it the first of it’s type. Watch the video below to get a little background on this.

I am not sure if you remember this but back in 2005, there was a similar event where a Danish newspaper published 12 cartoons, most of Muhammad, in the same way that Charlie Hebdo did.

The cartoons sparked riots that left more than 250 people dead around the world.

In 2006, Charlie Hebdo  included the infamous Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed and put a crying Muhammad  on the cover, with a speech bubble saying “It’s hard being loved by assholes.”Jesuischarliecover2.jpg

5 years later, Charlie hebdo was firebombed after it published an issue where they jokingly said the issue was “guest-edited” by the Prophet Mohammed (“100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter”).

WATCH THIS VIDEO TO GET A BRIEF HISTORY OF ATTACKS ON SATIRE HUMORISTS.

Criticism

Counter-hashtags have appeared as expressions of disagreement with the unconditional support of Charlie Hebdo.

JeNeSuisPasCharlie (I am not Charlie) has been used by those who accuse the magazine of racism.  JeNeSuisPasCharlie has been used around 20,000 times by critics of Charlie Hebdo according to  BBC News.

Other people have said that they brought this upon themselves by mocking the Muslim religion.

I am not sure if in the US or the world for that matter, if the media pointed out that Charlie hebdo also poked fun at Christianity, Judaism and anything else in a position of authority including it’s own president.

je suis chalie hebdo mocked everyone

Past covers include former French President Nicolas Sarkozy looking like a sick vampire  and an Orthodox Jew kissing a Nazi soldier.

Vengeance

Jesuischarlie-AnonymousHacktivist group Anonymous has promised to avenge the attacks and a Belgian ‘branch’ of Anonymous posted a video message to YouTube describing a new campaign against Jihadists, called OpCharlieHebdo.

In the video, in true anonymous fashion, a masked man says  (in French) “We will track you down – every last one – and will kill you,”  “You allowed yourselves to kill innocent people, we will therefore avenge their deaths.”

WHERE WAS OBAMA?

50 world leaders show up in support of Frances fight for freedom on Sunday after the terrorist attack.

I have been watching the news coming from the US via the internet and have seen all the questions and statements regarding Obama’s absence where over 50 world leaders marched together in unity on the Sunday following the terrorist attack.

In fact, there seems to be a lot of talk about him not attending. But it’s not just American media that is taking notice. The French media noticed too. But the French’s coverage of Obamas absence has not been as prolific as the American coverage. It’s been a blip on the French radar. The French have been doing a great job of keeping most of focus on the fight.

Part of me says Obama should have been there but part of me also wishes the media would put the focus on what happened rather than Obama’s absence. Even the White House acknowledged their mistake so let’s move on.

Forbes columnist Stuart Anderson echoed Zakaria’s statements, saying: ‘By not attending the unity rally in Paris on Sunday, President Obama has missed an opportunity to show leadership, to demonstrate that Americans are as committed to fight against terrorism as anyone in the world.

‘And that America stands with its allies in a worldwide battle that, unfortunately, is likely to last many years.’

Is it safe in France? What happens now?

Because the gunmen were Muslim French citizens, some are saying that this is the beginning or the trigger for a civil war. Remember, I said that there are over 5 million muslims living in France.

I don’t know if Islam-phobic is the right word but there is definitely a great divide between French and the Muslims.

This isn’t something I heard on the radio, this is the sentiment that I know exists after having lived in France for years and hearing how many French people talk about Muslims. It can make one very uncomfortable. For instance, the time one of my friends justified certain racial comments against some Muslims at our daughters school by saying “well it isn’t racism if it’s true”.

This attack by Muslim extremest has probably deepened that divide even though I know for a fact that most Muslims here in France do not condone the actions of a few extremists.

I have been hearing stories on twitter, in forums and through friends of friends who say that they feel like hey are being targeted for being “’foreign looking” (i.e. non-white). Stares from armed police. People yelling at them from their cars.

Is it safe?

Many people have emailed me saying they want to take a trip to France and they want to know if it is safe?

I should’t laugh because many French people have asked me if it was safe to travel to the US considering there are mass shootings at schools which seems to happen at least once every couple of years.

So is it safe? Let me ask you this. If you are living in the US, did you feel safe sending your kids to school after hearing about crazy gunmen shooting down children in public schools?

Did you feel safe after 9/11?.

Nothing in life is safe or guaranteed and no one could have foresaw the events in Paris this week .All you can do is get on with living your life, otherwise the terrorists have won.

Jesuischarlie-editorPhoto of the editor who was the main target of the Charlie hebdo attack.

So yes, I feel as safe as I did when I lived in the US and Canada.

Why are so many people rallying in support of France now?

Despite the fact that many people are saying that the magazine brought this upon themselves. I am not one of them.

Many people, including myself believe the reason so many people are coming out in support and standing united against terrorism is to show “them” that we believe in our right to freedom and that we do not fear “them”.

As Voltaire once said “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

The French have shown such a tremendous amount of unity. I can honestly say I have never in all my years on this earth been part of and seen first hand this widespread support.

They are coming out in support of freedom.


Marche républicaine à Paris : «C’est ça la… by leparisien

For now, the world is taking a stand for free speech.

Proclaiming the pen mightier than the sword.

Humour stronger than fear.(source)

If we’re too afraid to speak out against “them”, then the terrorists have won.

I know that most people reading this blog are Americans. I leave you with this last final thought.

Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views, even views that we profoundly disagree with.  We do not do so because we support hateful speech, but because our founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views and practice their own faith may be threatened.  We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can quickly become a tool to silence critics and oppress minorities. (source White House)

LET US NOT FORGET NIGERIA

Je suis charlie Nigeria Boko Haram

The sign above reads, “I am Charlie don’t forget about the victoms of the Boko Haram”

Just days before the attack in Paris, over 2,000 people, mostly the elderly and children were massacred by Boko Haram across northern Nigeria. But the world seems to have not taken as much notice.

Some people are asking why did the Paris attacks receive more coverage than the Niegerian slaughter?

I can’t answer why this happened. You should read about it and help spread the word. 

 

If you would like the opinion of another French person who happens to live in the US then go check out my friend Sylviane blog post  CHARLIE HEBDO FRANCE HAS BEEN HURT BECAUSE OF A CARTOON

King Cake

How To Be King For A Day In France By Eating King Cake On January 6th

One of the charming things about France is all the different holidays, traditions and customs. Just when you think one is over, another one pops its festive head up. January 6th, Epiphany is one of those days. It’s the one day you can become King for a day. Well sort of.

king-cake-galettes

What is Epiphany day: Symbolic Meaning

Exactly 12 days after Christmas on January 6; people across France celebrate Epiphany day. The French have been celebrating Epiphany, since the fourteenth century. It celebrates the Three Wise Men who arrived in Bethlehem bearing gifts for baby Jesus.

