But since I'm working from my laptop computer -- my desktop computer has mysteriously lost its Internet connection -- I have a manageable link list, one that can actually be perused without screaming "Abandon hope all ye who enter!" And from it, I have access to a few cross-cultural clips that should be of interest to expats, Francophiles and others inclined to compare cultures:
1. Here's a basic question for fellow expats: are you happy with your move?
According to a Dec. 20th article from Telegraph.co.uk, 80% of us are. Spain seems to be the best destination for expat bliss: over 90% of British expats say they are happy with their move there. However, "the unhappiest emigrants were in France...with nearly 19%...disappointed with their new life."
2. By now most France blog readers know that the smoking ban in cafés and restaurants has taken effect.
Personally, I've been waiting for this day for years, and one of my New Year's resolutions is to get back into the habit of frequenting cafés and restaurants that I have dropped because of smoke issues. I hope most non-smokers in France will do the same to help prove that the ban was a good idea, not only healthwise but commercially.
3. Now that the smoking issue is under control, I can turn my concern to drinking or, more specifically, "le binge drinking."
I used to think France had figured it out as far as drinking, especially among young people, was concerned: no taboos, an early drinking age (16), openness with parents -- all ingredients which led to responsible drinking for fun rather than irresponsible drinking to get drunk. But the tide is turning, with young French people increasingly adopting "the British model" for their forays with alcohol. God save us!
4. Have you noticed more service with a smile in France these days?
I think there's been a gradual improvement over the past ten years or so, but lately I've heard even more "Bonjour Madame!" as soon as I go into a shop and "Merci! Bonne journée!" when I leave -- whether I've bought anything or not. Apparently, though, there is still progrès à faire on the French service report card. "Foreigners rank France's cultural attractions and food as its top draws while hospitality gets the last spot on the list," reports Brigitte Hagemann on Dec. 22 2007 for Agence France Presse.
Have a good day! And if you're one of the unhappy expats here in France, remember that Spain is right across the border!