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Monday, December 27, 2004

French Diary

Fine Parambaloth has been in France, and in his usual careful and sensitive study of the sorroundings, wrote this

1. June 1998

I am staying at a 3* french hotel "NOVOTEL" untill the apartment becomes ready which is expected by first of July. The hotel is quite good, but my colleagues are finding it difficult to get vegetarian food. In france, all the people eat non-veg. In our hotel restaurant, there is not even a single dish that is purely veg. So we found out an Indian restaurant. Infact it is a pakistani restaurant, but they always advertise as Indian restaurant since it is more popular. It is half an hour walk from our hotel, but we have made it a routine to walkdown around 7:30pm to this restaurant for the dinner.
In france, you can't get anything done without french. The other day we went to the McDonalds, they don't speak english. We went to a video cassette shop and enquired whether we can hire VCR from there. The lady there took us in and showed us the cassettes instead of the VCR. Then I took her ( almost dragged ! ) to the VCR and tried to explain using sign language. Soon I realized that India did NOT loose a great actor just because I chose engineering as my profession.

In office, we have a french guy in our group who speaks english reasonably well. He has become sort of "facilities manager" for us. He takes us to the bank, to the doctor, to the apartment etc. so that we do not have communication problem.

When the french enter the office, they go to everyone in the room, wish "bonjour (good morning)", and shake hands. So early in the morning, you need to shake hands with so many people.

The book on France which I bought from bangalore says friends in france kiss each other four times - two on each cheek. So the first thing I have to do is to get friendly with a girl which will automatically confer the right to kiss her ( ok, only on the cheek). But I am yet to find any friendly ones.

The tele-media seem to be unrestricted here. Some channels show steamy programmes in the night, some movies that can be categorised as 2X ( I suppose ) are also shown.

The weather is quite pleasant now. No need to wear any woollen at the moment.

I went for "pin bawling" once with my colleagues here. It cost me a lot (as per the indian standards) but was interesting. I gave a very poor start, but soon learned the technique and ended up with second place in the third round. To mingle with the people here, we need to go around with them like this, but the impact on purse is also very high !

We have asked for french lessons. It may start within a couple of weeks.

I am all set to take a plunge into the french culture !!!

2. June 1998

This time I would like to tell you about "The French".

I am really happy to write about them since they are very very nice people and Indians will almost feel at home with them. Since I have worked with the British, I can clearly tell the difference. The British are more independant and would always like to keep a distance from everyone else. But the French are like Indians, there is a great closeness between people. They are very helpful and very friendly.

The French do not like the Brits. Our project leader is a Brit. When we go to lunch with the French, the french and the brit will keep pulling each others leg thru various statements ( eventhough in a light spirit). Once I commented that french food is much better than the British food. The French did not waste that opportunity to declare "The Brits do not know how to cook". Also the French were very happy at the British defeats at the World Cup.

In office, I have noticed many French people using the same dress up to one week. And (infrequently) people pee on the road sides which I have not seen in UK.

When France won the world cup, all the people were honking and going around the city in the middle of the night so that we could not sleep properly.

One of the marketing managers had visited India some time back and he spoke about India in a very excited manner to us. He liked India too much and when he landed back in France he really missed something. A very nice person.

The french work long hours in office but like Indians, they waste some time, chatting and celebrating parties during office time. In our group, every friday, one member has to buy "Croissant" ( a `puffs' sort of thing) to everyone else. Birthdays and first salaries are celebrated with Wine, Cider, Cake etc. in Office itself.

At the lunch table, if a French lifts the jug containing water, he will ask everyone at the table if they would like some water, fill their glasses and only then will serve water for himself.

In office, when a French enters a room in the morning, he goes to everyone else in the room to personally wish "Bonjour" (good morning) and shake hands. The problem with these courtseys is that we have to follow the same ! So in canteen, usually I wait for someone else to lift the water-jug.

My French Lessons
I have started taking French lessons. It was a lot of fun. Our teacher is a Canadian Lady. Her intention is to talk only french in the class but many times she has to revert back to English to make us understand. We are doing a basic course to learn "survival french" without which we can not survive in france. I am planning to buy a voice activated dictation machine, record the class and listen to it later at home. I found that this walkman-sort-of equipment is cheaper in UK. So some one will buy one for me in UK and send it to France thru one of our managers who frequently cross the English Channel.

Lot more coming up in next volume ....

3. July 1998

Food in France: Looks like french people have not heard of "vegetarian" food. That makes the life of vegetatians really hard in France. Even if you tell them you are a vegetarian, they will offer you ham etc. According to one of my french colleagues, they eat anything that is alive. The only consolation for vegetarians is the well known "french fries". But don't expect to get it just like that. You have to ask for "frites" instead.

In my office canteen, sometimes the main food is omlette. But they make omlette with cooked fish or meat or sausage in it ! So even eggitarian's will find it difficult to manage.

Today I ate Rabbit for lunch in our office canteen. Some of my french colleagues were commenting that one can not tell the difference between rabbit meat and a cat's meat and so it could be cat that I am eating! . When I was staying at the hotel during my initial days in france, I tried a chop of veal. I did not like it but rabbit was ok with me. In the nearest supermarket here, they display live crabs and lobsters in a glass tank. The crabs available here are really big.

My french colleagues told me I can get "frog" in some restaurants. My project leader has eaten "scorpion" during his visit to china. I am not interested in scorpions but would like to try frogs and snake.

Don't frown !!!

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