Ties to Mardi Gras: If you are not familiar with epiphany, you most certainly must be familiar with Mardi Gras and Carnival! Epiphany also marks the first day of Carnival and a series of parties in Louisiana that eventually lead to Mardi Gras, ( Fat Tuesday). The last hurrah before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.

How To Celebrate: And Become King For A Day In France.

On Epiphany, young school children learn about the history behind epiphany day at school and the shelves of every single Boulanger in France are lined with rows of “gallette des rois” (King Cake).

Galette des rois is flattish puff pasty cake usually filled with apple or frangipane, a cream made from sweet almonds, butter, eggs and sugar. Hidden Inside each King cake is a small figurine called a fève which literally means bean in French. Originally an actual bean was put in the cakes, but around the 1870’s, it was replaced by porcelain figurines and more recently sometimes by plastic toys.

In Montreal there are still bakers that actually put beans in their king cake. I think bakers in Louisiana put a small baby, representing the Christ Child, in the cake.

percelain figurines we found in our king cake in France

The tradition is simple and quick. You cut slices of the cake and hand them out at a small get together or with your family. Whoever finds the figurine in their slice becomes King for a day and will have to buy and offer the next cake. There are some special things that make this tradition charming.

  • A paper crown is always included with the cake to crown the “king” or “Queen” who finds the fève in their piece of cake.
  • If there are children, it is tradition that the youngest be placed under the table and randomly says who gets the next slice. This is the part that the kids love the most and it’s also a way to ensure that the slices are handed out randomly.

In the south of France where we live, there is a second type of king cake called gâteau des Rois (also means king cake) or couronne des Rois ( which means kings crown).This second type is similar in texture and shape to the King cake found in Louisiana.

Instead of puff pastry, the cake is a brioche which is more bread or cake like. It is also not filled with frangipane. Instead it’s topped with candied fruit and white sugar to make it look like an actual crown with jewels.

This king cake is from the south of France.

And that is how you become King (or Queen) for a day in France.

You don’t need to come to France to be King for a day. You can make King cake yourself, Louisiana style.

So did you know about Epiphany and or its tie to Carnival and Mardi Gras?

Stay tuned for the next tradition coming soon; National Crepe Day: everything you wanted to know about this very French tradition including how to make crepes at home

Weird French Food For New Years Eve! Can you stomack it?

new years eve French style. do you dare try their foods?

If you plan on being in France on New Years eve and are invited to a New years dinner (dîner de la Saint Sylvestre) or new years eve party where food is served than you better prepare yourself for certain things, particularly the weird French food.

In France, New Years Eve, known as La Saint-Sylvestre or réveillon de l’an,  is celebrated in a variety of ways. Some people like to organize costume parties with dancing while others like to have a quiet evening doing nothing more than snuggling up in front of the T.V.

More often than not, the vast majority of French choose to celebrate new years eve with a feast called le Reveillon, with friends and family. Be prepared because if you are ever invited to a French New Years Eve gathering with food, you will no doubt see at least one of the food items listed below which some people say is weird French food.

OYSTERS:

Weird french new years eve foods: raw oysters

I hope you like oysters (les huitres – “lay zueetr”),  because every year about 80 thousand tonnes of oysters are consumed in France during the festivities of the new year. Every year since being in France, we have eaten oysters during the new year. We often eat it at Christmas too. They say it’s an aphrodisiac.

FOIE GRAS (fwa gra):

Weird french new years eve foods: foie gras force feeding
Weird french new years eve foods: foie gras force feedingFoie Gras which literally means “fat liver” is defined by French law as the liver of a duck or goose fattened by force feeding with a feeding tube.

Despite the controversy set around the method of producing foie gras by force feeding, which most animal activist say is torture for the animals, Foie gras is gleefully gobbled up by both French children and adults across France all year round especially during Christmas and New Years.

So wide spread is foie gras, you will never have a hard time finding it at a food store in France. It’s even served to children at school for their end of year Christmas meal. At least it is at my children’s schools

CRUSTACÉS et COQUILLAGES

Weird french new years eve foods: raw sea urchin and crustacean

If you are really lucky, your host spared no expense and in addition to oysters, he or she put out a platter of a variety of shell fish and crustacean over ice.

If you see prawns (Gambas) on the platter, don’t be surprised to see the heads, eyes and antennae still attached to prawns. Optional; grab one and pinch off the head before sucking down the juices if you dare.

You might also find raw cockles, mussels and even raw sea urchin. I will admit I had a hard time eating raw mussels despite the fact that I lived in Japan for years and enjoy sushi.

ESCARGOT

escargot-weird-french-food

You knew it was coming; snails, a French delicacy rarely served outside of French cuisine.

More than half of all the sales of escargots in France (notably with butter and parsley) is sold around the end of the year. And contrary to belief, not all French people eat escargot. Typically the French that do eat them, rarely do so outside of special dinners or holidays. I often see escargot sold in bags in the frozen food section at my local grocery store where I live in France. Despite the fact that I do enjoy escargot, I can’t bring myself to actually cooking it.

SAUMON FUMÉ (smoked salmon):

If you can’t stand the thought of eating escargot, raw oysters or mussels than you might want to stick to the smoked salmon dishes (Saumon Fumé); almost always served cold. I actually enjoy it on petite canapés with chives and crème fraîche

CHAMPAGNE:

And finally, if you hate raw oysters and can’t stand smoked salmon, at least you know you will have the pleasure of drinking Champagne. France is after all the birth place of Champagne.

If by chance you don’t see the words Champagne printed on the label of bubbly you happen to be drinking but instead see the words “CREMANT”, don’t worry. Crémant is actually sparkling wine which is just like champagne.

Real Champagne is produced exclusively in the Champagne region of France.  In 1891, the French made it illegal for any vineyard not in the Champagne region to make a drink called “champagne” so although a vineyard may use the same techniques to produce their bubbly beverage, unless they are physically located in the champagne region of France, they cannot legally call their drink Champagne. Boo.

DO’S DONT’S AND GREETINGS

Finally, these are not really big deals, rather here are little things you should be aware of.

DO: Kiss under the mistletoe?

At midnight after the countdown, everyone cries “Bonne Année”! (happy new year) and everyone, AND I MEAN E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E kisses one another (see my article on French kissing).

