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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Current Event: Grève Against Retirement

Once again, France is organizing together to protest the change of 'retrait' this Saturday.  Since the beginning of September there have been several of these protests.. and I didn't have a clue as to what and why so many French people were so irritated.. until today in my Business Class...

Retirement in France
Retirement in this country is done by something they call 'réparation' which basically means the taxes paid by society pay for the retirement.  The issue though is that France has much more older generation (just about to retire) then the younger generation.. this has been causing a huge defecit in the government and thus Sarkozy has decided to propose some changes.

Original Retirement Age
French citizens are allowed to retire after 60 years old and after 40 years of work, all individuals are allowed to retire at 65 years old, and the government will pay a percentage based on the number of years worked.

Special Circumstances for Early Retirement
Called 'regime spéciaux', certain positions allow French citizens to retire at 55 years old.  These people are workers such as, SNCF, or the flight trackers that help land planes.  What's interesting is that even though SNCF is considered an easier job now-  they keep the benefit to retire early because any time it's brought up- they protest.

Sarkozy Proposes...
The French President is proposing to change the retirement qualifications from 60 to 62 years old, must work for about 42 years and you can't retire officially (if less than 42 years worked) until you are 67 years old.

Citizens are Protesting because..?
Work isn't equal
French people realize that not all work is equal, for example, the profession of being a teacher is not as risky as being a construction worker.  Therefore it's not fair for someone of one profession that's harder than another to retire at the same age- especially at 62 or 67... it's dangerous and could be hazardous to the work.
Women in Work
Because many women have children, or even men, the citizens realize that if someone must stay home to raise children, they won't be able to work 42 years in a certain amount of time.  This can cause a lot of problems because then a person can't retire until 67, which again is a very old age (according to the French).. and unfair to those who can't get all 42 years by the time they are 62.

What the Grève Means..
The French people are trying to come to a solution with the government that is fair for everyone.  In France, grèves, or protests, are a common way to hash out a problem with a reform.  Unlike in the United States, the Government respects the people and listens to these grèves very carefully- especially because so many people are involved. (much more than in the United States)..

Now you know about the protest for retirement, and an idea why people in France are so irritated!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Advice: French Slang Week 2

Once again I had my slang class- and today we focused on 'sayings that use the body'... common things French people say that often have to do with body parts.. here goes:

  • Mettre le pied sur plat OR rater une bonne occasion se taire: english equiv- 'to put your foot in your mouth' literally to say something that you weren't supposed to say.
  • Casse-geule: unstable, (fr soutenu: pas stable)
  • Avoir une grosse tête: someone who is full of themselves.  (fr soutenu: se croire superieur)
  • Être une tête: 'to be a brain', smart, (fr soutenu: être intelligent)
  • Se manger des yeux:  to eat someone up- be very attracted to someone. (fr soutenu: desirer qqn)
  • Mon oeil: 'Yah, right...', to not believe someone.. usually you touch just below your eye.  (fr soutenu:  ne croire pas qqs)
  • Garder la tête sur les épaules:  to stay calm, keep your head on your shoulders.. (fr soutenu: rester calme, lucide et raisonnable.)
  • Avoir la tête: to be smart or intelligent, (fr soutenu: d'être intelligent)
  • Coûter les yeux de la tête OR coûter la peau des fesses:  something SUPER expensive, (fr soutenu: qqs hyper cher)
  • Casser les pieds à quelqu'un: to bore someone, or annoy someone, (fr soutenu: ennuyer qqn)
  • Être bouche bée OR rester bouche bée:  Left with your mouth open, (fr soutenu: être supriser)
  • Avoir un verre dans le nez:  to literally have the glass to the nose- to be drunk. (fr soutenu: être bourré)
  • Tenir la jambe de quelqu'un:  to hold someone back; often if you need to get somewhere and someone is 'holding you up'... making you late.  (fr soutenu: retenir qqn)
  • Manger à l'oeil OR Boire à l'oeil: 'dine and dash', or even a freeloader- it's someone who tries to eat for free. (fr soutenu: essayer ou manger gratuitement)
  • Mettre sa au feu: to have serious trust, 'i bet on it', (fr soutenu:j'ai confiänce à qqs)
  • N'en faire qu'à sa tête: to be stubborn, bull-headed, (fr soutenu: n'ecouter pas aux autres, être têtu)
Hope the slang helps, remember keep your ears open..!


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What-What: Le Grand Journal

Le Grand Journal.. le Petit Journal.. les Guignols-

If you have no idea what these three things are, it's about time you did because it's the #1 news show that French people watch daily.

Le Grand Journal is a television show which is live every night (Monday through Friday) starting at 7pm (19h) on Canal+.  Normally one needs to have cable in order to watch Canal+, but luckily, this show is publicly financed, therefore during the show it is free for everyone to watch.

It begins with about 45 minutes of political/informative news with the host Michel Denisot- he's like the dad of the show, sitting at the head of the table.

About 40 minutes into this show is the 'petit journal' which is hosted by Yann Barthès- who I must mention is absolutely a knock out.. hot hot hot. 

His section is about 15 minutes, and hilarious.  It's packed full of 'Français Familier' so sometimes it's difficult to understand, but trying to is a great practice.

Much of his section is political life, satire and the like.

Following we have 'Les Guignols' which are large puppets that represent newscasters that tell the news.  This lasts about 10 minutes, but is very amusing and yet incredibly weird... all the same it's more Français Familier and kind of helps to understand the culture in a relaxed way.

Their representation of Nicolas Sarkozy is one where he's pretentious and not very intelligent... while the presentation of Barack Obama is one of a black man who constantly says, 'ce quoi ça mec?', 'what's that man?'... very amusing.

Right after 'Les Guignols' we have a special musical guest, who plays a song... then comes the 'pop culture' guests, often actresses, models, singers or well known names in France.  They interview them, kind of entertain them.. etc.

