French news from Paris and beyond

French news from Paris and beyond


It’s been an eventful week in Paris, and in France. Sure, there were popular exhibits and salons, and you can look them up on the trusted Paris Tourist Office website. A few topics caught my eye as I was browsing the French and international media.

1. The *Tiger* story.

You read that right. The *Tourist* is not the only exotic species spotted in the French capital. On Thursday, in a small town 25 miles east of Paris, a woman saw what looked suspiciously like a tiger on a supermarket parking lot. Other witnesses later confirmed the presence of the animal. The authorities’ response was swift: Within hours, over 100 police officers (equipped with tranquilizer guns,) soldiers, a chopper with thermal imaging, and a Finnish dog specializing in bear, moose and wild boar-hunting, descended upon the area, immediately followed by a swirling media circus. The mayor of the town urged residents to stay indoors and away from the local forest. For the next two days, the story made the local and national news with frequent updates in the media. The animal footprints were found on a nearby trail. Experts confirmed those were the paws of a young, 300 lb tiger. A circus, who had recently visited the town, and a local big cat wildlife park were questioned, but confirmed all their wild animals were accounted for. Disneyland Paris, located a few miles away from the town, allegedly considered evacuating the park. After all, a photo of the animal had been released in the media!

Tigre a Paris
Paris’ Tiger on the loose


Maybe I have been watching too many episodes of the show Outlander lately, but I was immediately reminded of this famous photo…

Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster…


By Friday afternoon, the threat had been downgraded drastically. The authorities now believe that the *Tiger* is likely a *big cat,* weighing around 90 pounds, either a very large domestic cat, or a smaller feline. It still has not been found, but maybe they have not been looking in the right places. A smart feline would leave the ‘burbs and immediately head for downtown Paris, non?

Garfield in Paris
French Girl in Seattle found “le chat”


I am not the only one with a theory. Many internet users believe they identified the *Tiger.* Check out their proposals here (en français but the Twitter postings are to die for.)

2. French specialty shops: Who earns the most and the least?

The French are well known for their patronage of specialty shops: boulangeries, traiteurs, boucheries, and épiceries are cornerstones of the French way of life. The Figaro has recently conducted a survey to identify the most successful specialty stores.

The top 3: Pharmacies (with a comfortable lead.) Eye-wear stores. Tobacconists  (Tabac.) Meanwhile, Florists and Dog groomers are said to be struggling.

The survey results should not surprise anyone. In the French welfare state where affordable healthcare is considered an unalienable right, and where medication is dispensed liberally by many practitioners, the pharmacist becomes a trusted friend and confidant. He fills prescriptions; provides professional advice (occasionally saving you a visit to the doctor’s;) and is happy to recommend over-the-counter meds. One does not purchase the exact number of pills and tablets needed, but goes home with a whole packet, or bottle. The pharmacist carefully handwrites the doctor’s instructions on each packet. As long as you can decipher his handwriting, that is great service! Then the patient goes home with a bulging bag, and starts the treatment. Left-overs meds are stored in the bathroom’s ubiquitous armoire à pharmacie (medicine cabinet,) to be re-used during the next flu onslaught. For the medicine cabinet is, in fact, the only official *doggie bag* recognized in my homeland.

The French “doggie bag”


The other kind of doggie bag, favored in the United States, has never taken off in Europe, but are things changing?

3. The French and le gourmet bag.

This week, the New York Times published an interesting article on this very topicBrushing off a French stigma that doggie bags are for beggars.” Imagine that: In Lyon, the culinary capital of France, a campaign is promoting the use of doggie… sorry… *gourmet bags,* to reduce food waste. I wish them good luck.

A daring advertising campaign: "The Gourmet Bag: So good, I will finish at home. "
A daring advertising campaign: “The Gourmet Bag: So good, I will finish at home. “


The New York Times points out this approach may resonate more with younger audiences, (the Millenials,) who have more of a social conscience and love take-outs. But their parents, and other Europeans, in spite of harsher economic times, still associate doggie bags with huge, American-size portions; crass behavior that makes you look like a cheapstake; or the old-habit of bagging food for beggars. I have never seen American-style containers offered at the end of meals in France. I suspect most restaurants don’t have them. I do recall a witty Maître-d’, in a popular Parisian brasserie, who once made fun of a traveling companion of mine: He had been gorging himself with French bread and butter throughout the meal, and the waiter kept bringing more to our table. After we asked for the check, the Maître-d’, who had chatted with us on and off for the last hour, came to the table and ceremoniously presented a beautiful swan-shaped foil packet, announcing, with a twinkle in his eye: “Voilà Monsieur. We would not want you to starve until you return to the United States.” When we unwrapped the packet, we found several slices of baguettes with butter and jam… 

