How, Where and When to Kiss Hello in France

A simple thing like saying hello and goodbye can be a daunting experience when you are a stranger in a strange land. In France, greeting rituals are complicated since they are both verbal and non-verbal and might include kissing (if you’re lucky). It’s interesting that the French have an expression “simple comme bonjour”, meaning that something is easy, obvious, clear. But when it comes to kissing hello, nothing is clear or obvious. Let’s look at some kissing guidelines so you know what you have to do the next time you come to France.

First of all, spoken greetings are important in France. You will notice that when you walk into a bakery or a café or any kind of store. Everyone says the proverbial “bonjour” before anything else happens. Even bus drivers say hello and goodbye to their passengers. They don’t kiss them, though. That’s reserved for family and friends.

"Simple comme Bonjour" may not always be that simple in France.
“Simple comme Bonjour” may not always be that simple.

The family part is easy to figure out. I have a French family and when I met them all more than twenty years ago, I just followed their lead. Their kissing system is cheek-to-cheek; right side first and stop at two. You kiss when you say hello and you kiss when you say goodbye and you should be very careful not to forget anyone since that can be seen as a real “faux pas”. Sometimes, at a big family dinner, saying goodbye to all the guests can take a while, so give yourself some extra kissing time if you have a train to catch.

Now, in the workplace, things are clear in the beginning, but they start to get a bit more complicated when your co-worker becomes your friend. First off, it’s a handshake and then a verbal “bonjour” and “au revoir” every working day. Some colleagues “make the rounds” greeting everyone on their floor before they settle down to work. There is something very endearing about the way the French see greetings as a duty, a sign of respect. They need to acknowledge your presence in a polite way.   That part is very clear.

The gray area is the passage from handshake to kiss, and how many kisses to give when you get to that stage. Tradition varies, depending on where you come from in France. The people I have met from the Normandy area and northern France tend to plant four kisses on the cheek.   The ones I have met from Brittany stop at three. That’s fine if you know it ahead of time. But it can be pretty awkward if you are going for two kisses and move your head away while the kisser keeps going.   It is also awkward if you start on the left and they start on the right. To avoid head-bumping and lip brushing, I suggest starting on the right. It’s easy to remember since it’s the same side you would use for a handshake and it works, nine times out of ten.

But when, exactly when, do you kiss? That’s a hard one to answer. The younger generation tends to kiss a new acquaintance right off the bat. That is not true for everyone. You might be invited to someone’s house and shake hands when you say hello but kiss when you say goodbye since you have gotten to know the person over the course of a meal and a couple of bottles of wine. Your best bet would be to do what they do.

To kiss or not to kiss -- now that's a good question.
To kiss or not to kiss — now that’s a good question.

The only excuse for not kissing hello to a friend is related to health. You can excuse yourself from that social gesture if you have a cold or feel one coming on. A few years ago, when the swine flu broke out, I did notice some air kissing in France – where people would pretend to kiss by smacking their lips but there is no bodily contact that could spread germs. That did not last too long (thank goodness).

In France, men kiss men, women kiss women, men kiss women, the young kiss the old and vice versa but everyone who uses kissing in their greeting does so on the cheek. A kiss on the lips, even a brief one, is a sign of romantic love, intimacy.

People who witness a kissing greeting on the lips of a couple can immediately see that they are a couple. Greeting hugs are rare in France – I have actually only seen them at funerals and weddings. The traditional social gesture is a kissing, with facial contact only.

France was one of the first countries to allow public displays of affection. That is a surprise to no one. Paris, the capital city of romance, is full of park benches with people showing off their French kissing skills. No one yells at them to “Get a room!” – lovers are just part of the scenery here along with the Arc of Triumph and the Eiffel Tower.

Eh voila! There you have the basic guidelines for meeting and greeting the French. So, what’s the next step? Come on over and enjoy the wonderful social ritual of kissing hello and goodbye. We all know the French love to demonstrate.