Mouloud Anchour and Seth Rogan on the RIGHT -->
During this time they also mention some current pop culture, show a short interview usually done by Mouloud Anchour... who really reminds me of Seth Rogan... ANYWAYS.

Then we have the 'Météo' with a tall Quebecois named 'Charlotte', and on the show 'Charlotte le bon'.  She's incredibly hilarious and has an insane Canadian accent- and has no idea how to tell the météo.. They often play some practical joke on her, like dressing her as a 'tree'... etc.

Finally, one of the best parts of the show is 'SAV Emissions: service après vente'.  These two comedians (Omar and Fred) have about 4 minutes to go back and forth.. the idea is a customer calling customer service.. and it's always hilarious.

See a clip of them here:  Clip of Omar et Fred

That's a brief synopsis.. but watch the show- it's great practice for French and keeps you updated- also it's incredibly POPULAR in France.. and it's a great conversation starter!



Monday, September 27, 2010

What-What: Sunday Lunch Time

I didn't write anything yesterday because I was too busy gorging myself on fabulous French food in the countryside of Lyon in Vienne.  Then I got to thinking, I bet someone out there in the big internet world would like to see, and understand, the whole BIG FRENCH MEAL.

So here goes.

Families in France used to have the big family meal every Sunday... it was a big event where everyone in the family was invited to come over to 'one family members' house and eat a huge meal.

This meal is/was taken in the middle of the day, often around 1pm.. it is conisdered an all day event, often running until 8 or 9 at night.  Our lasted around 6 hours.. and during that time I played 'Japanese Tourist' and photographed the eating phenomenon.  Follow along with me.

The Sunday Meal startes with...

Apero/Aperitif:  Beginning of the meal, often includes small snacks and a glass of champagne or other sweet drink.  Lasts about 30-40 minutes depending on the conversation.. when the host/hostess says, 'à table', it means the apero is officially over and the next part of the meal begins.

In the picture:  paté en croute, small toastades with mushroom paté and roquefort/fig jam.
Once we move to the table, the host/ess picks your seat.  The table is often magnificiently decorated..
Brian in Contemplation for the next meal..
And then we start eating again..

Entrée: Literally translated as entrance.  The meal is often a quiche accomagnied by a salad, a salad itself with livers, something light yet delicious to introduce the rest of the meal. Usually takes around 40 minutes.

In the pictureA cake of liver, actually kind of like a crustless liver quiche, and a wonderful butter leaf salad with 3-oil vinaigrette.  I was told the liver recipe was 100 years old.

Next comes the main dish, in French, Plat Principal, which the host/ess makes in the kitchen and serves.  During this time, wine is flowing, conversation is deep.. and everyone is beginning to feel the effects of 2 hours of drinking.

The wine is often changed depending on the meat served, if it's a salad, etc.

In the picture:  A very well made veal cut, zucchini gratin and a tomate a la provençal.

At this point we're all beginning to get full... but it's not done yet!  Next comes the cheese... often a selection of artisanal cheeses ranging in strength and taste.  Most often it's a selection of cow's milk cheese, but in the winter time 'Roquefort' which is a sheeps milk cheese is very common.

In the picture:  Starting from the closest and going clockwise:  roquefort, little dried goat cheeses, salty cows milk cheese, cows milk, tomme and st. felician, an incredibly creamy cheese.

The cheese takes a while to finish, so often at this point we're all so full we don't even want dessert... so we wait.  The cheese can take about 45 minutes depending on the fullness of the group.

Finally... dessert arrives. 

The dessert is not often accompanied by coffee, but in our case everyone thought it would go well.  Dessert can either have a sweet wine or a coffee to accompany, and sometimes even a little whiskey.

In the picture:  a chocolate fluffy cake with a crusty almond bottom, almond cookie, vanilla ice cream and raspberries w/ sauce.  Incredibly decadent.

Finally to top it off, everyone hobbles back into the living room to take digestif, which is an after dinner liqueur, usually like a strong alcoholic beverage to be sipped for about 1 hour until everyone is talked out and totally full.

These are the two hosts today..

These are the two hosts in 1969... adorable.

And finally we all depart, hours later.  Here are some extra photos from our visit in Vienne:

Old Castle on the Hill

And finally our host(s) home.. beautiful.

Enjoy, and good luck.. remember to take your time and say thank you... ALOT!

Bon Appetit, as Julia Child loved to say.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Advice: Decorating the Living Space

Either you live in a box (10x10 feet, and yes, it exists) or you live in a large apartment.  Either way, moving to a new place means decorating, and it doesn't have to be expensive.

Apartments in France
Usually come unequipped.  The kitchen often has a sink, the rest is up to you to use creative ingenuity, budgeting and a little imagination.  Here's the places we went to decorate our place and some options of other places to go;

  • Ikea:  Of course everyone knows of Ikea, sometimes the products can be expensive and temporary.  I bought a few items that were not expensive but incredibly used.  Remember you'll need to put together the items at home, which is time consuming and annoying.. having a friend with powertools helps.  I reccommend going to their French Website and picking everything out and putting onto a 'lists d'achat', or list of things to buy.  This allows you to see if the product is available at your Ikea, and how many.  It helps.
  • ParuVendu:  A website/newspaper that offers used products for sell.  Sellers create an advertisement in the paper, buyers call direct to the sellers.  Often there are tables, chairs and big objects for much cheaper than it would be new.  They also sell animals and services... :)
  • FUSAC: An American friendly website with advertisements of products or items being sold.
  • L'Occasions:  Sometimes as you are walking down the street you'll find some occasion shops and even a 'salvation army' where things are cheaper but still good quality.
As an example of our apartment, here's the before in the kitchen...
The kitchen is blocky, the area stuffed.. not very 'chi' for me.
And then I got to decorating.. and here's our new apartment..
My little oven on it's stand, laundry drying.. fridge turned.  MY kitchen!
My Ikea Spice jars, stuffed with smelly good spices..
The Washer.. and work table...
out eating area
This is Miles, my Moulinex.  Not part of the deco- but I love him.
Just to show the difference, this is the OLD apartment.. and yes, that WAS my kitchen

Good luck on the decorating- and remember to be inventive and SHOP AROUND!


