Harriet Welty Rochefort’s “French Toast”

When people learn that I have lived in France a little over two decades, the inevitable comment is “then you must have become French.” My spontaneous answer to that comment is “no.” But upon deeper reflection, I have to say that, while in many circumstances the cultural gap is, if anything, only greater, in others I feel that I have indeed become “almost” French.

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Sometimes I Feel Like Giving Up

Q:  I have five years’ experience as an administrative assistant in the not-for-profit sector in the States. I’ve been in France for two years, and I’m ready to go back to work, having mastered enough French to feel at ease speaking, reading and writing. I would like to work for a humanitarian organization, but every time I apply for a job (if I’m lucky enough to get an interview), I’m told that I’m underqualified because I don’t have a French diploma in office skills (a BTS) or that I’m overqualified because I have a college degree (a B.A. in comparative literature). I’m beginning to think that I won’t be able to fit in here, but at the same time I find it hard to believe that no one can use a qualified administrative assistant. Sometimes I feel like giving up.

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French Styles Grow Up and Out

My first bout with weight discrimination in France came while I was working as an illustrator for a now-defunct fashion house, Schiaparelli. Eyeing my tiny frame, the boutique director felt it her duty to warn, “Here, there are no 34s and certainly no 44s.” Okay, I could buy a size 36 and cut it down. But what do women tipping the other end of the scale do for clothes? Buy two dresses and stitch them together? Continue reading “French Styles Grow Up and Out”

Shy Guy Wants to Meet French Women

As an American bachelor who has recently moved to France for a few years, I am intent on creating a social life for myself that includes as much contact as possible with French people. I keep hearing about cultural differences, and am a bit shy about making overtures to French women for fear of violating some major cultural taboo. Is there any guidance you can give to help me overcome what is becoming a (I think) ridiculous obstacle?

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How Do You Say Frisbee in French?

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s the Hale-Bopp comet … no, it’s a “flying disc,” more colloquially known as a “Frisbee.” These days, more and more discs are being sighted hovering over French territory: this fast-growing sport now counts over 180,000 players nationwide. No one is prouder of this fact than the Fédération Flying Disc France, which celebrates its auspicious 20th anniversary this year. Created in 1977 to promote disc-related sports and structure disc competitions, the federation now boasts 24 official clubs, 30 teams and more than 450 licensed players in France. With more than 40 nations registered with the World Flying Disc Federation, “Frisbee” could be one of the most popular sports on the planet by 2000.

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Jazz Spotlight: Ted Hawke

Drummer Ted Hawke first set eyes on Paris in 1991. He liked what he saw. He was in the middle of a big band gig but it didn’t feel like just another tour stopover, like the hundreds he’d made all over North America, Europe and Japan. It felt like home. After that first experience he started coming back whenever he could, his visits growing longer with every stay. Three years ago he definitively jumped ship. What made him do it? “It was the vibrations. The more I saw of Paris, the more I felt them. They’re practically the same as New York’s. Plus all the festivals and culture and stimuli, and the African music. It’s fantastic for that, and there are lots of great musicians based here too.” Continue reading “Jazz Spotlight: Ted Hawke”

Calvin Klein’s Newest Obsession

It had to happen one day or another. After McDonald’s, Coca Cola and Woody Allen, the next major American institution to arrive in Paris is Calvin Klein. America’s best-known fashion designer is scheduled to open a 650-square-meter megastore at 49, avenue Montaigne. Designed by London architect Claudio Silvestrin, the interiors, fashioned after Klein’s Madison Avenue store, are faithful to the designer’s clean, luxurious signature style: pristine white walls, limestone floors, brushed and shiny stainless steel counters and dark walnut chairs. “Each detail was designed to communicate the quintessential idea of modernity, pure luxury and quality, void of ostentation and excess,” says a Klein spokesman.

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The Allure of Chanel

“Genius is the ability to foresee the future,” Coco Chanel often said. But even Mademoiselle, as she was often called, could never have imagined that 26 years after her death, her small boutique at 31, rue Cambon would be the nucleus of a multinational business including a network of stores around the globe. One of the best known fashion names of the century, Chanel is unique. It is the only house that has remained faithful to the spirit of its namesake well after the founder’s death, without compromising the original image. Today, Chanel is the most powerful fashion firm in France. Continue reading “The Allure of Chanel”