For those who need a few tips on how to get around in Paris, I wrote a short article about navigating the metro for MyFrenchLife. You can read about it here.
For those who need a few tips on how to get around in Paris, I wrote a short article about navigating the metro for MyFrenchLife. You can read about it here.
I have been lazy. And this isn’t even the confessional part of this post. I probably shouldn’t reveal this little secret, but the truth is that most of the posts I publish have usually been written days, and sometimes even weeks, before they reach your eyes. I’m sure this isn’t unusual, but the point is that when I published all of my pre-drafted posts, I didn’t write any new ones. So the last month has been a rather boring one here at Perpetual Passenger, and I intend to change that. 🙂
First, I’ll start with an update on things that have transpired that I’ve yet to write about (but will do so in more depth in the very near future):
Apart from this stuff, I’ve also decided that, although I am an American in Paris–which seems to be a fairly common situation that people have either lived and want to remember, are living right now and can relate to, or have never lived but fantasize about–which gives me lots of Paris-focused things about which to write, this blog started as a travel blog. I plan to keep writing about my life in France and all of the craziness that comes along with it, but also to try and remember the roots of this thing and include more about the places I go. I went to Prague for the first time and all you got were pictures! Sheesh. I should fire myself and hire a new writer. 🙂
And now for the confession.
I make no effort to hide that there are certain things from the US that I miss, but some of the things I miss are more embarrassing than others. Today I have been hit by the addictive force that is Mac and Cheese. I haven’t had it, or anything like it, in close to 10 months now, and a craving has come over me like a tidal wave. Don’t get me wrong–I didn’t eat a that much mac and cheese when I was in the States. But there are some things that you want simply because you can’t have them. I guess that’s how mac and cheese has re-entered my life. I preferred Annie’s Organic Shells and Cheddar, with a little tuna and some peas (Yum! More like a casserole than a dish of pasta covered in processed dairy…) and I think I’m going to crack, and… yes… maybe…
GO TO THE AMERICAN GROCERY STORE IN PARIS AND BUY SOME!
Oh gosh that was painful. I’ve already written about missing mac and cheese, and how most French people I know feel about it, here. But you should know, dear reader, that I am braving nothing less than ostracism by consuming such a dish here in Paris. You should have seen Frog Prince’s face when I told him this morning that I wanted some mac and cheese! It was like I had told him I wanted to eat a bowl of earth worms. But maybe I can convince him to make some from scratch at home (I know you’re reading this, B. Come on! Home made mac and cheese is awesome and you’re the best chef I know!!! 🙂 ). In any case, I need to get some soon or I might just lose my mind.
So there you have it… a glimpse of the posts that are to come, and a juicy confession to snicker about. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me.
Since the dawn of time, it seems there has always been war. People have amassed to fight over differences in religion, power, money, class, nationality, borders and a slew of other causes. But over the last year or so a new cause has stirred the embers of battle: Post-it prestige.
In Paris, video game developer Ubisoft and their neighbors BNP Paribas (a French bank you may have heard about in economic news as of late) fought for the right to call themselves the Masters of Post-it Art. It all started when, in May of last year, an Ubisoft employee casually decorated her window space using post-its to create a scene from the famous video game Space Invadors. A few other employees followed suit, and other video game personas emerged on glass. Shortly after, neighboring BNP took notice and crafted their own post-it pictures, prompting an all-out war to outdo each other using armaments of creativity and paper.
Here’s a collection of some of the earlier weapons of mass construction:
Though several episodes of Post-it violence broke out across Paris, Ubisoft definitely won their battle with BNP when they used their most deadly weapon: an assassin. Here are some images of the team at Ubisoft creating a three-story likeness of Ezio Auditore, a lead character in the game series Assassin’s Creed, and the finished product:
Like many wars, this one continues to spread. London offices were under stationary siege last fall, and rumor has it that companies in New York and Seattle have also fallen victim to this new form of inter-office terrorism. There’s even an official website dedicated to tracking and capturing the latest (and seriously awesome) developments in this conflict: Post-it War. So arm yourself with Post-its, and prepare to fight!
My latest contribution to MyFrenchLife, about how shoppin’ ain’t easy, is up today! You can read it here.
I’ve heard about people relocating to other countries and completely reinventing themselves. Suddenly creativity is unleashed, intelligence overflows into the minds of previously simple citizens, and entirely new personas emerge. That’s what happens, right?
Not for me. Ten years after being voted “Most Accident Prone” in high school, I’m still breaking bones and accumulating injuries at an alarming rate.
I had dreams of becoming more gracieuse* during my stay in Paris, and in the city’s defense all the essential pieces of the puzzle are here: a charming locale, winters devoid of ice and snow, and a slower-paced culture. However, the pieces to a puzzle looking something like disaster are also present: cobblestone sidewalks, bicycles for rent every few blocks, and the strong urge to wear heels while in the fashion capital of the world (higher alcohol content in the beer doesn’t help, either). Alas, since moving to France, I have broken/injured a finger and a toe, fallen halfway down a flight of stairs and acquired several assorted inglorious battle wounds from my long-fought war with numerous enemies, known to Interpol as the terrorist organization Les Meubles.**
Image credit: explodingdog.com
But perhaps I’m looking at this all wrong… For someone who literally thinks to myself “Don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall” every time I descend stairs in heels (which is multiple times a day), and who sees every “Attention!”*** sign as a serious threat to my physical health, I have been relatively unscathed as I sprint to the metro after reaching the bottom of said stairs or ride a rented bicycle across one of the most congested cities in Europe. Really, Paris is like a beautiful-yet-poisonous urban jungle filled with deadly ninjas and I’m just a girl trying to look cute while conquering this metropolitan maze and kicking their little ninja asses.
Image credit Uma Thurman: FRANCO ORIGLIA/GETTY IMAGES
I am optimistic, though, and I like to think that maybe it’s not too late for me. Heck, 28 years of being a klutz doesn’t have to be an indicator of what’s to come, right?! My birthday is around the corner, and maybe the start of my 29th year is also the beginning of a new, more graceful future (cough, cough)! But, to be on the safe side, I won’t hold my breath. With my luck I’d pass out and break something on the way down…
Now that I’ve been inducted into the American Women Dating French Men Club (It’s true–this is a common phenomenon. The late Polly Platt even wrote a book about it, called Love à la Française, written specifically about the matchup between American women and French men), I am constantly asked about whether or not there are any differences in having a relationship with someone from another culture. The short answer: Heck yes!
The first, and most obvious difference is one I described in an earlier post: There was no pre-relationship dating period (or hoops to jump through, or games, or mind tricks, or silly moments where one begins to doubt the credibility of the feelings they’re forming, etc.).
But there are definitely other differences–some more subtle, while others tend to be obvious. As you might expect, most of the differences are related to methods of communication. While many American men tend to circumnavigate what they really want to say in an attempt to sidestep ANY negativity or tension (read: fights), French men tend to get right to the truth. This has its pros and cons:
Me: What do you think about this dress?
American: Yeah, sure, it’s nice. But what about that other one that you have? That one you just got last week?
French: No. Your skin is too pale to wear that color.
Me: Hey, do you want to go out with me and my friends this weekend?
American: Yeah! Sounds great (thinking: UGH)!
French: Not really, but I’ll come with you anyway.
In addition to differences in communication style, I’ve also noticed that certain activities appeal to one culture a lot less than to the other. For example:
Me: I need to go shopping. I want some cute boots!
American: Ugh. Okay.
French: Okay! I know some good places we can go.
Me: Wow – these flowers are gorgeous!
American: Ummm… (thinking: Oh I get it. She’s trying to hint to me that I should buy her flowers.)
French: Yeah, they’re beautiful. Let’s get some!
What these examples do not take into account is the specific issue of language. It’s easy enough for two Americans to have misunderstandings when things don’t come out right, tone is mis-perceived, or words other than those that most accurately describe one’s thoughts and feelings are used. Imagine how tricky it can be to decipher all of this with someone who grew up with a different set of words all together?!
At the end of the day, I find that the differences and challenges I face while trying to adjust to a new set of relationship rules do NOT outweigh the happiness I’ve found. What amazes me most is that despite these differences between us, being happy with someone has never before been this easy. And the craziest part? Realizing that I traveled half-way across the world for a job after a chance meeting with the man who’s now my boss and discovered way more than just a new job and a new city. Serendipity at it’s finest, I think. 🙂
You know that show where people do absolutely terrifying things in the hopes of winning money? Well if I was a contestant, the method of torturing me wouldn’t involve sticking my hand in a nest of angry bees, eating a tarantula or walking a tight-rope from one very high point to another (though I’ll happily say “no thanks!” if offered the chance to willingly do any of those things). All the producers of the show would have to do is plop me down in the middle of a crowded area filled with French people that I know and say, “…aaaaand: SPEAK FRENCH!”
It’s true. I suffer daily from what I not-so-lovingly call Glossofrancofamiliophobia–similar in root to “glossophobia,” which is a fear of public speaking, but with a specific reference to speaking French, and speaking it to people I know.