    Friday, September 24, 2010

    Advice: The Things you SHOULD Know About France

    France is a very interesting country full of ton of historical information- but it also has a lot of current affairs that I notice many expats, students and even tourists may not know about.  My goal is to share some things I've had to learn (some learned through mistakes I've made) about France that are very useful.

    Population: 65 million people..
    Within this number, 5 million are immigrants and 3 million are foreigners (students, etc).
    What is France (geographically speaking)?
    France is actually comprised of four different things.  Metropolitan France, DOM ROM (which used to be DOMTOM, but changed in 2003), COM and POM. 
    Metropolitan France are the cities directly in the country, as in Lyon or Paris, there are 27 regions in France (i.e. Rhône-Alpes) and about 100 departments (i.e. Rhône).
    DOM ROM (departement et region outre mer) are the places that are considered French areas, but not directly in the country.  There's 'Martinique', 'la Guadeloupe',  'la guyane' and 'la réunion'.  They are considered both a department and a region, due to their size.
    COM (collectivité d'outre mer) are more like territories of France.  Often when you go they speak French, but aren't considered within the departments.
    POM (paye d'outre mer) are the countries that were occupied or are occupied by France, but due to political struggle are now on the way to liberation.  Polynesie and New Caledonia.
     Here's a great resource for more of the whole 'outre mer' stuff.

    First Religion: in France, we are considered 'laïc' or secular... which means the government and public facilities are not represented by any religion.  However- the most common religion practiced in France is Catholicism, followed in close second by Muslim.

    President & Prime Minister:  Nicholas Sarkozy is the French president, François Fillon the prime minister.  In France, when there's a big political thing, the president tends to step back and the prime minister becomes the scapegoat... which is exactly what is happening right now during the 'grève for retrait'.

    Some Random Facts...
    • French used to be only spoken in the center of France, before 1940 every region had their own dilect which was actually closer to it's own language.
    • Champagne is only called champagne if it comes from the Champagne region.. otherwise it's sparkling wine.
    • The order of eating is simple:  aperitif, entrée, main plat, fromage, fruit, dessert.
    • As long as there's bread, cheese will be eaten.
    • Le Grand Journal is a television show on Canal Plus, because it's a public show it's free to watch, even if you don't have cable.  It's on Monday through Friday, 730pm to 9pm.. Very interesting and funny.
    • The first Wednesday of every month there is a giant alarm testing that sounds like WW3 started- it's simply to test and make sure it works.
    • Sunday church bells ring around... and if there's a wedding it's common in the culture to follow everyone by car and honk the horns.
    • There are over a thousand type of cheese that are created in France... from sheep, goat and cow's milk.
    • 65% of employment comes from the service industry in France.
    I'm learning so much through my CIEF program, I am glad to be able to share it!


    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    Advice: French Slang Week 1

    In France, there is slang.  There is a lot of slang.. and I get to take a class all about French 'argot'.

    I want to share my knowledge...

    To start, there are two types of French that are commonly spoken- there's 'Français Soutenu' which is like the stuff that comes straight out of a rigid French teacher's books and mouth... and then 'Français Familier' which is the common spoken language.

    Even presidents and lawyers use the familier.. that's why often a person is fluent in French but may not understand or even know all the argot (slang).

    Here's what I've learned so far:

    un mec: A man, (français soutenu:  un homme)

    plein des tunes: full of money, (français soutenu:  riche, plein de l'argent)

    le fric: money, (français soutenu: l'argent)

    Vachement: vraiment, très

    du coup: The ability to live well and spend lots of money, 'well-off' (la cabilité d'acheter ou vivre bien)

    bagnoles: a car, (français soutenu: une voiture)

    bouffait: food, also, to eat...  (français soutenu: manger ou choses a manger)

    branchés: really classy, super expensive, (français soutenu: Super classy et chèr, luxe, meilleur)

    un canon:  A very beautiful woman, (français soutenu: une fille, femme très jolie)

    un boudin:  A very ugly, fat woman, (français soutenu: une femme ou fille très moche et gros)

    une meuf:  Chick, 'my woman', (français soutenu:  Ma copine, c'est comme ma voiture)

    tranche/mouille: The face, (français soutenu: la visage)

    trancher: To kill, or to cut, (français soutenu:  tuer ou couper)

    je te kif:  I like you, (français soutenu: je t'adore)

    bourré(e):  drunk, (français soutenu: ivre)

    sacré descente:  high alcohol tolerance, (français soutenu: la capacité pour boire beaucoup)

    la nana:  girlfriend, woman or lover of a person, (français soutenu: une fille/copine/fiancée)

    se casser:  to leave someone, or something, (français soutenu:  partir, s'en aller)
       être cassé:  very tired, (français soutenu: fatigué)

    sacrément torché:  incredibly, incredibly drunk, (français soutenu: très, même, trop bourée)

    péter: explode, break, destroy, also means 'to pass gas', (français soutenu: exploser, expulser des gaz par les fesses, casser, briser, même destruire)

    les flics: the police, (français soutenu: la police, les policiers)

    se faire embarquer: to be stopped, like stopped by the police, (français soutenu: se faire arrêter)

    la taule: prison, (français soutenu: la prisson)

    les taulards: prisoners, (français soutenu: les prissoniers)

    frimer: to show off, to flaunt, (français soutenu: s'exhiber)

    un frimeur (une frimeuse): a person who shows off, flaunts, (français soutenu: une exhibitionniste)

    un fauché: a poor person, a person without money, (français soutenu: un personne pauvre, sans de l'argent)
      être fauché:  to be a poor person, or temporarily without money, (français soutenu: d'être pauvre ou sans de l'argent temporairement)

    I'll keep posting my 'argot' that I learn every week.. it helps.