While you are kissing everyone, if you happen to see mistletoe (gui pronounced Gee) hanging than be prepared to kiss someone.  That’s right, this tradition which most of us know to happen during Christmas actually happens On New Years Eve in France. Bizarre non not to the French?

DON’T: say Happy New Year until….

Unlike in the United States and Canada, French people DO NOT wish one another Happy New years in advance before the new year. Instead, in the weeks and days leading up to New Years people say……………

”Bonnes fêtes de fin dannée” which literally means “Happy end of year celebrations” but idiomatically it means Happy holidays.

It’s only on the day of or after the 1st of January that you actually say “Bonne Année” (Happy New Year).

MISCONCEPTION: The French don’t eat Crepes on new years.

I have seen several articles plastered across the web that say French people in France eat crepes (very thin pancakes) for new years. This just is not true.

Yes the French eat crepes and can eat them all year round and yes there is a special day where the French celebrate and eat crepes but New years eve is not one of them.

See my article about crepe day (Chandeleur) which occurs on the 2nd of February. (Link coming soon).

Bonne Année everyone.

We had a quiet new years eve feast with friends and ate at least some of the things I listed in this article. Hiccup!

What would you do if you had to eat one of the things on this list that you did not like?

French Version Of Jingle Bells ( Vive Le Vent)

You would think that certain songs translated into other languages would be translated word for word but this isn’t always the case. For example the French version of Jingle Bells, one of the most famous and commonly sung American Christmas songs, uses the same exact tune but completely different words.

Instead of saying “Jingle bells”, French children (and adults) sing “vive le vent” which means “live the wind” which isn’t even close to the original.

Anyways, if you havn’t already, watch the short video clip my daughter and school mate listening to the French version of Jingle bells on the radio while helping me make Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve.

 Lyrics to the French version of Jingle Bells

Vive Le Vent

Sur le long chemin
Tout blanc de neige blanche
Un vieux monsieur s´avance
Avec sa canne dans la main
Et tout là-haut le vent
Qui siffle dans les branches
Lui souffle la romance
Qu´il chantait petit enfant :

{Refrain:}
Vive le vent, vive le vent
Vive le vent d´hiver
Qui s´en va sifflant, soufflant
Dans les grands sapins verts…
Oh! Vive le temps, vive le temps
Vive le temps d´hiver
Boule de neige et jour de l´an
Et bonne année grand-mère…
Joyeux, joyeux Noël
Aux mille bougies
Quand chantent vers le ciel
Les cloches de la nuit,
Oh! Vive le vent, vive le vent
Vive le vent d´hiver
Qui rapporte aux vieux enfants
Leurs souvenirs d´hier…

Et le vieux monsieur
Descend vers le village,
C´est l´heure où tout est sage
Et l´ombre danse au coin du feu
Mais dans chaque maison
Il flotte un air de fête
Partout la table est prête
Et l´on entend la même chanson :
{au Refrain}

Boule de neige et jour de l´an
Et bonne année grand-mère!
Vive le vent d´hiver!

————————————

Translated to English

live the wind

on the long way
everything is white as snow
an old mister moved forward
with his stick in his hand
and there’s nothing but the wind
which whistles between the branches
inspires him with romance
that he sings little child :

(chorus)
live the wind , live the wind
live the winter wind
that goes whistling , breathing
between the big fir trees
oh! live the time , live the time
live the time of the winter
a snow ball and a day of the year
and happy year grand-ma!
Merry Merry Christmas
for a thousand candles
when it sings towards the sky
the night’s bells
oh live the wind , live the wind
live the wind of the winter
that brings to the old children
their memories of yesterday

and the old mister
coming down towards the village
that’s the hour where everything is wise
and the shadow dances on the corner of the fire
but inside every house
floats the air of the party
everywhere the table is ready
and we listen to the same song
(chorus)

snow ball and day of the year
and happy year grand-ma !
live the wind of the winter Christmas

Why The French Hate Halloween and How To Celebrate It Anyways!

why the french hate halloween

It’s Halloween and we were newly arrived (just 3 weeks) in a new city, in a new country where we didn’t know anyone- Marseille France. How was I supposed to know the French hate Halloween? Not that it would have mattered because we figured out how to celebrate it anyways. It only took three years but I have some great tips for any Halloween loving expats who want to spend Halloween in France.

Voila! “All finished. You can go and….”

Before I had a chance to finish my sentence, she popped out of her chair and bolted past me. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched her stare at herself in the mirror for what seemed like  an eternity.

I paid $19.99 for her frilly blue fairy costume and matching blue fairy wings at TJ Maxx ( a popular discount home and clothing store in the states).  To complete her Gothic fairy / zombie costume, I used some of my makeup and carefully  applied some dark eyeshadow on her eye lids and made some dark circles under her eyes. She didn’t look quite scary enough for my taste so I drew some fake stitches across her forehead.

“Well?  What do you think Catherine?”

I knew she was impressed because all I heard was this long “WOOOOOOW”.

Why the French Hate Halloween and how to celebrate it in France

In Marseille 2011:   All dressed up for Halloween but nowhere to go.

“Alright kids, lets go find a restaurant at the Old Port”.

As usual the streets were crawling with people but in the 15 minutes it took us to walk from our apartment located near Saint Charles train station in Marseille to the old port, we didn’t see one person dressed up for Halloween.  The same was true at the restaurant. Not even a sad little Halloween poster. Nothing!

“Hmmm, that’s strange. I guess Halloween isn’t celebrated in France?”

That was then and this is now and after three plus years living in France, I have learned that Halloween is somewhat of a controversial and confusing holiday to the French.

See also10 things you didn’t know about Halloween in France but should.

Halloween Controversy In France: Why are so many French people so adverse to Halloween?

why the french hate halloween

Well, the first thing you need to understand is that most French people view Halloween very, very, very different than say Americans or Canadians do.

Unlike Canadians and Americans, the average French person DOES NOT see Halloween as this family friendly event  where kids get to dress up as anything they want and go trick-or-treating with friends and family. Non non non mon ami. The average French person sees Halloween as morbid, superficial and/or very commercial holiday imported from the United States.

There are many reasons why they view Halloween in this negative light but the simplest answer is this.

