Jolly Good: 5 British Expressions I Love (and 2 I Hate)

OK, so I laugh derisively whenever one of my coworkers, who’s basically an old Englishman trapped inside a young Englishman’s body, says “jolly good”… but secretly I find it a little endearing. British expressions are excellent day-to-day entertainment for this expat, and I’ve even adopted a few of them (with mixed results). Here are just five of…

Revehse Cultcha Shock

As soon as I landed at Logan Airport, everything felt different: the dominant notes of the ambient noise, the fonts and colors on the signs, the way the crowds moved, the smell of the food. It’s only been about seven months since I was last in the United States, but have not lived there for a few years…

The 10 Worst Things About Living in France

Sometimes, when you’re not ready to say good-bye to a place, it can help to dredge up all the things you don’t like about living there. As I start having my French “lasts”– last tartelette aux pommes, last drink with a dear friend, last visit to my favorite part of the park, last, last, last, I’ve also started…

I’ll have a breu-nee, please.

One of the funniest things I do on an almost daily basis is pronounce English words with a French accent so that French people will understand me. This most often happens with food: I’m currently sitting in a café waiting for the Ee-reesh Crem (“Irish Cream,”  on the menu) Latté that I clumsily attempted to order with…

The Customer is Always…

This is a crash course in customer service philosophy across cultures. Business 101 in America: the objective is to get your customers to spend money, period. Sometimes this objective is pursued at the cost of employees’ dignity, happiness, and integrity, but, for good or ill, every American knows the mantra, “the customer is always right.” This…

Indiana Jones and the Missing Apostille of Doom

When I submitted my application for the Carte Vitale, the infuriatingly elusive piece of plastic entitling me to the medical benefits for which I already pay taxes, I was told that it would be processed within three weeks. That was more than three months ago. Still, hope flickered last week when I received an envelope emblazoned with “Carte…

What ze ‘ell? French Habits You Won’t Find on a List of Stereotypes

Many Americans have a mental image of “French Life” that runs somewhere along these lines: smoking at outdoor café tables, bicycling alongside a river with a baguette under an arm, wearing scarves and generally looking “chic,” drinking wine while discussing culture and art. And of course, all of this takes place with the Eiffel Tower as backdrop,…

When shit goes down and you’re not there

I spent most of my life before 2008 in the Boston area, hating the New York Yankees and shoveling snow, but have since lived there only intermittently. I miss the baseball. I don’t miss the winters. While a New York City resident in 2013, I received a text message one morning that made my blood run cold: “is your family…

Faire la Bise: An American Nightmare

I just took a bite out of the lovely nose of a very attractive acquaintance. No, this was not a victory, a spontaneous and aggressive flirtation. This was a bise failure. Widely mocked in American pop culture, the bise, or cheek-kiss, is real. Any French person, upon meeting stranger or friend, will bump cheeks and make kissing…

Passport for ‘Amurca

The newest version of the American passport befits our international reputation as the least subtle of nations. It’s got a bald eagle emblazoned across the front page, and every page thereafter boasts an equally AMERICAN subject: Cowboys! The Liberty Bell! Grizzly bears! Mount Rushmore! It’s like they asked Clint Eastwood to cry on a few pieces of paper…