Monday, March 26, 2007

Nomad's Expat Meme

It's a while since I've done one of these, but being tagged by Nomad is always a pleasure, so here goes:

Name 5 things you love in your new country:
  • P√Ętisserie: Rich, buttery croissants, double pains au chocolat, big pinwheel pains aux raisins filled with yellow custard. Oh yes, 'tis the devil's work, dear reader, and no mistake. Scrumptious.
  • Language: French surely has to be one of the most beautiful languages in the world? I could, and indeed do (so that is fortunate), listen to it all day. I even, at one point, debated writing this blog in French. Who would've thought it?
  • Paris: It's a city in a class of its own really. London may be more street, New York may have more energy, but Paris is...well, it's elegant. Plus it's a city that represents a dream for so many people that I feel kind of privileged to live here (even though that wasn't my dream - see, see it's not ALL about me!).
  • Markets: Food markets in particular, but also bric a brac and antiques. After all, my club armchair, now scratched up beyond recognition, was the result of an afternoon's browsing (its other half, for 'twas one of a pair, now resides in Washington DC). Food markets not so much for shopping, but more for the colours, the sounds and the smells.
  • Public Transport: I was recently reminded of the full horror of London Underground at rush-hour. I simply cannot believe that I was part of that every day for so long. Appalling. Plus, trying to get anywhere in the U.K. by train on a Sunday is a major undertaking. French public transport runs like clockwork, is clean AND doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Any day of the week.
Name 4 things that you miss from your native country
  • TV: I know I have cable, but that's mostly U.S. shows, I miss proper British telly, like Dr. Who and "Strictly Come Dancing" or whatever it was called.
  • Sainsbury's: A proper supermarket full of things I might want to buy. French supermarkets don't make enough effort to seduce the customer and as we all know, I DO like to be seduced (hmm, maybe it IS all about me after all...)
  • Real pop music: French pop, though I love it and though it does have flashes of genius, just doesn't carry the same weight. Music seems to be MUCH more important in the U.K. (which is the way it should be).
  • Self-deprecating humour: French people can take themselves a little too seriously at times - otherwise known as the “balai dans le cul” (broom stuck up your arse) syndrome. Laugh at yourselves people. After all, others are laughing at you!
Name 3 things that annoy you a bit (or much) in your new country:
  • Appalling customer service: It's still pretty scary being a customer in France because you know you are automatically in the wrong. I've never heard anyone claim that French customer service is good. ANYONE. Mrs. LOG relayed this exchange from Saturday.
-Customer: “When will you be getting some more in?”
-Shopgirl: “I don't know, Madame.”
-Customer: “Well, what day do they usually deliver? I live nearby, I can always pop in.”
-Shopgirl: “I don't know, Madame.”
-Customer: “Oh, that must be very difficult for you, how can you organize yourselves (slightly tongue-in-cheek, I suspect)?”
-Shopgirl: “Oh, we manage, will that be all, Madame?”
  • How long everything takes: Everything, from buying groceries (in my experience, most of the people ahead of me in any queue are buying groceries for the very first time in their lives - or at least that's what you'd think) to - and this is only for the very brave, dry cleaning. Yes, before I moved here I would never have guessed it could take two weeks and cost €100 to clean six shirts.
  • Outdated ideas about my country: And indeed the rest of the world. This is getting a little better and it's been a while since anyone asked me about the fog in London, but still they imagine the U.K. as stuck in the 1960s with everyone eating jelly, baked beans and charred meat.
Name 2 things that surprise you (or surprised you in the beginning) in your new country:
  • How French people are at work: I've worked twice now in all-French teams and believe me, it's about everything except getting the job done.
  • How much better the weather is here: Or maybe not better, but brighter, We never seem to have those dreadful grey days you get in London (how English to talk about the weather! Shame on me ;-))
Name 1 thing that you would miss terribly in your new country, if you had to leave it:
  • Friends: Obviously. And p√Ętisserie.


frog with a blog said...

How interesting, usually you are only positive about France when the topic is Helene Segara... ok, just joking... well joking a little anyway.
It was anyhow really intersting to read this. I never actually thought that things like doing groceries took so long, but i guess you are right. I am extremely slow everytime I do groceries. It's not even a matter of taking the time to find the best food (I wish it were), it's all about finding my way between the aisles. (see how I'm sooo not taking myself seriously and therefore proving you so wrong).
Kisses from Rome.

rhino75 said...

I know, can you believe I've stayed here 10 years just for the croissants aux amandes? Amazing. Hope you're having a FANTASTIC time in Rome (how could you not, really?) and are stocking up on Laura Pausini and Tiziano Ferro ;-)

nardac said...

And there I was thinking I was the only one to be living by my stomach!

Btw, just got a shipment of my books from Toronto and have landed the motherlode: Roald Dahl's Cookbook! You have to read it. It's simply my all-time favourite cookbook. Why... just the other day I made Piggy's Crabs.

Reluctant Nomad said...

You make me want to move to Paris so I can sample all those culinary delights. Amsterdam is also great for its fresh produce markets that make shopping for meals so much more interesting than in the UK.

People complain about service here but it sounds worse in Paris.

frog with a blog said...

Stay tuned for a "Learn French Customer service video" on FwAB TV.