  1. It’s not a traditional holiday: First of all, Halloween is not a traditional French Holiday. This alone is enough to send most people up in arms over Halloween. They don’t see the reason behind the holiday like they do in Easter, Christmas or even mothers day. Those all seem like clear cut holidays we celebrate for a purpose. Fake blood, cutting up pumpkins instead of eating them and going from house to house for candy?  What’s the point? Bah humbug.
  2. Halloween is new to the French: It’s a known fact that people like to stay in their comfort zone. New things or things that people don’t understand can turn people off.  Halloween fits the bill because prior to the 1990’s, it was relatively unknown to the AVERAGE French person.
  3. They don’t know how to celebrate it: Because of it’s newness, a lot of people didn’t grow up celebrating it and they just don’t know or are not sure HOW to celebrate it.
  4. Bad timing: Halloween has the miss-fortunate luck of occurring the day before an all important and very old Catholic holiday called La Toussaint (All saints day) on the 1st of November when French people visit cemeteries and  freshen up their loved ones tombstones with fresh flowers.
  5. They can’t pronounce it:  I have had countless friends mention that they don’t know how to pronounce Halloween.   Something must happen when a whole nation cannot pronounce a word.The H is silent in French so the French pronounce it  ( A-Lo-EEN). My French friend posted this comment about Halloween on facebook
  6. CRASS COMMERCIALISM: Many (not all) French grocery stores, bakeries, small shops and companies use Halloween imagery in their ads and shop windows to sell more products and drum up more business. This type of crass commercialism has solidified the notion that Halloween is a very commercial holiday which apparently has left a very bad taste in the mouths of most French people.

All of these things add up to a colossal Halloween fail in France. Don’t take my word for it, here is one of many articles (in French) urging other citizens NOT to celebrate.. Like this one. 10 Reasons NOT to celebrate Halloween. 

How do the French celebrate Halloween?

why the french hate halloween and how to celebrate it anyways

We dressed up as cowboys and Indians. Not your typical French Halloween costume

The few French who do celebrate tend to be adults or teenagers  who attend parties at friends’ homes, bars, clubs, restaurants and other gatherings. My understanding is that Teenagers find it trendy and cool to get dressed up for Halloween.

Trick-or-treating  from door to door on the other hand is extremely rare in France. We have had no more than five trick-or-treaters ring our doorbell in the 3 years since moving to France.  Compare that to the 50 plus trick-or-treaters we used to get when we lived in Belmont California

No cute costumes; only scary ones.

why the french hate halloween and how to celebrate it anyways

FAR LEFT: Catherine is the only kids not dress up in a scary costume. She’s a cowgirl!

Another difference in how Halloween is celebrated is the costumes. In France, Halloween costumes tend to be more scary in the traditional sense. Think vampires, ghosts, witches and goblins rather than cute costumes like princesses, superheroes, cowgirls and turtles.

If you dress up as a princess or some other cute costume in France, people might actually think that you are dressing up for Mardi Gras rather than Halloween.

True story, I posted some photos of a Halloween party our family went to on Facebook and one of my French friends thought our cowboy and Indian costumes looked more like Mardi gras costumes rather than scary Halloween costumes.  (Mardi Gras aka Fat Tuesday, occurs the day before Ash Wednesday and 47 days before Easter). halloween-facebook

What about pumpkins?

why the french hate halloween and how to celebrate it anyways

So surprised to see pumpkins at Carrefour our local grocery store.

Traditionally, pumpkins are not a popular food in France so forget about taking the kids to a pumpkin patch. I’ve read that there are some pumpkin patches  located just outside of Paris but I have never actually seen or been to one myself.

So when I saw pumpkins for sale at our local grocery store, I was not only shocked but delighted. I even took a picture of it with my camera phone.

I did find it strange that they called it a “jack lanterne” and not a pumpkin. (the French word for pumpkin is Citrouille)  I guess they can sell more pumpkins if they call them Jack Lanterne’s?  Not sure. We never actually carved our pumpkin because I ended up making pumpkin pie for the very first time which actually turned out pretty damn good.

That’s another thing. French people aren’t really into sweet pumpkin pie. At least the ones we met were not. Oh well, My husband and son loved my homemade pumpkin pie.

My recommendation

1halloween-disney-paris

I am not sure if Halloween will ever be as huge as it is in the United States, Canada and Ireland but for expats like us who live in France and want to celebrate it, here are my suggestions.

1- Throw your own Halloween party and invite your neighbours, your kids friends and their parents or co-workers.

2- Sure take the kids trick- or-treating if you want but like I said, trick-or-treaters are rare and finding a house that actually has candy is even rarer.

3-Search for Halloween parties at bars or restaurants in your area. It is after all a rather commercial holiday so some businesses will actually celebrate it in order to lure in customers.

4-Go to Disneyland for Halloween in Paris. We did this in 2013 and it was actually a blast. We rented a house from airbnb.com and bought our tickets online.

5- Go to the movies.

6- Do like most French people and DO NOTHING on Halloween!

why the french hate halloween and how to celebrate it anyways

2014 Halloween in La Garde France

 

Hope you had a great Halloween. 

I leave you with this French Canadian song that small children learn in Quebec Canada. It is called “C’est L’Halloween”.

Meet Your Neighbours And Make New Friends In France at La Fête Des Voisins

Meet your neighbours in France at La Fete des voisins aka neighbours day

One of the biggest challenges of living in France as a NON Frenchy is adapting and learning about the local nuances, customs and culture. This can easily be remedied by getting to know the locals but how do you do that? Easy, aside from trying to befriend every French person you meet you could befriend some neighbours during “Neighbours day” known in French as “La Fête des voisins”. Bam, promblem solved!

What’s neighbours day?

In the early 90’s, an elderly woman’s body was found in her Paris flat four months after she died. No one noticed, not even her neighbours.  Unfortunately, this type of thing occurs all too often.

“What makes an ideal neighbour?”
”A NEIGHBOUR YOU NEVER SEE’

Atanase Périfan founder of La Fête des Voisins.

Atanase Périfan founder of La Fête des Voisins.

A man named Atanase Périfan was so moved by this tragic event that he decided he wanted  to right what was wrong in his area so he commissioned a survey which asked a very simple question.  What makes an ideal neighbour?”  Sadly, the most popular answer was  ”A NEIGHBOUR YOU NEVER SEE”.

That pathetic response confirmed the lack of community spirit so in 1999, Périfan created an initiative to tackle the anonymity and distance between neighbours and help neighbours across France to meet, get to know each other so as to instill a sense of community and maintain strong bonds.  Today It’s known as La Fête des Voisins.

La Fête des Voisins  = NEIGHBOURS DAY

 Pronounced / la fet day vwo zain /.

The concept of la fête des voisins, known as neighbours day in English  is simple. On or around the last Friday of May, you gather with your neighbours around 6 in the evening (cocktail hour, l’heure d’apero)  to drink some wine, eat some food, dance, socialize and get to know each other better. In other words, eat, drink and be merry.

