January 27, 2012

Le Boudoir

FBF has always gotten a kick out of the things Americans consider French that aren’t French at all. While the French do say “sacre,” they never add the “bleu.” They don’t say ménage-à-trois when speaking about threesomes (a plan-à-trois or a partouse).

The first time I said the word “boudoir,” he didn’t understand what I was talking about. I had assumed he’d know what I was talking about because I had assumed boudoir was a French word. FBF immediately laughed at me. Boudoir, he assured me between chuckles, is not a French word.

The closest thing is bouder; a French verb meaning to pout.

After explaining to him that it means bedroom (and often said in a way that implies all of the things one might do in said bedroom... or maybe that's just me?), he combined the two definitions to create a new one : “une chambre où on vas pour bouder” (a room where we go to pout).

We continued to use the word in that sense for a while, until one fateful day at the beach in Brittany last summer.

Being in Brittany meant I met a whole new slew of FBF’s childhood friends and once again was bombarded by questions about America.

One of his friends is getting her masters in French literature from La Sorbonne. We got to talking about the use of fake French words in English, and I brought up boudoir.

Much to my delight, and FBF’s humiliation, boudoir is in fact a French word! It's a small room originally created for women to have an intimate, private space amongst themselves, similar to a powder room in English (in the “ladies, don’t we all have to powder our noses at the same time?” sense).

An illustration of a boudoir.

In fairness to FBF, it is a dated term originating from the verb bouder, so he was half right. Plus he's a chemist. I doubt he's ever studied the French language dating from the Era of the Sun King in much length.

As this is not the first time he's lead me astray when it comes to translations (like what the pas means in Nord-Pas-de-Calais), I am as much to blame as he is. I really ought to learn my lesson and stop trusting him on matters of his own language.

Do you know of any "French" words we use in English that aren't French at all? Does your French boyfriend continually lead you astray in matters of the French language?

January 18, 2012

Les Lascars

At the beginning of my time here, I felt like I had two very different personalities, my American one and my French one. My French personality was shy, and I am definitely not shy.

I am outgoing, friendly and confident. I am pretty much all up in your face with my opinions.

But something about not being able to speak the language as well as I would’ve liked changed me in ways I didn’t like. I didn’t say anything when I saw people littering. I didn’t speak up when I heard people make sexist or racist or anti-gay comments.

I lost a little bit of myself in trying to make new French friends and speak French well and be French.

Back in March, FBF and I were walking home from a house party in Lille. It was late, around 3am, and we took rue Solferino, the main bar and club street, on our way back to my studio.

I saw a girl crying, surrounded by 5 guys, 4 of whom were dressed in France’s version of gangster attire: colorful sporting shoes, puffy jackets, and hoodies.

At first I kept on walking, even though in the US I would never have allowed that to happen. I would have made sure the girl was okay. I realized this and I made a decision.

I wasn’t going to let my inability to speak French perfectly let this girl be taken advantage of by a bunch of up-to-no-good guys.

I turned around, walked right up to the group of them, looked at the girl, and said, “ça va?” (Are you okay?)

She kept on crying while one of the gangsters replied, “oui ça va, pourquoi ça va pas? On fait rien.” (She’s fine, why wouldn’t she be? We’re not doing anything.)

So I looked him in the eyes and I said, “je vois une fille qui pleure avec 5 mecs autour d’elle et je veux être sûre que ça va.” (I see a girl who’s crying with five guys around her and I just want to be sure she’s okay)

They immediately started back pedaling. “On fait rien. Allez, appellez les policiers! On fait rien du tout!” (We’re not doing anything. Feel free to call the cops! We’re not doing anything wrong).

Although they claimed to be doing nothing wrong, after my intervention, they decided that their time would be best spent elsewhere. After a minute there was just one guy with the girl, and he wasn’t dressed in gangster clothes. He seemed to be the friend who was comforting her. I asked a final, “ça va?” and the girl nodded her head.

Having done my part to make sure everything was okay, I walked away feeling better about my life here. I hadn’t let my limited language skills inhibit me from doing what was right.

Although my American personality has been shining through in my French life more and more as time passes, this final test really cemented it in my mind.

I could be both.

Of course living abroad changes you and presents you with challenges you could never have dreamt up if you had chosen to live at home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have the best of both worlds. I can speak French, eat cheese, and still stand up for what I believe is right by approaching random gangster looking guys to make sure a fellow woman isn’t being taken advantage of.

I can still be American Laura, even when I’m speaking French.

January 12, 2012

Lannion: Prémières Impressions

My first impressions of Lannion:

Lannion seems to fit the bill for a perfect mediaeval French village as half-timbered jetting houses are in abundance.

The city is on a hill with meandering roads where lots of adorable modern shops occupy old time buildings, making you feel as if you've stepped back in time.

On top of that, there is a lovely tree surrounded park, complete with old stairs that go to nowhere, celtic crosses, and an old out of use church building. I wouldn't have been surprised to discover a fairy circle there.

The city is small and do-able in a day, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm.

January 10, 2012

Versatile and Missing France

Sara Louise at Sara in Le Petit Village has bestowed upon me the Versatile Blogger Award, and for that I am extremely grateful. I love her blog, and if you’re not already reading it you definitely should be. Thanks Sara Louise!