The French Animalistic Side to International Women’s Day

It’s International Women’s Day today, March 8th, and Paris is hosting many activities ranging from races to exhibits; films to flash mobs. The theme this year is “Make it Happen” and the Parisians seem to be doing just that. At least, that’s what I thought when I looked up the ambitious program on But soon after, I also picked up a copy of the women’s magazine “Marie Claire” and was a bit surprised to see an article about International Women’s Day with the photo of a prominent young French politician holding a hen (that’s right, a live hen, the rooster’s female counterpart) and posing very seriously for the camera. Huh, what’s that all about?

I knew the French had a difficult time understanding Obama’s Presidential pardon of a turkey on Thanksgiving Day. I remember trying to explain that tradition to my colleagues, only to have the discussion finish with yet another, “You Americans are crazy” comment. So, what was this? Some kind of statement connected to the cock being the symbol of France? Was the politician rooting for replacing the rooster, a male symbol, with the hen, a female symbol? Was it time to make this happen? Were the French the crazy ones now?

The man in the photo is Jean-Vincent Placé, a the president of the Ecologist Party in the Senate. It seems this photo was staged as his personal statement against sexism and, specifically, against sexism in politics.

The Ecologist protecting his hen.
The Ecologist protecting his hen.

It directly relates to a recent incident where an extremely impolite UMP (French center-right political party) politician “clucked” at a woman speaker, a colleague of Mr. Placé.  She was insulted and retorted with, “I am not a hen!” And that’s how this French version of Animal Farm started.

Mr. Placé also states in the article that the French political world is primarily old and macho – a bunch of unenlightened sexagenarians (think Dominique Strauss-Kahn). Is he right about that? Oh definitely. Will holding a hen change any of the old geezers’ way of treating women? I doubt it.  Even though there are quite a few women in the French government, they are not respected by their peers. A few months ago, a female minister was actually whistled at when she addressed the Senate because she was wearing a dress – that’s right – an unprovocative flowery dress. Mr. Placé does have some work to do.

However, getting dressed up in a nice suit and holding up a hen in a protective gesture is just as ridiculous as clucking in the French Senate. This Senator is actually part of the legislative system. He can propose laws; lobby laws; change laws. He can introduce sanctions for politicians who disrupt their colleagues and the business-at-hand. (There is nothing like a hefty fine or a suspension to make anyone think twice before he opens his beak.) Mr. Placé can find a legislative solution and, in doing so, demand respect for everyone – men and women alike. He can leave the hen in the farmyard and show us a law that deals with this problem. That’s part of the job.

Let’s hope that this hen party is the last one for the French government. Let’s hope that in 2016, on International Women’s Day, we can see a photo of Mr. Placé holding up legislation that sanctions disrespectful and unproductive public behavior on the part of  politicians. We can all cluck to that.

What Happens When French Politicians Use the “F” Word

Hollywood Comes to Paris

Since last Sunday, Paris, and France in general, has become the backdrop for a political sitcom and, suddenly, every UMP politician who is interviewed on television says the “F” word loud and clear.  I have witnessed a lot of political drama in France over the past twenty years, but no one has ever gotten dramatic enough to use the “F” word.  Americans, on the other hand, use it all the time.  President Obama used it in his acceptance speech on Nov 6th.  Mitt Romney spit it out regularly on his campaign trail.  And now, it’s here in France.  That “F” word is Family – a new political concept for the UMP and one which is not holding up well at all.
Funny Family Guys
You see, it is common practice for the UMP, the conservative right-wing party, to elect a president, a leader.  The 2 candidates were Francois Fillon, the former Prime Minister under Sarkozy and Jean-Francois Cope, rumoured to be a candidate for the 2017 presidential run.  The elections were close (actually reminded me of the Bush/Gore debacle of 2000) and have not yet been officially settled.  UMPers are taking sides and shooting each other in the foot at the same time.  But they keep talking family – saying they have to find a solution that works for everyone so that the family stays united.  But, the way I see it, this family is getting more dysfunctional by the minute.
How They Got There
Here’s a quick overview of what the problem is.  The vote was close; Mr. Cope said he won before all the votes were counted.  Mr. Fillon protested and continues to protest the

and the winner is ….me!

