The Little French English Improvement Project

little french person trying to improve her english, little french english person trying to improve herself, french english person trying to improve a little bit… and blogging along the way. (Now in Deutschland)

Posts Tagged ‘love’

Extreme flirting in Bavaria. Nope.

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on January 14, 2013

This article has been trotting around my brain for the past 8 months.This delay means I can now pride myself that I am sitting on months of hard empirical study, interviews, and even on occasion things said by some highly respectable  and quotable people in lecture theatres.

Let’s start with a handful of stereotypes. One could say that Italians and Spaniards are very open with their flirting, especially when young, and very apt and swift at slipping their hands on people’s backside and their tongue down people’s throat. Blame it on the hot mediterranean sun and temperament. The British, in spite of their long reputation for being timid and prudish, have spent so much time baking on the white sandy beaches of Ibiza that they have adopted a similar way of flirting. A modern english damsel out on the town will typically not be wearing very much, and will not raise her eyebrows and say “Shocking!” if she should encounter an exposed pair of gentleman’s buttocks. On the other side of the channel, we French are under a lot of pressure. Over the course of my travels I have often heard the French were supposed to be good kissers, lords of the dance(floor), and queens of hearts. Paris is ze capital of romance, sacrebleu! On a more serious note, I think we lean towards the mediterranean style, only we spend more time on the preliminaries and start kissing a little later than our spanish and italian friends.

SAVE0002As a general rule, flirting has become very physical. Better people have written better texts, essays and books about this, so I’ll not gloss over the details, however, Germany seems to be an exception. Innocent flirting is much more rare, and if there are a few tigers out there on the prowl ready for action, the rest of the German population will need much beer and time before they can loosen up and start “making a move”, or at least one that a foreigner will notice. The Germans are the first to admit this as a nation: a song was even written about the bewilderment of a french girl Aurélie, when confronted with the “subtlety” of German flirting.

Aurélie so klappt das nie
Du erwartest viel zu viel
Die Deutschen flirten sehr subtil

Meaningful stolen glances, hints that don’t seem to be followed through, invitations for coffee that may or may not have a hidden meaning… Someone has yet to explain all these codes to me. With some friends, we went to serious lengths to try and understand. We pooled our experiences, we even interviewed handsome young men in Munich (whose excuses ranged from “being more career-orientated” to “intimidated by women”), but still couldn’t come up with an acceptable answer. The scientific, student-ish part of my brain reminds me: different cultures have different codes, different ways to react to different signals. But whatever  the German “signals” are, I (and a bunch of other french lasses of my acquaintance) simply cannot see them.

However, there is something unique about the politics of flirting in Bavaria. A tradition, which, according to my heated imagination, springs from the frustration caused by the local corseted rules of relationship-building. During the night before the 1st of May, young men in Bavarian villages secretly go and erect a long-stemmed tree festooned with paper garlands under their beloved’s windowsill. A sort of extreme, cumbersome Valentine card, if you will.

Trollops get a fir tree wrapped in toilet paper.

It’s all or nothing, innit?


Posted in France, Germany, Life, Studying | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Alzheimer’s. Memories going, going,… gone.

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on February 21, 2011

I apparently live in Orsonette, a 210-strong french village, with goats. and apparently I can enter competitions with them and all sorts of things. Apparently I also have a sidekick in those thrilling activities… Who knows the depth and complexities of this fleeting other life. Certainly not I, nor my grandmother probably, though she is the only one who ever mentioned it to me. And to think that only a couple of years ago, she referred to me exclusively as “the one who travels around Europe”. My life with prize-goats in Orsonette seems a far stretch from there…But most days my face doesn’t bring out anything in her at all, no reaction, just a quizzical look as I walk to her : what can this young woman want? Is she coming towards me? I do believe she is, let’s smile. Hullo? Who can this be? It’s hard to imagine what is going on in her head. Like many people in the French countryside, she was always very private. So now that she is lost in the meanders of her memory, it has become completely impossible to read what goes on behind her clouded eyes. Confusion, mostly, but sometimes flashes of recognition. Judging by the Orsonnette goatherd comment though, these can be off target. At least it makes for conversation and good jokes.

But in spite of those bright, funny, odd little moments, I miss my grandma. And I can’t help but regret I never got to know her any better. From what I’ve been told, she was an amazing person, full of recipes and songs and stories and anecdotes waiting to be teased out. A great woman, who had lived through so much, supporting a family, raising four sons… I often get the impression she was the one to make people feel welcome in what was certainly a bit of a gruff family.  These days someone comes every now and again to ask my grandad about his life and memories, who he was, what he did, who he met… I bet a few years ago my grandma would have had so much to say on the subject. She was very discreet but always there, and she herself was involved into quite a lot of things: the parish, a local school…

I guess I always took her for granted; when I was small she was someone to go to for pain d’épices or clafoutis aux cerises. Her cakes were always slightly burnt round the edges, but so very nice with a bowl of hot chocolate after school. It was always her I went to see. Papy with his rough french farmer’s manners and his mayor importance, was a lot more intimidating. Plus grandma was often engaged in what seemed like unusual and exciting activities: sewing on buttons and drying up all sorts of herbs for tisanes (herbal teas)… She taught me half a dozen times how to knit and crochet. We are so lucky to have had our grandparents around as we were growing up, they literally lived next door (Papy still does), and they were always there when we needed them. I remember when Mam was away on a school trip, it was grandma who came and got us up in the morning and madesure we had some breakfast and were ready for school. For some reason, I always associate her with sweet things: hot chocolate, honey… I really miss that grandma, and I miss the grandma I never really got to know: by the time I was grown up enough to have adult conversations, she was already slowly sinking into oblivion.

