On y va! French Beach Vocabulary

These days in Paris, we’re experiencing une canicule (a heatwave). If you weren’t already thinking of heading à la plage (to the beach) for a refreshing getaway, you probably are now!

France has thousands of lovely beaches, from the sweeping golden shores found on the Atlantic Coast in places such as Bretagne (Brittany), Normandie (Normandy) and Biarritz, to the hidden coves and sparkling turquoise waters of la Mediterranée (the Mediterranean) in the South of France. The stunning island of Corse (Corsica) also offers extraordinary white sand beaches, and you’ll find amazing, plages sauvages (wild/unspoiled beaches) in the Poitou-Charente region.

If you’re really desperate for some sand-time but can’t leave Paris, there’s always Paris plage, an artificial beach created for one month every summer in the city center. This beach, which runs along the Seine, has several tons of imported sable (sand), chaises longues (beach chairs) and palmiers (palm trees), ice-cream stands, live music, and plenty of other activities. Although you’re not going to think yourself swept away to a beach in Cannes, it’s definitely worth a visit.

 French Beach Attire

If you’re going to French beach for the first time, you should there are a few things you should know – mainly about attire. Depending on where you are from, it may surprise you to see men of every age wearing tiny Speedos, and women of every age wearing tiny bikinis, and small children wearing nothing at all. In France, the body isn’t something to be hidden away in shame. It’s perfectly acceptable to wear as little as possible.

Which brings me to plages naturistes (nude beaches). You may have heard about France’s nude beaches, and it’s true that they are plentiful here. But that doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable for adults to run around tout nu (fully naked) any beach they choose. If you want to get naked on a beach, here a few tips:

  1. Research French nude beaches first. With a little Googling, it’s easy enough to find plages naturistes in any region.
  1. Observe the locals. If you’re not sure whether it’s socially acceptable to go full monty or topless, watch what the locals do. If you don’t see it, don’t do it. As a foreigner, you shouldn’t be the one to try to change the local custom.
  1. Don’t be rude. Taking pictures, staring, pointing or speaking loudly about nude beach-goers is a gross breach of etiquette. If you’ve accidentally stumbled upon a nude beach or upon the random naturiste / nudiste (nudist) and it makes you feel awkward or offended, simply go elsewhere.

 

French Beach Vocabulary

And now, here are some beach words that may come in handy during your vacances balnéaires (beach vacation).

 La sable – the sand

Les lunettes de soleil – the sunglasses

La serviette de plage – the beach towel

 

Le parasol –beach umbrella

La crème solaire – the sunscreen

Le maillot de bain – the swimsuit

Coup de soleil – sunburn

 

Le château de sable – the sandcastle

La pelle – the shovel

Le râteau – the rake

Le seau – the bucket

 

L’eau – the water

La vague – the wave

Le courant – the current

La marée haute –high tide

La marée basse –low tide

 

Un poisson – a fish

Une étoile de mer – a starfish

Une algue – algae

Un coquillage – a seashell

Une mouette (a seagulls)

 

A few useful verbs

Nager – to swim

Plonger – to dive

Prendre un bain de soleil – to sunbathe

Faire un pique-nique – to have a picnic

Faire un château de sable – to make a sand castle

 

Will you be going to a French beach this summer? Where will you go? Share with us below!


7 Polite French Phrases to Learn before Visiting Paris

 

The French – Parisians, in particular – have a reputation for being rude. But the behavior that foreigners perceive as rudeness is often the result of a cultural misunderstanding. France has its own standards of politeness and these may differ from those of your home country. In fact, when a Parisian seems rude, he or she might actually be reacting to a perceived rudeness on your part, even though in your eyes you’ve acted perfectly normally.

To avoid any such misunderstandings – and experience the best side of Parisians – learn the following 7 French phrases before visiting Paris. These phrases will show that you’re polite, respectful and have some understanding of French culture. In return, we think you’ll come to see that Parisians are much more friendly than they’re reputed to be!

  1. Bonjour – Good morning/hello

       Pronunciation: Bohn-joohr

Seems obvious, right? But many people don’t realize that “bonjour” is probably the most important phrase in the French language. In France, you should say bonjour to whenever you enter a store, restaurant, elevator, or bus (to the driver; whenever you start a conversation with a stranger (i.e., asking for direction, asking for help at a store), or when you encounter a neighbor or hotel staff. For extra points, you can say: Bonjour Monsieur/Madame/Mademoiselle.

 

  1. Excusez-moi de vous déranger = Excuse me for bothering you…

         Pronunciation: Ex-kue-zay / mwa /duh /voo /dey-rahn-zhay

If you’re asking a question or making a request of a stranger, preface your request with this phrase. Use especially if the person is engaged in another activity at the time of your request, such as talking to someone, reading, etc. You would not use this phrase with waitstaff or a salesperson at a store. In those cases you would simply say: “Excusez-moi…”

 

  1. C’est très gentil, merci = That’s very nice (of you), thank you.

Pronunciation: Say /trehay / zhawn-tee / mare-si

Use this phrase when someone does something especially nice for you. This may include giving you directions on the street, helping you (or offering to help) in some way, or giving you a compliment.