validity of the election.  Mr. Cope said, “tant pis” (too bad), “I’m the president of the UMP and thank you very much.”  He offered Mr.  Fillon the VP position but that went over like a cold day in hell.
Who’s in Charge Here?
Mr.  Fillon officially filed a court order to review the results.  That is happening today, but the majority of the members of this Commission are friends of Cope.  So, one of Mr. Fillon’s supporters left the meeting – slamming the door behind him.  There is a mediator, Mr. Alain Juppe, the mayor of Bordeaux, who is supposed to sort this all out, but he might just throw in the towel. Now Mr. Fillon is talking about separating and

we’ll just see about that …

starting a new political party with his friends.  And Mr. Cope still says he’s the man in charge of this wonderful family and he will do everything in his power to keep it together.
What about Instant Replay?
A simple way of solving this would be to insist on another election and throw that supposedly-biased Commission out the French window.  It seems fair.  One poll says that 67% of UMP members advocate this step.   It would be a simple enough event to organize; everyone could wipe the slate clean and start over.  And no one should speak up until all the votes are counted.  But both family guys have to agree to this and, only one thing is sure at this point, they are not agreeing on anything.
Clowning Around
As this blog goes to press, I can’t tell you who won since the name-calling, finger-pointing, sulking and whining are still going on and on and on. The only thing I am sure of is that the “F” word doesn’t work in France.  The typical values associated with that word – such as support, love, sacrifice, teamwork – are nowhere to be seen.  In fact, the “F” word has actually turned the whole political scene into a show – a full-fledged, unprecedented circus.   What we need now is for someone to send in the clowns – quickly.  Oh wait, they’re here.

Presidential Speeches in Paris and Chicago – Vive la Difference

Politics Everywhere

From May 6th to November 6th, as an American living in Paris, I got to follow two political adventurers in their bout for their respective Presidencies.  For the French election of François Hollande the campaign, the debates, the hype and Election Day coverage were omnipresent.  For the American election of Barack Obama, the campaign, the debates, the hype and Election Day coverage were also omnipresent – and I live in Paris, France, not Paris, Texas.  Why the French follow the US Election almost as closely as their own is beyond me.  I was just happy to be able watch it live from this side of the pond.

Declaration of Love
As I listened to President Obama’s acceptance speech and heard the words “love”, “family”, “spirit”, “hope”, “God”, I thought about the wonderful differences between France and the US and started smiling away as I imagined President Hollande accepting his new job using the same buzz words – especially the love buzz. Barack made a public

Obama and his family – up close and personal.

declaration of love for his wife, Michele Obama.  He said he wouldn’t be the man he is today without her.  He even said how proud he was that America had fallen in love with her too during these past four years.  The President mentioned family as well – his view that Americans are all one, big American family.

Stand By Your Man – Maybe
As an American, this habit of using one’s wife as part of the political platform didn’t surprise me.  But, in the French mindset, that just wouldn’t happen.  I saw flashes of all of Mr. Hollande’s women during his candidacy, but they were always in the background, not in the forefront.  And, since Mr. Hollande is not married, and his girlfriend tends to be outspoken in a bad way, he would just not “go there.”  In France, the wives and/or

Here’s the French President’s girlfriend, close but not too close.

girlfriends of politicians are not running for office with them.  No one cares what happens behind closed Presidential doors.  This is so NOT true in the US where the wrong companion choice can make or break a candidate.

Family Guys
Calling the nation an “American family” may sound a bit corny but it did get a huge round of applause from the public at Obama’s acceptance speech.  I cannot even imagine the President of France addressing his constituents as a “French family” – it would seem ludicrous to the Parisians.  Such a remark might be greeted with shouts and tomatoes.  French families are blood-related, not ballot-related – no exceptions.
One interesting thing I noticed as I re-read Hollande’s acceptance speech is that there is a bit of flag-waving (but no French flag pin on his lapel) as he says, “we are just not any nation on this planet, or this world, We are France.”  He had also mentioned that all of Europe was watching the results of the French elections – for Obama, of course, it was the whole world (but who’s counting?)

