Posts Tagged ‘expat’

Of Maïs and Men

May 24, 2012

Moulard Duck Foie Gras with Pickled Pear. From the Wikpedia Commons. Photo by Luigi Anzivino.


les souris
– mice
maïs – corn; pronounced “mah-eese”
24h sur 24 (spoken aloud as “vingt-quatre heures sur vingt-quatre” or “vingt-quatre sur vingt-quatre“) – 24/7 
(in French, they say “twenty-four hours out of twenty-four”, instead of “twenty-four/seven”)
foie gras – foie gras is a traditional French delicacy made from the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened; literally translated, it means “fat liver”
gavage – force-feeding
bricolé(e) – thrown together, cobbled together, tinkered with (familiar); from the verb “bricoler”


******

The first time I met my friend Dave, he told me he’d been living in Paris for two years.

“Wow, your French must be really good by now,” I remarked enviously, still not feeling quite up to the task of speaking French 24h sur 24.

“Not really,” he replied. “Actually, you can get by quite well in Paris without speaking much French at all.”

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Impasse Sarkozy

April 22, 2012
“Sarkozy Impasse, Former President of the French Republic, 2007 – 2012”
This clever mock street sign/political commentary blended in so well with the mise-en-scene
on a Saint-Germain street that we almost walked right by it without even noticing.


une impasse
– dead-end, cul-de-sac; also, a deadlock
le premier tour
 – the first round
la Présidentielle – short for “l’élection présidentielle”, the presidential election
les infos
– the news
un sondage – poll
le/la candidat(e) 
le deuxième tour – the second round
les élections – elections

le Front National – the name of the far-right political party in France
un étranger (une étrangère) – a foreigner
un pays
region (can also mean “country”); in France, people will refer to the region where they were born, grew up, or where their family comes from as their “pays”
un bulletin de vote – ballot
une soirée d’élection – election party
le mode de scrutin – electoral system 

******

Today is the premier tour* of la Présidentielle and all over France, people are heading to the ballot boxes to decide who will be the two main candidates battling it out for the presidency in the second (and final) round of voting on May 6th. For weeks now, les infos have been full of nothing but election talk and sondages, all trying to predict which candidat will come out on top. Political debates rage hotly over tables in cafés and brasseries around the city, and the streets are papered with paraphernalia, the unnerving eyes of far-right leader Marine Le Pen staring eerily out from campaign posters (when they haven’t been gouged out or defaced by those who take exception to her extreme anti-immigration stance, that is).  Not all the political posters come from “official” sources. Some politically-minded citizens have found creative ways to share their views, like this clever mock “street sign” I spotted in the Saint-Germain neighbourhood while walking one day with my friend Jean-Laurent.

For an expat, it’s a really interesting time to be in the city, watching all the various goings-on. At the moment, it looks as if current president Nicolas Sarkozy and left-wing candidate François Hollande are the favourites to move on to the deuxième tour of les élections, although some would say that it’s too early to discount Le Pen and the Front National, who have made somewhat worrying gains in popularity in the wake of the economic crisis. As an étrangère on French soil, I can only hope that this isn’t actually the case.

Paris itself feels strangely quiet and deserted this weekend. A large portion of my circle of friends has left the city, hopping on trains and heading back to their pays to do their civic duty and cast their bulletin de vote.**  Others are taking advantage of the occasion to throw a soirée d’élection, getting together with friends over a bottle of wine to watch the results come in.

What will be the final decision?  All of France waits with bated breath to find out.

* The Frenchmode de scrutin”, or electoral system, involves two rounds of voting to determine who will be president. In the first round, people choose from among several candidates. The two forerunners then move on to a second round of voting, where the people then vote on which of the two will be elected to presidential office.

** It’s not uncommon for people from other regions in France to move to Paris without officially changing their residence, as this involves a certain amount of paperwork and administrative red tape. As a result, when election time rolls around, they have to return to their “area of residence” in order to vote.