 

  1. Parlez-vous anglais? = Do you speak English?

       Pronunciation: Pahr-lay /voo / anhn-glay?

Want to get on a Parisian’s bad side? Start yammering away in English before asking whether or not he or she speaks the language. You’re in France. The national language is French. It’s what’s taught in schools. It’s what spoken at home. Many Parisians do speak English, but not everyone does. And of those that do speak English, not everyone speaks it very well. So, even if you feel in your bones that the person speaks English, just be polite and ask first. If you show this courtesy, you’re likely to get a warmer, more thoughtful response to your query.

 

  1. Desolé(e), je ne parle pas français (très bien) = I’m sorry, I don’t speak French (very well).

  Pronunciation: Deh-zo-ley / zhe /nuh /pahrl /pa/ frahn-say /(treh bee-ahn).

Another way of getting into a Parisian’s good graces is by apologizing for not being able to speak French very well. The French do not expect the entire world to speak the language. Still, it’s nice to hear someone making the effort to speak it and apologizing for not being able to do more.

 

  1. Excusez-moi, pouvez-vous me dire où est… ? = Excuse me, can you tell me where ______ is?

    Pronunciation: Poo-vey /voo /muh /dear /oo /ay…

If you need help in a store or on the street, this phrase will certainly come in handy. Of course, you’ll need to fill in the blank with the name of the place or street you’re looking for. And it’s almost always a good idea to preface the phrase with “Excusez-moi…”.

 

  1. C’était très bon = It was really good.

      Pronunciation: Say /et-tay /treh /bohn.

Get that Parisian waiter to smile by complimenting the fine meal you’ve had (if it’s deserving, of course!). Often after you’ve eaten, your server might say: “Ça a été?” meaning “How was it?” If you liked it, deliver your compliments in French and with a smile. Remember that “bon” is always used for food, never “bien”.

Is there a French phrase you’d like to use during your trip to France, but don’t know how to express it? Ask us in the comments below and we’ll get back to you!

 

 

 


Surviving the French Job Interview: Cultural & Language Tips

Looking for a job in France? If so, it’s never too early to start preparing for the job interview.

In France, as in most countries, the job interview (entretien d’embauche) is a critical opportunity to showcase your strengths and it is often the deciding factor as to whether you will win the position.

Creating a Good Impression in a French Job Interview

When it comes to making a good impression, certain things are universal. In France, just as elsewhere, it is of utmost importance that you arrive on time, that you are well-groomed and appropriately dressed, and that you’re are adequately prepared to discuss your qualifications.

That said, certain cultural issues and sensitivities  can arise in the French interview context that non-French job seekers may not be aware of. Anyone applying for a job in France should get familiar with these cultural quirks before the interview or risk sending a career-killing message to potential employer.

 

  1. Address your interviewer as Madame or Monsieur. In Anglophone countries, it’s not uncommon to use someone’s first name in a professional context, even if you’ve just met. In France, you must simply say Madame or Monsieur unless invited otherwise.

 

  1. Always use the formal “vous” never “tu In the same vein, you should always speak formally, even with people younger than you, unless the interviewer invites you to “tutoyer.” (Look here for more on “tu” and “vous” rules).

 

  1. No kisses in greeting. There’s lots of kissing in France, but not at an interview. In France, greet a potential employer with a firm handshake, not “la bise.”

 

  1. Be prepared to answer personal questions. It may come as a surprise to some non-French job applicants, particularly Americans, that it is acceptable for an employer to ask about your état civil (marital status) or whether you have children. If you’ve mentioned certain pastimes and interests (loisirs et centres d’intérêt) that you enjoy on your CV, you may expect a potential employer to ask about these.

 

  1. Cut the chit-chat. Other cultures may consider a bit of small talk acceptable at a job interview. In France, however, discussing anything other than topics relevant to the job is considered unprofessional and may even suggests that you’re not serious.

 

French Job Interview Language

No matter your industry, there are several phrases that you can reasonably anticipate hearing in a French job interview. Get familiar with these 12 phrases and prepare your responses accordingly.

• Parlez-moi de vous.

(Tell me about yourself).

 

• Quelle est votre motivation pour ce post?

(Why are you interested in this position?)

 

• Pourquoi voulez-vous travailler dans notre entreprise?

(Why do you want to work for our company?)

 

• Que savez-vous de notre société?

(What do you know of our company?)

 

•  Quelle est votre parcours professionelle?

(What is your work history?)

 

• Quelle expérience avez-vous dans ce domaine?

(What is your experience in this field?)

 

• Pourquoi pensez-vous que nous devrions vous embaucher?

(Why do you think we should we hire you?)

 

• Quelles langues parlez-vous?

(What languages do you speak?)

 

• Quel est votre niveau d’aisance en anglais ou allemand?

(What is your fluency level in English or German?)

 

•  Quels sont vos objectifs de carrière?

(What are your career objectives?)

 

•  A combien s’élevait votre ancien salaire?

(What was your former salary?)

 

• Quelles sont vos prétentions salariales?

(What do you expect your new salary to be?)

