French Vocabulary and Politics : Some Background On The Presidential Election and phrases to know.
The first round of the 2017 French presidential elections will soon be held in less than a week now. Suspense! If you are an expat in France, no doubt that you will certainly discussing the election with French friends. In this post, French à La Carte shares with you a bit of background relating to the presidential election and also some French election vocabulary to help you to follow the news. Better yet, to give your opinion while debating fervently about politics.Read More
French Vocabulary Related To Celebrities who are Icons of Parisian Style.
France is renowned for influencing style. From fashion designers, stylists, actresses, models, each have unique style signatures. At French a la Carte -Paris, we have curated a tour dedicated to all things French Fashion. In this post, we will also share with you expressions and vocabulary to describe celebrity and success, taking some examples of the most influential celebs otherwise known as “French Style Icons”.Read More
French – the language of love. Why is French perceived as the language of love?
France, the motherland of love. This is undeniably one of the strongest cliché attached to France. Why is French language so often considered the language of love?
Is it because of the French’s supposedly romantic behavior? Or because of the so-called elegance of their language? If a cliché is woven out of old unconscious fantasies and the real facts, then the line between the two remains blurry. With Valentines Day coming up, lets take a look at a few facts and some fantasies here in our blog.Read More
It’s an unyielding mystery: how is it that France, known worldwide for its joie de vivre, is often plagued by such doom and gloom?
From lack of trust in the future assatisfaction, to scepticism regarding the educational and social welfare systems, French life seems pervaded by a certain melancholy.
Are the French bons vivants also incorrigible grouches? Behind their continuous criticism lies a hidden discontent, whose roots are tied to French identity and culture. At least that is what many international surveys suggest.
A French contradiction
A 2014 survey conducted in 51 countries by Gallup International, qualifies French people as pessimism world champions, far ahead the Afghans or even the Iraqis. The study revealed that only 17% of the French population thought 2015 would be more promising than 2014.
It goes without saying that migrants and expats living in l’Hexagone should also be affected by this strange disease. But they’re not. According to economist Claudia Senik in her book ‘L’Economie du bonheur’, they are just as happy in France as they are elsewhere. Similarly, Canadian, Swiss and Belgian Francophones also, seem exempt of the French pessimistic attitude.
“French unhappiness isn’t linked with objective circumstances, but rather with the values, beliefs and perception of reality that the French have,” says Senik. “It is the result of a cultural phenomenon relating to representations or manners of being that have been handed down from generation to generation, even if their causes have disappeared.”
Senik notes that despite having free access to healthcare, education and high quality facilities, the French are suffering from a deep-seated melancholy. If it isn’t linked to French living standards – which are envied in most other countries – then where exactly does this lack of happiness, reassurance and optimism come from?
An overly rigid educational system
According to a 2009 study conducted by the Organisation de Coopération et de développment économiques (OCDE) on children’s wellbeing in its 34 member countries, France ranks 23rd in educational wellbeing and 22nd in school life quality. It seems therefore that the French malaise takes root, amongst other factors, in the early stages of school education.
France’s ultra-competitive school system is a two-tier system. It relies on discriminatory assessment favouring good grades and encouraging strong students while ignoring its weakest.
Peter Gumbel, author of ‘French Vertigo’, presents quite an alarming overview of the French school system in his book, They Shoot School Kids, Don’t They?’. He denounces “an unforgiving, demeaning and often humiliating culture. A culture that has made a cult out of high-pressure evaluation and yet gives only short shrift to the notion of individual motivation”.
The French system lies far from the Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian models, whose methods are based on encouragement rather than punishment. For instance, American educators – whether teachers or parents – constantly encourage their children in sports and studies, even if child’s level of skills isn’t the best.
This explains why French unhappiness isn’t linked to objective circumstances, but rather to the French’s values, beliefs and perception of reality.
Let’s not forget that participation and group work, play an important role very early on in schooling. When it’s the case, children develop self-confidence, which will serve as a very valuable asset throughout their lives.