It’s almost entertaining, really. I can run to the boulangerie and order some bread or a tasty pastry, grab some lunch to go from some local dining establishment, or even catch a ride home in a cab and everything turns out fine. But take me out to dinner with a group of friends–or worse, my French boyfriend–and that’s when the trouble starts. My pulse quickens, my face explores the warmer shades of the rainbow, my brow starts to sweat, and suddenly it’s as if I’ve never studied a word of French in my life.
I get stuck.
I shut the hell up (and trust me, you know there’s a problem when my mouth stops moving).
Sadly, there are no commercials with animated figures who go from sad to happy in a matter of seconds thanks to a miracle pill for this condition. There are no therapists specialized in this field, nor are there rehabilitation centers that can get me on my feet. No, my friends, this phobia is one that has to be tackled alone. And hard.
No doubt the root of this issue lies in confidence, and I make small steps every day to boost mine. Frog Prince helps a lot. He doesn’t laugh at me or make me feel bad when I try and say the basic sentences I have the nerve to muster. But I just can’t shake the idea that the people I’ve come to like and respect will stop reciprocating those feelings once they hear my sorry excuse for French. Unrealistic? Probably. Terrifying? Absolutely.
So, fellow expats, francophones, and bi-linguists: please do feel free to share how you may have gotten over any of your personal barriers to speaking another language. In the meantime, I’ll be on the lookout for a life raft to save me from succumbing to the 20,000 leagues of lexicon I seem to be sinking in (or getting eaten by un requin français).
In one of my earlier posts, A New England Sports Fan Abroad, I wrote about what it was like to miss championship games because of my international antics. But after several Sundays spent at The Great Canadian–a Canadian bar (surprise!) that airs NFL games here in Paris–I can, thankfully, write about what it’s like to watch a game abroad.
One of the first things I thought about when I decided to accept the offer to work for my current company and make the move to Paris was how I would be able to watch my beloved New England Patriots every Sunday. When I lived in the States, I made a point to go to at least one home game every season (last year I upped it to two, in light of my imminent departure), and if I wasn’t at Gillette I was surely glued to a TV somewhere. I’ve definitely had to miss my fair share of games, though, and that wasn’t an occurrence I wished to become a regularity.
The 2011 season, however, was a whole different ball game–pun intended. Not only have I been traveling more (admittedly both for business and for pleasure), but I am of course living in a country where American football isn’t exactly the most popular sport around. If you ask the locals if they’re into football you’ll likely hear a resounding yes, but they’re certainly not talking about tossing the ol’ pigskin. And as if there weren’t enough obstacles to watching a sport in a country that predominantly couldn’t care less about it, I also have to deal with the six to nine hour time difference for watching games taking place in the US–arguably the most difficult element to work around.
Fortunately for me, I was referred to TGC by a fellow American expat and blogger, Michael (you can check out his blog here), and his recommendation couldn’t have been better. Not only have I been able to watch several games during the regular season, but this past weekend I was able to watch the game that turned out to be our first playoff victory since January 20, 2008. This is particularly amazing considering that the game began at a staggering 2am Paris time Saturday night/Sunday morning. Thankfully, TGC came through and stayed open for the entire game, not-so-gently kicking us out at 5:30am. I was able to catch this crucial match-up, share drinks with friends, and make it home on the metro just before the sun came up.
Just for fun, here are some pictures of myself and some friends during the course of the season at our favorite American football hangout:
It’s been a great season so far, but I’m looking forward to what comes next as the Patriots compete against Baltimore for the AFC Championship title! And thank you, TGC, for giving me a little piece of home every Sunday. Now for next week: Let’s kick some Baltimore butt, boys!
For me, the “holiday season” has always consisted of three important holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve/Day. 2011 marked an interesting year for me, in which I spent these very special holidays in very different locations.
Of course there’s no where in the world to celebrate American Thanksgiving than in the United States, so that’s where I went! This trip was in conjunction with the surprise 50th birthday party we threw for my dad (which you can read about here), and my 10 year high school reunion. Take a look at our Thanksgiving table as we prepared for the big feast:
For Christmas, Santa brought family to me and delivered my Father on Christmas Eve! We spent 4 days walking all around Paris (and I mean ALL around), and I acted as a poor excuse for a tour guide to my guest, who was also a first-time visitor to The City of Lights.
And lastly, to ring in the New Year, my wonderful Frog Prince invited me to join him and his friends in beautiful Cadaqués, Spain — about an hour north of Barcelona. The sites were beautiful, the running was difficult (so much wind!), and the company was great. How could I ask for more?
Hoping everyone had a great holiday season and is having an equally excellent start to the new year… as for me, I’ve got big plans for 2012. Watch out, world! 😉