January 29, 2011

Une Voiture

Almost every day I walk the five or so minutes to my new favorite bakery. I usually admire the architecture of Vieux-Lille, peek into the windows of the vintage shops, and people watch on my way over. However, between my apartment and the boulangerie, there is a stretch of street that doesn’t have a lot going for it.

It was while I was walking down this part of the street that I noticed a car and this thought popped into my head, “you know, these cars are rather big cars!”

This is the car that I walked by:

A Mini Cooper!!

I then laughed at myself. Mini coopers are not big cars! They are absolutely tiny cars. My best friend got one for her 16th birthday, and it was the tiniest car I’d ever been in. Yes, we did manage to squeeze in 8 people one day and drive around the neighborhood (including my then boyfriend in the nonexistent trunk), but we weren’t comfortable all in there!

Plus, she has a bunch of stories of having almost-accidents because people don’t see her in their regular sized cars (and forget about people noticing her who are driving SUVs).

But here was this exact same car, parked along the classic route I take to the boulangerie, and it was one of the bigger cars there! I had actually questioned the use of the word Mini in its title, just for an instant.

With this unsolicited thought about the large size of a car I once considered itty-bitty, I felt a little more French for the rest of the walk to the boulangerie and back.

January 26, 2011

Les Spring Breaks

The French have weird preconceived notions about les États-Unis. I’m okay with this. I’m okay with answering bizarre questions about my home country.

What I’m not okay with is after taking the time to explain to them my personal experience of being an American citizen; I am told that I am wrong.

French people constantly claim to know America better than I do! As if visiting New York City for 5 days is the same as living in the country for 22 years. As if watching the random news reports about the USA on French télé is the same as being raised in the culture. As if seeing the MTV show Spring Break in Cancun gives you a 100% accurate tale of what college students do over spring break.

Case in point: The weekend after New Years, La Maman hosted a family Christmas lunch at her house with FBF’s aunt and uncle, their daughter and her boyfriend, FBF’s sister and her boyfriend plus his two children, and FBF and moi.

La cousine and son copin (the cousin and her bf) were talking about taking a trip to Mexico with la Soeur and son copin this spring, when la cousine turned to me and asked, “C’est quand les vacances de printemps dans les états-unis? Le Spring Break?” (When is spring vacation in the US? Your “Spring Break?”)

“Oh, euhhh.. ça depend où on va à l’école,” (Oh, well that depends on where you go to school) I truthfully replied.

The boyfriend responded, “Non, mais LE Spring Break, où tous les Californiens vont au Mexique.” (No! THE Spring Break. The one where every Californian goes to Mexico.)

I repeated, “Ça depend ce dont l’école on va. Il y a pleusieurs ‘Spring Breaks.’” (It depends on what school you go to. There are multiple “Spring Breaks.”)

“Non” he insisted, “quand tous les gens à l’université vont à Cancun pour faire la grosse fête. C’est ça le Spring Break. Il y a une semaine et tout le monde y vas.” (No, when all the college students go to Cancun just to party. That’s Spring Break. It’s one week where everybody just drinks and parties.)

And so for a third time, I insisted that in the USA, Spring Break is not just one week the whole nation has off. It depends on where you go to school. It depends on if the school is on a semester system, like UC Berkeley or most private universities, or a quarter system like the other University of California schools. But even going to a UC school doesn’t guarantee you the same week off. My best friend went to the University of California at Santa Cruz, and I went to the University of California at Santa Barbara, and even we had different Spring Breaks.

And as for everyone going to Cancun, Mexico for Spring Break, what a bunch of bullshit! I’ve never once been there, and nobody I knew in college went there for Spring Break. The few people I know who actually went to Mexico stayed on the West Coast of Mexico in order to keep costs down.

But here he was, the arrogant Frenchman dining on my right. For no matter how many times I explained that we don’t all have the same school breaks, it never sunk in. It was as if my 16 years of experience in Spring Breaks meant less than an old MTV show.

How is it possible with a real life American in front of them, the French still insist on their slanted version of les États-Unis? Why is it impossible for them to reevaluate their views on America after talking with a real life American citizen?

They don’t know the US better than me! They can never know the US better than me, just like I can never know French culture better than they do! But for some reason the French aren’t willing to accept this reality. They seem to think that they’ll be able to enlighten me about my own culture! I’m the American, god damn it!

It took all my good graces and self-control not to lunge at this otherwise nice French guy with my diner knife.