Worrying, on the other hand, is what separates French schoolchildren from others. If we were to go by international surveys, we could describe them as particularly anxious. According to an OCDE study, French students are amongst the most stressed when it comes to Maths, for example. And from there on, it’s easy to understand that present pessimistic adults are the result of past stressed schoolchildren.
A more hopful youth ?
Luckily, there have been more than encouraging signs in France that prove otherwise, – especially amongst Generation Y.
According to French philosopher Michel Serres, having only known a networked world and growing up in a digitalised era, Gen-Y’s “way of being – connected, horizontal and creative at the same time – innervates everything in our society”.
Serres paints a portrait of the young generation in ‘Thumbelina: The Culture and Technology of Millennials’. Many of them have gone overseas during their studies, for internships or even for their first job. For them, it’s an opportunity to encounter another reality that offers life and work prospects that are sometimes more engaging than the restrictive prospects they’ve been brought up with.
This trend however doesn’t seem limited to French borders only. Growing up with Internet and entrepreneurial success stories such as that of Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, Gen-Y as a whole, is in the midst of witnessing the fall of old economic, political, social and educational models.
Perhaps, this new generation’s boldness, creativity and pragmatism is already blowing new winds of optimism over the country.
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French Etiquette- 10 Essential Tips
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, you may have heard this often without paying attention to this expression. In this age of globalisation, it is truer than ever. Living or travelling in France requires tact and adaptation to manners and to the French etiquette. French à La Carte has listed 10 tips that will hopefully be useful if you live in France or even if you just have short social interactions with natives in shops and restaurants. My expat students often comment how incredibly helpful strangers and waiters are when you at least attempt to say a few words in French.Read More
What really means Je suis Charlie ?
Freedom of speech in France is a fundamental right. It is also maybe the right time to stand back and highlight what Freedom of expression really means for the French nation. The slogan “Je suis Charlie” quickly spread on to the social media around the world only one hour after the Charlie Hebdo attack. It reached the streets in France and all over major big cities in the world to protest against the killings and shows our deep attachment to the freedom of speech. Although this fundamental right is guaranteed by many national constitutions in many western countries and goes much beyond our borders, France maintains a special relationship with the freedom of speech and the satirical press.
Freedom of speech in France : a right guaranted by the constition
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, adopted during the French Revolution in 1789, specifically affirmed freedom of speech as an inalienable right. The Declaration provides for freedom of expression in Article 11, which states that: “The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law”. Furthermore in France, the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and State guarantees the right to criticise any religion.
Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. Democracy and humanity cannot live without it. The ability to express ourselves allows for individual development and fulfilment. We must continue to have the freedom to criticize our own cultures and others, without fear of violent retaliation. Humour in our everyday lives is essential, particularly in a world in which atrocities like the Charlie Hebdo attack occurred.
The perpetrators attacked freedom of speech and freedom of the press by killing the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, and in doing so, attacked democracy itself and the values France was built upon. Liberté is the first word of our national slogan (liberté, égalité, fraternité) and freedom is an idea the French practically created during the Enlightenment. It goes back to influential 18th century writings on freedom of expression by Voltaire. It is an ideal the French have consistently tried to uphold in France and throughout the world.
Satirical press, a tradition which dates back to the French Revolution
Satirical humour is another specific aspect of our culture. Mocking religion and rulers in cartoons date back to the Revolution when King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were favourite targets of cartoonists, who drew the king as a pig and his spouse as a serpent. The clergy were also pilloried in printed comic strips. But press cartoons really took off in the 19th century. The Catholic Church and the Vatican were prime targets for caricaturists of the day, with churchmen often drawn in embarrassing postures.
Since its beginning in 1969, Charlie Hebdo’s satirical humour followed the spirit of Voltaire. It was (is, as it will continue to be in each weekly edition, let’s cross our fingers) bold, audacious, irreverent with criticism of politicians, cultural practices, and practically every major religion. It was not only political and religious satire but also social critique, from ecology to economy and finance. Charlie Hebdo had no taboo and no limits, anything could be written about and drawn.