 

• Quand êtes-vous disponsible pour commencer?

(When are you available to start?)

 

Would you like to have a private French lesson in Paris to help you prepare for a French job interview? Contact us! We will design a special course tailored to your needs and industry.

 

 


Café Talk: 12 French Phrases for Hanging Out in a Parisian Café

Ah, il fait si beau! This spring, Paris is flirting with all of us by offering days and days of golden sun, bright blue skies and breezes soft as a caress.

When the weather is this lovely, it makes you want to do nothing more than settle on a café terrace with a glass of rosé and a pair of lunettes de soleil (sunglasses), and people-watch and daydream for as long as you please.

And in Paris, so many people do just that.

Here, les serveurs (the waiters) will never rush you out of a café. You may sit for hours with your laptop, a magazine or just un café (a cup of coffee). You can meet with a variety of friends over the hours or even have a French lessonAnd no one’s going to be angry or annoyed. In fact, once the staff has become familiar with you, you’ll likely be greeted with a smile and warm handshake and waved over to your favorite spot.

If you’re going to indulge in this classically Parisian pastime – and you should! –  you might as well “talk the talk.” Here are 12 key phrases of great use when hanging out in a Paris café:

 “Bonjour!” (Good morning/hello!) Whenever you enter a café, always start with this essential.

Pour manger?” (Are you here to eat?) – Approach a café around lunch or dinnertime, you’re likely to hear this question. If you’re eating, you can probably sit anywhere appropriate to the number in your party. If you just want a coffee or drink, you’ll be directed to a table that’s not been set for dining.

Juste un verre/juste un café” (Just a drink/just a cup of coffee) – If you’re not eating and would just like a drink or a cup of coffee, this is the response you’d give to the question “pour manger?”

Puis-je avoir la carte?” (May have the menu?) – Whether you’re eating or drinking, if you would like to see the café’s menu, this is the appropriate phrase. Note that “la carte” is the French word a listing of individual food and drink offerings, NOT “le menu.Le menu refers to fixed-price 2 or 3-course meals that cafés and bistros and restaurants offer daily.

“Je voudrais un café/verre de vin blanc  s’il vous plaît” (I would like a coffe/glass of white wine, etc. please.) Other common café drinks include:

  • un café (an espresso)
  • un café crème (coffee with milk/a white coffee)
  • une noisette (an espresso with a dash of milk. Although noisette means hazelnut in French, une noisette does not mean hazelnut-flavored coffee)
  • café américan (a cup of filtered coffee)
  • un déca (a decaffeinated espresso. You can also ask for a “déca crème” – a decaffeinated cafe crème)
  • jus d’orange pressé (freshly-squeezed orange juice)
  • un verre du vin rouge/blanc (a glass of red/white wine)
  • un chocolat chaud (a hot chocolate)
  • un thé glacée (an ice tea)
  • une citronnade (a lemonade – note that if you ask for a “limonade” in French,   you’ll get a Sprite or other lemon-flavored sparkling drink).
  • une bière (a beer)
  • une bière à la pression (a draft beer)
  • un demi (a quarter-liter/half-pint of beer)

“Est-ce que vous avez un accès Wifi?” (Do you have wifi?”) These days, many cafés in Paris offer free Wifi (pronounce wee-fee), but you’ll often need the password. In that case you’d ask:

Quel est le code d’accès wifi ?” (What is the password for the wifi?)

Puis-je avoir une carafe d’eau?”   This is what you’d say if you would like a bottle of tap water to accompany whatever else you’ve ordered. Note that if you ask for “une bouteillle d’eau” the waiter will think you want commercially bottled water and may ask: plat ou pétillant? (Flat or sparkling?)

Est-ce que vous avez des glaçons?” (Do you have ice cubes?) Americans are accustomed to being served water with ice, but in France this is not at all the custom. Some places may have ice cubes, but don’t be surprised if most don’t.

Excuse-moi monsieur…mademoiselle…madame…” (Excuse me sir, miss, ma’m). This is how you get your server’s attention. Or you may simply say: “S’il vous plait?” I think ­– I hope – that no one continues to have the idea that you call a waiter “garcon.” This means “boy” and it is not at all appropriate!

Pouvez-vous régler maintenant?” (Can you settle the bill now). Sometimes when there’s a shift change, a server may ask you to settle your bill before he or she leaves, particularly if you’ve only ordered a drink. This does NOT mean that the server is trying to hurry you out, as it likely would in the U.S., so don’t interpret it as such!

•“Excusez-moi, puis-je régler?” or “L’addition, s’il vous plaît” (Excuse me, can I settle the bill” or “the check, please.”) If you haven’t already received your check, this is how you ask for it. But sometimes you’ll get it the moment you receive your order. If you’re sitting at a café terrace, look for the slip of paper peeking out from beneath an ashtray.

Have any questions about cultural customs in French cafés ? Ask us below!


French Easter Traditions, Vocabulary and Ideas for Celebrating in Paris

Joyeuse Pâques! Bonnes Pâques! Bonnes fêtes des Pâques! You will hear these phrases everywhere in France starting from Easter Sunday (or sometimes a day or so before), and lasting the whole week. Of course, these phrases are different ways of wishing someone a Happy Easter.

