Saturday, October 17, 2009

Some quick thoughts on cultural difference...

Why do the Americans generally like to be ontime?  The French, on the other hand, or the Latin culturals, in general, think nothing of being late.

Why do the French cashiers talk and carry on to their customers when the lines are getting longer and longer at the check-out?  Mon Dieu!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A French Pastime or How I Dealt with a Strike

In May, my work of teaching business English slows down to snail’s pace. Most of my students have finished their hours or are taking holidays. One time I thought this could be a great month to get caught up on things that I needed to do that could only be done in Paris. I also thought this might be a good time to see some exhibitions, lunch with some friends … and generally enjoy myself. What I didn’t bargain for were those dreaded words in the French language—grève, mouvement sociale.

Language Learning...Another View

Looking through the French window
I have always been a communicative person.  When I lived in the US, I worked in advertising sales for 25 years.  Now, suddenly after 52 years of life, I am settled in a country were everyone around me is speaking in a language that I don’t understand.  I always loved eavesdropping on conversations.  Now, I can’t understand a word.  I am on the outside looking in.  What I see is like observing a Tower of Babel.

It’s strange being in this situation.  When you don’t understand, your sense of hearing becomes muted and your other senses become more acute, especially your sense of sight.  It is as if this sense reboots.  What you can’t hear, you observe.  What you can’t hear and understand, you look for other signs of life.  You start observing peoples expressions.  When they speak to you, if they have a nice face, smile, then you shake your head, smile back, and say things like “ah bon” “oui”.  All the time hoping that what you are agreeing with is something nice being said.  If they gesture and speak in a gruff way, then it is “Pardonnez Moi”.  But it is said very emphatically. 

Friday, October 2, 2009

J'ai besoin de comprendre!

It had been nearly two years since I had arrived in France. When I came here to live, it was to marry a wonderful French man that I had met through some friends in Santa Monica, California. His English was excellent, so getting to know one another and forming a relationship was not too difficult. Certainly there were and still are cultural differences, but that's the fun part.
My French, at that point in time, was minimal. On my previous trips to France, I knew enough to ask for things politely. If I couldn't get what I needed, I would ask, “Parlez-vous, anglais?” or I would point to what I needed and add, “S'il vous plait." However, usually I found, in Paris, that most people knew enough English that communication worked between us. I was sometimes lucky enough to travel with someone who had studied French in school. So that, too, was a good reason to escape learning the language. Nevertheless, to come and live one's life in France, one needs to acquire the language.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Driving...The French Version

Once while taking a writing course, I was asked to write about something that I hated. It was a difficult assignment for me because “Hate” is a strong word. Categorically I can say that I don’t “hate” many things. I hate birds…well, maybe fear them, is a better description. Fear of birds is my particular neurosis and so by extension; I guess you might say I hate them. Anyway, I did find something that I have learned to hate, dear readers, and here is the story...

As I was driving to work one morning, I thought about this subject. I tried to pick my brain about something that I hated enough to rant and rave about. I was racking my brain over this when suddenly it occured to me that a French driver was coming head on towards me as he was passing in a no-passing zone. Panic set in and quick thinking strategies raced in my head like an electronic billboard, “What is the plan here if this car doesn’t move back into its lane?” Now he is flashing his headlights at me. HE is flashing his headlights at ME? Are we kidding? However, finally, with a sigh of relief, he does careen back into the proper lane and my bulging eyes find their way back into their sockets.

Now, where was I? Yes, back to the hate subject. I suddenly realized that this car incidence was divine intervention.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


It has been almost 9 years since I moved to France. On the days I walk the streets of Paris, I still can’t believe that I live so close to this wondrous city. I had been a Francophile for so many years and now I am here. I live about 35 minutes north of Paris via the RER train in a small village.

So how did I get here exactly? To answer that I will have to give you more background. I grew up in the industrial, steel city of Gary, Indiana and after college, I moved to Chicago. After 12 years in Chicago, I moved to LA in March of 1978. I can clearly mark this as my beginning of my wanderlust.