June 29, 2011

Chier – Not Always To Poop

Often times when growing up in America, one is told to not have a potty mouth. We are discouraged from talking about all manner of bodily functions.

In France, there is no such thing as a potty mouth, and if there were, every French person would have one.

They take toilet related talk to the next level by using it nonchalantly in everyday speech.

Instead of saying, “this person or this object annoys me, ”

(Which could be said in accurate French as follows:
Cette personne ou cet objet m’embête)

They say, “ça me fait chier!

Which literally translates into, “it makes me poop!”

Can you imagine saying this in English? “Jeez, I really can’t deal with so-and-so today. She makes me poop.”

And this isn’t the only situation where poop comes into play.

  • Instead of saying, “I am so frustrated by this situation/object,”
    (Je suis frustré à cause de celle-ci, celle-là OR Celle-ci, celle-là m’ennerve)
    They say, “ça me fait chier!
    “I can’t get the computer to work! It makes me poop!”

  • Instead of saying, “that really sucks/that’s a disappointment/that’s a bummer/etc,”
    (Quel dommage!)
    They say, “oh, ça fait chier
    Which, as it's missing the me becomes a more general sentiment,
    "Oh, it makes poop that you got a parking ticket."

  • Instead of saying, “this person is annoying,”
    (il/elle est embêtant/e)
    They say, “il/elle est chiant/e.”
    Which could translate to, “he/she makes me want to poop.”
    "God, Sandra makes me want to poop. She's always talking with her mouth full."

  • Instead of saying, “darn/drat!”
    (zut OR mince!)
    They say, “fait chier!
    Which is slightly different from ça me fait chier, and translates better as “make poop!”
    "Oh, make poop! I forgot my car keys."

And if you'd like to be a little stronger in your word choice, just add France's favorite: putain.

"Putain, fait chier! J'ai oublié mes clés de voiture."

June 24, 2011

La Belle Ville de Bergues

FBF and I took a surprisingly long drive over to Bergues (it’s about an hour from Lille) in order to explore the town that has become famous due to Dany Boon’s hit movie about Le Nord, Bienvenue Chez Les Ch’tis.
(trailer with English subtitles).

I wanted to see the places where they filmed the movie, drink me some Ch’ti beer, and eat at the baraque à frites (French fry stand – specifically Friterie Momo from the film). But what we discovered was much more than just a film set.

We got there around lunchtime and hit up the Office du Tourisme. They have a Bienvenue Chez Les Ch’tis tour in the afternoons at 15h and 15h30 that costs only 4euros!

Free map and my ticket to the Ch'tis tour.

After being thoroughly excited about the fact that there is an actual tour that takes you to all the places they filmed the movie, we decided to have lunch while waiting for the ticket office to open. As with almost all public services in France, the Office du Tourisme was closed for lunch, and wouldn’t be opening again until 14h (because everybody needs a 2 hour lunch break, amIright?).

This is when we experienced my first and only disappointment with Bergues. Not only is Chez Momo not permanently in Bergues, there wasn’t a single baraque à frites in sight.

"C'était une caravane, maintenant c'est une baraque à frites. Ils ne dorment plus dedans, ils font des frites."

(It was a caravan, and now it's a baraque à frites. They no longer sleep in it; they make French fries.)

-Yann, Bienvenue Chez Les Ch'tis

Dismayed, but determined, we ate at the French fry stand that was in a building instead of a caravan, and I proceeded to have the best French fries of my life.

They were the perfect amount of a crispy exterior yet fondant interior. I ate all of mine, and some of FBF’s.

To compliment those lovely frites we chose none other than Ch’ti beer.

My lunch of beer and fries. I might have had two ch'ti blonde beers instead of just one...

Having an hour to kill after eating, we decided to wonder aimlessly around the city.

We discovered the remains of an ancient monastery from the 1100s that was mostly destroyed during the French Revolution.

Really old monastery, complete with gardens.

We also learned that Bergues is a walled in city, and still has all its ramparts.

The ramparts made it seem like a fairy tale city.

Before getting to walk around all the ramparts, however, it was time to go on the Bienvenue Chez Les Ch’tis 1.5 hour walking tour. It was definitely worth the 4 euros. The woman who took us on the tour was very knowledgeable, shared fun facts about the shooting, and had a binder full of pictures of the movie making process.

Here are a few photos of the various places we saw:

The real Bergues Post Office. Dany Boon was unable to get permission from the French government to use the real building, so they used La Poste's logo on another building, creating their own post office.

The post office from the movie (there was a truck blocking it so I couldn't get a straight on view).

The bridge where Dany Boon and Kad Merad relieved themselves during the film!

The top of la beffroi (belltower) where Dany Boon's character is the carillonneur (person who plays the bells).

The bottom of la beffroi, as well as the office du tourisme.

Dany Boon wanted to create a movie about his region and challenge some preconceived notions about life up here in le ch’nord. This is why the film does not show case Bergue’s monastery, ramparts, or old churches, and instead focuses on things common throughout the region, such as the beffroi, or the nonexistent baraque à frites.