There are not really any formal rules so anything goes but usually their is music, festive balloons and everyone is encouraged to bring something to eat or drink; like you would to a potluck or block party. Some popular things to bring in France are quiche, cheese plates, anchoiade, tapenade and tabouleh salad to name a few.

Why bother to meet your neighbours in France?

Blake and I dancing at our fete des voisins in France

Blake in the orange shirt is dancing with me at our local fete des voisins.

Most of us never really take the time to get to know our neighbours. Life gets in the way or an opportunity never presents itself and before you know it months maybe years have passed.

Take it from me, it pays to get to know your neighbours especially if you live abroad in France.

For one, our neighbours have given us so much insight into real French culture. We get to see a side of France that you don’t normally get to see or learn about from guide books or from going to museums.

10 compelling reasons to meet your neighbours in France.

  1. Improve your French language skills
  2. It’s fun and convenient: We sometimes hang out with neighbours to have a drink at night or a cafe in the afternoon.
  3. Borrow things: It’s nice to be able to run to the neighbours to borrow little things like sugar or milk. We once borrowed a car and even a ladder.
  4. Local Advice: Guide books are good but sometimes your neighbours know hidden gems like best dive to eat at or isolated beaches.
  5. Kids have a place to go: Some of your neighbours may have kids the same age as yours.
  6. Emergencies: Neighbours can help you out in an emergency situation.
  7. Do favours: They can lookout for your property or gather your mail when you leave for a short trip.
  8. Connections: You never know who your neighbours can put you in touch with. We have found music teachers and calligraphy teachers all through talking with neighbours.
  9. Camaraderie & Friendship: It just feels good to have friends.
  10. Sense of belonging: This is just plain human nature. This will also help you adapt more easily in France.
Blake and I dancing at our fete des voisins

People are encouraged to bring the family and kids

Watch this video about Neighbours day around the world

 Conclusion

If you are ever in France at the end of May, make sure you ask some neighbours where the Fête des Voisins is being held. I guarantee you will have a blast when you meet your neighbours in France. Just make sure you bring something to eat or drink.

Why stop there though? Getting to know your neighbours and bringing people together to gether to create a sense of community and solidarity is a good idea everywhere not just in France. So look to see if there is a neighbours day in your area.

Since la fete des voisins was first born over 15 years ago, it has spread to more than 36 countries around the world with over 16 million participants.

If there is no neighbours day in your area, than go knock on some neighbours doors and make your own get together to get to know everyone.

QUESTION: Have you ever heard or been to Neighbours Day?

What do you think about the idea of neighbours day? Does it end the anonymity and isolation among neighbours by encouraging them to get to know one another?

Post your comment below!

Ascension Day In France

Ascension Day In France. What Is It And What Do People Do?

Ascension Day In France 

Ascension Day in France is yet another religious holiday you should watch out for in the month of May even if you are not Christian or Catholic because it’s also a public holiday where many of the services and businesses you rely on shut down.

What to expect on Ascension Day?

In France, Ascension day is not a day of being productive.

It is a public holiday where everything except crucial services come to a complete halt or have special modified hours. Buses and some trains run on a modified less frequent time schedule. Kids have no school, banks and post offices are closed and even restaurants close.

I have found that boulangeries tend to stay open at least part of the day so you can be sure to get your daily baguette. Thank GOD! No pun intended.

**Note in larger cities like Paris you may find more things open like restaurants and certain stores. On the flip side.  Small businesses may also be closed on the Friday and Saturday after Ascension Day. 

Contrast that to the US, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom where Ascension day is not a public holiday and usually is only observed and celebrated within a church community. .

What and When is Ascension day?

Ascension Day is a religious holiday that marks the end of the Easter season and commemorates Jesus Christ’s ascension into heaven, according to the New Testament of the Bible.

After Jesus died on the cross, he rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples and to more than 500 others and taught them about the kingdom of god. 40 days after his resurrection, Jesus and his disciples went to Mount Olivet, near Jerusalem and promised his followers that they would soon receive the Holy Spirit. He then instructed them to remain in Jerusalem until the Spirit had come. Then Jesus blessed them, and began to ascend into heaven. The account of Jesus’ ascension is found in Luke 24:50-51andActs 1:9-11.

What do people do?

Just like the US, Canada and the UK, some Christians in France attend a special church services to mark the ascension of Jesus to heaven. Some small towns hold cultural or sporting events the following weekend.  For those people who are not Christian or non practising Christians, Ascension day is an opportunity to enjoy a day off and spend time with family, friends or just relaxing.

When is ascension day?

Ascension day always falls on Thursday and usually occurs in the month of May. I say usually because it is observed and celebrated on the 40th day of Easter so it’s date varies just like Easters date varies. Every so often it happens to fall in June.

Conclusion

Even if you are not a practising Catholic or Christian, you will enjoy a day to relax with your family and Friends on this day if you live in France. Just make sure you have enough food stocked in the fridge since most food stores may be closed Thursday and possibly Friday too.  Since Ascension day falls on a Thursday why not take an extra long four day weekend like many French people do?

What we plan to do

Since Ascension day falls in late May, we usually pack a few baguettes with some drinks and head down to the beach.

Why Is Everything Closed On The 1st Of May In France? Another French Holiday!

French holiday; may day and labour day in france

If you come to France in May, May 1st to be exact, don’ be surprised to find EVERYTHING closed from banks and grocery stores, to schools and stores. Even the Louvre is closed. But Why?

Two Holidays For The Price Of One

I’ll never forget our first May in France. We were both surprised and confused by the fact that nothing was open on May First. Even more confusing was the fact that there were a bunch of people on random street corners selling flowers?  Bizarre.

Little did I know that it was a publich holiday and that the stores being closed and people selling flowers on the street corners were actually two different things being celebrated on the same day.

Labour day and May day.

1 – Labour Day / International Workers Day:  What To Expect and How To Celebrate It in France

Called La Fête du travail in French.

labour-day La Fete du travail in France is to celebrate the 40 hour work weekUnlike labour Day in Canada and the US, labour day in France is not celebrated on the first Monday of September. Instead it is celebrated on the first of May.

Labour Day is a public holiday and happens to be the only day of the year where employees must legally be given the day off (except for professions where work cannot be interrupted such as public transportation and hospitals).

Most countries celebrate labour day for the same reasons and in the same way but not always on the same day. For example Bolivia and India both celebrate International workers day on the First of May like France however the US and Canada celebrate on the 1st of September.