I’ve been home for a month, and instead of 7 things about me I thought I'd do 7 things I already miss about France:

1. Cheap delicious cheese.
My first week back here I decided to make French onion soup for my family. I went to the grocery store with my dad because he wanted help finding the ingredients as he wasn’t sure what a bouillon cube was or where to find the weird sounding cheese I wanted him to buy. We found some gruyere in the fancy cheese section, and I was beyond shocked to discover it cost 11 dollars.

2. Cheap delicious wine.
On the same grocery store trip we stopped by the wines section and once again I was astounded by how expensive the wine is. Even the cheap wine was expensive compared to French prices. Of course you can buy very expensive wine in France as well, but why bother when you’re poor and a 3euro bottle is more than sufficiently delicious?

3. Baguettes.
I knew I’d miss French bread, but what I wasn’t expecting was to no longer like sourdough bread. The whole time I’ve been in France I’ve been claiming I missed it, but I’ve tried to eat sourdough bread toast three times since I’ve been out here, and I can’t handle the bitterness in my mouth.

4. Real Belgian Beer Christmas Brews.
I have seen two giant billboards advertising Stella Artois as a “Christmas beer.” I also had it proposed to me by a bar tender calling it the Christmas beer. In Lille and Belgium, the breweries make special limited addition Christmas brews and sell it only during the holiday season. These bières de noël (Christmas beers) are delicious and I can’t get enough of them during the holidays. Stella is just Stella. Nothing Christmas-y about it. I also miss all the delicious beer in general.

5. Cobblestone and buildings being older than 60 by a long shot.

Place Louise de Bettignies in Lille.

6. Good Public Transit.
I was car-less in France for most of my time there and it never mattered because I could easily walk, metro, or bus to anywhere I wanted to go. That is not the case over here and I have to rely on the generosity of my friends or parents in order to get around.

7. French Télé (TV).
I really did not think I’d miss French TV as there are so many less channels and even fewer programs worth watching, but I miss how their TV is presented. I tried to watch a rerun of How I Met Your Mother over here and I couldn’t handle all the commercials. In France there is usually just one long block of commercials every half hour, instead of having a small amount of commercials every two minutes.
I also miss feeling like I’m accomplishing something while being lazy and watching TV. In France I could always claim I was “practicing my French.” Here I have no excuse.


And I hereby pass on the Versatile Blogger Award to:
Bread is Pain,
My Peruvian Life is Not a Musical,
Tales from the Chambre de Bonne, and
The Perpetual Passenger.

January 3, 2012

Deux Mille Onze

2011 was a busy year, of which I spent a little over 11 months of in France. Having traveled around to a lot of different countries the previous year, I dedicated 2011 to seeing more of France, and I think I can say, "mission accomplished!"

I spent last New Year’s Eve on the Belgian coast with FBF and friends.
I moved into my lovely studio by the Quai de Wault in Lille.
I met fellow blogger TravellingAmber and we quickly became best friends.
I was working at Lycée Henri Darras in Lievin as an English teaching assistant for the second year.

The famous and beautiful Quai de Wault which was a meager 30 second walk from my building.

For Valentine’s Day I cooked FBF a romantic dinner of French onion soup and a leek and goat cheese casserole.
His present to me was a certificate to get my ears pierced again. Needless to say, each of my ear lobes gained a hole.
We also took advantage of having to drive La Soeur to Charles de Gaulle airport and spent a lovely day in Paris.

Sacre Coeur.

FBF turned 24.

My job as an assistant finished, but I found a new one teaching business English with a company that provided me with a car, meaning I had to drive in France for the first time in my life.
La Mamman’s birthday present was a trip to Dublin, and they graciously took me along.

The Molly Malone statue in Dublin.

My parents came to visit me in Lille. Then I joined up with them for a day in Brussels, followed by a weekend in Paris.

View of a gargoyle and the Eiffel Tower from the top of Notre Dame,
which I visited completely hungover from drinking 116.7cl of wine with my parents.

LOSC (Lille Olympic Sporting Club – Lille’s football/soccer team) became FBF and my obsession as they were competing to win both the French league and the Coupe de France. We watched Lille take home a victory in both matches (games), and proceeded to party like crazy people in the city streets.

We took a day trip to Bergues, to see the city where Dany Boon’s Bienvenue Chez Les Ch’tis takes place. I was surprised to discover that the city has a lot more going for it than what they show in the film.

The remains of an old monastery turned garden in Bergues.

FBF and I visited Disneyland Paris.

Me chillin' with Donald Duck.

FBF and I went on our month long France road trip, visiting Brittany, Charente-Maritime, Nantes, and Bordeaux.

I turned 24, and FBF took me to Reims for the weekend.

The Cathedral in Riems, where the kings of France were crowned.

I also experienced my first Braderie de Lille.

I stay-cationed, and visited most of Lille that I hadn’t gotten to yet.

I took a trip with Travelling Amber to visit Andromeda in Metz.

I headed back home, and FBF gave me the best Christmas present ever; he visited me for 10 days.


Bonne année (happy new year) everyone!
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