Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Ah, the golden arches. Proud symbol of the american culture, economy and eating habits. But did you know which country eats the most McDonalds outside of the US? Answer: it's FRANCE! This was very surprising to me when I first found out, considering France is such a sophisticated "foodie" culture. But it's no joke -- every McD's I pass (there are tons) is busy all times of night, and not just for the free wifi (good tip by the way). I see people of all ages eating it -- teenagers, older people, stylish moms with kids after ballet on saturday, homeless bums, etc..MacDo (as they call it here) has no bounds. BUT WHY???

According to this NPR article, passed to me by Natalie (of blog fame here) there are a few answers and it all comes down to brilliant market research (I'm not biased at all!!). McDonalds understands their local market. They've frenchified dishes (the McChevre wrap, par example), they have ample seating space (French people spend nearly 2 hours a day sitting and eating), and they've local-fied ingredients (use grass fed cows, local chickens, etc). All of these are great reasons and I fully agree with them. But what's the main reason I think French people like MacDo?

Because it tastes good.

Working in the food industry in France I've come to learn it's all about taste. Fat, sugar, local, or not, the better it tastes, the more successful it will be. Yes, local ingredients are great and organic food is good for the environment, but you know what else they are? TASTY. A tomato from around the corner in France that is fresh, bright red, and not made with pesticides has more flavor in a seed than most North American tomatoes do in the whole batch. And you know what else tastes good? Fried potatoes, butter buns, 3 types of cheeses on a burger...all from MacDo. Yes, they've changed their marketing mix to locally adapt, but they know the main drivers of food for French people...and that's taste.

A funny example of this is my boss who is currently on a "diet" (or a regime as she calls it). You know what this diet includes? She eats everything the same, but she halves the amount of cheese she eats after a meal and only has 2 bites of dessert. In the US, a diet would probably include raw veggies, light yogurt, rice cakes, and other blandless food that makes you feel miserable. But in France, no 'regime' is worth bad tasting food. And McDonalds gets that.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dinnertime in Paris

This post reminded me to write about our failed attempt to start a French dinner party at 7:30 (errr thanksgiving party).

Andrea, Andrew and I (eternal optimists) sort of knew that dinner in france started arouund 8-8:30, but didn't realize how exact (or rather unexact - late). So we thought to ourselves "Oh dinner starts around 8 so we'll invite people at 7:30 and they'll show up at 8." WRONG WRONG WRONG. Even though we suggested 7:30-8, it was happily ignored. The first to show up was the Swiss/German (so precise those germans!) at 8:23, while the american was 8:45 and the italian 9:09. Apparently the rule applies to not only the French, but those presiding in the country.

Lesson learned, dinner at 8:30, plan to eat around 9:30. Also, from my research it doesnt seem like they're really into the pre-dinner snacking appetizers. Looks like I need to plan a proper seated appetizer in the future. So many plates, C'est la vie!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It's that time of year...OSCAR TIME!

I adore the Oscars. I wouldn't necessarily say I am much of a movie buff, but something about the glitz, glamour and a competition gets me every time. (see the nods here)

France has infiltrated the Oscars this year. I haven't quite figured out whether the Oscars are very buzzworthy here, but no matter, I think the French people should be proud.  There are movies set in Paris (Hugo, Midnight in Paris)...Movies with French Actors (The Artist), etc. Film is a big industry in France and is subsidized and supported by the government. It makes sense to me, when you think about the number of foreign films you know that are french, actors that are french, etc. It really is disporportionate to other countries of similar size. Well done france!

Monday, January 23, 2012

French Parenting: They're not like US

I can't believe I haven't blogged about this before, but an article in the economist (link here) was brought to my attention by my friend Nelson, asking my opinion. And boy do I have one.