What To Expect

Don’t expect much fanfare on this day. It’s a day to relax and celebrate the 40 hour work week so why don’t you just go to the beach or have a BBQ or something. Besides, since almost everyone has the day off, you will be hard pressed to find any establishments open.

Want to learn more about International Workers Day in France?

2- May Day: La Fête du Muguet: What to expect and how to celebrate it in France

Called La Fête du Muguet in French

Like labour day, May day also falls on the first of May. It had long been a French tradition to give those you love a little bouquet of Lily-of-the-Valley flowers which are called <<Muguet >> in French. In giving these flowers you are also wishing that person happiness and good luck in celebration of the arrival of spring.

Background: King Charles IX of France once received a lily of the valley flower on May 1st, 1561 and liked it so much that he decided to present all the ladies of his court lily of the valley flowers every year on the 1st of My. Then around the 1900’s, men started to do the same and ever since it has remained a French tradition.

I discovered that although it is traditional to give Muguet flowers, you can also offer just about any flower you like. Like my friend Franck who came over and offered a single rose to me, his wife and several other women in our circle of friends. Merci Franck, c’est très gentil!

So if you are ever in France on May Day, go buy some Muguet flowers at a florist near you or at one of the countless flower stands that popup overnight on street corners, probably because this is the one day they can legally sell flowers without a license.

20 things you might miss if you live in France

20 Things I Hate About Living In France

20 things you might hate or miss if you live in France

Living in France has been great but-and I know this may be hard for some of you to believe, there are certain things you are going to hate. Here are 20 things which I hate about living in France (or miss about North American culture)- depending on how you look at it.

1- I hate cold popcorn served in French movie theatres or- (I miss hot salty buttered popcorn)

photo of my daughter holding up cold popcorn in a French movie theatre. YUCK

I’m not a big popcorn fan but when I do eat it, I like it HOT, BUTTERY AND SALTY.

Unfortunately, popcorn at the movie theatres in France is served up cold YUCK.  Cold popcorn as you know can be chewy. When I told some of my friends that popcorn tastes better hot, and that this was the way it was served in north America, they seemed oblivious. I guess ignorance is bliss because I am sure if they tasted hot popcorn in a movie theatre they would never go back to cold popcorn.
You also have a choice of salty or sweet Popcorn.

2- I hate the disgusted looks you get if you tell a French person your kids like to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches: aka PB&J

I hate the dirty looks you get if you tell a French person you eat peanut butter on bread with jelly: akd PB&J

If your kids invite their friends over to the house in France, be prepared for the scrunched up disgusted looks they give you because mixing peanut butter and jelly together is just weird.

Peanut butter is rarely eaten and I don’t know one person who actually eats it although you can always find a bottle of Skippy peanut butter hidden away next to hundreds of bottles of Nutella and confiture. SO look hard because that’s all you’ll get.

3- I miss going out on the weekends to eat pancakes, bacon and eggs.

I miss going out on the weekends to eat pancakes, bacon and eggs.If you live in France and want to go out for breakfast to eat a classic breakfast food like a cheese omelette, bacon and eggs, pancakes or fresh waffles you can forget about it. If you want these things for breakfast on a saturday morning or any day of the week for that matter, you’ll just have to pull out your frying pan and make it yourself.

The French typically have  more of a continental breakfast, a baguette with butter which they sometimes dip in their coffee. Some pain au lait, a croissant, yogurt or cereal but never eggs, never bacon and never waffles. The idea of eating something “salty” vs sweet in the morning is kind of foreign to them. They have no idea what they are missing.

4- I miss North American coffee culture: iced coffee, big coffee cups and to-go coffee cups

YOU'll never see anyone in France carrying a cup of coffee in to-go cups like this
Yeah it’s so cool that the French all congregate at café’s to drink coffee but damn it, sometimes I want a big cup of coffee to go. Not a tiny expresso cup.

5- I miss being able to buy aspirin or medicine in grocery stores.

Like the old saying goes, you never know what you had until it’s gone.

I never knew I would actually miss being able to buy headache medicine in a food store until I moved to France.  In France, you’ll need to make a separate trip to the pharmacy to buy aspirin, ibuprofen or any other over the counter pharmaceutical goods.  A small inconvenience since there are pharmacies everywhere but still I do miss the convenience of doing my grocery shopping and buying over the counter drugs too.

6 – I miss giving hugs to friends and waving hello instead of stopping to give all your friends air kisses

I miss giving hugs to friends and waving hello instead of giving an air kiss

I have a love hate relationship with “la bise”- the act of greeting someone by giving them an air kiss on their cheeks. On the one had, I love how warm and welcoming it is to cheek kiss but on the other hand, I sometime resent the fact that I have to do it when I would sometimes rather just say hello and keep walking or simply wave to say hello. If you don’t fait la bis, you’re actually being pretty rude. (read the French kiss explained).

7-I hate that some French people think All Americans eat McDonald’s and are fat

I hate that some French people think All Americans eat McDonalds and are fat

There is a very strong stereotype in France that ALL Americans like to eat McDonald’s and are usually fat.

I am not fat, I don’t eat at McDonald’s and I like to cook Thai food, Chinese food and Japanese food.

My friends in France are always amazed at the fact that my kids don’t eat McDonald’s. The truth of the matter is, I actually know more French people who eat McDonald’s than I do Americans or Canadians. But don’t tell that to a French person because they may be insulted and choke on their McDonald’s hamburgers.

8- I hate having smoke blown in my face while I eat or (I miss smoke free restaurant terraces and breathing Fresh air in public spaces)

It’s true, the French really do smoke a lot. This is especially true after a meal. 

Don’t worry though, smoking is banned in restaurants but the ban does not extend to the prime real estate, outdoor seating and terraces. No, the ban on smoking in restaurants favours smokers by allowing them to smoke on terraces on beautiful sunny days forcing other non-smokers to either eat indoors or endure smoke being blown in their face while they eat with their kids on the terrace. I’m not bitter about this at all.

9- I miss doggy bag culture

One of the things I actually love about the French food culture is you are less likely to over eat at restaurants because portions are generally much smaller in France than they are in America and Canada. Smaller portions means, less likelihood of leftovers. When there are leftovers, the  French typically won’t ask for a doggy bag because they are NOT fans of taking unfinished food home. The general sense I get about this lack of enthusiasm for the doggy bag culture is that there is a certain sense of embarrassment in bringing home unfinished food.

  • Some say the reason for the shame has to do with the fact that the French are taught as children to always finish the food on their plate. Failing to do so is the equivalent of NOT saying thank you. Another reason may be the reference to the term Dog.
  • Some people say they feel shame in taking home a meal meant for the dog only to be consumed later by themselves.