January 23, 2011

Le Ch'ti Bello

One American junk food I missed when I first got here was pizza. Yes, pizza does exist in France, and one might think that since France is a lot closer to Italy they would have better pizzas than us, but I did not find this to be the case.

I was also disgusted by the amount of pizza the French consume. They order one pizza each and typically eat the ENTIRE thing in one sitting. I usually managed to only scarf down half of mine.

I missed being able to buy one slice of plain cheese pizza.

For a romantic date out, FBF took me to a nice restaurant in Vieux-Lille called Le Ch’ti Bello, and I now understand why the French always eat an entire pizza by themselves.

Le resto (the restaurant).

For starters, the restaurant is adorable and just what a charming, old town pizzeria should be. I fell in love with the building before we were seated.

The sneaky photo I took of l'interior (the inside).

Once seated, I learned that at Le Ch’ti Bello, one creates one’s own pizza! There is a big long list of different ingredients, ranging from the expected, such as the size of the crust and the types of cheese, to the unexpected, such as raisons, herbs, and fresh cream.

I chose all the 5 cheeses (mozerella, chevre, Roquefort, parmesan, gruyere), all the vegetables except black olives and corn (but including chilies, artichoke hearts, and potatoes!), and thin crust.

My pizza was so delicious! I ate every single bite.

The pizza.

I have been back there now three times, and every time I finish my pizza. It’s just too good! I’ve been switching ingredients every time in search of the perfect pizza, but each one I order is so delicious it’s hard to choose which one I liked best!

Check it out:
Le Ch'ti Bello
98, Rue de Saint-André
59800 Lille
Tel : 03 20 51 25 02

January 20, 2011

Les Recontres en Ligne

Two of FBF’s good friends, who last year bought a house together, met online. To me, online dating is reserved for middle-aged divorcées who are looking for a second chance at true love. This view was reinforced when my college roommate tried to set up an account with an online dating site, and not meeting the minimum age requirement, was denied. Apparently, in France online dating is more hip and youth friendly than it’s American counterpart.

Because the French need to have everything be a part of their exclusively French universe, they have their own, French online dating sites. Just like in America, these French dating websites have their own tv pubs (commercials).

The other night while watching Un Diner Presque Parfait (a French TV show where five contestants try to host the best diner party), one such commercial appeared on my tv. Only this time, I recognized some of the “real life” couples from AMERICAN TV ADS for eHarmony.

The French TV Spot.

I recognized the first couple from les états-unis, but upon further research into this, I’ve realized that every single couple advertised for France’s eDarling.fr supposedly met on eHarmony.com!

The poor French are being duped into believing in eDarling based on images of couples that aren’t even French. If word of this got out, I doubt a single French person would join.

Not only should the fact that Americans are being passed of as French people offend the French (notice how none of the actors talk in the French version!), but it should also offend us Americans! If this eHarmony commercial has been sold to France, how can any of us believe that these people are actually “regular eHarmony users” and not paid actors? Are any of these dating sites trustworthy?

Good thing I’ve already found myself a French boyfriend and wont have to resort to online stalking of Frenchmen in order to find “les celebitaires qui vous resembles” (singles who are just like you).

January 16, 2011


Actually dating a French guy has called into question all my preconceived notions of the French being ever so romantic. Sure, sometimes FBF gets up a bit earlier than he’d normally have to in order to drop me off at the tram station, but candlelit dinners? Moonlit strolls? None so far.

Just when I was giving up French romance as a bad joke, this happened.

FBF was touching my feet, tickling me.

Arrête!!” (Stop!!) I cried.

Quoi?” (What?) He asked me with faked innocence.

Ça chatoueiiii” (that tickles!) I exclaimed, a little bit upset.

Quoi? Je ne voulais que te donner les papouille…” (What? I just wanted to give you ‘papouille’…)

C’est quoi papouille?” (What does papouille mean?) I asked.

He replied in English. “It’s like sweet nothings, but for touching.”

And just like that, I had found some romance à la française, for clearly the French are romantic if they invented a word specifically to describe sweet nothings touchings.

January 12, 2011

Peter (as in the French verb, not the name)

The only rule I ever learned about food and flatulence was taught to me in song form at a young age. You might recognize it as such:

Beans beans the wonderful fruit
The more you eat,
The more you toot!
The more you toot,
The better you feel
So let’s have beans for every meal!!

