Maîtres mots

  • Il y a longtemps que notre pays est beau mais rude.

       --Newspaper editor Olivier Séguret, 25 January 2012

    The USA are entirely the creation of the accursed race, the French.

       --Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), writing to Nancy Mitford, 22 May 1957

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French Freedom of Speech

Today the cheminots are:

  • "À nous de vous faire préférer le train!"
    "Voyager autrement"
    "Avec le SNCF, tout est possible"
      --Former ad slogans of the SNCF (French national trains), each in turn quickly dropped

Fun French words

  • ouistiti

    (literally: marmoset)
    Etymology: onomatopoeia from the sound a marmoset makes. Actual meaning: this is what you say in France when you want people to smile for the camera.

    Selon une étude réalisée par le fabricant d’appareils photo Nikon, le « ouistiti » utilisé en France au moment de se faire prendre en photo est le petit mot le plus efficace pour s’assurer un joli sourire.

Who's en colère today?

  • Private sector

    First strike in 43 years at an aeronautics company in Toulouse, Latécoère

    Public sector

    The SNCF (toujours eux), regional train employees in the Lyons area guaranteeing unpleasant travel from the 17th-21st December
    Also yet another strike by Sud-Rail, a particularly truculent SNCF union in the south of France, this time five days in January: 6,7, 21, 22 and 23. "We have no choice." Right.

    Marseilles trams on strike until February

Go back to school in Paris!

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« The devil in my kitchen | Main | It's snowing in Paris! »


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Don't forget to avoid all the dog crap all over the place. That was really something I didn't expect.

I'd also suggest NOT eating in tourist-y areas. Go to where the locals are, not where other tourists are.

If you are walking under certain oak trees, be careful. I had a really nasty bout of oak leaf mite bites that lasted for months, with incessant itching. I looked diseased, it was awful and it made me hate Paris just a little bit more.

I'd suggest taking a day trip to Lyon as well and eating Voisin chocolates, and seeing what Europeans consider "the largest mall in Europe".

why not say bon appetit?

Are you sure about number 8? Anyone who comes to me on the steet and starts the conversation by "Bonjour Monsieur" has to be a beggar or someone who wants to sell me something. Wouldn't it be better to start by "Excusez-moi" and then ask your question? And after the reply not closing the conversation with "Merci" sounds very rude to me. Can you explain?

Hi Fred! I've heard Americans say "Bon appetit," but I've never heard a Parisian say it. Maybe it's just the people I know. One French etiquette book says, "Bon appetit-- ne se dit pas." ["Bon appetit" is not said.] Who knows why.

I would say that if someone says it to you, it would be rude not to say it back. But I wouldn't say it otherwise.

@Sebastien, maybe you're right about Bonjour vs Excusez-moi-- I guess I mean that Americans tend to walk up to someone and immediately ask a question, without saying anything first. French people think that is rude. Then Americans tend to say Thanks and walk away, but in France people usually say Goodbye after Thanks, don't you think? Am I wrong about this?

You can say bon appetit - it's just that it's a little bit low class. You wouldn't say it when trying to impress, but it's cute.

And i must completely disagree about being unable to party in Paris... there are some awesome places to go all night long, and people get crazy!

I think the American impulse not to waste time is what causes us to just blurt out a request. After many, many trips to France, I still have to remember to switch modes when I'm there, and always say hello or excuse me first.

Regarding #2, believe it or not, the quiet way people speak is one of my favorite things about France.

Bonjour first for everyone! Seriously. If you do not, you may be asked to say it.

I'm French (living in Germany for 4 years, but still French) and if I had to ask a question to someone on the street I would start with "Excusez-moi" and end with "Merci".
As Sébastien said, if a stranger starts with "Bonjour Monsieur/Madame", it sounds suspicious. You expect the person to sell you something or to tell you a never ending story.
The "Goodbye" at the end sounds strange to me.

Thank you! I tend to end with "Merci" and always worry the other person will think it's rude. Good to know.

For a wild time go to London? No chance. No chance!

I've just moved to London from Paris and am completely disappointed with the lack of night life here.

Oh... okay! That makes me feel better actually... How about -- Berlin?

En ce qui concerne 8 et 9: Dans le Sud-Ouest, on disait 'merciaurevoir'en quittant un magasin et 'bon aps !' avant de manger, mais bon, ça c'est le Sud-Ouest...

Yes, I lived in Grenoble for a year and anytime I ate with French friends they would always say bon appetit before a meal. They were all people with masters degrees but young-ish, so not sure what this means class-wise. Now I'm living in Paris and am not sure if they say this...maybe it's a regional thing? Also, I've noticed that the Monsieur/Madame thing isn't said very much in France anymore. But always, always say bonjour/bonsoir! Even if you're just walking into a shop. I've seen people get the stink-eye in small shops for walking in, even just to browse, without saying bonjour. And merci is a must too. Of course, in big department stores like Printemps this isn't an issue.

I wish I could say you were wrong about the night life of London vs Paris. As a dancing fanatic, live music lover and general get out and enjoy the night kind-of woman that I am, I have been sorely disappointed by the Paris offerings.

Indeed, there are 'things going on' as is evident by the ads, posters etc. BUT once you get there, there is just over saturation of people. The French don't seem to understand that there just IS a point when you have to turn people away due to over-crowding. At times I felt like I was in a developing country in this regard.

Furthermore, the exact same concert being played in Paris versus, let's say Lyon will cost 2 or 3 times more. Now that is just not fair or reasonable.

My last comment on the night life of Paris vs Londoners, well you will actually SEE the visual manifestation of people actually having FUN in London. Laughter, smiling, complete strangers chatting it up, people dancing with abandon, colorful and outlandish appearances and the general sense of 'letting loose' is abundant in London.

We live in Paris, but I come alive in London. (From an American)

Not saying bon app must be a Parisian thing, everyone I know says it (Loire Valley). Sometimes at work people will even walk in on you finishing a meal and say 'bon fin d'appetit' which I think is a bit ridiculous, but hey!

For wild nightlife come to Brazil! You won't regret it!

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Today's quotation

  • In Paris, the purest virtue is the object of the filthiest slander.

      –Honoré Balzac (1799-1850), in Scènes de la vie privée

    À Paris, la vertu la plus pure est l'objet des plus sales calomnies.

Le petit aperçu d'Ailleurs

  • Annual Geminids meteor shower (shooting stars!) coming this weekend, if it's not too cloudy out at night.

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