Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Who Cares What People Think?

I bought a copy of last week's L'Express and was intrigued to see that the main story, spanning several pages and including about 5 different articles, was entitled Ce que les américains pensent des Français, or "What Americans Think of the French".

Aside from the content of the articles, I was interested that this was something L'Express thought would make a good cover story. It was clearly inspired by the DSK affair, where an extremely crude and simplistic summary of the two sides would be that the French cannot believe he actually did it and blame either a conspiracy theory or a prudish American mentality that can't tell the difference between seduction and attempted rape, while the Americans are outraged that the French would question the alleged victim's integrity.

I have a feeling, though, that this is an issue that runs deeper than current political scandal. I've often noticed that the UK press, or at least certain branches of it, shows many more signs of rivalry with the French than the French press with les anglais and assumed that it was an indicator of a British inferiority complex combined with a French sense of superiority to everyone on the planet. Now, however, I think I have come closer to understanding the explanation. The French have much more of a love/hate relationship with the US than with the UK, decrying the damaging effects of the globalisation of US culture while guzzling Big Macs at a rate that is second only to the Americans themselves. So while the British conside the US as an ally and the French as rivals (culturally speaking, at least) the French are far more concerned by the Americans themselves than the nation that they see as their puny "anglo-saxon" sidekicks.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Expression of the Weekend

Il va demander son zéro-six.

In France, mobile numbers all start with the digits 06.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Voyage of Discovery in the West

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent Ascension weekend at a gîte in the Charente-Maritime, halfway between Bordeaux and La Rochelle and about 40km from the Atlantic coast. During this time, I discovered (or confirmed) the following:

- Many place names in the Charente-Maritime end in –ac. We discovered Givrézac, Gémozac and Jonzac …

- …But there are also the better known Cognac and Armagnac, which we explored in their more “spiritual” forms.

- French people sneer at the Spanish for putting lemonade in their wine but it is perfectly acceptable to mix Cognac with Schweppes.

- I like Cognac mixed with Schweppes.

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- If you park your car illegally in the pretty medieval village of Pons while indulging your unsociable tendencies on the Friday after Ascension, you don’t have to worry about being caught because the only 2 policemen in the village aren’t working.


- The Atlantic coast has great beaches.

- The sea is warm enough to swim in.

- It’s not a good idea to have the front door of your gîte lower than ground level, especially if the drain outside the door blocks and there is a massive thunderstorm. It’s even harder to sweep the water out if the uneven floor slopes away from the door.


Sunday, 5 June 2011

Word of the Weekend

Accordéon.

In normal French, this means the same as it does in English. On Ascension weekend (bank holiday on Thursday + pont on Friday = 4 days anywhere but in Paris) it means one of these frustrating traffic jams where you slow down, pick up some speed, slow down again, pick up some speed, and one hour later you've travelled about 20km.

In close second place, and on the same theme, did you know that caisse is a slang word for a car? I didn't ( I thought it was bagnole, but maybe I'm just out of date) until spending a weekend in the country with Understanding Frenchman and 15 of his friends. Clearly he edits his French for me a bit too much the rest of the time!

So, far too many hours on the autoroute today but photos from the gorgeous Charente-Maritime coming soon!