Friday, November 18, 2011

Le client est roi, mais... le roi est mort.

This excerpt is from the eight lessons about the French by Elain Sciolino, the former New York Times correspondent in Paris.
Execution of Louis XVI.

Anyone who has lived in France can testify that after sales service and, generally, customer relations is a horror area of French life. Often worse than people-state relationship in the country.
3: The Customer Is Always Wrong
It is hard for French merchants to admit they are wrong, and seemingly impossible for them to apologize. Instead, the trick is to somehow get the offended party to feel the mistake was his or her own. I’m convinced the practice was learned in the strict French educational system, in which teachers are allowed to tell pupils they are “zeros” in front of the entire class.
A doctor I know told me he once bought a coat at a small men’s boutique only to discover that it had a rip in the fabric. When he tried to return it, the shopkeeper gave him the address of a tailor who could repair it — for a large fee. They argued, and the doctor reminded the shopkeeper of the French saying, “The customer is king.”
“Sir,” the shopkeeper replied, “We no longer have a king in France.”

Monday, August 15, 2011

Audrey Tautou on English Men

Audrey Tautou thinks English men are more 'elegant and gentlemanly' than French men.

And listen to her on on today's Woman's Hour. The actress is England promoting her new film Beautiful Lies.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Parallel Worlds (DSK)

Ever since the outbreak of the Strauss-Kahn affair I’ve been puzzling: why the press in France had no qualms about publishing the name and then the photos of the charwoman who is the main witness, and the victim, in the case against the former IMF chief, while the media in America and Britain have refrained from doing so on ethical grounds. And with that, the French are lambasting the Anglo-Saxon media for their treatment of Dominique Strauss-Kahn himself.

I was glad to find that I am not alone in this puzzlement. In comparing the way Anglo-American press treats the Strauss-Kahn affair with the situation in France nothing is more startling than France24, the news and analysis TV channel. It has both English and French language versions. The English is run according to 'Anglo-Saxon' standards, but the French follows customs of the country's press.

(read  the full post on Tetradki)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Learning by Rote. A French Example.

Read an English version the song here on the Tetradki blog.

The French education system puts too much emphasis on learning by rote, they say.

Maybe, but it works, at least for some purposes. Just watch how Gilbert Bécaud, the legendary chansonnier, teaches the German audience about Remembrance. The song is about the death of a poet, when everybody cries for him. The bleuets, which appear in the last line of the song, are cornflowers, the French equivalent of the English poppy used at Remembrance ceremonies. But bleuets are also the national flower of Germany – die Kornblume.

Gilbert Becaud - Quand il est il mort le poete par Leroidukitch

Quand il est mort le poète,
Quand il est mort le poète,
Tous ses amis,
Tous ses amis,
Tous ses amis pleuraient.

Quand il est mort le poète,
Quand il est mort le poète,
Le monde entier,
Le monde entier,
Le monde entier pleurait.

On enterra son étoile,
On enterra son étoile,
Dans un grand champ,
Dans un grand champ,
Dans un grand champ de blé.

Et c'est pour ça que l'on trouve,
Et c'est pour ça que l'on trouve,
Dans ce grand champ,
Dans ce grand champ,
Dans ce grand champ de bleuets.

Photo by Böhringer Friedrich.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Blonds, Blondes and Manuals

Catherine Deneuve

I've just snooped a piece of advice on how to stop a husband looking into his wife's mailbox – mark it 'Instruction Manuals'. Why, of course! It's beneath a man to check the manual.

And it's equally easy to attract a man's attention. Another writer in France suggested to her husband who had been trying in vain to get his boss's attention to an important proposal: put on the file a large label saying 'Blondes'. 

Don't we underestimate our women?

And while I was scribbling this I also discovered another difference between British and American – their attitude to blondes. Here is what Oxford English Dictionary says:

USAGE The spellings blonde and blond correspond to the feminine and masculine forms in French. Although the distinction is usually retained in Britain, American usage since the 1970s has generally preferred the gender-neutral blond. The adjective blonde may still refer to a woman’s (but not a man’s) hair color, though use of the noun risks offense (See that blonde over there?) the offense arises from the fact that the color of hair is not the person. The adjective applied to inanimate objects (wood, beer) is typically spelled blond.

Photo by Georges Biard

Thanks for advice, Kirsten Stroud and Nadya Pommier
This post also published on Tetradki blog

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Books: The Somme Stations, by Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin has published several detective novels with Jim Stringer, a railwayman reassigned to the North Eastern Railway police in Edwardian England, as the main character. Jim, nicknamed the Steam Detective, has quite a following and readers will be looking forward to his new adventures in France during the Battle of the Somme, especially where there is an unusual twist. Here is what the publishers say:
On the first day of the Somme enlisted railwayman Jim Stringer lies trapped in a shell hole, smoking cigarette after cigarette under the bullets and the blazing sun. He calculates his chances of survival – even before they departed for France, a member of Jim's unit had been found dead.

During the stand-off that follows, Jim and his comrades must operate by night the vitally important trains carrying munitions to the Front, through a ghostly landscape of shattered trees where high explosive and shrapnel shells rain down. Close co-operation and trust are vital. Yet proof piles up of an enemy within, and as a ferocious military policeman pursues his investigation into the original killing, the finger of accusation begins to point towards Jim himself . . .

The Somme Stations is released in early March 2011, book web-sites take orders now.

Some of the links here take you to If you shop from France use the 'livres en Anglais' search box at the top of the side-bar to save on delivery charges.