Happy Endings
The difference in the endings of the speeches was striking, even if predictable. I think Obama was really over the top with “Together with your help and God’s grace we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on Earth.  Thank you, America. God bless you. God bless these United States.”  I mean seriously, “the greatest nation on Earth?”  Now who says the French are arrogant?
However, I re-read Hollande’s last words and noticed they centered on serving his country; enforcing the values that were made clear by his election.  The French President emphasized that these values will be heard all over France, Europe and the World.  And then he repeated the traditional “Vive la République et vive la France !”  It was a bit boastful, as close to patriotism as a Frenchman can get but subtle compared to Obama’s declaration.
Divine Separation
There was no mention of God, since there couldn’t be – one of France’s cornerstone values is the separation of Church and State.  They actually enforce that belief in their political system.
The political roller coaster ride on both sides of the Atlantic is over for now.  It’s funny how wives, girlfriends, family, flag-waving and God can be such relative matters in a Presidential election.  That’s why I say, “Vive la Difference.”

Paris Hosts a Creative Condom Competition

Rubber Art
Last year I had fun writing my blog about “The Best Baguette” contest in Paris – but that was last year.  This year, I found another contest, “Paris Condom Creation” which is so much more exciting!  That’s right; the city of Paris has launched a graphic challenge to find an inspiring design for the packaging of the 35,000 rubbers that it will distribute for free in 2013.  The official objective of this competition is to incite young people to enjoy “sexuality without risk”.  I think that the unofficial objective is to incite young people to enjoy sexuality – period.  Remember, we are talking about Paris.

Rules of the Game
The contestants are to create the pouch, packet or envelope that will house the condom; not the condom itself.  Since this is definitely a “young” contest (you have to be at

Calling all Condom Creators

least 16 to enter), the contest is an electronic one which uses a facebook application both for contest submission and voting.  The deadline for submission was November 2nd, but there’s still time to vote for your rubber wrapper until November 9th.   Voters count of course; but there is also a jury of 10 professionals who will ultimately pick the arousing winner.

The Winner Does Not Take All
Even though I think the contest is an amusing idea, the prize for the Best Rubber Wrapper is really not that motivating.  The winner gets a 3rd generation iPad and that’s it.  That seems a bit “short” for an original sex-a-sketch.  The 2nd and 3rd prize winners, however, get a year’s supply of condoms.  Give yourself a minute and take a guess at how many that would be (remember, I’m talking about Paris).  This official number comes from the Harris Interactive Institute.  Ready?  Well, the number is 120 – that’s right; the average number of times a Parisian makes loves during one year is one hundred and twenty times.  Do the math – there’s nothing average about that number.

France’s Got Talent
I took a virtual tour of some of the entries and couldn’t help but crack a smile over a few of these “Pocket Picasso’s”.  My third-place favorite was a facebook “I Like” thumb covered by a condom.  Second-place for me was one in English – the slogan “Sex We Can” drawn on a hot-pink heart.  But the one I really prefer is entitled “Orgasm Donor” – short, sweet and to the point.
The “Paris Condom Creation” contest is a whimsical, amusing way of approaching the serious subject of safe sex.  I like the idea but somehow, I just don’t think it would fly in the US.  I was thinking about my native city of Boston, Massachusetts and trying to imagine Boston City Hall giving away anything that has to do with sex and/or sponsoring a sexual-related contest that 16 year olds can enter!  That would be a “cold day in hell” as my Aunt Harriet used to say.

Inspired by Bread
I also wondered how the winning artist would incorporate this coveted condom packet in his portfolio.  Would he include the whole thing or just the sex-a-sketch?  Would he collect empty packets from all over Paris to show how much his artwork was appreciated?  Would he exhibit a framed condom wrapper in his high school’s Art Show?  Would he sign autographs?  How exactly?
Anyway, since I am having so much fun, let me tell you about my idea for a condom pocket creation.  It’s actually a combination of two of my favorite blogs:  this one and last year’s best baguette in Paris blog.  I would put a baguette and a rubber together – are you getting the gist of this idea?  Then I could call my design “inbreadwiththefrench”!
Too bad the Paris Condom Creation contest deadline has passed – oh well, there’s always next year.

