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…

La Peste, I mean, Poste

I never fully appreciated the legendary reliability of the American postal service until I lived in France, where mailing a letter or package is akin to the following: -tying it to a pigeon’s leg and pointing the pigeon in the right direction -putting it in a bottle and tossing it into the nearest body of water -shredding it and asking a…

How I Ran Away to France, the First (and Second) Time: TAPIF

I can’t remember when I first decided that I wanted to flee the country and live abroad for a while – it may have been a part of my craving for language and cultural immersion as a French department nerd in high school, or a side effect of the travel bug, which bit me hard even before that. It…

Friends in French

Formal conversation in another language is a little scary and not much fun, but it’s easy. It requires a limited set of vocabulary that I’ve practiced over and over again, for years, like a script. Organic, familiar conversation, on the other hand, the kind you have after you already know someone, the kind that allows you…