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Hard times in New York Town


Tag: Do’s and don’ts


French woman creating a new trend: the snail beanie

French women as fashion icons


By definition, a French woman is supposed to embody “French effortless chic”, as bad magazines say. It does work in New York, but also in Shanghai and I guess everywhere. How do you live up to the myth? Simple.

Option 1 : you are a French woman, too happy to enjoy the French chic cliché: 

– even if you were born on a farm in Montélimar, you are from Paris. All French women are from Paris.

– when complimented on a clothe, look surprised “what, this? Zara!”. Or pretend it comes from a small unknown shop (make up the name if you need to). The idea is to make anybody feel small because anything looks couture on you.

– don’t be silly, no limits. The uniform “red lipstick / little black dress” is long gone. You can ressuscitate everything. Be creative: everything looks good on you. Including Birkenstocks. including the little square of plastic bag old women put on their hair when it rains. Don’t worry, it’s probably hot in Red Hook anyway. Forget you were bullied because you looked like an 80 year old in 3rd grade. Anything is possible

Option 2 : you are a French woman, decided to go against stereotypes 

First, let me tell you that this is completely stupid: there are not that many good stereotypes. Even if you try very hard, you will suffer from the bad ones anyway (and be treated as arrogant – yet romantic -).

However, I can very generously help. Become pregnant. Do not go hesitate to put on weight. Lots of weight. Dress exactly the same everyday, half Gap, half Girls. It’s a precise science, but after a while, nobody will remember your French chic-ness. Regarding hair, it’s easier. The “effortless tousled hair” is too low-key: just don’t brush your hair. The idea is to look like a dog, or like Britney Spears in Womanizer (the absolute master of the dog-hair universe).

Option 3 : you are a French male

This simply doesn’t apply to you. Regarding males, the stereotype of elegance works solely on italians (grease+ tight suits, ouh yeah) or English (tweed, ouh yeah).

Woman telling a stranger about her baby's exhibitionism

Behaving: How to talk to people you don’t know


So here is a summary of what I learned in terms of behavioural rules (yes, I am thinking shifting to sociology, that bores the hell out of my husband)

So THE thing that puzzled me the most is the “hi how are you”. According to the European rules, this is supposed to be a purely rhetorical question: unless you just lost your mother and you are talking to your best friend, you simply answer “fine, thanks”. Well, not exactly.

Example 1. In the elevator. It is 8:24 precisely. I am fighting with Charlotte so she finally accepts to put her shoes on. Concomitantly I yell at Nayla who just pressed all the buttons. A neighbour (whom I have never met) enters the elevator.

Me (focused on the shoes): hi, how are you?

Her: my dad just died in a car accident in Florida. I have to leave to Florida.

Me (nervous laughter): Oh shit ! ben euh, sorry.

At the beginning, I thought it was just a close encounter of the third kind, with no relationship at all to the US.

After several unwanted stories about miscarriages and disgusting sicknesses, I thought that maybe I looked so nice that people would confide anything to my kind ears.

Turns out people just like to talk to strangers.

I guess I must sound slightly superior, like the typical French who thinks the idea is absurd, but I often find it cool. For example, it allows you to acknowledge that your tiny problems are universal (always more rewarding than simply reading it in Vanity Fair). Plus you also can let off steam. I only done it once: I told one neighbour at the park that I sometimes hated my kids. She seemed to have the same problem. It felt good.

I identified two possible kinds of answers, because sometimes, at 8:24 AM, you have to be straightforward.

Answer 1:hugging. It took me a year, but I have become a master in hugging. Free hug whenever you want.

Answer 2: The “No. Me too!!” rule. Which obviously works better when it is plausible, but honestly, it often is (my kid had a bronchiolitis and I was scared/ my boyfriend is a stupid macho / I also have money-job-couple issues).

Unfortunately, sometimes none of those answers is practicable.

Example 2 (yesterday). An impressive and nice black guy, on the street. “oh you have two girls! how cute! I have four”.

Me (nicely): oh yeah?

Him: yep. But it’s too late to have a boy. You know, I am a Vietnam war veteran. I got all kinds of diseases there, I am heavily handicapped and I suffer diabetes. And of course, I am too old.

Me (nervous laughter): Oh shit ! ben euh, sorry.

Silly mistakes


chubby / fluffy / chunky / chucky

So my neighbour made it clear. You shouldn’t say: “what a pretty chucky baby”. Chucky is the puppet. Chunky is for cookies, or for your baby’s arms. Chubby is a synonym. They both mean “fat”, but not greasy. Nice fat.

sassy / savvy / sexy 

I still haven’t figured which one is positive and which one is negative. But that as long as I cannot pronounce properly “sassy” and “sexy”, I should avoid using them, especially when talking about my 3 year old-daughter.