I have asked many of my french colleagues why French children are so well behaved and from a combination of qualitative research, observation and reading this article my stereotype is now confirmed (very scientific!). This is a stereotype of which I was aware before moving, but never really put much thought against. However, the first time I visited a french playground I knew something was amiss. Or rather just different. As an expert on parental playground behavior (not!), I was seriously appalled at the indifference of French parents at the playground. I swear, their kids could be in mortal kombat or breaking multiple bones and they wouldn't bat a lash. Not only that-- they were smoking!! My north american lungs were incredibly appalled by this and I'm fairly certain the US gov't wouldn't allow a cigarette within a mile of a playground. But in Paris they seem not only allow it, but encourage it with ash trays! Quite prudent, I mean, if you're going to smoke, at least don't set the playground on fire with your butts.

Here are reasons that I've heard as to why kids are so well behaved:

  • No coddling, no patience, non, non, non. Seems like NON is a popular word in the french vocabulary. And the kids seems to listen. According to the article, parents don't fret, aren't apologetic, and are very strict. 
  • The kicker is that all of this is reinforced at school. At school, kids are taught to be quiet, patient, and well behaved. Sounds like a diss to the US education system, but probably well grounded.
  • You 'bring a child' into the world vs. 'having' one. Europeans pop out mini adults and are treated as such. You don't own your child, you are simply a resource for them to get the skills they need to succeed.
Doesn't sound like much fun to me :-) But something's working, as I consistently see very well behaved (and beautifully dressed btw, they start em young) French kids ay restaurants and I always ask myself the same question -- HOW? The researcher in me thinks it's a bit self-selecting...what self respecting parent is going to bring their terribly behaved kid to a restaurant? Then I have visions of all of the 'bad' french kids hiding in a closet somewhere....That sounds like a theory with legs, doesn't it?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Oh, Hello blog. Good to see you.

So, it's a Saturday morning in Paris. It's winter, which means it'll probably rain at sometime during the day and there is a solid gray sky. The kind of gray that sort of leaves you in a lull of half sleep and awake, with very little discerning difference between 9 am and 5 pm. This winter gray, although not unique to Paris, is famous and was one of the things I feared most about moving over here. I've never had Seasonal affective disorder (I don't think), but I've also generally lived in Sunny places. New York has what I call 'schizophrenic' weather, sunny and warm one day, cold snowing the next and Montreal had beautiful BRIGHT sunny days. But it was those days that I almost feared most, as they left you with a bitter cold right down the bone (as well as bright red thighs and nearly frostbitten fingers).

It's been gray for 3 days, but generally well above freezing (10-15 degrees to my canadian blog fans and in the 40s/50s to US friends....aren't you impressed that I'm fluent in celsius and farenheit??? add it to my resume). And as of this writing, I must say that gray isn't bothering me. In fact, it was sunny but cold/windy on Monday and I was appalled and surprised. I'm getting some sort of comfort in knowing that it's going to be within 5 degrees and gray most days. I always know which coat to wear, generally don't have to wear witner accessories (for those that know me, know that I HATE them), and can wear whatever shoes I please (even ballet flats with no socks!). Another reason is that I get to work at 9 am and leave at 7...so if there was sun I probably wouldn't see it anyways :-)

I've decided temperature irks me more than gray does and in general the temeprature is great. In fact, so great I ate dinner on a patio last night (albeit with a winter jacket on, but that's a minor detail). So next time someone complains of the winter gray, ask them how they like snow, blizzards, minus 20 degree weather, hurricanes, tornadoes, tidal waves, earthquakes and other insane weather that cripples other cities. The weather in Paris, like most things French, is quite moderate :)

Monday, January 09, 2012

How to Fake French

Sorry I've been a boring blogger lately...I promise to be better, but work has been kicking my booty.

In the meantime, here is a cute video on how to 'fake' french when you don't speak the language. Taking notes.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

I'm alive! Sort of...

Bonne Année et Meilleurs Voeux!

I am back in Paris after a wonderful holiday vacation, that ended not so wonderfully. Particularly because I got violently ill on the plane ride back about 30 minutes into the flight. UGH. Very much NOT FUN.

Anyways, it's bright, sunny, and relatively warm here in Paris. I'm feeling better and I'm ready for 2012 to improve. Hope you all had a fantastic holiday as well!