    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Advice: The CIEF Program at Lyon 2

    Monday I started my CIEF classes.  CIEF is a program offered by Lyon Lumière II, which specializes in only French classes.

    CIEF stands for:  Centre Internationale d'Études Français

    It's a program specifically designed for international people (students or not) who want to learn the French language.  There are differing levels, differing intensities and a variety of classes to compliment the basics.


    It's a great way to get a student visa, a great way to enter into France (without having to really know French).  I can speak very well, I know a lot of vocabulary and I can live here without a hitch.. but they offer all levels for different types of people.

    If you were looking for a way to enter into France to study.. or maybe even prepare to go to university here (it's free) following completion of the CIEF.. it's a wonderful thing.  I inscribed in January, got an acceptance by February... and was able to get my student visa that way, through this program.

    You start with a big round of testing, the first is a written test (they give two subjects, you write on it), the second is an oral test (you sit with a professor for about 10 minutes and describe a random subject) and the final a computer test (which is a combination hearing/reading understanding test).  This takes about a week.

    I took the tests and got into a B1- which means I rocked something, then screwed up something else.  I find it to be my writing capabilities as well as my grammar... I speak very well, understand great.. but damn those French grammatical rules.  I was aiming for a B2, but I knew that I had weak points in my writing.

    The levels of the CIEF look like this:

    A1 - You know not one word of french or french structure, you usually say, "bonjour"... that's all.
    A2 - You can make simple phrases, maybe use the present tense of verbs, get around France
    B1 - You are able to speak to people and be understood, but you mess up in structure or rules
    B2 - You are able to speak, understand and maybe your structure rocks- but you need to know some more complicated French verbs
    C1 - You can live in France no problem, it's simply a class to improve your linguistic abilities and expand on your current knowledge.
    C2 - You probably are looking to become a teacher in French.

    After you get your level, you get a schedule.. mine looks like this:

    So I have about 3-6 hours total of grammaire/written lessons, about 1.5 hours of oral practice,  1.5 hours of 'familiar french' which is slang, 1.5 hours of business French...

    It's about 17 hours a week.. which is pretty intense.. but it's definitely worth it to sit and hear French continuously throughout the day.

    I am doing the semi-intensif program, which is about €1020, and 210 hours a term.  The other option is €1300 or so a term and it's about 20 more hours.

    My classes are going well so far.. I find them a bit easy- but there are some classes that are very beneficial in this level.. like the slang class or the business class... plus tons and tons of grammar.

    I'd recommend it!

    Here's the website for more information:  CIEF Website


    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Just a quick little post to remind people that indeed, in France, one can make delicious chocolate chip cookies without the brown sugar and without the baking soda.

    Yesterday I made.. well.. I was lazy so I made a 'chocolate chip pie' which is just cookie dough, shoved into a glass quiche pan and baked.  Like a giant cookie.

    Here's the recipe I used that actually turned out quite nice:

    Chocolate Chip Cookies in France

    1 & 1/4 cup flour (specifically 'farine patisserie')
    150 grams of butter
    1 egg
    1 teaspoon baking powder (aka poudre levure chimique, available in all stores)
    1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring OR 1 packet vanilla sugar (little packets in the store called, 'sucre de vanille', sold next to the levure chimique)
    3/4 cup white sugar
    1/4 cup cassonade (which is like natural sugar)
    *1 bar baking chocolate (sold next to normal chocolate) chopped into small chunks
    pinch of salt

    It makes about 24 cookies..

    -Preheat the oven to 190, if it's a convention microwave do 220.
    -Blend the butter (soften it first), the egg, the sugar products, the salt and the vanilla in a bowl until creamy
    -Add in the flour/baking powder (ensure it's been combined first without liquid, then add, about 1/4 cup at a time)
    -Once combined, if looks to wet, add 1/4 cup flour or so to even out the texture
    -Add in the chopped chocolate, stir around

    NOW, either...
    -Put in fridge with plastic wrap for one hour
    -Take tablespoon size portions in mounds, onto a greased baking plate

    Bake 10-12 minutes, checking every few minutes..


    *Note:  France does not have chocolate chips.  You'll have to use the baking chocolate because it melts easier, and ensure you chop it.  Doesn't have to be perfect, big chunks made delicious surprises

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    Culture Shock: The Difference of Friendship

    Back home I have 4 close girlfriends.  We've been friends since I was all zitty, 5 sizes bigger, awkward and discovering my own personality.  All the other friends I've made from Portland were usually flakey, fake, insincere and suprisingly good at pretending they give a flying F.

    Now, I'm not bitter, of course, I was lucky to have some close friends.  I'm only regretful the friend society isn't even close to friendships in France (and potentially all of Europe).

    Have you ever met someone (girl or guy) at a party or a social outing, gotten their number, and then totally forgot they were in your phone?  Even though you promised you would call to get that beer, to buy that shirt, to come weed their garden- n'importe quoi?

    Ever had a birthday party where you went ALL out- bought cake, suprised them, did something awesome.. but then they never did it back to you?

    Well. I have.  That was often my experiences.  I used to get so exasperated about friends in Oregon I'd throw pillows and whine, yes whine.  I'd call my mother (my emotional vomit bag) and complain about friends not calling me, my lame-ass birthday..


    I didn't believe Bri when he said it was an Oregonian thing, I threw it off saying, 'no way.  it's a people thing.  people are inherently selfish, they don't give a hoot and they'd rather stare at themselves in the mirror then send a simple text or pick up the phone.'

    France... oh.. the differences.

    Here in France friendship is kind of like learning how to ride a bike, there are all these base moves that come before and then once you have it it's guaranteed you won't forget- and they won't forget you.