But whether or not anyone agrees with something that is written, the writer should have the right to publish what he/she wishes, no matter how offensive it is. As Voltaire wrote “I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
And it is because of its irreverent style that Charlie Hebdo was attacked by extremists claiming they had a right to “avenge” cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.Read More
Cliches about the French include the fact that we are smokers, fashion icons, slim and slender, drink wine and coffee like water and are the ultimate romantics. While these archetypes can prove to be true, it is important to keep in mind that each person is an individual.
1 – We are bad drivers Vrai et Faux. Well, that depends on how your define “bad”. We can be well-mannered in some situations, but easily become surprisingly aggressive behind the wheel.
2- The French are very romantic True. Yes, it’s difficult to make sweeping generalizations about an entire population, but the French are quite passionate and romantic. Blame in on the language (who can really keep it together with all those rolling vowel sounds).
3- We wear berets while riding bicycles with baskets full of baguettes Faux, well almost ! Yes we love to eat baguettes, especially some tartines (pieces of bread on which you spread butter, jam or chocolate) which we eat in the morning with an expresso.
It is very unlikely that you get to see the combination of a Parisian wearing a beret with a stick riding a bike.
4- We don’t speak any other language except ours Vrai et faux. We aren’t very good at foreign languages. We had strong policies to preserve French Culture, and these included a lot of excessive measures, specially concerning movies and TV shows’translations and dubbing.
There is also a problem with the way people learn English or other languages at school.
However, there are more and more French people learning English while living abroad or working in a global context which requires to master English.
5- You have to speak French if you travel to France Vrai et faux. This depends where you’re going. If you’re visiting large cities like Marseille, Paris, Lyon, etc., then chances are you’ll be able to get by just speaking English. If you are going off the beaten tracks to explore small towns and villages, then knowing some French is helpful. Of course, those fluent in French will find it easier, but it’s not impossible to travel around France knowing no French. It’s considered polite to attempt to speak French (even if it’s out of a phrase book) instead of assuming someone speaks English. I recommend starting out by asking the person if they speak English: Parlez-vous Anglais?
6- We are snobby & rude Vrai et faux. This one depends on the context. Before calling someone snobby or rude, it’s important to understand cultural differences.With a little education on a particular situation, a person can find they can understand and get along with just about anyone. That doesn’t mean that there are absolutely no rude people in France. There are rude people everywhere, it’s a fact of life! The Parisians can get a bit stressed during rush hours in the Metro, but isn’t it the same in all the big cities all over the world? But I don’t think this is the norm, neither to be a French speciality. Many French will welcome you arms wide open wherever you come from. I hopfully belong to this category.
7. We are all a fashion icon Vrai et faux. Some people critisise the French, especially the Parisians, for our overwhelming concern for the way we dress.
It is true that Parisians like to appear casual and elegant without being overdressed or under-dressed. The laissez-faire approach to fashion is something many people covet — and the looks we wear are something we all want to emulate on a daily basis. But do not expect to meet someone dressed in a Channel suit in the street, it is very unlikely. You will see more people, as in all big cities of the world, wearing international brands with maybe an extra French touch !
9- We are always on vacations Vrai et faux. Almost all employees are entitled to 5 weeks of holiday a year. August has been the traditional holiday month in France, with almost all locals clearing out of their cities to venture to other parts of the world. When you tell a French person that the average American only gets two weeks vacation a year, you will invariably hear,”Ehhh?! Ce n’est pas possible! C’est fou!” It’s not possible and it’s crazy
10- We are strike lovers Vrai et fauxI will not go into details on that point as it would obviously require a deeper analysis but in a few lines, I would say that the right to strike is important in French culture. However[p1] , it’s often reconsidered by people, by organization or political parties. On the one hand it’s understandable that people have demands but on the other , citizens like me do not always agree with how strikers are acting to achieve their demands or explain their dissatisfaction. That’s why this right, has to exist but also has to be limited so that people can live in a community.