As France is an overwhelmingly Catholic country, it’s no surprise that Easter is celebrated widely across the country. But even for those French families who are not croyants (religious believers) view Easter as a time to come together and celebrate in traditional ways.

French Easter Traditions

Chasse aux oeufs et les cloches volantes

As in many countries, the French celebrate Easter with a traditional Easter egg hunt (chasse aux oeufs). But don’t look for bunnies to bring the eggs on Sunday morning. In France, large flying bells (cloches volantes) bring the eggs.

You might be thinking: say what? But here’s the story:

According to French lore, on Good Friday (vendredi saint), all the bells in France, grieved by Jesus’ death on the cross, miraculously sprout wings and fly to Rome to see the Pope (le pâpe). Thus, all the church bells in France traditionally remain silent from Good Friday onward. But when Jesus is resurrected on Sunday, the bells fly back to France, ringing joyfully and bearing chocolate for all the children.

The chasse aux oeufs is kicked off by an adult shouting: “Les cloches sont passés!” (The bells have passed!). The kids then begin scampering about, searching for the hidden chocolate treasure, which often take the form of eggs, chicks, fish, hens, bells, sheep, turtles and yes – bunnies.

Repas de Pâques

Naturally, no holiday can occur in France without a delicious feast being a part of it! French families gather for the lunch and/or dinner on Easter, where traditional foods are served. Lamb is inevitably on the menu, whether it’s a delectable slow-cooked gigot d’agneau (leg of lamb) or navarin d’agneau (spring lamb stew), brimming with potatoes and fresh vegetables.

There’s also usually an asparagus or egg dish for a starter (or an asparagus and egg dish), as these are traditional symbols of spring, birth and fertility. In some parts of France, particularly the South, it’s traditional to make and eat an “omelette de Pâques” (Easter omelette) on Easter Monday (lundi de Pâques). In the past, the omelette was made from that the children found on Easter Sunday; however, since children no longer search for real eggs on Easter, just chocolate ones, the omelette is the only part of the tradition that remains.

Easter desserts can take various forms of cakes and pastries, but a fun dessert tradition is to make a “Nid de Paques” (Easter Nest). This is nest-shaped cake has a large hole in the center, which is then filled with goodies such as chocolate eggs, jellybeans, pralines, strawberries or other treats.

Ideas for Celebrating Easter in Paris

Even if you’re a tourist or here temporarily, there are plenty of ways to celebrate Easter in Paris.

  1. Attend a mass (messe). You may have noticed that Paris is home to hundreds of beautiful old churches. If you want to give your French a test, you may attend services at any of them, including the famous Notre Dame Cathedral (hours included in the link). If you do attend a French church, however, please be respectful and don’t snap photographs or talk during mass.
  1. Cook a traditional French lunch. If you’ve got access to a kitchen, why not prepare a meal? Here’s a link to a traditional French omelette, southern style with ham and onions. If you’re really feeling ambitious, try this lamb recipe or even make your own Nid de Pâques!
  1. Hunt for Easter Eggs. A number of public chasse aux oeufs for children take place around Paris every year. The most well-known is the Secours Populaire hunt, which has taken place on for the past 70 years. Secours Populaire is a non-profit organization established to help the poor in France and the world. The chasse will take place on Easter Sunday (April 5th) from 10 – 5pm on the Champs-de-Mars. For more information click here, and to find out other chasse aux oeufs in Paris, look here.
  1. Eat chocolat. If you’re in Paris, surely you cannot help notice the fantastic and often elaborate chocolate displays in the windows of every chocolaterie (chocolate shop) and patisserie (pastry shop) in town. Now’s the time to go ahead and indulge! Here’s a short list of some of our favorite chocolatiers and chocolate shops in Paris.

 

Chocolateries

•   Pierre Hermé 72 rue Bonaparte, 75006, Métro: Saint-Sulpice.

Get ready to stand in line (especially at Easter) to sample the wizardry of this classic French chocolatier. Hermé is known for producing innovative chocolates creations that are no less than works of art.

•   Henri Le Roux, 1 rue de Bourbon le Château, 75006, Metro: Odéon.

Don’t stop at eating chocolates in this shop, but sample M. Le Roux’s salted-butter caramels (caramel-beurre-salé) as well. It’s what he’s known for and rightly so.

•   Sadaharu Aoki, 35 rue de Vaugirard, 75006, Metro: Saint-Placide.

Here look for French-style handmade chocolates and patisseries infused with Japanese spices, such as black sesame and green tea matcha and other flavors. The results are simply extraordinary.

•   Le Furet Tanrade, 1 Rue des Messageries, 75010, Metro: Poisonnière.

The original shop was opened in 1728, making it one the oldest chocolateries in Paris. This decidedly unprententious place offers delicious handmade chocolates and wonderful jams (confitures). Particularly known for its chocolate infused with hemp (chanvre).

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What questions do you have about French Easter traditions? Feel free to ask us below!

 

 


It's La Chandeleur: Serve up the crêpes!