    Friendship is Earned
    In France, a friend is not someone you just met once.  It's a person you often have seen a few times, you've gotten their number, you've had a beer.  In the beginning French people seem frigid, even snooty, but in reality they are warm.  Once you are able to crack the shell, the softness of their friendship will blow you away.

    Examples it's True
    My 23rd birthday was on Saturday night, to celebrate we invited 25+ people to our 62m2 apartment.  That night I was blown away as 6 friends, that I've never bought gifts for, and I'll admit I was totally 'Oregonian Flake' to, brought me beautiful perfect gifts.  The Oregonians I invited were exactly how I would have been back home, you come with a beer, you have some snacks, you leave.  I was surprised by two Oregonian girls who brought me artisanal bread and wonderful jam (which went great in the morning), and another Oregonian guy (coached by a Frenchman) that brought a keg for everyone to share.

    At the end of the night, it was me and 8 French people.  One person shouted, 'ATTENDS, EST-CE QUE C'EST VRAI QUE C'EST TON ANNIVERSAIRE SASHA??'  I smiled, and nodded.  I only expected to be told, 'salutations' or congratulations..

    The whole room became silent, all 16 beady French eyes on me.  Glasses of champagnes in hand, they took a deep breath and much like the Who people in Dr. Seuss's 'The Grinch', everyone started singing, full chorus...

    Bon anniversaire!
     Bon anniversaire!

    I stood torn between agast and shocked.  Why so shocked?  Because in the United States, I've only been sang to like that by waiters with candles in free slices of cakes.  I didn't have to remind anyone it was my birthday, didn't have to beg for the song.. it came natural.

    And the most shocking...

    The girls who started the song stated clearly, 'dans deux semaines, Sasha et Brian, vous êtes invitée chez moi!'   (in two weeks, brian and sasha, you are invited to my apartment)

    Just like that.
    I suddenly realized that this sensation of French friendship was actually a really good thing.  They call when promised.  They invite you to their place if you invite them to yours.  They bring gifts and good wine.  When they smile- it's not an uncomfortable social smile.. it's a true smile.

    As much as English is easier for me to speak, I realized that in only 3 months that I've lived here I've experienced more friendship and hospitality from French people than I ever experienced in Oregon the whole time I lived there.

    So, my recommendation to you:  Get yerself some French friends, ASAP!  :)


    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    Advice: Party Etiquette in France

    Bri & I had the opportunity to host a 'cremaillère' combo birthday party yesterday and I learned quite a bit about proper etiquette both for going to a party, having a party and the different types of parties.

    Types of Parties
    Cremaillère:  A cremaillère is a house-warming party.  It's typical for invitees to bring something useful such as spice jars, a crepe maker or a recipe book.  Usually snack food/drinks are provided to guests, but it is still polite to bring a bottle of wine.

    Apero-Manger: Apero-manger is when everyone invited brings a certain finger-food dish.  For example one might bring a couple bags of chips, a set up of crudité, mini desserts.  Remember to ask the host(s) what you should bring, as they usually dictate who brings what.

    Raclette: Raclette parties are absolutely one of my favorites.  It's basically a 'melty cheese party' but not fondue style. 

    As you see in the left picture, this is a 'raclette' machine.  What it is is a simple hot plate with a grill on the underside.  You cut cheese (usuall emmenthal or reblochon)  and put it in the small little pans, under the grill for 2-3 minutes.. and then pour over whatever you'd like.

    Normal accompagniments with raclette are potatoes, charcuteries and some vegetables.  My recommendation is to use smaller potatoes, grilled veggies and ham/turkey.

    (More information on throwing a Raclette Party)

    Crêpe Party:  Crêpe parties are a lot like raclette parties (using the same machine usually, but the top part not the bottom part).  It's a big bowl of batter, everyone makes their own crêpe and stuffs it themselves.  It's usually a savory/sucré type thing so it's best to have both options prepared.

    Special Parties: By special I mean events during the year.  Here's a great link that describes the holidays... here  and another website to explain the holidays and methods. Birthdays/anniversaries are the same around the word (i believe) EXCEPT, one opens the gift during aperitif, not at the end, and never announce to the birthday person that you are 'bringing a gift'.  I notice in America it's habitual to say, 'I bought you a gift' before seeing the person.. it's a phenomena French people don't understand.

    Going to a Party
    In France, when invited, always bring a small gift.  It could be some lovely flowers, a simple bottle of wine or even some chocolate.  It's a way of telling your host(s) that you feel very welcome and a thank you. 

    Remember when you arrive to always 'fait le bis' at every person. 

    If you don't know someone, introduce yourself!  It's very rude to ignore others at a party.

    Practice small talk; meaning learn some simple phrases of things to discuss.  NEVER ask the typical questions Americans usually ask:  'what are your hobbies', etc, instead focus on asking what career they'd like to do, what school they went to- where they have been on vacation.

    When you leave, ensure you thank the host(s) once more and again, 'fait le bis' at everyone.

    Having your Own Party
    Doing it at your own home can be a risky business- but it can also be very amusing.  Here's how we did ours...

    First I prepared a lot of little snacks.  Picard sells many 'amuses-geules' or little hot snacks that you simply reheat for about €4 for 30 pieces.  I recommend also buying 'pâte-feuillité' and making some yourselfs.

    -Lots of amuses-geules such as picard treats, or hot dogs wrapped in pate-feuillité and baked at 220 until golden
    -Selection of seasonal vegetables cut into finger foods
    -Simple dip (mix 1 container crême fraîche, yogurt, 1/2 cup ciboullette, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, pinch of nutmeg and a small amount of crême liquide.. stir and refridgerate)
    -Mayonnaise (the French love dipping veggies in Mayo)
    -Lots of chips
    -Alcohol (beers, wine)
    -Mini bread snacks, (I toast the bread for about 5 minutes, add toppings such as tomatoes or onions or cheese... delicious and it was eaten quickly)
    to save some cash, the alcohol can be purchased at Lidl.. it wasn't too bad.

