Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Great article in yesterdays Sunday NYTimes "A Guide to the French. Handle with Care", by Elaine Sciolino who is just finishing her stint as Paris bureau chief. According to her the french are:

1. Obsessed with history, partly because of a genuine affinity for the past, part a desire to cling to lost glory, etc. No anniversary is small to celebrate. In the past 5 years France has celebrated the 20th anniversary of France's sinking of Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior, the 200th anniversary of the high school baccalaureate diploma, the 60th anniversary of the bikini and the 100th anniversary of the brassiere.
2. The French are proficient at doctoring interviews and transcripts released to the public.

3. The Customer is always Wrong-- In arguing with a shopkeeper over an inferior product that the customer was returning, the customer was forced to remind the shopkeeper of the French saying, "The customer is king." To which the shopkeeper replied, "We no longer have a king in France."

4. Make Friends with a Good Butcher. Her butcher once cooked her Thanksgiving turkey when it was too large for her oven. Even when he delivers bad news, his explanations are delicious. Once she ordered a 16- pound turkey and got an 11-pound bird instead.
"It was the fault of the foxes," he said gravely,
"The foxes?" she asked.
Yes, the foxes." It seemed that the electric fence surrounding the turkey pen had shorted out and the foxes had a field day.
They only ate the big turkeys," he explained.

5. Dress up even when just going to the corner for butter. She dashed out one Sunday morning in her morning jogging clothes and before she got home had run into: a senior Foreign Ministry official, the Swedish ambassador and his wife and then a deputy Treasury Security all of whom
knew her well due to her position with the NYTimes.

6. French women seem naturally skilled in the art of moving, smiling and flirting. They spend 20% of their clothing budgets on lingerie.
7. Politeness Lessons: Never say "toilette" when looking for the powder room; never say "Bon appetit" at the start of a meal. Don't talk loudly. Never discuss your religion or your money at dinner. East Hamburgers, pizza, foie gras and sorbet with a fork. Always say "bonjour" to the bus driver, and to fellow passengers on elevators.

In reading this delightful article I was reminded that I broke almost all of these rules the year
Twila and I went to Paris and then on to Munich and Frankfurt. It was a great trip.

Through no expertise of our own we landed a sweet hotel just up the street directly in back of me as I took this photo.

In front of the Louvre and the line that wound around the interior of the courtyard twice. Evidently the Paris museums had been on strike for 3 weeks and this was the first day they were open. We decided life was too short and walked across the street for lunch and browse through Rick Steve's guidebook. Low and behold he tells in there how to skip the lines. Marched back over to the Louvre, found a young guide outside and ask him where we could buy "the special pass" you need to jump the line. He told us and then looked at the blank look on our face and said "I'll do it for you". Took our money and dashed across the street and down a Metro entrance. Came right back up and gave us our passes (don't ask me why the only place you can buy "the secret special passes" is in the Metro's. Anyway went down under the pyramid and right into the museum in the "special line". Cool.

Late lunch on the Champs-Elysees

Morning Outdoor Market at Versailles



citygirl15 said...

My partner worked for a Frenchman, so I passed along this article to him. I'm sure he'll find it amusing.

The last time I visited Paris was in the early 1970's. Maybe one day I will get back there.

Mary Ann said...

First off, sorry I don't know Wendy Candland from Mesa. Secondly I smiled so hard reading this post. It reminded me of reading Peter Mayle's book: A Year In Provance. I've been to Paris twice and find it a truly magical place. Living there would be another story!

Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

I've just happened on your blog quite by chance...I love your post !
I've passed it on too,I know quite a few people who'd enjoy a chuckle... we have a great number of expats (from the WHO, the UN etc) living here as Geneva is just up the road..:)