One of the unique advantages of living in Strasbourg is that you can nip across the border into Germany to do a bit of shopping now and again. Although this may sound a little bizarre - the Germans do enjoy a retail market where many everyday household items are significantly cheaper than in France. So every Saturday morning there's usually a cross-border crush as half of the population of Strasbourg relocate to Kehl (Strasbourg's German suburb) to pick up cheaper disposable nappies, healthfoods and cleaning products. So you can imagine the collective disappointment of the thousand or so French people who made their usual trek into Deutschland today to discover that all the shops were closed. Why? The Festival of Kings / Epiphany / Twelfth Night - i.e. it's a holiday. And there you have it - one of the unique disadvantages of nipping across the border into Germany to go shopping is that you're made to feel like a god-less consumerist heathen now and again.
Every day I seem to learn a new word or meaning in French, and the moment I do I am often struck by a moment of enlightenment. A moment of understanding: of that phrase I heard the baker say yesterday; of that newspaper headline I saw in last month's Journal or of that graffiti I read on a toilet wall last year. It's amazing how long the mind can hold seemingly meaningless words only to translate them months later into something that you can comprehend. I had one such moment yesterday when I discovered the word 'rosse' in a book of French colloquialisms. It means 'nasty' or 'bitch'. Immediately I realised that I had mis-translated the graffiti I relayed to you in my post of 9th October 2006. "Russian Slut" was what I had assumed the disgruntled teenager had meant when he (or she) had scrawled "Salope Russe" on the Chanel poster of Kate Moss. "But why do they think she's Russian?" I kept asking myself afterwards. Had she been covertly recruited by the KGB? It just didn't make [...]
If you translate the word 'sales' (ignoring the actual meaning) into French, it means 'dirties'. So there is a chance that a Frenchman visiting the UK at this time of year might think that every store across the nation is trying to offload mucky/soiled goods? By comparison an Englishman visiting Strasbourg at this time of year might be forgiven for thinking that he must have missed a month somewhere "It's February right?" - because there is no sign of anything resembling a January sale here. No giant red banners promising things at half price; no BOGOF's (buy one get one free); no massive discounts; no queues at the till; in fact - there's hardly anyone out shopping at all. Arguably if I was still in the UK, right now would be the perfect time to head out and hunt down that brand new HD-ready, LCD, DV3-compatible, multi-region, television I've been dreaming about for the past year. But in France - who knows! What really upsets me though is that even the left-over Christmas decorations and wrapping paper aren't discounted! [...]