Office Erotica – Frenchie Shades of Grey

A Different Kind of Monday

I never, in my wildest dreams, could have imagined that the coffee break conversation at work (on a Monday morning no less), would center on erotica. The week was slowly getting underway – at this point we usually talk about sports, movies or politics – or the actual work that needs to get done during the current week.  So I was a bit surprised when one of my male colleagues, with a snicker of anticipation on his face, asked for my opinion on handcuffs.

I Got the Hint
I knew what he was talking about immediately.  The modern-day erotic trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey” had already hit unprecedented popularity in the US.  The French edition made front page news – they all must have read the same newspaper on the subway on their way to the office.  So there was a simple explanation.
Jean-Jacques actually brought out the newspaper so everyone could see.  He showed us the handcuffs; I mean the picture of the handcuffs.
“You Americans are real masters of porn,” he said.  It’s funny because you’re all so repressed sexually – can’t even go topless at the beach.”

The Proof is in the Spelling
“E.L. James, the author, is British, not American,” I said.  “You can tell by the spelling of the word grey in the title.  It’s the UK spelling.”
“I bet you already read it then,” he said.

Grey – with an E

“A little bit, I read it over a lady’s shoulder on my flight from New York to Paris a couple of weeks ago.  I read something about a blindfold too – is that what you’re getting your wife for Christmas?”, I joked.

Blindfolds and Bragging
The four male colleagues all laughed and bragged that their wives didn’t need blindfolds or handcuffs.  French men know what a woman wants but, if their partners did express a desire to be bound to the bed post, that wouldn’t be a problem.  The French lover aims to please.  Jean-Jacques offered us all a second cup of coffee so that we could have time to continue this conversation.  No one was in a hurry to go back to their desk.
“What about toys?  Would you use sex toys too?”, I asked.
“Of course!  No problem with anything our lady desires.”
“How about a three-way?”
“This country invented the “ménage a trois” before you were even born!  Before your country was even born!”

Proud of Being French
We then got into a general discussion of whether or not this book would be a success in France.   My four colleagues all participated in the debate.  (They are usually very quiet, almost docile when they’re sitting in front of their computers.  Sometimes I jokingly pinch them as I walk by to make sure they’re still breathing.  I didn’t have to pinch anyone this lively Monday morning.)
They talked about Brigitte Bardot, the 1974 French erotic film, “Emmanuelle” and the swinging “free sex” clubs that are all over Paris.  In the end, these guys all agreed that that “Fifty Shades of Gray” wouldn’t do as well in France as it has in the USA simply because there is no need for it.  Their collective opinion was that French women were sexually satisfied – thanks to them.

A Friendly Wager
I didn’t believe them.  But, instead of saying that out loud and damaging any fragile male egos, I challenged that premise with a wait-and-see attitude and a little friendly wager.  I suggested that we go review this same topic four weeks from now and see how the French version of “Fifty Shades of Grey” is doing.  If it is as successful as they assured me it would NOT be, they lose and I win.
“OK,” agreed Jean-Jacques, “what happens if we lose?”
“That’s easy,” I said.  “If you guys lose, you all have to buy the book for your wives – just think of it as marriage insurance.”
“And if we win?” they collectively asked.
“I’ll buy you all coffee – and an extra set of handcuffs.”
I’ll let all you readers know in a month how this works out.  I hope they lose since I have no idea where to buy handcuffs in Paris!

Working Out in Paris – Physical Fitness with an Attitude

Attitude with a capital A

Attitude, attitude, attitude – the French sometimes have so much attitude that it can show up where you least expect it.  This week I found it in a Pilates class in Paris (absolutely not kidding).  It was not directed at me so I could handle it.  I just stretched back; watched the show and helped to console the victim in the dressing room after the lesson.