    Me putting some 'amuse-geules' on a plate
    Later in the Night.. all of us stuffed on the couch

    Everyone Digging into the food..
    Remember to make the rounds, greet everyone, offer a drink when they first arrive.  Show where the snacks are, explain you might be distracted... constantly make the rounds and talk to people.

    Some advice?

    Keep lots of toilet paper and paper towels around.  Spills will happen.  People will use the bathroom, all night, and nothing is worse than running out of toilet paper.

    Use plastic cups and cocktail napkins if it's a big party (over 15 people) and glassware/plastic plates if it's smaller.  For groups of 3-6 you can use dishware.

    Here's some helpful links:
    How to Word Invitations in French
    How to Host a Raclette Party
    How to Host a Crêpe Party
    Ideas for Themed Parties

    I also want to mention the concept of 'YouTube' playlists and computers.  If you can attach your computer into the television, or if your computer has a large screen, you can make YouTube playlists so the music has a video attached.  It is really fun for people to interact and add videos, watch the music.. it helps.

    Happy parties and good times!


    Saturday, September 18, 2010

    23 with a Messed Up Knee

    Yesterday was one of those days I wish would have been different.  It was a beautiful Friday, we had Bri's parents coming for dinner (which inviting French in-laws enough is stressing), and we had to get all the shopping done for our crémaillère and my birthday party tonight.

    It started with a morning trip to the marché down the street.  The marché on 'quai saint antoine' is open every day, and actually, suprisingly, the prices were not too expensive.  I bought a bunch of veggies... no problem.  We then went to Picard to get our 'amuse-gueules' which are the little snacks eaten with booze in the beginning.  Finally off to the marché-u to get the last pieces... hauled all of this home, up the 4 flights (40 stairs total) of stairs.

    We had to leave again to go to my school to see what they decided to put me in.  As we were biking, as usual, we got to this area near the school that's made with gravel/dirt.  My front tire was out, apparently, and as I turned and put on my break to turn/stop- the tire floated out, I slid out... and the bike crashed on me as I slipped under it.  I had a moment of just shock...

    Bri came running from his bike and I started balling in the middle of the street.. it was a combination of embarrassment and complete pain.  We still had to get to my school, so I hobbled to school.. we hobbled to Lidl to buy things for tonight and slowly very slowly biked home.

    Here's the results, today, of my accident yesterday, it hurts like something awful, today it's stiff and swollen and feels as though I can't bend it without pain.  I am a total 'type A' personality so it is driving me nuts.

    In all though, Bri made it better.  He's truly a wonderful piece of my life- and even if sometimes I bitch and moan about not understanding the marché man or maybe I get frustrated... he's fabulous.  Here's what he did for my birthday dinner with the parents:

    He made me a CHEESCAKE... and not just ANY cheesecake..

    He made me a raspberry cheesecake, based with crispy petit-beurre cookies, rich ricotta and.. it.. was awesome.

    Just to exaggerate... I MUST show photos of his hard work...

    Putting Decorations on my Cheesecake
    In our kitchen.. adding more raspberries
    There wasn't a lot of room for the whole word:  "HAPPY"... good enough
    My kitchen, preparation for a dinner of 5.. yikes
    Yea... we decorated a little.. this is our new Ikea table.. only 100 bux!
    My 'French Mom'.. very impressed with her son's work.
    We drank it all.. ohhh yeaaa..
    All I can hope is that my knee will stop aching too much and that I can try to get through tonight with a smile.  I think a nap is in order... people are supposed to start arriving here around 7pm.. holy moly.

    We have about 25 invitees, a bunch of beer, snacks and ... well, it's gonna be a busy night.  We invited a huge mix of his French friends, my Exchange friends.. a true mix of English/French speakers.  Some of the students don't speak very well, and some of the French don't speak English at all.. but we are happy to bring our worlds together.

    Wish me luck.. I'll let you know tomorrow how it goes..


    Friday, September 17, 2010

    Story Time: The Ikea Experience in Lyon

    In Portland around 4 years ago, Portland, Oregon (my home state) got it's first Ikea.  Everyone came from the mountains, the oceans, the cities and the deserts to see the new Ikea, eat some meatballs and have the adventure.

    I love Ikea.  The smell of the fake wood, the meatballs and potatoes you can buy for $5, the knick knacks and fun kitchen items... I even enjoy putting the stuff together (as long as it's not too much stuff of course).

    Bri and I decided to go to Ikea in Lyon (the one in St. Priest) yesterday because we absolutely were getting sick of eating in front of our television, we needed a table, chairs and some little organizing things for my kitchen.

    Plus, we invited his parents to eat tonight, which means either we needed to buy a table, or we were going to feed them on over-turned boxes.. not really the way to impress the in-laws.

    Ikea in Lyon is about a 30-40 minute tram ride from the center.  It's past the Lyon II campus in Bron, it's way out of the city.  Regardless, I was excited as a child going to disneyland.  As we headed over the path I saw the big sign and got even more happy!

    Walking in through the doors was already a different experience.  It didn't have the giant escalator to take you to the showrooms, it didn't have the little paper to write down what you want... but it was still Ikea!

    We began by touring around.. as normal.  We picked a beautiful black table, two black chairs and two temporary wooden folding chairs.  The rest was just little things, like wine glasses (because I broke all of ours washing them) and a hanging dryer thing for our laundry (which I'll highlight in a later post about doing laundry in France).

    The break in the middle entitled us to drink 50 cl of red wine, eat a croque monsieur and have dessert for €4.20 each.  Well boozed and blood sugar fixed, we headed out again through the masses.

    Over-all the experience wasn't as magical as usual, and it was still a horror putting the furniture together (we don't have powertools, we have hand tools... just imagine.)  AND we had to carry everything upstairs.  Nightmare.

