February 28, 2011

Olympique Lyonnais

I feel like I need to start this post off with an obligatory “Allez Lille-OSC!”

That said, Lyon’s football (soccer) team bus was parked outside my building all day yesterday!

So of course I paparazzi-ed them from my window. They finally left their hotel and walked to the bus around 19h, just in time to go and play my honorary home team.

FBF proceeded to tell me that one of the players on their team is known for his good looks and every French girl wants to do him. We sent text messages to his friends and made them all jealous.

My dark and blurry papparazzi picture of Yoann Gourcuf doesn’t really do him justice, so here he is in all his glory:

I think FBF strategically waited until after the team left to show me a photo of this guy on the internet.

February 27, 2011

Des Oiseaux de Nuit (Night Owls)

When the French party, they party all night long. They like to stay out until at least 6am. This is especially true of the boite de nuit (nightclub) crowd, but house parties can last until an equally late (or early, depending on how you look at it) hour.

I am bad at partying until the wee hours of the morning. In California, the bars closed at 2am, which meant they started kicking people out around 1:30am, which meant I was usually home and in bed asleep by 2:30/3am!

I have not yet been able to adjust to the French way of partying.

They start their parties around the same time as I did in college (around 9/10pm), but then just keep on going and going and going like the energizer bunny until, if it were a weekday, I’d be waking up to go to work.

Clearly he was modeled after French night life.

The drink of choice on these ridiculously long evenings of partying is vodka redbull. Having had a bad experience and not liking the effect of the combination of these two substances, I abstained from the drink my first night at a Belgium nightclub. This resulted in me tired, cranky, and wanting nothing more than to be at home sleeping, sitting in a corner looking miserable by 3am.

Round two at a Belgian club, I decided to give this drink a try, thinking that maybe the only reason the French (and Belgians) are so good at staying out so late is because they are fueled by energy drinks. Despite my best efforts to “get wings,” come 3 am, I was tired, cranky, sitting on a bar stool and asking FBF if we’d be leaving soon.

My Made in America body doesn't want to be up past 3 regardless.

I have not remained completely untransformed, however. It has only taken two years, but I am now able to stay up an entire extra hour before hating the world. Just last weekend I was dancing at a house party until 4 in the morning!

At the rate of half an hour of additional party time per year I reside in France, it should only take me 4 more years to enjoy partying à la française!

February 24, 2011


On a rare sunny day in little old Lille
I explored mon coin
(my neighborhood)

Since mostly it's gray here
I took to the street
To enjoy le Nord with our maisons briques

February 22, 2011

Mon Epouse Violente (Partie 2)

Check out Partie 1 here.

So after France’s nice gesture at the laundromat on Wednesday, I was feeling pretty good. I now had clean towels and clean socks. Work went smoothly on Thursday. I was naively enjoying France’s change of character.

Then Friday after school, the bus I needed to take to get to the train station on time showed up four minutes early, even though it never ever does. I walked out of the lycée at the same time I always do, only to see the bus take off down the street without me. I was devastated. I always stand out in the bitter cold for five minutes waiting for the bus, just to avoid this very problem. Now I would most likely not make the train home.

I still had an itty bitty slimmer of hope however, as the next scheduled bus gave me a three minute window to run as fast as I possibly could from the bus stop to the train station. If I could pull off this feet of physical fitness, which was more than likely impossible as I'm not a sprinter/marathoner/exerciser of any kind, this arrangement was still less than ideal, as I would have to buy my ticket on the train, meaning I would be paying double.

But this Bus came five minutes late, shattering any dreams of making it home on time. I was going to be stuck at the train station for two hours, at lunchtime, without any food. I hated France and her evil plans to ruin my life! Why did she always have to try to get me down?

Of course if the first bus were early, the second one would be late. Why couldn’t they both have come early and given me a chance of catching my train?

Somehow, France changed the space-time continuum, and that 5-minutes-late-bus dropped me off by the train station two minutes earlier than its normal arrival time. I had five minutes to run as fast as I could to catch my train. I ran for it.

I made it! With about 30 seconds to spare.