Crêpe-lovers rejoice! Today is La Chandeleur (Candlemas), which means crêpes!  Many French families will have a massive crêpe-making session tonight, school cafeterias will serve these thin pancakes to children, and while strolling through the market, you may suddenly find a warm, freshly-made crêpe thrust into your hand – for free!

Keep reading to find out more about this delicious French tradition!

History of La Chandeleur

La Chandeleur (Candlemas) is a muddle of pagan and Christian traditions that have existed since ancient times. In ancient Rome, it was a celebration to honor Pan, god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, where they would march in the streets, waving lit torches. In the early Middle Ages, the Roman festival was Christianized to celebrate Jesus’s presentation to the temple and the Virgin Mary’s purification. To this day, many Catholic churches celebrate La Chandeleur with candlelight processions.

In medieval Anglo-Saxon culture, February 2nd also marked the traditional celebration of the coming of Spring. February 2 falls smack in the middle of the winter solstice and the spring equinox, signaling the return of sunlight and spring’s beginning. People would thus make offerings to the grain goddess on this date – hoping for a short winter – and engage in ritualistic “spring cleaning” of their homes. Weather superstitions were formed around the date, hence the fun rhyming Chandeleur proverb:

  Quand la Chandeleur est claire, l’hiver par derrière, Chandeleur couverte, quarante jours de perte.

 (When Candlemas is clear, no more winter to fear; if Candlemas is overcast, 40 days of winter to last.)

Americans are bound to recognize shades of Groundhog Day here!

The Crêpe Connection: Traditions and Superstitions

So, how did La Chandeleur come to be synonymous with eating crêpes? It’s said that the round golden pancakes bear a resemblance to the sun, reminding the people of the forthcoming warmth and fertility of spring. The tradition may also be rooted farming superstition that if you didn’t eat pancakes on February 2nd, the wheat crops would be decayed for the year.

While multiple traditions and superstitions surrounded the eating of crêpes in medieval times, only a few of these persist in France today. A favorite French tradition is that you must hold a gold coin in your writing hand, while flipping a crêpe into the air with the other. If you manage to catch the crêpe in your crêpe pan, your family will become rich that year.

Some families throw the first crêpe at an armoire (wardrobe) to see if it sticks. If it does, you should leave it there for a year! Other families are said to throw the first crêpe over the wardrobe.

Types of Crêpes

Most Anglo-Saxons know crêpes as a sweet dessert made from white flour. But in addition to these the French love savory crêpes made from buckwheat flour, called galettes de sarrasin or galettes de blé noir; or wheat flour, crêpes de froment. The most popular version is called la complète: it’s composed of ham, emmental cheese and an egg.

And, of course, sweet crêpes are also popular here for dessert or a snack. They’re often served simply with butter and sugar, slathered in Nutella, or wrapped around such delicious fillings as salted butter and caramel. If you’ve got a real sweet tooth, you can also add slices of bananas and fresh whipped cream.

Where to Find Great Crêpes in Paris

Crêperies and crêpe stands abound in Paris, but certain areas are more well-known for these pancakes than others. The rue du Montparnasse, near the Gare Montparnasse rail station, is especially famous for its tasty crêpe restaurants. This area gained its reputation for great crêpes because the trains departing and arriving from that station go to Bretagne, an area in northwestern France where crêpes are a particular specialty. Bretons moving to Paris settled in the area around the Gare Montparnasse area and brought their crêpe recipes with them.

The most famous restaurant on rue Montparnasse is Crêperie Josselin, which often has lines of customers waiting to get in. You’ll also enjoy La Creperie Plougastel, a popular Breton crêperie a little farther down the street, or Ty Breiz, which is just a few blocks from the Gare. Not far away is also 142 Crêperie Contemporaine, which brings chic and modernity to the crêpe scene.

Outside of the Montparnasse area, the most well-known crêperie is probably the trendy Breizh Café in the Marais, famous for their delectable buckwheat galettes. And if you happen to be over in the Latin Quarter, check out Crêperie de Cluny. You can also eat marvelous crêpe in Montmartre. After climbing 300 steps to the top, you will enjoy this street full of crêperies just next to the famous Basilic Sacré Coeur.

Simple Crêpe Recipe by FAYLI

Why not celebrate La Chandeleur by making your own crêpes at home? Try this easy crêpe recipe… and learn some French while you’re at it!

Ingredients (for approx. 15 crêpes)

  • 300 g (1-1/3 cups) flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 liter (3 cups) of low-fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of rum or vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt

Preparation:

1. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.

Battre les œufs dans un bol à part.

2. In a second bowl, combine flour with salt and sugar, making a well in the center.

Dans un autre récipient, mélanger la farine avec le sel et sucre, faire un puit au centre.

3. Pour the beaten eggs into the center of the flour well, then mix with a whisk.

Verser les œufs battus dans le centre du puit de farine, puis mélanger avec un fouet

4. Add the milk gradually, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Once milk is fully added, whip vigorously until fully combined.