    Luckily now we have a bunch of empty boxes, a bunch of cheap furniture and an actual table where we can eat dinner and actually have a conversation every night.

    It's worth a trip if you need to deck out your home for not too expensive.. definitely, but don't expect it to be a big deal to everyone because France has had Ikea for a long long time... it's like Walmart in America.


    Advice: Benefits of Being a Student in France

    France likes to take care of their students, which means there are a lot of discounts for students to do cultural things, pay for transportation and even get financial aid.  Allow me to 'partager' some wonderful benefits...

    Cultural Passes
    There are a lot of cultural passes available for students... available on the Lyon Culture website.  I'd like to highlight some of these and what their benefits are: 

    La Carte Musée (the museum card)
    Price:  €16
    Amount of Usage:  One year from date of purchase
    Details:  Allows you to visit the 6 museums around Lyon.. as listed on the website.. as much as you want in one year.
    How to Purchase: Go to any of the 6 locations with a photo of yourself and prove of being a student, command for the 'carte musée'.

    Le Pass'Culture (culture pass)
    Price: €16
    Amount of Usage: 4 shows at any of the locations on the list following..
    Details: Make reservation ahead of time (at least one week before) to use one of the four passes.
    Nouveau cette année :
    How to Purchase: at Lyon Campus, 25 rue Jaboulay Lyon 7ème
    Au CROUS de Lyon, 59 rue de la Madeleine, Lyon 7ème 9-12h00 et 14-16h00  BY CHECK ONLY

    La CarteD
    Price: Free
    Amount of Usage: Unknown
    Details: For use at any of the following, make reservation...
    Details:  Go to any of the above on the list with atudent proof and ask for 'La Carte D' which should give you a discount card.

    Pass 2 places, 4 spectacles
    Price: €28
    Amount of Usage: 4 times, in the following:
    Details: Call 04 72 07 63 81 ou 04 78 28 35 19 for more information.

    Le Pass Culturel Kiblind
    Price: €50
    Amount of Usage: 15 times during one year, one in each of the following:
    • La Renaissance
    • Le Nouveau Théâtre du 8e
    • Les Ateliers
    • Le Toboggan
    • L’Iris
    • Le Théâtre Nouvelle Génération
    • Le Comœdia
    • Le Zola
    • L’Institut
    • Lumière
    • Le Clacson
    • Le Hot Club de Lyon
    • Le Marché Gare
    • L'Amphiopéra
    • L’Épicerie Moderne
    • L’Institut d’art contemporain
    Details: do the inscription for this online:  at Kiblind Website, allows one ticket for each of the above in one year.

    L'auditorium in Lyon
    Price: €6.00 a month, paid at once, so €72.00
    Amount of Usage: An entire year of free entrance... about 50 shows.
    Specifically for the auditorium in Lyon, usually a selection of classical music.

    Details: Inscribe on the internet, choose all your dates, pay online for the year.  Here's the website.

    Les pass' de l'Opéra de Lyon
    Price: €5.00
    Amount of Usage: Works for a year, one show per spectacle, per date.
    Specifically for the Opera Lyon in the 1er arrondissement.

    Details:  Purchase at the ticket counter, as for the "Pass'Opéra" for less than 26 years old.. if you are older there are other passes.  Entitles to 50% off of front row tickets, and only €10 for any show in the C-D-E rows.  Available according to what room there is.  Read More.

    Eating/Food Discounts
    Depending on where you go, normally near the center (near croix-russe, near place Terreaux, near Bellecour) many of the food places offer special menus for students. Example, show a student ID, get a meal at BIEH (Best Burger I Ever Had) with french fries, burger, drink and dessert for only €10.

    Transportation Discounts
    Discounts on TCL and Velo'v.  A TCL monthly pass is only €22, while a yearly pass is only €187 euro. Velo'v is the same price, but still cheap at only €15 a year.

    Keep your eyes peeled, if you are a student, and find the other great deals...


    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    Advice: Moving to a New Apartment in France

    It's been about one week and a half since we've moved from the 7ème arrondissement to the 2ème.. and it was an adventure where I have learned a lot.  There are few things that are similar to moving in the United States... France is definitely a different culture in that context.

    Moving is something like this:

    -Pack everything in cartons, seal tight.
    -Rent a car for around €65 for a whole day.
    -Move everything out of old apartment,
    -Move everything up to new apartment,
    -Call every utility and change the address,

    But unfortunately a few things went array, so it was more like this:

    -Pack everything.. (yadayada)
    -Rent a car for €65, end up paying €1,000 because the streets are tiny and the front gets hit
    -3 stories of moving, which is like 30 stairs (climbed about 5 times)
    -4 stories of moving back up, 40 stairs, (climbed about 10 times)

    It was tiring, but it's done.  Now onto some advice if you plan on moving around the city of Lyon:

    • When you call the utilities, ensure you know where to find the amount used so far, call as soon as possible (or they will come knock on your door), you need to call for the water, gas and electricity.
    • The way that utilities work is they offer you to pay a flat fee every month, then at the end of one year you pay the difference used, or they credit your account with the difference used. For example, we pay €60 a month for electricity, no matter what we use, then at the end of the year we get money back or we pay the difference.
    • Before moving call the internet company and ensure that it is compatible.  If you are changing addresses, sometimes you can get a free installation by signing for another year.
    • Movers are expensive, but in our case would have been worth it.  Our quote for a 27m2 apartment was €600. 
    • In the United States you change your address at the post office, all your mail is forwarded.  In France you don't.  They charge €34 for this service to change the address... you'll just have to let everyone and everything you can think of know you've changed your address.  Remember you'll need the attestation to prove your new living place... so makes lots of copies of this document.
    • To change your main bank branch, call or visit and ask for a rendez-vous pour changer le location du banc.  When you go to this rendez-vouz, bring the copy of the rib page, your identification and attestation of new apartment.  It won't change your rib code, only the main location where you deal with bankers.

