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Housequake

By |2019-11-15T10:57:32+00:00November 15th, 2019|Strasbourg|

A mild shockwave of hysteria hit France soon after the Fukushima disaster. If locating a nuclear power station right on top of a fault line was now deemed a bad idea - then wasn't a disaster of the same magnitude also possible right here in Alsace? After all, the Fessenheim Nuclear power station, and France's oldest, was sitting on top of its very own tectonic plate boundary. At the time, I, like many others, thought that any comparison to Fukushima was nothing short of hysterical scaremongering. Shut up already, damn - we thought. When was the last time Alsace had an earthquake? When was the last time Alsace had an earthquake strong enough to crack open a nuclear reactor? This Tuesday however, I had to change my - admittedly hastily formed - opinion. When the first thud rumbled through the apartment block I was convinced that my upstairs neighbour was clumsily moving heavy furniture. The wooden floors had flexed slightly - as if a large 3-seater couch had been dropped onto its side by a couple of less than [...]

Cretinism takes hold of France

By |2018-12-14T10:43:33+00:00December 14th, 2018|Strasbourg|

I write this with a heavy heart. Strasbourg, my home town, was torn apart this Tuesday night when a gun-wielding cretin took to the streets. Having randomly picked out innocents to execute he fled into hiding. Three days later, with his killing spree brought to an end by the forces of order, the city and its people are still coming to terms with what happened. I spent much of the evening watching the #Strasbourg twitter feeds to keep track of developments, the first time I have done so, and for news of the victims; for, I have made so many good friends in this fair city, I knew the chances of knowing one or more of them was a distinct possibility. I shall not bother with Twitter again. News of real events was muddied by egotistical cretins simply trying to ensure they got more likes or follows than anyone else, cretinous politicians who wanted to make capital out of the deaths of innocents, cretinous extremist sympathisers, cretins in general (gilets jaunes), racists, conspiracy theorists, adolescents sharing memes and idiots [...]

The Gilets Jaunes – France’s answer to Brexit

By |2018-11-20T08:43:56+00:00November 20th, 2018|Brexit, Life in France|

Reading the BBC's "Have your say" comments yesterday, at the bottom of an article about Mrs May's attempts to sell her deal to the populous, I was once again struck by the ignorance of the Brexiteering public. One comment particularly stood out: someone complaining that May's deal to reduce immigration from the EU was not what he/she had voted for - it was immigration from OUTSIDE the EU they were concerned about! For me, the only thing that the Brexit vote underlined, was progressive governments', and to a large extent the EUs', inability to explain/educate people as to the way the EU functioned for the good (or bad) of the populous. After all, good education is fundamental to a tolerant, cohesive society - and likewise fake news (like the myth of the straight banana) will achieve precisely the opposite. Yet self-serving politicians, concerned only with their own prosperity, since the 1980s, never saw the need to invest in education. I recently had an online altercation with a old school-friend who thought that the camps in Calais were because of [...]

Has Le Monde gone populist?

By |2018-10-09T08:03:25+00:00October 9th, 2018|Life in France|

When I became a student again back in 2013 I took the opportunity to benefit from a very attractive student discount on the nation's daily, Le Monde. For a mere 16€ a month I could get it 6 days a week, including the magazine on Saturdays, and get into the habit of keeping abreast of French news, politics and opinion while improving my level of French. However, in recent months, perhaps as my understanding of French politics has improved, I have become a little concerned with the political agenda of the editorial team, leading me to ditch my daily subscription in favour of a weekly one in the hope that their machinations will become less obvious. What am I talking about? Well, Le Monde is supposed to be centre-left leaning in its politics. That is largely supportive of a social agenda, balanced with practical economics. A position which I applaud. Or at least would, if they actually wrote articles that made you think as much. Since the election of Macron, Le Monde appear to have decided that they are [...]

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 [...]