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…

The 10 Best Things About Living in France

I’m leaving France at the end of this month after almost three years living and working here. My work contract is up and I’m ready for something new, but I can’t help feeling melancholy about leaving. Getting ready to say “au revoir” has me reflecting on what I’ll dearly miss about France…and what I really, really won’t….

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…

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…

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…