    It seems like a simple list, but it's taken about a complete week to finish all these tasks.  Bon chance, bon courage with moving!


    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    Recipe: Herbed Salmon Filets w/ Chive Potato Purée

    Last Wednesday Brian wanted something not diet-y and delicious.  We were wandering through Super-U and saw two salmon filets for €4.00.  It struck me suddenly to make something with those… so I created this meal.  Here’s what you’ll need…

    -Package of Fresh Mozzarella
    -1 lemon
    -2 salmon filets
    -1 bunch of chives
    -1 bunch ofdill
    -Around 500 grams of potatoes
    -4 Ripe tomatoes (roma or on the vine are best)
    -1 cup white cooking wine
    For seasonings
    -2 tablespoons herbs de provence

    It will become this:

    So.  Let’s begin.
    1. Start by the salad, as it needs to marinate for at least 30 minutes… so instructions:
                Herbed Tomato Mozz Salad
    a.     Cut the tomatoes in nice sized chunks
    b.     Cut the mozzarella in smaller, still nice sized chunks
    c.      Mix ¼ cup red wine vinegar and ½ cup olive oil, salt, pepper and herbes de provence.  Shake or whisk in a container, mix with the tomatoes and mozzarella, cover and set in fridge.
    2. Now as the salad marinates, we’ll get going on the salmon and the puree.
                Herbed Purée & Salmon Filet
    a.     Begin by washing the herbs and the potatoes.  Take the potatoes and either boil or steam until squishy and easy to mash… you can leave it to cook while you prepare the salmon.
    b.     Salmon: simply take out of package, lay on cutting board and season lightly with salt & pepper.  Squeeze half the lemon over the salmon filets.  Chop up the (herb) and place aside.  Chop the chives, place aside.
    c.      Heat one nice size pan on the stove at medium-high heat, melt butter and a small amount of olive oil, put the salmon filets face down.. sizzle sizzle.  After about 1 minute, turn the salmon over, add the other half of lemon juice, pour in the white wine, add the (herb), reduce heat to medium-low, cover.
    d.     Potatoes:  Get the potatoes out of hot water, into a metal bowl.  Either mash with fork, adding small amount of milk (as desired) and about 3 tablespoons butter.  You can also blend with a hand blender… makes it creamier.  Add lots of salt and pepper (potatoes are bland) and mix in the chopped chives.
    e.     After the potatoes are done, the salmon should be done (sauce can be reduced more as desired)… serve with the marinated salad, a crusty bread and a chilled white or rosé wine!  Delicious!
    Now let’s break down the cost..
    Herbs (€1.20)
    Salmon (€3.90)
    Milk (€0.30)
    Butter (€0.10)
    Potatoes (€0.79)
    Tomatoes (€0.80)
    Mozzarella (€1.05)
    White Wine (€0.25)
    1 Lemon (€0.72)
    TOTAL COST:  €9.02, or about €4.50 a person.  Imagine at a restaurant it would be around €13… that’s savings of 8.50!!  YAY!  And it’s super delicious.
     Enjoy!.. and A+

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Advice: Saving money on groceries part 2

    I recently moved from the 7ème to the 2ème in Lyon (which is in the center) and immediately saw a shocking discovery:  grocery prices were on average €0.30 more than out in the 7ème, so I got an idea to share on how to save some money.

    The Super-U out in the 7ème (near Gerland) has grocery prices that are about 30 cents less for the same product.  My advice is simple:  travel and save.  Pick a day during the week when you can take about 2-3 hours to shop and you’ll save between €5 to €15 depending on your purchases.  Here’s my plan to save:
    1. As stated before, make a list of meals during the week you plan to eat, and then a shopping list off of that.
    2. First grocery store:  Super-U in 69007 (link address)
    3. Second stop:  Producer’s Market in 69007 for Fresh Produce (great prices)
    4. Third stop:  Picard Surgélées
    5. Final stop:   Asian stores for rice, spices or coconut milk

    It’s a simple map of places to go, but it’s definitely tiring.  It’s worth it for us because we enjoy eating a variety of foods for less that €35 a person per week.  An example of my list looks like this:
            Menu this Week
            Monday:  Mushroom Wine Pork, Steamed Potatoes, Yogurt Sauce         Tuesday:  Yellow Curry w/ Cilantro Rice         Wednesday:  Cuban Beans & Pork         Thursday:  Quiche Lorraine w/ Fresh Salad         Friday:  Chili Con Carne

            Needed Items
    Super U (around €15.00)
    4-pack yogurt
                2 Cans red beans             

    Paté Feuillité (fridgerated crust)             
    Milk (2 bottles)             
    4 pork chops            
    Container smoked chopped bacon (lardon fume)             
    1 sm bag shredded cheese             
    1 can tomatoes          

    Producer’s Market  (around €6.00) 
    1 bunch cilantro             
    250 grams small potatoes             
    1 head garlic             
    2 courgettes             
    4 tomatoes             
    ½ bag fresh salad             
    1 spicy green pepper             
    1 whole green pepper             
    6 eggs          

    Picard Surgelées  (around €4.00)
    1 bag frozen chopped onion
     1 bag frozen mushrooms        

    Asian Market  (around €3.00) 
    1 kilo white rice             
     1 can coconut milk             
    1 container curry paste

    This menu on average costs about €22.00, I’m not including breakfast items, baguettes, teas, household items, etc… but this budgeting will cut a huge chunk out of the cost.

    Consider it this way, €22.00 for two people is about €11.00 per person for a 5-day menu dinner. 

    That’s like eating a dinner every night for only €2.20 a person!  No starving or eating pasta every night.

    Try it once and see the grocery bills come down- especially in France.
    Happy grocery-hunting!
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