Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Good, The Bad, and The Very Ugly.

Dear Madame K,

Just love your blog! I'm reading a book on cultural misunderstandings, written by a French anthropologist, and was wondering if you could share your overall insights into the Good, the Bad, and Ugly of adjusting to French culture in one encompassing list ( well, you know what I mean?). I've got this thing about France and the French way of life seems so inviting.

Thanks a bunch,

Janet Jackson

Dear Janet Jackson,

I started to reply to your question, but then realized that it was turning into a short memoire of my years in France. There is no way to compile all that experience, observation, and analysis into one list. I’m starting to think that perhaps me mum is right. I should write a book.
So instead I’ve just narrowed it down to the basics:

The Good:

I’ve thought about this one really hard and the only ‘good’ thing I can think of in terms of adjusting to French culture is well, the food. Oh and let’s not forget the wine. It’s no secret that I’m a Foodie, but I certainly didn’t start out in life that way. For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in the Midwest. Des Moines, Iowa is not exactly a food culture hot spot unless you consider a jumbo corndog to be a gourmet dish. It wasn’t until I moved to France that my love affair with food began. Especially with cakes. I’m not much of a cheese fan, but oh pastries, how I adore thine elegantly crusty texture and long to take thy fluffy cream into my mouth. Yep, cake porn.

Anyway, I could go on and on about how much I love French food and how cool it is that you can get ripped at lunch on a bottle of wine and nobody threatens to send you to an AA meeting, but before you get all carried away, I’ll leave you with this bit of tragic info. Since moving to France, I have gained 50 pounds. So, there ya go. Everything comes with a price.

The Bad:

Again, it’s hard to make a list, so I’ll just tell you a bit about my struggles during my first year in France---because the first year is the hardest. First and foremost unless you are exceptionally talented with languages, you will be confused and overwhelmed in the midst of all those irregular verbs and all those nonsensical clever French expressions. And you will be humbled time and time again by those who are inpatient with your weak language skills.

When you are finally able to understand and speak a bit of French, guess what?---- sucks for you because all of your friends live back in (insert-name-of-your-home-town-here) and thus you have nobody to talk to anyway. You will try to make French friends but instead you will end up hanging out with just about any Anglophone Ex-pat you can find because in general French people really aren’t all that interested in making new friends, especially with people who barely speak French.

The Ugly:

According to the Wikipedia Gods, France has been a world famous center of global fashion since the 17th century. But nowhere in this wikipedia article do they mention the persistant ugliness that is Euro-Trash.

So there you have it. Have I convinced you to move to France yet?

You see, Janet Jackson, If I ever did make that all encompassing list, I'm afraid it wouldn't make a pretty picture of this here country. I love France, or maybe that's too strong of a word. Let's just say I'm OK with it. Even after almost 6 years, there isn't a day that goes by where I don't feel like a complete an total outsider. I have been "Frenchified" in so many ways that even I am astounded, yet I am who I am, and God help me, I think I'll always be more American than anything else, and day by day I'm becoming very OK with that fact.

I really do love corndogs.

I'm always cautious when it comes to answering questions about transitioning into French culture. I think it's such an individual thing. Some have a harder time than others, but nobody finds it to be easy. You can ask any ex-pat living in France if they think of France as being an "inviting" culture to try to integrate into and I think you'd be hard pressed to find any who would use that term.

Hope I didn't rain too much on your parade.

Madame K

Have a question you’d like me to rant about? Send your question to: Madamek at ymail dot com.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Ok, so just yesterday I mentioned how I'm having trouble coming up with "new material" as it were, and then all of a sudden it became obvious what I should do.

At least twice a week I get e-mails from peoplez asking for information or advice about France, or just asking for an opinion about something. Whenever I actually have the time I reply to individual e-mails and I find myself answering alot of the same questions over and over again. Now, I truly don't mind this, but I was thinking---wouldn't it be more efficient and way more cool if instead of that info just going out to individual peoplez, I re-posted it here for everyone to benefit from?

Talkin' Turkey

OK, so here's how it works: Email your question to me at madamek(at)ymail(dot)com, and not only will I reply to you personally, but I will post your question and answer here on the blog as well. I promise promise promise that I will not reprint your personal information unless you beg me to, or you want me to link to your blog.

So come on, ask away. It doesn't even have to be France related! (Although questions about my opinions on France are always welcome because they inspire the best rants.) You know you have questions you've been dying to ask. Like haven't you ever wondered where I bought my shoes, or what my favorite cheese is?

So join the fun by giving in to your not-so-hidden voyeuristic tendencies. I mean, What's the point of having the internet if you can't blog stalk people?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Not Exactly a blog-athon.

You may have noticed that I haven't been around lately. Uhm, thats mostly because I haven't really been up to much. OK, that's not exactly true, but unless y'all wanna hear about how much fun I had rearranging my bookshelves on Friday or how crappy I am at playing guitar, well, there isn't much to say except...

I love summer! Althought the weather here lately has been dreadful, it still feels like summer, and that means long lazy days. Aaah sooo good!

After the month of May where I was pretty much all over the place, hopping from country to country, June has been a month of total relaxation. I haven't been doing much. June has been all about spring cleaning, playing my guitar, and resting my brain so I can get ready to start making some new artwork within the next few weeks.

Normally, I'm one of those super organized control-freak types who sets up entire time-lines and agendas for even the smallest of tasks, but a few days of sunlight combined with a few cocktails and I've managed to completely short-circuit that system of thinking. At this very moment my life philosophy is "Eh, Whatever." I half-heartedly make my to-do lists knowing full well that I no longer feel beholden to them, and I never beat myself up when at the end of the day less than half of the tasks are completed. Two months ago this would have whipped me into a frenzy, but today---I can't be bothered.

But I did find this little gem to share with you:

Butt Overflow Kit

We were at Castorama (French version of "Home Depot") Saturday and I wandered down an aisle and saw this. So my question is---since it's titled in English, did they do this as a joke?
Uhm, dude, what were they thinking?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Frickin Oooouch!

Well friends, I just got home from my first guitar lesson and well, I’m having a really hard time typing this post because…..MY FRICKIN FINGERS ARE BLEEDING. What kills me is that not one of you dear readers warned me about how badly it would hurt. To make matters worse, my guitar is heavy as shit and is twice as big as my teacher’s guitar. You know that guitar case I bought for it 6 months ago and then promptly threw on a shelf in the garage? The damn guitar won’t even go half way in it! I had to carry “the beast” to the lesson nude.

Question: How hard would you laugh your ass off if you saw a ‘lil black lady jump out of her fancy mom-mobile, pop open the trunk, pull out a big-ass black guitar that looks like something Johnny Cash would play, then start running down the street with it? If I had video footage of my arrival to my lesson this afternoon I would post it on YouTube so you all could enjoy it as much as I am enjoying replaying it in my head right now.

On the positive side, my teacher is fabulous and very patient with my lack of magical guitar playing ability, although I’m sure she thinks I’m mentally challenged in some way because every time I got confused I would wrinkle my face up right good, close my left eye, and just start grunting like I was constipated.

And thus goes the story of my first guitar lesson. A little bruising and lots of grunting. But still it’s better than air guitar.

With any luck, in about 6 months, I will be able to play “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” without crying or getting bloodstains on my left pant-leg.