Keep Off The Grass

June 20, 2011

la France (proper noun, feminine) – France; in the French language, countries are typically preceded by their defining article (i.e. “le Canada”, “la Bolivie”)
la pelouse
(noun, feminine) – the grass; the lawn

le terroir – (noun, masculine) land; soil; terrain
le(s) produit(s) du terroir
– (noun, masculine) regional product(s)*
le brie – (noun, masculine) Brie cheese
la Brie – (proper noun, feminine) the region of Brie, in France; note that this is distinguished from the cheese by the change in gender, that is, the cheese is masculine and the region is feminine
le chèvre – (noun, masculine) goat’s cheese
la chèvre – (noun, feminine) a goat; note that this is distinguished from the cheese by the change in gender, that is, the cheese is masculine and the animal is feminine
un(e) gourmand(e) – (noun, masculine/feminine) a foodie; someone who is fond of good food

les flics(noun, masculine; slang) the cops
interdite – (adj) prohibited, forbidden
une abeille – (noun, feminine) a bee
un repos – (noun, masculine) rest; time off
la Mairie de Paris – Paris City Hall
le gazon
– (noun, masculine) grass; turf; lawn
hivernal – (adj) winter
autorisée – (adj) authorized
déjeuner sur l’herbe – to have a picnic lunch on the grass (literally “to lunch on the grass”)

******

Mangez sur l’herbe
Dépêchez-vous
Un jour ou l’autre
l’herbe mangera sur vous
-Jacques Prévert

(“Hurry up, picnic on the grass; one of these days, the grass will picnic on you.”)


La France
is famous around the world for its many luxury exports and high-end products. Most of us at some point or another have probably already encountered its produits du terroir without even realizing it: champagne from France’s Champagne region, for example; or Dijon mustard, named after the city of Dijon; or perhaps a glass of Bordeaux wine from – you guessed it – Bordeaux.  There are, of course, its many cheeses: Camembert, from Normandy, Brie from the region of Brie, and (a personal favourite) countless varieties of chèvre, just to name a few. For the gourmands out there, there’s caviar and foie gras, and to satisfy the fashionistas, a long tradition of haute couture, world-renowned fashion houses like Chanel, Hermès and Louis Vuitton… and the ever-ubiquitous sac Longchamps, the go-to “It” bag that seems to accompany every American tourist home.

Yes, France has no end of premium luxury products of which it can boast. But as I discovered shortly after moving here, it also has one precious commodity that you’ll never read about in the tourist brochures or find listed with the AOC, a commodity so sacrosanct that it is protected fiercely everywhere in Paris by local edict, by chain-link fences and other physical barriers designed to ensure its security, by intimidating signage that prohibits the public from tampering with it, and, if that isn’t enough to discourage the common riffraff from interfering with this national treasure, by les flics, who are quick to put a stop to any shenanigans on the part of heretic tourists who may have wandered into its sacred midst.

I am, of course, talking about the grass, or as the French call it, la pelouse.

“Keep Off The Grass”

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How Beyoncé saved me from French assimilation disaster

September 13, 2010

faire la bise – how the French greet each other; involves a sort of “air kiss” on both cheeks (depending on the region in France, this can involve two, three or even four kisses)
à la européen – in the European fashion
une salle de bain – the room in the house with the bathtub in it, not to be confused with “les toilettes” (“la toilette” in French Canada), which is a separate room with a toilet in it.  I’m not sure why the French use the plural form for the toilet, even when there is only one.  Maybe an extra one miraculously appears in times of great need?
On fait la bise… – One exchanges kisses…
dans la merde – up the creek without a paddle
à la canadien – in the Canadian fashion

******

Have you ever done the awkward sidewalk dance?  You know the one – you’re motoring down the sidewalk, minding your own business, when suddenly you realize that you are nearly face-to-face with someone headed in the opposite direction.  You obligingly step to the right to let them pass, which would normally work, except that they have the exact same idea and step to their left at the same time, which means that you are still face-to-face.  You both then move simultaneously in the opposite direction, with the same result.  You, struck with a flash of brilliance, decide you’ll take the initiative and dart quickly to the other side before the other person can move – and they do the same, causing a near-miss (or sometimes not-so-near-missed) full-body collision.  It’s all very awkward, especially considering you barely know the person you are dancing with.  Finally, somebody half-laughs, throws up their hands in surrender and stays put, while the other person walks around them.

Well, welcome to my first few weeks in Paris.

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