11- We are food snobs True. If you define “food snob” as someone quite concerned with the quality of products, presentation of meals, and art of food combination , then yes, we are decidedly on the elitist side. Sure, there are people who routinely pop meals in the microwave, and I was initially surprised at the large number of processed items on offer in the supermarkets, but on the whole, we are acutely aware of what we put in our food trollies and grocery baskets and where we shop.
12– We love to smoke cigarettes Vrai et faux. Again, probably not more than any other people. Since we enforced a law banning smoking from public places, particularly workplaces, people smoke less and less.
13-We are all fashion icon Vrai et faux. Another cliche about the French is their appreance. Some people critisize the French, especially the Parisians, for our overwhelming concern for the way we dress.
It is true that Parisians like to appear casual and elegant without being overdressed or under-dressed. The laissez-faire approach to fashion is something many people covet — and the looks we wear are something we all want to emulate on a daily basis. But do not expect to meet someone dressed in a Channel suit in the street, it is very unlikely. You will see more, as in all big cities of the world, people wearing international brands with maybe an extra French touch !
14 – We are always on vacations Vrai et faux. Almost all employees are entitled to 5 weeks of holiday a year. August has been the traditional holiday month in France, with almost all locals clearing out of their cities to venture to other parts of the world. When you tell a French person that the average American gets two weeks vacation a year, you will invariably hear,”Ehhh?! Ce n’est pas possible! C’est fou!” It’s not possible and it’s crazy
1– We are food snobs True. If you define ” a food snob” as someone concerned with the quality of products, presentation of meals, and the art of food combination , then yes, we are decidedly on the elitist side. Sure, there are people who routinely pop meals in the microwave, and I was initially surprised at the large number of processed items on offer in the supermarkets, but on the whole, we are acutely aware of what we put in our food trollies and grocery baskets and where we shop.
You are interested by the cliches about the French ?
French “à la carte” offers customized one to one French lessons to meet your needs, your learning style and your schedule. If you are interested in learning more about French culture and traditions while improving your language skills, call or contact us here to organise private French lessons in Paris with a French tutor in Paris.
[p1]Doesn’t make senseRead More
In France discussion is an art
The secret rules of conversation in France are important to know if you interact with French people. They love serious debates and long discussions. We call it « discussion » « débat ». “Je suis d’accord !” “je suis contre! ” “tu as tort ! say the French in the middle of a passionnate debate……
We love of debate and our belief that people should be actively engaged in ideas and issues means that we expect others not to shy away from expressing and defending their opinions. French people expect others to disagree and argue with them.
There has been many times I’ve sat at a dinner table with my friends and argued passionately about something – politics, philosophy, cinema, why someone wears blue or the necessity of cats. It can often get intense but just as quickly as a debate comes on, with a glass of wine, everyone is back to being friends and agreeable because the point of discussion is not always to persuade or win but just to experience and enjoy the passion of debate.
Lately the ban of the gay marriage in France has lead to a very passionnate debate. Supporters of same sex gay marriage were opposed to the more conservative minded who fervently defended values of the family. Perhaps it’s because I’m french that I find the interesting and irrelevant – perhaps especially irrelevant – debates the best and often the most crucial to an enjoyably lived life. These strong shifs of mood and temper have a wonderful effect in France : they keep everyone from getting bored « Flee boredom » advised Coco Chanel. And we rarely are. Nor will you be.
You are interested by the secret rules of conversation in France ?
French “à la carte” offers customized private French lessons in Paris. We also provide cultural coaching to our students explaining the differences between Anglophone and French culture. If you are interested in learning more about French culture and traditions while improving your language skills, call or contact us here to organise a private French lesson in Paris with a French tutor in Paris.