Ajouter progressivement le lait en mélangeant continuellement pour éviter la formation de grumeaux. Une fois le lait ajouté, battre vigoureusement jusqu’à ce que le mélange soit homogène

5. Mix in the rum or vanilla extract thoroughly, then let the mixture rest for at least 30 minutes.

Bien mélanger avec le rhum ou l’extrait de vanille, puis laisser reposer au moins 30 minutes

6. Heat a large, shallow non-stick pan with a small piece of butter.

Faire chauffer une poêle non adhésive avec un petit morceau de beurre

7. Ladle about a half-cup of the batter into the hot pan and cook the crêpe on each side for about 30 -60 seconds.

Verser une demi-louche de pâte dans la poêle chaude et faire cuire la crêpe de chaque côté environ 30-60 secondes

8, Remove from pan and add your favorite topping: granulated sugar, melted butter, Nutella, sliced bananas or strawberries, or honey.

Retirer de la poêle et ajouter votre garniture préférée: sucre en poudre, beurre fondu, Nutella, bananes en rondelles, fraises ou miel

Enjoy!

 Régalez-vous!

If you’re interested in making a buckwheat crêpe (galette), try David Lebowitz’s wonderful recipe here.

What’s your favorite kind of crêpe? Share with us below!


Galette des Rois: A Sweet French Tradition

shutterstock_236409652You thought the French food fest was over now that Christmas and New Year’s Eve was behind us? Think again. With the arrival of January comes a national obsession with the galette des rois – the “king cake.”

If you’re in France, you’ve probably noticed this scrumptious-looking cake, usually topped with a golden paper crown, in your local boulangerie (bakery), pâtisserie (pastry shop), or supermarché (supermarket) since mid-December. It’s flaky, sweet and best served when warm, straight out of the oven.

But the pleasure brought by a galette des rois isn’t merely due to its delicious taste – it’s also the anticipation of wondering whether you will be the lucky one to discover la fève, a tiny charm, buried inside one of the slices. If you are, you’re “king for a day” and take your place in a 700-year old French tradition.

History

The French have been serving up galette des rois  since the 14th-century. Traditionally, it’s served on January 6th – the 12th day of Christmas – to celebrate the Epiphany, a religious feast day commemorating the arrival of the Three Kings to the manger where Jesus was born. Today, it’s eaten throughout the month of January and is simply a festive way to celebrate the new year with family and friends, regardless of religious background.

You’ll typically find two basic styles of galette des rois: In northern France, it’s made of pâte feuilleté, puff pastry, and stuffed with a dense, creamy almond paste called frangipane. In the south of France, you’ll be eating a brioche-style cake covered with candied fruit. Other variations can be found as well, from shortbread-style, popular in Western France, to those that have alternate fillings, such as chocolat-poire (chocolate-pear) or raspberry.

Serving Traditions

Tradition dictates that when serving galette des rois, the entire cake should be divided such that each guest receives a slice, plus an extra, symbolic slice for any unexpected visitor, or poor person, that should pass by. In this way, everyone has the opportunity to “tirer les rois,” – or “draw the kings” – from the cake.

The “king” is represented by the fève, once a fava bean, now a porcelain or plastic figurine, hidden inside the cake. The person who discovers the fève in their serving is declared le roi (the king) or la reine (the queen) and gets to wear the golden paper couronne (crown) that comes with cake. In some families, le roi or la reine gets to choose a royal counterpart and is tapped to buy the next galette des rois.

Kids and adults alike can get surprisingly enthusiastic about the winning of the fève – many people collect them – and playful accusations of cheating might occur. To avoid this, it is traditional during the slicing of the galette to have the youngest child at the gathering slip underneath the table to call out the name of the person to receive each slice so the server can’t be accused of playing favorites!

The Modern Take

Today, pâtissiers across France make their own versions of the traditional cake, from Pierre Hermé’s rice pudding and caramel galette to Angelina’s gold-dust covered galette. And the fèves get more and more creative as well: some boulangeries create special collections of fèves depicting modern themes from great works of art, to classic movie stars, or even popular cartoon characters. Naturally, if you are making your own galette, you’ll need to buy your own fève, which can be bought here:  http://www.fevesdumonde.com.

Recipe: Chocolate-Pear Galette des Rois

Some of the best and most creative galette de rois in Paris can be found at these pâtisseries.  But if you’re not in Paris, why not try making your own?  It’s easier to make than it looks and takes only about an hour to prepare….but your guests don’t have to know that!

galette-des-rois-3-gd-format

Cooking time : 25min (preparation) 25min (cook)

Skill level : Easy

Servings : 8 slices

***

Ingredients :

2 ready-made puff pastry

2 large pears

1 tbsp vanilla extract

60g dark chocolate

100g softened butter

150 ground almonds

100g caster sugar

1 fève (lucky charm  – if you don’t have a plastic or porcelain one, you can go old-style an use a bean!)

3 eggs

Method :

1) Heat the oven to 200C/fanC180/gas 6.

2) Peel the pears, slice them length-wise into quarters, remove core and cut each quarter in three slices.

3)  Glaze pears over medium heat in a large frying pan with melted butter.

4)  Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar to caramelize.

5) Heat the dark chocolate in the microwave for one minute.

