Life in France

/Life in France

Please update your list of acronyms

By |2018-09-05T07:45:34+00:00September 5th, 2018|Strasbourg|

RCS (not to be confused with RCS) If there's one thing the French love it's a good acronym. Acronyms are basically sequences of capital letters that serve as a shorthand way of referring to something that would take far longer to say or write, or indeed to avoid rewriting or repeating the same words over and over. For example, it's a lot simpler to write UNESCO than it is to write the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, especially if you plan on referring to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization more than once in a sentence (see what I mean?). However, as there are no strict rules about how and when acronyms should be used or invented, the French like to create them ad-nausea with the deluded assumption they will make your life easier. So, if you're new to Strasbourg, here's a handy list of local acronyms to get you through the day. AFGES: University service which runs the two large campus restaurants. Beware the bums at the door asking you to put [...]

Bad cop, bad cop

By |2018-04-25T16:55:04+00:00April 25th, 2018|Life in France|

I had my first proper brush with the law last week and it's not an episode I'd care to repeat. I had heard stories of mean, vindictive cops roaming the streets joyfully spot-fining ordinary folk for minor misdemeanours - but had not actually seen it with my own eyes, let alone been on the receiving end of it. French cops, or agents de police to use the correct term, are nothing like your friendly neighbourhood bobbies of yore. The raison d'etre of a French policeman is to strike fear into all those around - rightly or wrongly - to act as a deterrent to potential law breakers in the vicinity. Kitted out in blue military fatigues and carrying lethal hardware they strike an imposing figure of invincibility wherever they appear. While the law-abiding public might appreciate the work they do - few would approach an agent to ask for anything as trivial as directions for fear of being accused of wasting police time. I did once ask a cop for directions following a road closure, due to a security [...]

Ideologists or idiots?

By |2018-04-17T12:25:00+00:00April 17th, 2018|Life in France|

If you have paid any attention to the current wave of strikes, or even last year's presidential election, you may have noticed that much of what is being said by the discontented often bares little relation to the 'controversial' changes being pushed through by the government. Students in Strasbourg are currently blockading the city campus because recent changes to the law enable universities to 'select' students (via the new website Parcoursup). On an ideological level, they see this as unacceptable because no one should be barred from an education on any basis. Ideologically speaking, they are absolutely right. But, practically speaking, they couldn't be more wrong. The basic premise for the change in the law was to enable universities to manage the number of students walking through their doors. Sure they can take anyone - but a lecture theatre only has so much space. It's all very well saying every school leaver can go study - but if there are only 300 seats in the room what are you going to do? Close the doors, right? And that's exactly [...]

Bonjour and hello

By |2018-01-11T12:48:05+00:00January 11th, 2018|Life in England, Life in France|

If you've been visiting this site for some time you'll know that it began some 12 years ago, coinciding with my emigration to the republic of France. The domain I chose to publish upon (englishmaninstrasbourg.com) took a great deal of reflection at the time. After all, presenting myself as English, as opposed to British, might have suggested that I was a bit of a closet nationalist. However, the nothing could be further from the truth. At that time, I was disappointed see how the policy of devolution in the UK had  dismembered the national identity. As I often pointed out, to those who defended the creation of the Scottish and Welsh devolved governments on the basis of distinct cultural and linguistic lines, in what way is someone from Cornwall like someone from Tyneside? Should Newcastle and Penzance not become the seats of local government too? I was all for devolution, but not along coveted nationalistic boundaries. For, as we have seen, this has simply strengthened the idea of nations within our nation and raised the spectre of racial purity [...]

Banking question

By |2017-12-15T08:51:06+00:00December 15th, 2017|Life in France|

I have a question that I can't find the answer to online. Perhaps there's someone out there who's an expert on EU/French law who can help me answer this one? Barclays in France are insisting I fill out a w8-Ben for my kid, who is under 18 and a British citizen. I am reluctant to approve it as I don't see why the IRS need know about a foreign child opening an account in a foreign country. I can't find any information online about my legal obligations on this (in France or the EU) - but surely this contravenes a data-protection or right-to-privacy law somewhere? Children should be protected surely? Anyone know about this kind of stuff?

What is Ouigo?