Educating Sue

The French Pilates teacher, who I will call Isabelle (not her real name) was the one with the attitude and, during our Saturday morning class, she subjected a confused American student to what could be seen as public derision and humiliation.  The woman, Sue (also not her real name) was in her forties (this was an adult Pilates class) and she mentioned at the beginning of the hour that she had not done any physical exercise for the past two months.  I think that’s all Isabelle needed to hear.  She got ready to “focus” on Sue and focus she did.

Now, it is the teacher’s job to correct her students during the Pilates mat exercises.  I am not denying that.  She has to watch them and ensure they are performing the exercises correctly.  However, she can choose to correct her students in a positive way by using encouraging, helpful comments.  Well, Isabelle was light years away from “positive”.  I’ll show you what I mean.

The scene of the “attitude”.

Focus, focus, focus

All the following remarks were directed at Sue.  For some inexplicable reason, she left the rest of the class alone – I was happy about that.

“I said exhale, not inhale – you do understand French, don’t you?”

“Did you forget everything I taught you?  Come on, get with it, this isn’t your first class.”

“The knee should be pointing toward the ceiling; you are really not listening to me today – if you don’t listen you might as well stay home.”

At one point Isabelle even told the rest of us to relax and stop our exercises for a few minutes as she twisted and turned Sue’s body into a Pilates pretzel.  I couldn’t bear to watch.  I just listened to  Sue’s tormented sighs and wondered why she didn’t just get up and leave the class.

Words Hurt

When Isabelle talked to Sue, there was a “tone” in her voice.  It reminded me of my fourth grade teacher, Sister Mary Humilitas.  She spoke with a vocal, demeaning, parochial school-like snarl.  This scene also brought back memories of endless bi-lingual arguments with my French ex-husband.  I was constantly repeating, “It’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it.”  He never understood what I meant and I’m sure that Isabelle wouldn’t understand either.

Later, in the dressing room, Sue and I, the only Americans in the class, talked about it. Sue asked me, “She was on my case today, don’t you think?  I just wanted to come and relax and start to get back into shape after vacation.  A little positive reinforcement would have been nice.  I don’t like paying so much money to get yelled at.”

“I know.  She did that to me for a while too.  I think she’s afraid to be nasty to the French students and only hassles foreigners.”

Just then a French lady came into the changing room.

Two Sides to Every Fitness Story

“Ah Sue, you were so lucky today.  Isabelle gave you so much attention.  I think you are her favorite student.  I am jealous.”

Sue and I looked at each other and laughed.  There it was again, another cultural difference rearing its ugly head.  What we Americans interpreted as a negative action, the French saw as a positive one – and were even jealous of it.  Just another example of how everything is relative – even attitude.


Mitt Romney and the French Dis-Connection

Presidential Dis-Connection

The US presidential campaign is blowing over to the European side of the pond bringing with it a recurring theme that I can no longer ignore – the French Dis-Connection. It seems that a candidate’s ability to speak French is seen (once again) as a slimy, unpatriotic and subversive act.  John Kerry got tons of negative publicity for being schooled in this romantic language back in 2004 when he lost to George W. Bush.  Maybe that’s why Mitt Romney, who is really into singing his own praises at this point, is not singing a French song.  He never lets France come up in the conversation.  He never talks about speaking about the fact that he speaks French; likes France and even spent some time in France.  I wonder why.

Even back in February of this year, during the Republican primaries, Newt Gingrich, one of the more-famous “losers”, paid for an ad calling Romney all sorts of unfavorable names, but left the best for the end with the phrase, “Romney speaks French, just like John Kerry.”  The ad then flashed to John Kerry giving a speech which concludes with the French (actually, Cajun) phrase, “Laissez les bon temps rouler”, or “Let the Good Times Roll.”  There’s a bit of political justice in there since Gingrich’s “good times” ended quite abruptly – in English and in French.

Parlez-Vous Francais?  Mais Non!