6) Put one ready-made puff pastry on a baking sheet and spread with melted chocolate.

7) Beat together the softened butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy.

8) Add 2 eggs and vanilla extract into the butter-sugar mixture, then stir in the ground almonds.

9) Spoon the mixture over the chocolate, spreading it evenly.

10) Arrange pear slices on pastry and hide the fève.

11) Brush the edges of the pastry with water, then cover with the second pastry piece, pressing the edges to seal. Mark the top of the pastry from the center to the edges like the spokes of a wheel or in a zig-zag pattern, then brush with the last beaten egg.

12) Bake for 25-30 mins until crisp and golden. Serve preferably warm.

What’s your favorite kind of galette des rois?


Holiday Gift-Giving Etiquette in France: Les Étrennes

shutterstock_222215068Do you find French gift-giving etiquette confusing? 

You’re not alone.

When you’re new to France  – or even if you’ve been here awhile –  it can be hard to figure out whom to gift and what’s appropriate to give. You’ve got your concierge or gardienne to think about… your kid’s school teachers…the nounou… and what about that parade of postal carriers, firefighters and garbage collectors who come knocking on the door in early December, their arms full of calendars? Are they supposed to get something too?

In France, these holiday gifts are called “les étrennes.” Traditionally, the word refers to gifts given to private and public workers (and sometimes small children) in the New Year. In recent years, however, we start handing out these tokens of appreciation in December.

If you’re having trouble keeping les étrennes etiquette straight, here’s a little guide to help you along.

  • School Teachers: You’re under absolutely no obligation to give a present. If your kids insist, a box of chocolates or a thoughtful card will be appreciated. But talk to other parents at your kids’ school – we’ve heard of some teachers receiving things like scarves and bottles of wine for the holidays. If gift giving is a tradition at your particular school, you may feel compelled to fall in line. But generally in France, teachers aren’t given gifts for the December holidays.
  • Extra-curricular teachers/coaches: It’s thoughtful, though not necessary, to offer a little something to your kids’ soccer coach, ballet teacher or private tutors. If the teacher has produced a December recital, concert or performance, you may want to present the teacher with flowers, a handwritten note or card, or another small gift at that time.
  • The concierge or gardien(ne): These are the people who work for your apartment building: the receptionist and the janitor, respectively, although in sometimes one may do the job of both. They may collect your mail, screen your visitors, or keep the building clean – or do special things for your like water your plants while you’re away, or keep an extra key to your apartment. When it comes to your concierge and gardien, gifts get a little more pricey. The going price is – gasp – 5% to 10% of your monthly rent or mortgage. If that seems too steep, ask others in your building but typically, apartment dwellers give anything from €50 to €300 at Christmas.
  • House cleaners: Some say offer a month’s salary to your femme de ménage (cleaning person); other says that €50 – €100 is sufficient. If you feel close to her or know her tastes, a gift of flowers, chocolates, or a scarf – in addition to cash – is also acceptable. The same works for babysitters (nounous) too.
  • Garbage collectors and the local firefighters. Be aware that the French usually tip public workers for their service. The tip must always be in cash, and placed in an envelope. If you’re going to be away for the holidays, give the gift before you leave. Typically, these workers get between €5 and €25 – possibly more if they have helped you personally during the year. Usually, the firefighters will give you a calendar in exchange.
  • Your postal delivery person: Give €5 to €25 in exchange for the calendar they’ll inevitably offer. You’re free to buy it or not, but service may improve if you’re generous.

What’s your experience with French gift-giving etiquette? Share below!


When Parisians Won't Speak French to You - How to Handle It

shutterstock_119852077
Don’t speak in English to me, Jean-Luc.

Doesn’t it drive you crazy when this happens?

Scenario #1: You’ve just settled in at a table in a cozy Parisian bistro. In your very best French, you say to a waiter: “Puis-je avoir la carte, s’il vous plaît?*

He nods and immediately hands you an English menu.

Scenario #2: You’re at the fromagerie**, preparing to order a lovely slab of peppercorn brie. You say: “Je voudrais le brie de Valbrie. Une belle tranche s’il vous plait.”***

And the fromager***responds: “Of course! Is this piece the right size? A little smaller, maybe?”

Grrrrr…

When your best efforts at speaking French seem to result rejection, it can feel like a slap in the face. You may feel embarrassed, annoyed, doubtful of your abilities, and end up swearing that you’ll never utter another word in French again.

But don’t let situations like this stop you from speaking French!

Most of the time, Parisians who respond in English to your French don’t mean to appear rude – often they’re genuinely trying to be helpful. Some simply enjoy speaking English and think that you’d prefer it. Some want to prove to their colleagues and bosses that they can communicate in English to customers. And some are grabbing an opportunity to practice their own foreign language skills.

Seriously, even if it  sometimes doesn’t appear this way, most French people do want to speak their native language with you and are happy to do so.  

So, with this in mind, here are four tips to get French people to speak French with you:

  1. Just Keep Going.

When someone responds to your French in English, just pleasantly continue your end of the conversation in French. More often than not, the person will eventually understand that you prefer to converse in French and will willingly do so.

