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Rude or Simply French? Debunking the Cultural Clichés

HiP Paris blog, Rude French, Brasserie terrace

What is it about Paris that incites such strong feelings? With the exception of New York, no other city seems to have such an effect on people. Sharing the fact that I live in Paris tends to invite strong opinions, ranging from those who have spent a considerable amount of time in France’s capital to those who have never set foot on French soil, offering their impression on what Paris is, or specifically what the French are like.

HiP Paris blog, Rude French, Parisian restaurant terrace Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living | 18 Comments »

Decoding The French Menu: The Truth About Steak à Cheval

A Paris chalkboard menu – appearances can be deceiving! (Daxis)

Years into my love affair with Paris, I’m still making ridiculous rookie mistakes. I suppose it’s time to accept that France will always have the upper hand, but it still stings.

My most recent humiliation is horse-related. Or at least, I thought it was.

Please note that I was a horse-obsessed child, so equine-related topics are particularly touchy for me. As a child, I would sometimes dress in riding garb for no reason at all. And while I was waiting for my parents to break down and buy me a real horse (never happened), I would drag garbage cans into the backyard and ride them, periodically switching from one member of the “herd” to the next. On any given afternoon, people in the house could gaze out and see me whipping a particularly stubborn garbage can with my riding crop.

Steak à Cheval (L. Richarz)

So when I first moved to Paris and started noticing “steak à cheval” on menus around town, I was wary. I knew there was a historical precedent of eating horse meat in France, but it seemed quite inhumane in this day and age. Nonetheless,  I assumed it was some kind of trendy gastronomic revival, and who was I to question the local gourmands? So I kept my mouth shut and simply avoided the dreaded horse steak when confronted with it.

Recently, I was visiting my boyfriend’s family in Brazil. One night, we sat down to dinner and I was presented with a traditional dish called bife a cavalo (in Portuguese), which translates to “horse-riding steak” or “steak à la horse.”

“Horse?” I asked, panic rapidly setting in.

“No, it’s like steak à cheval in France,” G explained.

“Sooo….. horse?” I wondered again.

It was at this point that I realized I’d been operating under a serious misapprehension, and it took the collision of three cultures for the truth to surface. Continue Reading »

Posted in Food, Parisian Living | 24 Comments »

Zut Alors! How To Speak French Like A Parisian

Lost In Cheeseland

On arriving in Paris, No.1 on the lengthy to-do list (in between museum visiting and restaurant testing, bien sûr) is deciphering the elision-liaison-silent-letter-filled waves of French flying from left, right and center.
Before setting foot (or even a single toe) on Parisian soil, I had already been vigorously drilled with irregular verbs and I’d skimmed the pages of iconic authors like Sartre. Bref, I was quietly confident that my carefully acquired knowledge would serve me well in my quest to be truly Parisienne. This confidence has since been shaken AND stirred more times than I can remember.

Erica Berman

Just hours into my Parisian experience, my linguistic talents would hurtle against their first obstacle of the viticultural kind. As I tried in vain to order red wine, I never imagined that my inability to distinguish the ‘u’ and the ‘ou’ in rouge would have such drastic consequences…

Following two years of linguistic battering, here’s my advice:
1.)    Take risks. You’ll make mistakes (but so do the French). Living in Paris, you’ll learn to laugh at yourself. Arriving directly from a year in Spain, I’d happily use my own invented French-ised version of the Spanish verb ‘pisar’ (to trample) when I accidently stood on people. That is before I cottoned on the fact that ‘pisser’ had a very different (and far more obvious) meaning in French.

Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living | 8 Comments »

Paris Tips: Making Small Talk A La Parisienne

Little Brown Pen

Warm? Friendly? Spontaneous? These aren’t perhaps the first words that spring to mind when describing the typical Parisien. However, I can assure you that once you learn to greet and meet like a local, the slightly frosty exterior slowly begins to melt.

The bonjour

In Paris it’s essential to say bonjour many times each day. A Parisian lives and breathes bonjours. To foreigners this may seem excessive, but barge into a shop, skip the bonjour and see what happens. French customer service, already suffering in the image stakes, reaches new levels of indifference.

Little Brown Pen

If, like me, you work in a large French company this situation can spiral dangerously and risks occupying a disproportionate part of your already coffee-break-filled day. I’ve come to dread lifts: not only is the bonjour compulsory on entering, the bonne journée (have a nice day) is also necessary on exiting. Et oui, this applies each and every time someone hops in or out. Even though my office is on the 5th floor, I’ve started taking the stairs!

Please note that the bonjour shouldn’t be too cheery or effusive for fear of rippling the careful air of nonchalance. Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living | 16 Comments »

Bravo L’Américaine

Sometimes I think about my early days in Paris, and all I can do is shake my head with amusement. The blog I began then, A Moveable Beast,  now reads like a textbook tale of an awkward (albeit determined) American, attempting to conquer Paris one hard-fought lesson at a time. I quickly found that the best way to “learn” Paris was simply to laugh my way through all the confusion (and to encourage everyone else to laugh at me as I did so). This was my first post—and the beginning of an awesome adventure. Enjoy! – Tory

GirlCafeParis

I live in Paris now. I know this because every morning when I wake up, I experience a brief moment of panicky, delighted confusion… I have no idea where I am!

I remain disoriented until I ask myself the following questions:

Question: What are these sharp things in my bed?

Answer: Baguette crumbs. They were probably stuck to my face when I fell asleep.

baguetteErica Berman

Question: Are there alien babies in my room?

Answer: No, just French babies in the courtyard, their voices glittering in the morning light.

Question: Is this butter-infused air I’m breathing?

Answer: Actually, yes. There’s a patisserie next door. Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living | 5 Comments »