My Café Littéraire

There’s a great hotel in Les Baux called Benvengudo that I’ve written about before. The nice people there recently invited me to talk about my book at a “Café Littéraire” as part of their springtime series of events. Other events include a wine tasting by Château Romanin and a harp concert so I’m in good company.

It was an intimate event, held in the salon in front of a crackling fire (spring has been wet and cold so far), with delicious wines and pastries on offer. The turnout was modest due to the weather plus the mudslide that blocked one road to the hotel but was a lot of fun nonetheless.

My dilemma in preparing was that I didn’t know what language I would use. The expected guests were a mix of French and English speakers so I prepared for both (but secretly hoped for English, let’s be honest.)

As the time came to begin, with everyone in their comfy chairs, I polled the audience and learned that French would be the best language. Zut! So I took a deep breath and launched in and, luckily, everyone laughed at all the right moments. And my book readings were in English so overall it was a nice mix of two languages.

Once, after I did a reading, I forgot what language I was supposed to use and continued in English, until the puzzled looks reminded me to switch back to French.

Unlike back home in Silicon Valley, where the busy audience usually leaves right after such an event, here everyone ordered another drink and talked together. It was quite an international group, with people who had lived in Switzerland, Russia, the United States, the UK and France, making the discussion wide-ranging indeed, especially on the subject of cultural differences.

Two people actually spoke some Russian and took the opportunity to practice with each other. I don’t know what they were saying but I hope it included some nice words about my presentation!

Bulls Go For a Swim in Provence

An abrivado is a special event in Provençal towns, where French cowboys called gardians run bulls through the streets and into the arena. It’s an exciting test of horsemanship that not all gardians can master.

Even more exciting is the Gaso de Taureaux. Here, instead of running through the streets, the bulls are driven through a lake. It’s not clear why—maybe they need to freshen up?

Read the whole story at Perfectly Provence.

French People Are Like Coconuts

Imagine this: The PTSA meeting hasn’t started yet and two parents in the audience are chatting away—about their kids, their vacations, the hot new movie in theatres. After a few minutes, one puts out her hand and says, “Oh, by the way, my name’s Jessica.”

In the US, a scene like this—two strangers talking like old friends—wouldn’t be surprising. But would it happen in France? Pas du tout! In France, it’s considered weird to just start talking with someone you don’t know. And if a stranger tried to chat with them, a French person’s first thought would be a suspicious “What do they want from me?”

Learn how to bridge the cultural gap between French and Americans at Frenchly.

Living Dangerously in Provence

“The bull has escaped!”

I looked up to see a thousand pounds of anger barreling down the street at me. Everyone scattered, frantically jumping over the metal barriers to safety. The bull thundered past, followed by closely by French cowboys on horseback. It was a terrifying moment, the kind you remember all your life.

Read the rest of the story at Perfectly Provence.

You Speak French and You Don’t Even Know It!

“Let’s get a table in the front part of the restaurant. We can watch television and look at the menu while we wait for my cousin.”

Table, part, restaurant, television, menu, and cousin — those are all French words, even spelled the same way as in French. And if you order salad and onion soup, that’s three more (salade, oignon, soupe). You’re speaking French!

As much as half of the English language comes from French. Even Queen Elizabeth’s royal coat of arms is in French! Read all about it at Frenchly.

The Art of Being French–Living Like a Local

The French Waiting Room Protocol

France is a country with a lot of social rules. You say “bonjourwhen you enter a store. You have salad at the end of a meal rather than the beginning. You kiss your friends rather than hugging them. And then, there’s French waiting room protocol; it’s very serious business in France.

Learn all about it at My French Life.

French Baby Names: Chloé oui, Nutella non

Americans can call their children practically anything they want. Beyoncé’s daughter is named Blue Ivy. Frank Zappa’s kids are Moon Unit and Dweezil. And unusual names are not just for the offspring of celebrities—people have actually named their kids Cheese, Fairy, and Jag.

This is not the case in France, where courts can reject a name if it is not in the best interest of the child. So can a French couple call their child Manhattan? How about Mini Cooper? Or Nutella? Non, non, and non. French courts have rejected those names and more.

Read all about the long history of French baby-naming laws at Frenchly.

Ask the French: Sex, Food and Conspiracy Theories

Which politician would you like to have a beer with? It’s a typical survey question. And as you would expect, a recent French poll named president Emmanuel Macron the winner.

Less typical was when French pollsters asked, Which politician would you like to have a summer fling with? French women responded with enthusiasm. (If they asked that same question here, American women would take one look at our politicians and immediately book a flight to France.)

The French love their polls and they cover every subject imaginable. Sure, there are the usual questions about political parties, potential legislation, and the state of the economy. But then there are the fun ones…

Read all about it at Frenchly.