The French always do it their way...
The French always do it their way…


4. It’s official: “The French can’t speak English.”

They try. They really try. They will give it a go, if you approach them nicely, even on a cold, wet Paris winter day. Unfortunately, in the recent survey conducted by EF Language First, the French rank among the least proficient English speakers in Europe. Several alleged reasons for this debacle: France is attached to – and very protective of – her notoriously challenging language. France lacks exposure to the English language (a stroll on the Champs-Elysées or in the Quartier Latin neighborhood, where many movie theaters play films in “V.O.” – their original language – might contradict that statement.) The French education system and its English teachers are a big fail. The French are too self-conscious to attempt speaking a language when they know they are underperforming. Blah. Blah. Blah. I once wrote a story about that very topic, so I won’t elaborate here. I just want to say that native English speakers won the language lottery, and that many are notoriously (proudly?) monolingual. I don’t think that the French school system is necessarily worse than other european school systems. I had excellent English teachers both in junior high and in high school and spoke at a proficient level by the time I moved to the United States. Things have changed a bit – one would hope – since the days of “My tailor is rich…”

French gendarmes learning useful English expressions in a popular French movie
French gendarmes learning useful English expressions in a popular French movie


The hilarious Eddie Izzard reminds us that French language instruction in the UK is nothing to crow about…


In conclusion, it may be a GOOD thing the French aren’t that great at foreign languages. Think about it: They have already given the world their glorious language, food, wine, fashion sense, art, châteaux, art de vivre… Do you need one more book (probably by the likes of Mireille Guiliano,) titled: “French women speak English better than you“? Do you, now? By the way, Madame Guiliano has a new book out this year. This one is about French women and oysters. I have not read it, but I am pretty sure she teaches the world how to slurp an oyster à la française, i.e. with inimitable style…

Nobody does it like a French woman...
Nobody does it like a French woman…


The thing is: Can that stylish woman pronounce “oyster?”

A bientôt.

13 Responses to French news from Paris and beyond

  1. Hi Véronique! So I found myself thinking, hmmm… I don’t think that Véronique has published anything in the past few weeks. I wonder why. I hope everything is OK… made a quick hop over to your site…and figured out that I was still following your old blog. Ah ha. Silly me. Back on track now and introducing my readers to your Coco in a post tomorrow!

    Hope you are staying warm and that there are no “tigers” in your backyard. XOXO

    PS: I prefer my coffee in a real cup, too!

    • Ta-Da! Here I am, or as the French say: “Coucou, me revoilou !” :-) Bienvenue chez moi, Jeanne, and as Coco the new mascot’s “maman,” you are, indeed, welcome Thank you for mentioning her (and le blog) on your site today. I have received a lot of compliments about our little friend :-)

  2. Beaucoup de choses dans ton message. Je retiens l’histoire du tigre/chat (dont plus personne ne parle ce matin). Cela m’a fait penser à Snoopy, quand il se fait tabasser par le chat du voisin en croyant sauver son ami (et oiseau) Woodstock. Le chat n’apparait jamais dans les dessins, mais Snoopy précise qu’il fait au moins un quintal.

    • Bonjour Alain. J’ai cherché des infos sur “le félin” ce matin, mais rien. Les media ont probablement préféré passer à autre chose, après la sur-couverture médiatique des derniers jours ;-) Je me souviens de ce bon vieux Snoopy et de ce chat (tigre?) qu’on ne voit jamais. Merci de ta visite et à bientôt !

  3. Bonjour Véronique! Your site looks fantastic! I just came over from Jeanne’s blog to see her delightful mascot she painted for you! Perfect, just perfect! And like always, your deliver the best French wit and lifestyle around. So good to see you! Life has been busy with teaching French I at the middle school then traveling to the high school in the same district to teach French III and IV!

    Have a super day. Anita

  4. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for the Eddie Izzard clip. My husband and I discovered his talent years ago and this was a happy Monday morning lift. By the way, do you have a flag? Hahaha! Happy week to you.

    • You are so welcome Holly. I find Eddie hilarious as well, and this is the second time I have used his skit on the blog. It is perfect! Thank you for visiting. Come back soon. You never know when I will use Monsieur Eddie again… Bonne semaine.

  5. Hi v –I had to wait and enjoy this fabulous post– again…new doors are the reason this time-this was such a wonderfully insightful post-not because of the BIG CAT, although I did find it interesting as to what it could possibly be- but mainly about doggie bags and language. I think French students in general are way more proficient in English than the reverse-even if we are talking about Spanish as the second language-most grade schools may present a second language but serious study seems to begin in late middle school or high school which is such a shame. I am also an advocate of sign language being taught at the earliest levels-a whole population we remain unable to communicate with-enough with the seriousness from me BOY OH BOY DO I LOVE A GOOD FRENCH PHARMACY-I could spend hours and many many euros for the lotions and potions-As ALWAYS A TERRIFIC READ on this Tuesday-I hope you are having a wonderful week. All my best to you and jr. -until next time my friend…..

    • Bonjour g. I could go on and on, about foreign language education, both in France, and in the US, as you can imagine! I think the French tend to be a little too harsh on themselves. Many people from my generation and younger, (who started taking English in 6th grade, and more recently, in elementary school,) can manage ok when helping tourists! French pharmacies… They are expensive, but so worth it, and I miss them too. Thank you, as always, for your visit and support.

Leave a reply