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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I didn't know that about the foie gras so I'm cringing a little bit now... but it's pretty difficult to spread foie gras on toast anyway, so not a hard one to remember.

The banquette rule is interesting too. My boyfriend and I tend to do this anyway because I like banquettes, but it's nice to know that it's correct too - presumably so that he can jump up quickly to attend to my every need if necessary!

I'm still learning. Also I still use a fork and knife in the American way. Don't want to change.

Ah. 6 years in France, I've committed the foie gras faux pas, as well as the always take meat a point. I was in San Francisco before, a haven for vegetarians. I ate meat only on the very rare occasion and, in France, have 'adjusted' to having it now and then. However, I can't tolerate watching it bleed and jiggle on my plate. Darned if I do and darned if I don't! :)

As a parisian, I have to say
-the middle of 2 forearms on the table is an important rule
-not to speak and make hand gestures with your fork and knife in your hands (this is elementary but this is probably the most important rule)
-Theorically, one should not cut the salad with the knife. this this rule is outdate, it dates from the era when knife were not inoxidable, thus with the vinegar, it oxydates.
So when I go to the restaurant, een good restaurant, I can cut my salad with the knife, no problem
-The thing with the cheese is absolutely true also.
-Not speaking of money is a general rule, whether it be at a restaurant or elsewhere when you are in the vicinity of strangers. It is an important rule that is less and less observed but still important for many people, including the young

the 2 only rule that are quite not true are
-not to add butter on your bread and only eat bread when the real meal starts. Nobody cares if you add butter on your piece of bread, they serve butter for this, so no problem and you can eat it whenever you want and even ask 3 times to refill the bread and butter plate, they will even be happy to do it.
-not to change fork and knife of hands, no problem at all
-to serve wine to the lady : it's true that this is the traditionnal rule, but the risk is the girl to think that you want to get her drunk and...
So it's better to ask if she wants some more and, like you said, it's the man that serves the women, not herself on her own

Lastly, I would add this : we don't say "Viens, on va manger" "On a mangé ensemble la semaine dernière"
Manger sert uniquement à décrire ce que l'on mange, meaning "I ate carbonara pastas" "I ate..." but we will say "Viens, allons déjeuner" "J'ai diné avec lui hier"
Same as we wouldn't say "J'ai diné un rumsteack à la sauce au poivre"
Many people forget this rule, but if you hang out with people that have manners (most of the time family bourgeois or aristocrats) just think that they wouldn't say that.
However, as you are a foreigner, it doesn't matter AT ALL.

That's right, I meant to add that in France, you don't use the word "eat" to describe having meals-- you must say "dîner" or "déjeuner" instead. Merci Alfred!

I would also add that in France, at nice restaurants, they will only give menus with prices to the men. Women will receive menus without prices.

My Parisian husband, who now lives with me in Texas, is ALWAYS (seriously) commenting about how men in the US think it's polite to hold the door open for a woman but how that's not the gentlemanly way (note--he doesn't consider it a French thing but rather good manners in general). He says it's because the first person to enter is the one who gets stared at by the restaurant patrons, therefore it's polite to shield the woman from their stares. Okay, that makes him sound like some kind of old school guy; he's not, haha.

And I was a vegetarian in Paris. It wasn't a big deal for me, but I like simple fare. I didn't eat out as much for dinner, but for lunch I often went to a bakery: cheese baguette sandwich, religieuse cafe, can of Orangina. Also, I ate at a lot of non-French restaurants (falafel, couscous, pizza).

I actually wanted to comment on your post about the new pastry (pistachio religieuse), but the comment link is broken. I used to find them in a bakery (near the Rue de Vaugirard metro stop, green line) back in 2005 when I was living in Issy and working in the 15th. I loved them (but they were way small at that bakery). Where did you find them? I'm returning for a brief stay next month (first time back in 6 years) and would love to go there. La religieuse is my favorite, and I've never found them in the US; my husband had to freeze one (cafe, my favorite flavor) and bring it back to me when he was there last year. Thanks!

I've noticed people tearing off a bite-sized piece of bread rather than biting into a larger slice. As for eating bread before any other food is brought, I was told once that this looks childish or beauf.

I've seen men hand a salt shaker to the woman seated next to them without her asking for it. I assume this is an extension of the pouring of wine or water.

How far should the dinner companion's wine glass be filled? I have noticed some men pour to the halfway mark each time, so I assume there is a custom.

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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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