  1. Express Your Preference for French.

You can also politely tell the speaker that you’d rather speak in French. Try to master any of the following phrases to make your point:

    • J’aimerais parler en français, s’il vous plait. Je ne peux pas m’améliorer si je ne le parle pas!

      (I’d like to speak in French, please. I can’t improve if I don’t speak it!)

   • Peut-on parler en français s’il vous plaît? J’aimerais améliorer mon français. Merci!  

      (Can we please speak in French? I’d like to improve my French. Thanks!)

     • Je ne parle pas très bien, mais je préfère parler en français. Je dois l’apprendre

      (I don’t speak very well but I prefer to speak in French. I must learn it! )

    1. Be Flexible.

 Sometimes it may not be a good idea to persist in speaking French at a particular moment. Say you’re trying to explain something above your ability level to friends or colleagues. Even though you may want to battle your way through, your listeners may switch to English – both to make things easier for you and improve their understanding.

Roll with it…there’s no shame in reverting to English when you’re struggling or your listeners aren’t comprehending. Once you’re on more stable linguistic grounds, switch back to French. Then your listeners will understand that you’re committed to speaking French, even if you still have work to do.

  1. The “Excuse me?” Trick.

Alas, on rare occasions you may come across someone who really does mean to snub you by speaking English in response to your French. Here, feel free to feign incomprehension with a polite but puzzled “Pardon?”

After all, if someone is daring to denigrate your efforts to speak their language, their English had better be flawless…. And since it’s perfectly natural to have an accent or make mistakes when you’re speaking a foreign language, it probably won’t be.  Chances are, they’ll get the point and start speaking French again pretty sharpish.

How do you handle it when a French speaker responds in English to your French? Please share below!

[Translations]

*   May I have the menu, please?

** Cheese shop.

*** I would like the Brie from Valbrie, a good sized-slice please.

****Cheesemonger.


How to have fun and learn French in Paris this summer

Empty Parisian cafés. No queues at the bakers. An unusual sense of calm.

This can only mean one thing. It’s summer in Paris!

Image of Paris Plage

If you’re living in Paris or just visiting, this means peace, quiet and sunshine (hopefully) from mid-July to the end of August, more or less in line with the French school holidays.

Rather than joining the fleeing Parisians in search of golden beaches, shady mountains and a change of scene, we highly recommend sticking around for summer in Paris. It’s the perfect opportunity to improve your language skills with al fresco French lessons whilst sunbathing, drinking apéros or watching a film!

1.)    FRENCH LESSONS AT PARIS PLAGE

Where: Along the Seine near Hotel de Ville and at the Bassin de la Villette

When: 20th July to 18th August

The cars and lorries are replaced by sand, deck chairs and sprinklers, and at La Villette there are even pedalos and pétanque – a southern French version of bowling that is often accompanied by generous doses of Pastis (aniseed liquor) or rosé wine. It’s the perfect place to have fun and learn French in the sun with your French friends, or why not strike up conversation with a neighbouring sunbather?

Useful beach vocabulary:

Beach: la plage

Beach umbrella: parasol

Deckchair: un transat

Sand: le sable

Go for a swim: se baigner

Is this deckchair free? Ce transat, il est disponible?

Where are you going on holiday this summer? Vous partez où en vacances cet été?

The weather is lovely isn’t it? Il fait un temps magnifique, non?

 

Image of the Parc de la Villette

 

2.)    FRENCH LESSONS AT THE OPEN AIR CINEMA

Where: La Villette,metro Porte de Pantin

When: Wednesday to Sunday, 23rd July to 24th August 2014

Come summer, cinema spills out into the streets. Yes, that’s right, Parisians put up temporary cinemas in public squares and parks. La Villette sets up screen for a month of movies from all over the world. Films are showed from Wednesday to Sunday and deck chairs can be hired. It’s a perfect way to spend a sunny summer evening with a pre-film picnic, before practising your French listening skills.

Useful cinema vocabulary:

Cinema: le cinema (le ciné)

Screen: l’écran

A screenplay: scénario

Filmaker: réalisateur

Main actor: l’acteur principal

Horror film: film d’horreur

A thriller: un film policier, un polard (familiar)

Comedy film: une comédie

Action film: un film d’action

What did you think of the film? Qu’est-ce que tu as pensé du film?

What time does the film start? A quelle heure commence le film?

3.)    FRENCH LESSONS ON ILE SAINT LOUIS AND ITS FAMOUS ICE CREAM

There’s nothing like an idle stroll along the Seine to the Ile Saint Louis. This island is full of beautiful mansions, chic shops and mostly importantly the famous Berthillon ice cream makers. Here’s how to make sure you get the glace you want!

Useful ice cream vocab:

Icecream: la glace

Flavour: un parfum

Cone: un cornet

Scoop: une boule

I’d like two scoops of strawberry ice cream in a cone, please

J’aimerais deux boules de glace aux fraises en cornet, s’il vous plait

Hopefully you’ve found plenty of inspiration to learn French in Paris this summer? Why not test out our tailored French courses to give yourself boost?

Have a great summer!