I sought out the conductor, ready to pay for my super expensive ticket (but totally worth it if it meant I got home at a reasonable lunch hour), when he said to me, “Euhh la machine n’a plus de batterie donc asseiez-vous,” (umm actually the machine is out of batteries so just take a seat). That’s right! A free trip home!

I huffed and puffed a “merci” in his direction, and plopped myself down in the first available seat I could find in awe of my good fortune.

But by the time my forty minute train ride was up, I realized that France’s gentillesse (niceness) was just more flowers to make up for her brutal treatment of me in the first place.

I'd say I need to find a new spouse, but I can't let France win!

February 19, 2011

Mon Epouse Violente (Partie 1)

I used to feel like France was rather passive aggressively trying to get me to leave. Yes, she invited me to come and stay with her, but she never made any promises of being nice to me. Almost as if she’s the mother of a boyfriend who doesn’t think you’re quite good enough for her son, who doesn’t say anything outright, but makes her displeasure known through other means.

France was being ever so passive aggressive when I went to la laverie (the laundromat). I had two loads to do, but of course the place was crowded and there was only one machine open. I decided to start with my sheets and towels. Finally, a second machine opened up. I put my clothes inside, and then I went to the jeton (coin) dispenser. The machine, which is supposed to accept 5, 10, and 20 euro bills, refused to accept any of mine. I got change from one of my fellow laundromat users, but when I tried to use the washing machine, it ate my coin. I then tried to push the coin by using my dyer coin, but the machine ate that coin, too.

Now this was horrible for a variety of reasons. I didn’t have time to wait for everybody else’s laundry to be done, I didn't have any change to buy new coins for the dryer, and since my dirty clothes were staying dirty, I had nowhere to put my clean sheets once they were done.

I was hearing France’s message loud and clear. She was letting the laundromat speak for her. “I’m going to make life super difficult for you if you hang around! You'll never have clean socks!”

Day two at the laundromat, everything was different. It wasn’t crowded. The coin machine worked perfectly. The washing machine took my coin without a second thought. I didn’t have to wait for a dryer.

After one ten minute blast of hot air, my clothes were still not dry, so I headed over to the coin machine to pay for some more dryer time. But instead of having to pay .90centimes for ten minutes, I got it for free, because an incredibly cute French guy asked me, “c’est pour le seche-linge? Parce que j’ai un jeton de plus” (is it for the dryer? Because I have an extra coin).

“Oh, oui, mais je n’ai pas la bonne monnaie,” (oh, well yes it is but I don’t have the right change) I replied, showing him my two fifty cent euro coins.

“Oh. Non. C’est bon. Prends-le,” (Oh, no. Don’t worry about it, just take it) he replied.

“How incredibly nice!” I thought, and began to feel much better about the laundromat as an establishment. It was as if this one cute guy’s nice gesture was able to change my opinion about France’s previous devious behavior.

I had forgotten all about the original trip the laundromat and was thinking about how much I love living here when I realized who France had become. She went from the passive aggressive, sabotaging mother-in-law to an abusive spouse, who the very next day brings me flowers and tells me how much she loves me.

February 16, 2011

Sept Stylish Things

Leslie from La Forchette S’est Embaillée has bestowed upon me the Stylish Blogger Award!

Her blog is a wonderful combination of beautiful photographs, delicious recipes, and hilarious stories about her life in Aix-en-Provence. You should definitely check her out!

Here are the rules for being stylish:
1. Link back to the awesome person who gave you the award (check - Thanks again Leslie!)
2. Tell everyone 7 things about yourself
3. Pass it on to
15 7 other bloggers!

7 things you don’t know about me:

1. When I was 15 my parents sent me to a 3-week summer school program at the American University of Paris. We would go to school in the mornings (I took photography and beginners French), and then would go on field trips out to the city in the afternoons. I fell in love with the city and knew I had to go back.