10- I hate seeing guys in tight revealing speedos or (I miss board shorts on guys at the pool and beach)I hate seeing guys in tight revealing speedos or (I miss board shorts on guys at the pool and beach)

No one likes to see the outline of a woman’s labia in their bathing suit, not to be crude but it’s sometimes referred to as a “camel toe”. So why in the hell would I want to see the outline of a guys junk in a pair of Speedos? I think the answer, at least for me is I don’t want to see it.

For all you speedo loving folks, before you start telling me that I am afraid of speedos, or I’m prude. Let me just say that I have been around both the board short tribe and the speedo tribe and aesthetically speaking, I’m just a board short loving person. They look better, they leave more to the imagination and they’re fun. Oh, and if you must know, I prefer boxers over briefs. Proud of it.

NO BOARD SHORTS IN FRENCH PUBLIC POOLSno swimming trunks or board shoarts allowed in public pools

Warning, you must wear speedos in most public pools in France

See also: Other funny and weird French laws.

11- The kids will miss high school dances and proms

The kids will miss high school dances and proms

Some of my son’s friends asked if it’s true that high school dances exist in American schools. Apparently some French teenagers wish that the same were true in French Schools. You’re probably saying, so what if their are no high school sponsored dances and I would agree but take it from me, your teenager might care especially if their friends back home are posting photos and updates to their Facebook page about attending their school dances or prom.

**Something to note is there seems to be a lack of school spirit. There are no fundraisers, music, choir, fundraisers and last but not least no team sports. See below.

12- The kids might miss after school sponsored sports and sports teams

The kids might miss afterschool sponsored sports and sports teams

Let me clear something up about Soccer. Soccer, played with the round ball is actually called football around the world except in the US and Canada. Football played with the brown oblong ball mainly in the US is called American football by the rest of the world.

Ok, so for the most part, school sport teams don’t exist. Yes, it would be convenient if kids could do sports with their classmates after school but it just doesnt exist like school dances don’t exist. That’s not to say that sports programs don’t exist in France, because they do. You just have to sign up with outside organizations.

Most French people know this but if you are newly arrived in France, you might not know where to look or what sports are available. If this is you, I would start by making a trip to your local “Marie or city hall” and ask them about the sports programs.dance school in France

Programs cost between 115 to 200 euros per year. For example, if you child wants to learn piano once a week, there is usually a program that will coast less than 200 euros per year (about 160 USD or CAD). Same goes fro circus school, athletic sports, crafting activities and more. The only exception is sailing. The sailing club in Toulon charges 340 euros for the year and our daughter goes sailing every saturday for 4 hours .

13- Nothing to hate but I do miss being able to pack a lunch for the kids once in a while.

Kids cannot bring lunch to school : 20 Things You Might Hate If You Live in France

Your kids will get a taste of French food if they eat at the cantine

French kids eat pretty well compared to North American standards but if you have a picky eater they might not like brie cheese, baked fish or steamed mussels at school. That’s right, kids in France eat normal meals unlike the rotating menu of hotdogs, pizza, burritos and spaghetti served in the US and Canada lunches.

Even with the higher level of lunch being served in French schools, it would be nice to at least be able to pack a lunch once in a while. But you can’t do that. You can however, pick your kid up for lunch and enjoy two whole hours. Pretty good compared to the 45 minutes to an hour back in north America.

UPDATE: My friend Ameena told me that her daughter can bring lunch to school. Her daughter however goes to a private Montessori school in France so this is really an exception. 

14- I hate crunchy towels and drying my clothes indoors or (I miss using a clothes dryer)

I hate crunchy towels and drying my clothes indoors or (I miss using a clothes dryer)

dry clothes racekOwning a dryer is not as common place in France as it is in North America. Those that do have a dryer usually just hang their cothes on clothes lines. If you don’t have a year to hang up your clothes, then you just hang it on the line outside your window. Most homes have them.

I actually don’t mind hanging our clothes to dry and I like the fact that it is more environmentally friendly but when it’s raining and cold outside, we have to hang our clothes on indoor racks which take up valuable space, takes longer to dry and is unsightly. Plus, hang drying towels makes towels crunchy and not fluffy. I digress.

15-I hate mosquitos that fly in through the open windows and bite me in the night. ( I miss window screens or )

I miss windows screens or (I hate mosquitos that bite me in the night)

Windows in France are everything you imagined. They are charming and quaint looking but they have one major flaw.

They let in all the bugs and mosquitoes. On hot days, the nights cool down so we usually leave our windows open to let the cool air flow through the house. Otherwise, it would be impossible to sleep. unfortunately, the mosquitoes and bug usually come flying in with all that cool air.

So make your choice: open your windows to stay cool and get eaten by bugs close the windows to keep bugs out and boil to death.

Dilemmas dilemmas. Makes me think of death by uga buga.

16- I hate how things are closed when you need them the most or (I miss convenient store hours)

Want to use your lunch hour to get stuff done like get your watch fixed or go to the bank? Unless you live in a very large city like Paris or Marseille, you can forget about being productive at lunch time because most businesses are closed during this crucial times of the day. On certain days of the week like Monday, businesses are either closed or are on special hours.

You do adjust but every once in a while you forget and then kick yourself like the time we drove 40 minutes to get a new cable t.v. box only to find out that the store was closed on Mondays. AAAAAHHHHHHHH!!

  • Grocery stores are closed on Sundays or close by noon on Sundays.
  • Some businesses in smaller towns like ours close on Mondays also.
  • Most restaurants don’t open before 6:30 or 7:00 in the evening.

17 – I hate bad or rude customer service (I miss good customer service)

This is a really tricky thing to talk about because by saying good customer service does not exist, I am applying a blanket statement over all French service.  So let me qualify my statement.

You see, after having lived in the US and Canada and several other countries, French service leaves something to be desired by my standards.

  • It is not uncommon to go to a store and stand in line and have to wait for the workers to finish their conversation before they acknowledge your presence.
  • It is not uncommon to be greeted with a frown rather than a smile and a hello how can I help you today. (workers will always say bonjour when you enter but they are not always very welcoming)
  • It is not uncommon to come across unhelpful tellers at the bank who leave important facts out of conversations because “you didn’t ask the right questions”.

18-I miss air conditioning

I don’t think I need to explain why having air conditioning when temperatures get close to 40C and 100F. For some reason, a lot of French people just don’t have air conditioning. It baffles my mind.