June 20, 2011

Demander Le Chemin

My most recent job in France consisted of me driving to various businesses and giving English lessons to the people who worked there. The actual teaching part was 36 times better then when I was working with the French public school system, because my adult students were interested in learning English and I didn’t have any discipline problems.

What I didn’t like about the job was the getting to and from the various offices, scattered throughout the region.

While they did provide me with a car, I had never driven in France before. I thought this wouldn’t be a problem, as my cell phone has a GPS device on it.

I was wrong.

I got lost regardless of where I went, at least the first three times I went there.

I blame it on the French GPS constantly giving me the following bad directions:

Prenez la sortie.”
Translated as: Take the exit.
To me, an exit is where one actually turns off the freeway and finds oneself upon roads with stoplights (or in France, with roundabouts).
When presented with the option of merging onto a new freeway, or taking an actual exit, I took the exit.
The problem? To my GPS, une sortie was not always an exit. Sometimes it was, and sometimes it meant merge onto a different freeway.

Turner à droite/à gauche.”
Translated as: Turn right/left.
To me, turning right/left involves turning onto a new road, going perpendicular to where I was going before.
When at a stoplight where one could turn left, turn right, or veer to the right, I took “turn right” to mean turn right.
My GPS, however, often told me to turner à droite/à gauche when she really wanted me to continue on the same road I was already on, which happened to be veering to the left/right.

Sortie imminente.”
Translated as: Exit imminent.
To me, an exit being imminent implies it is the very next exit.
My GPS liked to tell me "sortie imminent" when there were still 2-4 exits off the freeway before mine.

Clearly my GPS is a drama queen.

June 13, 2011

Parlons de Sex

I talk about sex with my closest friends. The French talk to me about their sex lives after meeting me once (and sometimes straight away).

A topic I would be hard pressed to talk about with a stranger, comes out of their mouths without a second thought.

As an American prude, this behavior shocked me some, but as a woman of the 21st century, I enjoyed their openness towards a topic that is still a little bit off limits (especially with strangers) back home.

It was all fun and games, until they started asking me about my sex life with FBF. Sure, I’d be willing to share those details with my best friends, but FBF’s guy friends who I had had maybe 5 conversations with?

Not gonna happen.

Eiffel Tower Condom Art from Amsterdam.

This openness hit its peak one particular lunch with FBF’s family.

Back before I knew anybody very well and was still struggling with the language, FBF and La Soeur started teasing each other, much as brothers and sisters do.

Only this time, conversation turned towards things a little bit R rated. Somehow, they had ended up on the topic of penises (peni?) and their sometimes lack of straightness.

But they were not content to keep this conversation just amongst themselves. La Soeur turned to me and said, “Et alors celui de FBF? Il est tordu ou pas?” (And so FBF's? Is it crooked?).

Although she was simply teasing me (or so FBF claimed), I was mortified! I had no idea how to react to such a blatantly sexual question, right in front of his mother.

I like their frankness towards sex among peers, but parents-of-the-significant-other is taking it too far in my book.

Luckily FBF answered in the best possible way, “elle ne le saurait pas. On est encore vierge tous les deux!” (she wouldn’t know. We’re both still virgins!)

June 7, 2011

Les Grand Rivals Sportif

Lille won La Coupe de France, and then the very next weekend, won the league!

Needless to say, la folie (craziness) ensued!

I took the video with my digital camera without any additional lighting at night. Please turn up your screen's brightness for optimal viewing.

My favorite part of the video is the close-up on the soccer jersey of a fan.

It says, "Anti Lensois. 59."

There is a bit of a rivalry between the two regions in the department, Nord-Pas-de-Calais. There is the Nord, where Lille is, represented by the number 59, and then there is the Pas-de-Calais, where I worked as an assistant this year and where Lens is, represented by the number 62.

In France, each region is represented by the first two digits of its postal code.

Although the rivalry between the regions can be seen elsewhere (for instance we 59ers say that the people who live in 62 can't drive...), I think the rivalry is mostly based on the fact that each region has its own equipe du foot (soccer team).

This guy's soccer jersey pretty much confirmed that for me.

This year, Lille totally outshone its rival. While we celebrated numerous victories, Lens morned for its loses. They have fallen from division 1 to division 2.

But since we're so far ahead now, is it even fair to consider them as rivals?

Allez le LOSC!

June 1, 2011

Les Gros Mots

I hardly ever swear in English. The F-bomb does not come easily to my lips (nor any sort of curse-word-bomb, for that matter).

Some exceptions are while driving (but who doesn't have a little road rage?), or if I'm extremely frustrated, or if I hurt myself. Although even when I injury myself, I tend to use PG-13 rated curse words instead of R.

In French, however, I'm a regular ol' sailor.

I think this is is because of the following reasons:

1)The P word and the M word are foreign, and
2)French people don't take their gros mots any where near as seriously as we do.

They can say merde on TV for crying out loud.

If you want to speak French like a French person, I suggest you become a bit more comfortable with sparkling your every day language with their two most popular curse words.

And, if you are worried about overcoming the giant obstacle that is speaking French, worry no longer. Brooke at skymachines has discovered a French language video I find to be extremely helpful for dealing with both problems at once.

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