2. That trip was the first time I got drunk. The program put on a wine tasting, and pretty much all the kids got a little tipsy off of the wine. Only, I didn’t like the taste of wine! (Boy how times have changed) So I decided to add something to the wine that I did like: coca-cola. All of the adults thought this sounded disgusting. BUT! I have since learned, while I was in Barcelona last year, that the Spanish put red wine and coke together on purpose! Plus, it tastes pretty yummy. Clearly 15 year old me was just in the wrong country.

3. While studying abroad in Paris for a semester my junior year, I stayed with a host family. My host family turned out to be a nice old lady who didn’t speak any English. I didn’t really speak any French (aside from things like “bonjour” and “comment-allez vous?”). On the first day, she asked me a question in French. I stared at her blankly. Then she started miming to me, moving her arms, pointing at me, and pointing at various objects. I still had no idea what she was talking about. After about ten minutes, and some “vvvvmmmmmm” noises, I figured out she wanted my permission to vacuum my room! This is pretty much how we communicated the first couple of weeks.

4. All last year I felt as if I wasn’t truly taking advantage of my assistant’s job because I wasn’t traveling “enough.” I realized this was totally inaccurate as when filling out the customs form for the US, I ran out of space for “countries visited.” I also completely forgot to include Ireland on the list…

5. This is not because I didn’t like Ireland. I love Ireland. I saw Lady Gaga in Ireland last year. I also love Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga + Guinness Factory St. James’s Brewery = one of my favorite trips from last year!

Me at the Guinness Factory and Lady Gaga doing her thing!

6. Despite being from CA and only having lived in le Nord for 2 years, I have more jackets than FBF, who has lived here his whole life. I have 6. He has 2.

7. I must look like a giant stoner, as the only decorations on my walls are a free map of Amsterdam, and a free poster from Dampkring, a coffee shop in Amsterdam. I am not a stoner. I just have nothing else to decorate my walls with. Clearly I need to be traveling more this year if only to accumulate more decorations.

And now, drum roll please.... the 7 bloggers I'm giving this award to are:

American Girls Are... - a recently married expat living in Paris who makes hilarious little pictures.

Is There Such a thing as too much Cheese? - an Australian expat living in France who won me over with her post about a man who paints portraits with his penis.

jennaventures - she (or is it her cat?) basically makes me laugh every post.

Kaley...& Más - a Spanish expat who hopefully can attest to my claims in fact # 2.

Le Fabuleux Destin de Brenna - an English teaching assistant in Verdun, France who successfully made chocolate chip cookies in France (reinforcing French stereotypes of Americans while simultaneously making me look bad for disappointing my French friends).

Sara in le Petit Village - who has already won a bagillion of these, but I just can't get enough of her and her font size changing blog posts.

Traveling Amber - a fellow nordiste who isn't afraid to put all of her emotions out there! Plus the semi-regular pictures of her adorable new baby would make anyone smile.

February 13, 2011

Une Nouvelle Amie

When Amber from Traveling Amber sent me an email requesting we meet up, I was thrilled. Another American blogger living in Lille wants to meet me? Awesome!

We set a date and decided to meet up for tea. We set our rendez-vous for 14h at Republique – Beaux Arts. I knew she would have her little baby boy with her, but other than some tiny pictures of her on her blog, I wasn’t sure what she looked like.

I started getting nervous about us not being able to find each other, as la place de la Republique is rather large. But like two people destined to be friends, I recognized her, with a little help from her stroller, straight away.

Suddenly a new fear gripped me. What was I supposed to do now?

In France, when meeting someone new, you are meant to faire la bise (touch cheeks and make kissy noises). But since neither Amber nor I are French, I wasn’t sure what to do. Should we faire la bise despite being Americans? Should we embrace our Americanness and shake hands? Should I go for a hug as I feel like I already know her somewhat from her blog?

Was I to follow Barack's or Michelle's lead?

While all this indecision was running wild in my head, Amber took charge. She leaned in and went for la bise. I followed suit.

Immediately after the traditional French introduction, we started jabbing away in English at 1,000 words per minute. I hadn’t felt so comfortably American since I moved back here.

When we finally said goodbye, however, we switched back to the French way of life and did la bise again.