19 – I hate the lack of variety in food or (I miss eating good Mexican and Asian food)

The French have fabulous French food, but after you’ll start to crave something other than coq au vin and steak frite like sushi or a burritos. Admittedly, I have been spoiled having grown up between California and Montreal, where you can get authentic food vs in France where the asian food is horrible. Almost as if they Frenchified it to make it tolerable to French people.

20 – I hate stepping in dog poop or (I miss  Poop free streets and sidewalks)

I hate stepping in dog poop or I miss (Poop free streets and sidewalks)

Last but not least is the plat de résistance. You have heard about all the dog poop in France right? Well, it is all pretty much true. People don’t pick up their dog poop nearly as much as they should. We have even opened up our door to find dog poop on our door step. 

French people of course don’t like it either yet they accept it as a way of life.

Conclusion

These are just some of the difference that sometimes get under my skin. Obviously these things don’t bother me so much that I actually hate living in France. I just wanted to show you that there will be things that you may not like about France just as there are things about your home country that you don’t like.  You either adjust and move on or they become a thorn in your side. We adjusted but it is still fun to poke fun at our lives here in France.

If you’re interested here, are some examples of culture shock which you might find interesting. Culture shock happens to the best of us not just inexperienced travellers.

Saint Patricks day in france

Where And How To Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day In France

saint Patricks day in france

St Patrick’s Day is nowhere near as popular in France as it is in the US and Canada. In most regions of France it isn’t really noticed let alone celebrated- unless of course you know where to go. Whether you want to find a pub to drink a pint of Guinness beer or listen to some Irish tunes and do the Irish jig, here are a few places you can go to celebrate this iconic day in France.

How to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in France

When I was a kid, if you didn’t wear something green on Saint Patrick’s day, the other kids would pinch you. It wasn’t much of a celebration but I was aware of the day and that’s just what we did.

As I got older, I still put on something green for St. Patrick day but I also added drinking beer at local bars and pubs with friends to my repertoire of Irish festivities. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t of Irish descent, you just did it to hang with your friends. Chances are if you’re reading this,  you might have had a similar experience.

When I moved to France, simply finding an Irish pub with the Irish spirit was a challenge but a good time can still be had if you look in the right places.

Saint Patrick’s Day in France

If you find yourself in a smallish French town or a less touristy part of France on March 17, the day will pass without anyone batting an eye. Most French people will walk around clueless to the fact that it’s St Patrick’s day. **GASP**

You won’t find corned beef stocked up at the supermarket or 4 leaf clovers decorated here and there. And if you see anyone wearing green on this day, it will be purely coincidental.

If however you head over to one of the bigger cities or cities which attract more tourists, your options to celebrate will multiply a thousand fold. Here are a few cities throughout France where you can have a pint and embrace the Irish spirit with other Irish loving lads and lasses in France.

See also: Why the French hate Halloween

Rennes

If you want a more authentic Irish ambiance, well as much as you can get in France, than head over to Brittany to a city called Rennes. Rennes is pretty festive throughout the year but it really comes alive around rue Saint-Michel, aka “rue de la soif” where you will find a number of bars all waiting for you to celebrate St Patrick’s with them. Coincidentally “rue de la soif” translates to “street of the thirsty”

Address : rue Saint-Michel, 35000, Rennes.

Places to celebrate celebrate St. Patrick’s day in Paris

If you want hordes of pub options for St Patrick’s day than you’ll have to head over to the tourist Mecca of the world- Paris, where you will find heaps of things to do in comparison to other towns and cities in France.

Culture

Before you go pub hopping, check out the Irish cultural centre of Paris. On their site you’ll find a calendar of events which you can use to find all sorts of cultural things to do not only for Saint Patrick’s day but all year round. Art exhibitions, concerts, dancers and more.

There are a tonne of Irish pubs in Paris to choose from. Here are a few worth a visit.

Le Coolin, Paris

Kitty O’Shea’s Le Pub Irlandais, Paris

Connolly’s Corner, Paris

Corcoran’s Paris

Guiness Tavern du côté de Chatelet, O `Sullivan à Montmartre, Taverne de Cluny in the 5th arrondissement, Celtic Corner Pub in the 15th arrondissement, Obrien’s near the Eiffel Tower, Shannon Pub, The pure malt and I could go on.

Irish Pubs in other cities throughout FranceWhere to celebrate St Patricks Day in France

If you’re not in Paris on St Patty’s or can’t travel that far, all is not lost. You an still find a few Irish pub in towns across France. It’s a good excuse to explore other regions of France if you haven’t already done so.

Antibes

The Hop Store Irish Pub

Bordeaux

The Connemara, Le Molly Malone’s, The Blarney Stone, The Frog & Rosbif

Lille

L’After Hours, Tir Na Nog

Lorient

The Galway Inn, Le Tonneau de Bière

Lyon

The Smoking dog, Kelly’s Irish pub, The Antidote Pub

The Sherlock Holmes, Le Connemara, Frog & Rosbif

Marseille

O’Brady’s on avenue de Mazargues, The Shamrock

Montpellier

Fitzpatrick’s

Nantes

Brady’s Irish Pub

Toulon

Le Shannon Pub56

Toulouse

London Town, Le Mulligans, De Danu

Find an Irish pub near you in France

If you won’t be near any of the larger cities listed above, you can do your own search and find a pub nearer to your location using an internet search engine. I can’t guarantee big crowds and you may be disappointing by the lack of Irish spirit but it’s worth a try and better than nothing.

Try typing these search terms in the search engine.

  • “un pub Irlandais + name of your French town”
  • “ou fêter St Patricks + name of your french town”

Go to Disneyland Paris and Disney Village for St Patrick’s Day

celebrate saint patrick's day in France at Disneyland Paris

As cheesy as it sounds, you could go to Disneyland Paris on the 17th of March to celebrate Saint Patrick’s day. There are usually Irish dancers, a meet and greet with Mickey and Minnie in Irish costumes, musicians, free make-up, fireworks and loads of other things to get you in the mood. The is also decked out in Green.

Go and celebrate

Just because you’re in France doesn’t mean you have to forgo other traditions or holidays you are used to celebrating. Don’t let some Francophile snob shame you for wanting to either.

I’ve heard too many people say “you’re in France, you should just do “FRENCH” things.” Bull crap! That’s just too narrow-minded for my taste. There are French people that celebrate other customs and it’s all right if you do too. Besides, it’s fun to see how other cultures celebrate something you’re used to celebrating a certain way.

Oh yes, and you can proudly wear green on this day too. I always have my green blazer handy for St Patty’s day.

saint patricks day green jacket

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