Why would speaking a foreign language be a reason not to vote for someone? Is it any language or is it the French?  And why would having a good relationship with a foreign country and appreciating its different culture and way of doing things be seen as a political handicap?  I was brought up to believe that speaking foreign languages was a sign of intelligence.  Do we not want an intelligent President?

I investigated a bit and found out that Mitt is refusing to speak French on camera.  He is making a conscious effort to downplay the darker, “parlez-vous” side of his life.  Back in the winter, he is even accusing Obama of “cozying up to Europe and ignoring American values” – another example of vagueness that tries to equate Europe with socialism, the antithesis of what America stands for.  However, whether he wants to admit it or not, Mitt does have a strong, personal attachment to France.  Let me tell you about it.

Mitt on a Mission    

From 1966–68, Mitt Romney spent 30 months in France (that’s right, 2 and a half years!) on a proselytizing mission for the Mormon Church.  This missionary assignment gave him a deferment from serving active duty in Vietnam.  So, as you can see, while he was converting souls in France, France was giving him an excuse for his own military

Mitt Romney doing his own private “tour de France” during the Vietnam war.

salvation (a win-win operation).  His team was responsible for 200 Mormon baptisms while he was in France – that means about nine conversions a month, not a bad track record for a 21 year old.  (He probably would have converted more Frenchmen in Bordeaux if the Mormon religion allowed its members to drink red wine.)

France was important in Mitt Romney’s life – something to acknowledge and not hide from, right?   Really, who cares if he speaks French or not?   Some Americans dislike the French, but some actually honor them.  A case in point is this year’s Golden Globe awards.  The movie “The Artist” won for best film and best actor.  And that’s a French movie with a French movie star – ah, but I forgot, it’s a silent movie.  The actor doesn’t speak French; he doesn’t speak anything.  Just like Mitt Romney

The Supremacy of the French Lover – Fact or Fiction?

Romantic Priorities    

I was thinking about tackling the “Journee de Patrimoine” for my topic today (the day when French people get to visit national monuments that are usually closed to the public) but I decided to go with a different kind of French legacy, the romantic kind.  I got to thinking about why the French have a global reputation for being the best lovers on the planet.  I had a  discussion (somewhat heated)  with French friends, men and women alike and came up with a list of reasons why that reputation just might be well-deserved. Food for tender thought.

1.  The French Lover is a gentleman.  You could even call him gallant, chivalrous.  He knows how to flatter his partner.  He might not open the car door, but he will probably pay for dinner, the first dinner that is.  What happens later is, well, up to you.

2.  He cooks – with love.  The Frenchie cooks because he loves to, not out of obligation.  It seems that watching your apron-clad French boyfriend get all happy and excited in the kitchen is a real turn-on.  I don’t know if watching you do the dishes is as exciting.   In any case, at least you won’t go to bed hungry.

3.  He kisses – a lot.  The name, “French kiss” is no accident.  It seems that the French lover beats all European records for kissing duration.  And, don’t forget, almost everyone here kisses to say hello, goodbye and lots of other things in between.  Heck, it’s almost a national sport.

Kisses galore

4.  He knows how to dress.  Yes, clothes do make the man.  And the devil is in the details as you can see by the Frenchman’s shoes.  Even if he is dressed in jeans, the jeans are ironed with a crease down the middle and the shoes are gorgeous.  In a suit and tie, everything matches with a subtle, gracious taste.  He’s got style, a very seductive style.

5.  He doesn’t need Viagra.  Why take Viagra when France has more than 365 cheeses?  It seems that smelly, unpasteurized French cheese acts like an erotic booster shot.  Experts recommend the super-strong ones such as Roquefort or Gorgonzola.  They say cheese stimulates endorphins and encourages couples to couple (after brushing, I imagine).

6.  He likes older women.  I’m not speaking about cougars here; it’s just that French lovers appreciate sexual maturity.  Supposedly, they are still attracted to their partners as they get older – comparing them to wines that get better (not older) with age.