This must be what it means to be a true expat. You have to be able to keep your feet in both worlds.

Although I wouldn’t mind if all us Americans in France got together and agreed on how we want to go about greeting one another from now on. Anybody else game?

February 11, 2011


Puritans founded America, and our puritanical roots are still very evident in our culture, especially when it comes to sex. Europeans, however, had the intelligence to send the religious wackos out of their countries a long time ago, and were left with people more concerned about pleasure than the word of God.

I used to think that Puritanism was what kept sex a dirty word in America, but I now have a new theory. I think these differing views towards sex are simply reinforced through every day language.

What we call the different sexual positions greatly affects our opinion of them. Let’s take doggy style.

I think Katherine Heigle said it all in Knocked Up. When she is asked if she wants to do it doggy style, she responds with, “you’re not going to fuck me like a dog.”

In French, doggy style is called levrette. FBF has assured me this brings up absolutely no images of les chiens en train de faire l’amour (dogs making love). To them, it’s just another way to bring pleasure to your partner. No dogs about it.

Now if only Seth Rogan had instead asked her to do it levrette-style, they might not have had such awkward pregnant sex!

February 7, 2011

La Chimie

When I walk home from work, I pass by L’Opera in Lille. When I moved to the big city, Marché de Noël paraphernalia occupied la place du Théâtre in front of the Opera. By the third week of Januray, however, the Christmas decorations had been packed away and I was just beginning to get used to the empty space.

France had other plans, however. When walking home from work last Friday, instead of a big empty space I discovered giant, green, grass-like plastic pieces.

Photo of l'oeure by Vincent Leroy taken by FBF

It turns out that this art was part of an event called “l’art en la matière” taking place all over France in celebration of the International Year of Chemistry, complete with a green chemistry conference in little old Lille. As luck would have it, FBF is a science nerd, and was recruited by his chemistry professors to work the event.

The art installation was indeed supposed to look like grass, and was installed in such a way that it would move with the wind. But even more than that, it was created with a type of plastic that emits more light than it takes in, sort of imitating photosynthesis. Going with the celebration of green chemistry, this type of plastic would allow us to emit a lot less electricity if used for light up signs (I’m thinking those bright green pharmacy crosses that are all over France).

There were other art displays in Lyon, Marseille, and Paris, each focusing on a different area of importance for green chemistry.

February 2, 2011

Les Ennuis Des Femmes (Women's Troubles)

When I studied abroad in Paris for Fall ’07, I was warned that in France the tampons do not have applicators. Being afraid of sticking an uncomfortably dry tampon up my vagina with no aid of a nice plastic casing, I brought along my own 4-month supply of American tampons.

Then the inevitable happened. I don’t know if Shark Week came early, or I just forgot to put tampons in my bag, but suddenly I was caught in a situation I was not prepared for. I was out with some friends when I realized I needed a tampon, and STAT.

We took a detour to the nearest MonoPrix (a grocery store) and found the appropriate rayon (aisle). This was my first time in this rayon in France, and to my surprise I found tampons with applicators! I bought the tiniest box of generic MonoPrix brand tampons available, and while they were far from ideal, I made an important discovery: Tampons with applicators existed in France!

When I moved out here in Fall ’09, I decided to leave my trusty American tampons at home and use that valuable suitcase space for shoes instead. If applicator tampons existed in generic brands, clearly the France-doesn’t-have-applicators rumor was a lie, and I’d be able to find usable tampons in Lille.

I now regret this decision. Back in the states, I use Playtex Gentle Glide tampons. They fit me perfectly! The applicator is plastic and it goes in smooth. The size is the perfect size for my vagina. Everything is wonderful in tamponland.

Unfortunately, this brand does not exist in France, and so far none of the French brands have been up to snuff. They are either too big, or I have trouble with the applicator. I still use these French brands, but am I totally comfortable down there? No sir. That “time of the month” is uncomfortable enough as it is even with the perfect tampon! Oh Playtex Gentle Glide, how I miss thee!

Although a lot of me has adapted and become more French as time passes, my vagina remains stubbornly American.
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