Kissing is a difficult thing to get right in France. Presently, I'm in a state of total confusion as to what to do whenever I meet someone I know in Strasbourg. Naturally if they're female - a peck on either cheek will suffice (i.e. both cheeks - that's a 2-kiss greeting), this is a step up from greeting female friends in London - where one peck seemed to do the job. I have yet to witness a four-kiss greeting, but I'm ready for one - should the need arise. With men though it's a different matter entirely - while back in Blighty a firm handshake would cover-off most events - in France it's necessary to know when to kiss a man instead. As far as I can gather you only do this if you know him very well (you don't say!) and you are sure that he's French. i.e. if you run into another Englishman you know very well - a kiss will not be what he's expecting! Furthermore, beards add another dimension to the puzzle. One assumes that [...]
There are certain aspects of French culture that are hard to avoid. One of these is the 'bande-dessinÃ©e' phenomenon (BD) - or 'cartoons' to you and I. The French just LOVE their cartoons and comic books. The likes of Asterix and Tintin, both of whom I worshipped in my formative years, are world-famous, however of the millions of other francophone cartoon characters very few seem to have penetrated the anglophonic world. One who must be knocking at the door is Titeuf. Titeuf, in a nutshell, is the French equivalent of Bart Simpson, and his books sell by the million in France. Having only just discovered him myself - I have to admit that I'm already a fan. Titeuf is seriously funny stuff (particularly if you have the humour of an adolescent male). Unfortunately, if you don't understand any French you'll find it hard to get the jokes; but maybe this is where modern technology can help us bridge the divide? Using Worldlingo I've obtained a straight translation of the 'About Titeuf' bit from the website: Titeuf is a little [...]
I'm feeling a little poor at the moment. So, to ensure I remain frugal in my expenditures, I visited the cashpoint this morning with the intention of withdrawing the minimum amount possible. A ten euro note would easily have covered a couple of coffees. So that's what I keyed in at the hole-in-the-wall. SORRY. ONLY DENOMINATIONS OF â‚¬20 AND â‚¬50 AVAILABLE - PLEASE ENTER ANOTHER AMOUNT. So begrudgingly I opt for â‚¬20; but what does the machine dole out?! Two â‚¬10 euro notes! [offending bank : Banque Populaire D'Alsace]
It is a common assumption that phenomena of binge-drinking and anti-social behaviour are distinctly British problems. While even most French people might agree that this is true, I have observed little to make me believe that the French are any better behaved. The only difference I can ascertain is that licensing laws have saved France from the 11 o'clock closing time debacle - whereby every sozzled individual is kicked out onto the streets at the same time to try and find their way home (or another drink); and not surprisingly this is when the majority of public disorder occurs in the UK. But in France there has never been an 11 o'clock equivalent, so whenever there is anti-social behaviour it usually occurs on a much smaller scale and therefore rarely meets the public eye. I live above a bar that closes at 4am, and if you ask me - the bags under my eyes are testament to the fact that there is no such thing as 'responsible drinking' in Britain, France or elsewhere.
For whatever reason, when they sat down and invented the French language, some bright spark must have suggested that it would be easier if final consonants were reserved for written purposes only; if only because pronouncing every single sound in a word can be an awful chore sometimes. Undoubtedly - it is far easier and quicker to say "Gron Prie" than Grand Prix, "Renoe" than Renault, "Pursho" than Peugoet etcetera; and whatismore, most people will still understand what you're talking about. So now that my brain is finally starting to think (occasionally) in French - it is for this reason that I have found myself forgetting my esses (S's). For example - when I visit the supermarket I find myself saying such things as: "We must buy some carrot ... and some banana... oh those yoghurt look cheap! How many packet of muesli do we need? ... I had two egg for breakfast, so ... there's a lot of car on the road this morning..." So while my French may be improving - evidently my English is deteriorating rapidly.
You would have thought that tin-cans would be one of the easiest things to recycle? However there is not a single recycling bank for such things in Strasbourg. Paper, plastic containers and glass are easily dealt with. If you have a bag load of cans though - you have to drive (yep - no buses go to the recycling centre) and deposit your cans in a giant skip entitled 'Metaux'. Then, if you bother to make the journey, your cans will most likely sit at the bottom of a predominantly empty skip, next to a discarded exercise bike, for a year or so before enough metal is recieved to warrant recycling. One can only assume this is because the French simply don't consume enough tinned goods to justify setting-up a recycling service for tin and aluminium. BUT one day they will discover tinned baked beans, tinned spaghetti, tinned kippers, tinned steam puddings, tinned mushy peas and 'widget' beer ... and where will their recycling service be then - I ask you?!
Although it might appear coincidence, almost all our Strasbourgeois friends spent last weekend in the mountains, as did we. It seems the recent snowfall prompted the entire population of the Rhine valley to seek higher ground - for skiing, sledging and snowballing possibilities. The beauty of Strasbourg's location means that there are thousands of 'higher ground' possibilities within an hours drive of the city. You can head east into the Black Forest Mountains, or west to the Vosges, either way the scenery is stunning all year round. So it's not surprising to learn that many Strasbourgeois buy themselves a holiday home in the mountains to pop to at weekends. Yes - that's a holiday home less then an hour away from your normal home! An hour from my home in London would have got me to ... the M25! (on a good day).