As a young girl, I did not like beans. I claimed to not like how they tasted, but really I just avoided eating them for fear of farting uncontrollably afterwards. When I finally had enough courage to try beans (after I went to college), I discovered that they were delicious! Now I eat beans without a second thought to the dangers that may lurk on the other end.

Some beans I took with me from CA. I miss Trader Joe's!

One night at dinner, La Maman made FBF and I des poireaux. This was a new vegetable for me, and not even looking up the translation in La Maman’s French/English dictionary (leeks) helped me recognize it. Long, white on one end, green on the other, they smelled delicious, even if they looked a little stringy.

I dug in.

They were delicious! I helped myself to seconds. And then I helped myself to thirds.

“Alors tu aimes bien les poireaux?” (So you seem to like leeks?) La Maman half asked, half stated.

“Oui! Je les adore!” (Yes! I love them!) I exclaimed, ever the excitable American.

She laughed, and then told me, “bon fait attention! Ça fait peter, les poireaux.” (Well be careful! Leeks make you fart.)

At first I couldn’t believe it. Was she really informing me about foods that make one fart? “Ah bon?” (Really?) I said, testing the waters.

FBF replied, “Oh oui!” (Most definitely!) We all had a good laugh.

My knowledge on farty foods has only increased since this first diner conversation. Apparently there are a lot more foods than just beans that make you fart. And not just weird unknown vegetables, either. Foods I’ve been eating for years.

According to La Maman, and my personal use of the scientific method proving her hypothesis, the following foods make you fart:

- Les poireaux (leeks)
- Les oignons (onions)
- Les echalots (shallots)
- Les petits pois (peas)
- Chou (cabage)
- Choufleur (cauliflower)
- Les hauricots (beans, but we already knew that)

Fart inducing foods found readily in la cuisine (the kitchen).

Luckily I wasn’t raised in a French household, or I would have “not liked” a lot more foods.

January 9, 2011

A Review

Keith Eckstein over at A Taste of Garlic reviewed my blog!

It's a wonderful review and it made me laugh of few times!

Read the review here!

I feel so honored that he chose to review my blog. He reviews blogs about France so if you haven't gotten enough about French life from me, peruse his site for other good reads.

Merci Keith!

January 8, 2011

Cadeaux de Noël

This Christmas was my first Christmas with FBF, and although we spent the actual day apart (me in CA and him in le Nord), I still got a lesson in French dating.

While trying to find a place to live, I was hébergé (housed, home-stay style) chez FBF’s Maman (mommy). As a thank you, I decided to bring her back some Christmas presents from my trip to California.

My gifts were not the thank you I had intended. La Maman, FBF told me, had bought me Christmas presents as well. I was now going to have to do a gift exchange.

Before now, I had never bought nor received a gift of any kind from the parents of a significant other. My gift was simply a thank you present disguised as a Christmas gift. Her present, on the other hand, was simply a Christmas present.

La Maman, as it turned out, was only the beginning. Soon thereafter, FBF informed me that his sister also wanted to buy me a Christmas present.

A few days later, I found out that FBF’s cousin, whom I’ve met a maximum of four times, also bought me a Christmas present.

Last, but not least, and completely unannounced, FBF’s brother and sister-in-law, whom I’ve never met, also bought me Christmas presents.

Having not yet even made the one-year mark with FBF, this whole gift giving with the famille (family) thing made Christmas seem a little bit more serious than I had anticipated. Then I remembered that the French don’t date, they relationship.

I should have seen this coming, what with kissing a guy once making him your boyfriend, and being introduced to family members after only three weeks of dating, naturally I would be receiving Christmas gifts from family members inconnues (unknown).

January 4, 2011

Bonne Annee!

So basically here is my life:

I went home for ten days to celebrate christmas with my family and see some of my friends from back home. It was nice but way too short and I felt like I only adjusted to the time difference a few days before I got back on a plane to Brussels. I arrived in Belgium around midday, got to Lille, and did nothing in my half asleep state until around 9:30pm when I passed out for 15 hours of sleep. The next day, FBF and I and some of our French friends headed back to Belgium to celebrate New Year's. Sunday I moved into my new studio!

The New Year is starting off well, now that I have my own place to live. The only problem is that it doesn't have internet. This being France, FBF has warned me that it will take at least two weeks for everything to get set up, once I start trying to figure everything out. I have not yet tried to figure anything out.

I do have limited access to the internet at my school. Hence this tiny little update. I hope you all had a nice break, and stories about weird French holiday traditions will be on their way shortly!
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