7.  He enjoys culture.  Your French boyfriend does not have to be coerced enhancing his cultural intelligence by visiting a museum or two, he actually likes it.  If not, Paris itself is a living museum with plenty of exciting nude statues and beautiful artwork everywhere.  Not to mention bridges, towers and other national monuments that are the perfect backdrop for a romantic kiss in the moon (or sun) light.

8.  He will say “Je t’aime” (“I love you”).  He will also call you “ma cherie”, “mon amour” or other lovely French romantic nicknames.  If he does stick to English ones, saying “darling” with a French accent is a real winner.

No Romance in Numbers

I could have gone into statistics in this article – you know writing about how many times the French “do it” compared to other countries, but there’s nothing romantic about numbers. Let’s keep the romance in the cheesy kisses and chocolate – and let’s keep it in France.

Tasting Tips for the French Wine Connoisseur Wannabe

Tilt and Swirl – Gently, very gently

A Fair Paris Tradition     

Now that parents have depleted their school supply budget and the kids are safely back in their respective institutions, the Parisians are ready to party.  The first sign of this is the hype for the traditional “Foire aux Vins”, or “Wine Fair” which starts in mid-September and lasts for two weeks.  There are wine tastings everywhere – private homes (beats a Tupperware party), supermarket retailers, wine store chains and farmers’ markets (my favorite).  A wine consumer really gets to consume before they buy at this time of year.  It could be overwhelming for those of you who aren’t used to the many facets of wine. So, here are some tips for the wine-tasting neophyte.
1.    Look before you leap – Take a good look at the wine you have poured into that glass; observe and enjoy its color.  Look beyond the usual suspects of red, white or pink.  Is it ruby, maroon, purple or brownish?  For white wines, is it pale, yellow, golden, straw-colored? Is it opaque, cloudy, translucent?
2.    Tilt and Swirl – Tilt your glass slightly and give that wine a gentle swirl.  Look for traces of sediment, which is a sign of an aged wine.  Older reds might have more of an orangey tinge on the outside as you swirl; older whites would be darker.  The swirling aerates the wine, which will release its aroma.  The secret of the perfect swirl?  Be gentle and don’t stand near anyone who is wearing white.
3.    Smell and Sigh – Well, maybe, just smell.  The aroma of the wine will conjure up fruity memories of raspberry, blackberry, gooseberry or black current.  You might also smell vanilla, oak or citrus.  Enjoy it – smell once, smell twice.  Your nose will remember.
4.    Taste and Savour – Now, taste the wine, really taste it.  Remember, you drink water but you taste wine.  So, take your time.  If the wine doesn’t stay long enough in your mouth, you cannot appreciate its magnitude.  Sip it first, letting the wine spread across your tongue.  Swish it from front to back and side to side before finally swallowing. Let its acidity, tannin and depth explode in your mouth.  And let it linger.
5.    After-taste – Once you have imbibed the wine, it’s time to pay attention to how long it lingers.  Can you still taste it on the back of your mouth or throat?  Is the taste sweet, acidic?  Like butter, fruit, flower or oak? Do you like it?  Do you want more?
6.    Discover your preferences – There is no wine that satisfies everyone’s palate so it’s to time to pay attention to yours.  Know what you like.  Tastes can vary from fruit, leather, wood, spices, nuts, vanilla or any combination of these.  Pick your favorite flavor from the wonderful range of options.
7.    Write and remember – I can’t tell you how many times I have tasted a wonderful wine only to forget its name the morning after.  So, keep a paper and pen handy when you embark on your wine-tasting adventure and write down the ones that you liked and want to buy again and again.
8.    Buy It – The Wine Fair in France in September is a great time to buy – in wine store chains or even in huge supermarkets such as Carrefour or Auchan.  At a supermarket, you might not be able to taste everything you would like to so here’s a little hint.  Buy a bottle that you think would be a good bargain; drink it the same day.  If you like it, go back and get a case or two before they all sell out.  Have a party or get a wine cellar.  Whatever you do, enjoy it.  Wine and dine your lover, family or friends – or yourself.  You know you’re worth it!