By |2017-08-29T11:53:43+00:00August 29th, 2017|Life in France|

While the TGV might be the fastest and most comfortable way of travelling around France it is far from being the cheapest. A typical return journey from Strasbourg to Paris will set you back around 130€ for an off peak ticket, typically booked in advance. With these sorts of prices it's not surprising that the government has had to bow to pressure to provide more affordable long distance travel options for the nation. As minister of finance, President Emmanuel Macron deregulated the buses to finally introduce the nation to the joy of long distance coach journeys. Previously, the only way to travel by coach across the country was by charter or on an international stopping service. The reason for this was that previous governments did not want anyone directly competing with the railways. The Ouibus and Flixbus networks are the net result of this new legislation. Although, Ouibus is still operated by SNCF, the French railway company. French protectionism lives on! Happily, cash strapped travellers need not despair, there is an alternative to sitting in a musty box, with [...]

France Insoumise or the other (national) front

By |2017-05-09T13:32:05+00:00May 9th, 2017|Life in France|

If you are to believe the enthused youth electorate, the party lead by Jean-Luc Melenchon, know today as France Insoumise - or previously as the Front de Gauche (The Left-wing National Front) - are going to be the main opposition in the National Assembly come the elections in June. This belief despite their main man only gaining enough support to come forth in the Presidential elections and currently having only 10 representatives in the assembly. It seems that they are banking on a surge of support from disenfranchised voters following the collapse of France's two traditional political forces - The Socialist Party and The Republicans - and a belief that Macron only won by default (and not through policy). However, such gung-ho optimism should be pared back given a quick reading of their manifesto - which will make worrying reading for anyone with more than two pennies to rub together. Here's what they are currently posting as their "10 emblematic proposals" (I have translated from their very enigmatic French): A referendum to define the 6th Republic A new right [...]

Ni-Ni, Nazi or Banker?

By |2017-05-02T07:40:58+00:00May 2nd, 2017|Life in France|

Some might say that the French election has taken a turn for the worse this past week, though the truth is this has little to do with the candidates. It is more a case of the French electorate taking a turn for the worse. In my ten plus years in France never have I been so aware of the stupidity of your average French citizen. Alas, I knew this day would come. One of the factors driving me away from the United Kingdom was this same realisation - that your average British voter has about as much between his or her ears as a cockroach when it comes to politics. Only now, having mastered the French language and made an effort to understand French law and politics, do I realise that the population of France are about as clued-up as child of six when it comes to understanding how a country functions. Having integrated myself into French society I now have the unfortunate occasion to see acquaintances post their support for Le Pen on their Facebook time lines. I [...]

One week to go

By |2017-04-16T20:25:19+00:00April 16th, 2017|Life in France|

So we're a mere 7 days away from decision time. So, even though I have yet to qualify as a member of the electorate, I thought I would give you a quick biased run down of the 11 candidates hoping to become France's premier. Nathalie Arthaud Party: Communist Fight Club Day Job: Economics teacher Crazy rating: 5/5 (An economics teacher representing the communists? Seriously?!) Policy highlights: Plans to outlaw redundancy and let the workers have a say in the running of their employer's business. Free money for poor people. The end of capitalism, etc. Electability: 0/5 Philippe Poutou Party: The Anti-capitalists Day Job: Factory Hand Crazy rating: 5/5 Policy highlights: Overthrow capitalism through revolution and all that sort of thing... Electability: 0/5 Jean-Luc Mélenchon Party: The Super-Socialists for a Rebellious France Day Job: Politician Crazy rating: 4/5 (Former bog-standard socialist turned ultra-socialist) Policy highlights: Create constitutional chaos by forming the 6th Republic through a referendum. Ditch EU, Euro and Nato. Tax the rich so heavily they'll want to leave France. Electability: 3/5 (surprisingly popular with young voters looking to [...]

Show me a motion

By |2017-01-16T12:57:55+00:00January 16th, 2017|Life in France|

A little while ago I came across this one-liner on Facebook which I duly shared with my students: Grammar: the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you're shit. I thought this was a neat way to demonstrate to those learning the language of, albeit far removed from, Shakespeare how a simple apostrophe can dramatically change the meaning of something. It also helps demonstrate the flexibility of the noun "shit;" which in literal terms we know signifies excrement but here implies two polar states of enlightenment - first devout knowledge and then half-wittedness. While some might frown on me for teaching the youth of France English swear words it is worth considering how many everyday, anglophonic conversations might contain one of the following uses of the excremental word: To shit on someone from a great height To be full of shit To be in the shit To take someone’s shit To shit or get off the toilet To say "No shit" or "Are you shitting me?" To talk bullshit To talk shit When the shit hits the fan etc. [...]