And now we go and visit her in her special home and make pretend conversation until she rallies and drops in a sentence, a joke, a random comment on my life with goats in Orsonette, and we have a laugh and everyone is cheerful for a minute or two. But when we leave her to her dinner and go back home, her home, her mother’s house which she couldn’t ever recognise again, I can’t help a little twinge of sadness. Because I miss having my Grandma Challet around, Marguerite, Guite, Chef.

Grandma in her garden

Grandma in her garden

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The good friend gene: am I doomed to remain single for EVER?

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on January 16, 2011

Like any girl I am always on the prowl, keeping my eyes open for Mr Perfect, Mr Prince Charming, or maybe even just some guy. As it happens, my life is full of very handsome, charming young men who unfortunately are just not interested in me. Well they are, but not “like that”. They like me very much, they love talking to me, I am their confidante even, but they “don’t think of me that way”. In fact: “Let’s just be friends”.


Had I had this sort of conversation only once, it would not be so much of a problem, but when you reach your tenth or eleventh relegation to the friendship zone, you may start to wonder: could it be something to do with me? Do I emit some sort of “friendship” hormone which makes every one of my male acquaintances describe me as nice? Oh yes I am nice enough. Too nice for my own good even. So nice that I will swallow back my feelings when, out of the blue, you start asking me for advice about how to reclaim the heart of your ex-girlfriend (incidentally -and you know who you are-, that really hurts). But why? Why? WHY is it?

Since I have spent the past two weeks producing essays in the ultra-organised-french-essay-writing fashion, I will build my argument and analysis around three major aspects, each step of my reasoning separated into paragraphs (preferably three, each corresponding to one specific idea, with a pertinent example to illustrate it).

Naaaah, only kidding, can’t be bothered; I’ll just carry on ranting instead. Pondering the possible reasons for this curse:

Is it something about french men? Am I too boringly gallic for them? Should i go back to Germany and have all those teutonic blond young men fall for my “süßes, sexy, französiches Akzent”? Am I too nice? I have spent years shaking off my previous defining adjective: “sweet”, only to have this other one stuck to me like a label on a jam jar. But what would be the trick to remove a tenacious imaginary sticker? Because if it can help, I would be willing to submit myself to any metaphorical equivalent to boiling water and a brillo pad that you can come up with.

Posted in Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Of care and merit (retrospectively: what a pedantic title)

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on November 6, 2010

SO, after  a hectic week, here we are, back at home and I am ex-hau-sted. Today the adrenaline rush which had enabled me to juggle lessons, training, library shifts and hospital visits left me. It just flew away between 1 and 2 pm, while we were waiting for the ambulance. All of a sudden there was nothing left to do but wait; no more packing to do, no more papers to pick up, no more chasing after doctors, and a great big tide of weariness washed over me. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and started getting irritated and snappy at everything and anything that wasn’t to do with our leaving. I suppose we had some reason to be irritated: a nurse had told us at 12:30 that the ambulance would arrive at 13:00, so I skipped lunch, ran home, packed my stuff, ran back to the hospital, and sat there for two or three hours, waiting for stuff to happen, and watching people coming in and out of the bedroom I heard you were leaving today. Oh, you’re going home in an ambulance? When’s it coming? Ah. Three hours ago… Someone even joked  there might be  a strike… Not funny, especially not in a situation where it’s very very likely to happen.

I am fully aware that in the big picture, my family’s health issues are… maybe a bit of varnish flaking off the frame. Of course, when your nearly 20-year old baby sister  goes ill, it’s difficult to think of anything else. But the cancer-specialised wing opposite is getting extended, and other people end up in wheelchairs, or blind, or permanently invalidated in some way or other, so I am really thankful Lucile’s injuries are what they are and nothing worse.  Of course I love her very much (if you have been keeping track, you will have noticed I used this sentence a lot), and I worry about her, and am going to look after her and help her get through the next few month as well as I can.

But whenever I start veering towards gratifying thoughts such as: “what a nice sister I am”, and “phew, this is tiring!” , I feel like a wuss. Honestly.  Some people cope, somehow, with looking after one or more close members of their family being really ill and depending on them entirely. What heroes! And all this knowing full well that the situation may never get any better, if not just steadily get worse over time. My heart goes out to them. Actually, spending so much time in hospital this week has reminded me of this film: My Sister’s Keeper. Have you heard about it? I am normally not a big Cameron Diaz fan, but this film gets me EVERY time. Most of the acting in that film is so just, so absolutely accurate and right… And it stars the amazing lovely, beautiful Abigail Breslin.  I still have difficulties believing her first big role was an ugly girl. Anyways, find that film and watch it. It is amazing. A great story, really well told, well played… I could go on forever using a multitude of praising sentences, strings of positive adjectives, but you would get bored and it wouldn’t do it justice anyway.

So there. My sister is now tucked up in bed and I have a bit of time to myself. A serious student might be working when I waste precious time promoting films on my blog and chatting on msn. But that’s just me.

Posted in Family | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »