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Which Country Is Better To Bring Up Kids: France Or Australia?

I just got a little distracted by a question on Quora:
Which country is better to live in: France or Australia?

They were asking particularly about raising kids, so I was compelled to answer. I was feeling particularly qualified to explain the differences, as I’ve been looking after two toddlers in France and hearing stories from my Aussie mum friends about the state of affairs there at the moment.

So, my full answer on Quora is here.

If you’re reading this post, you’re probably more interested in what bringing up kids in France is like, rather than Australia. So, I’ll quote the section of my answer that explains the French system for you.

France has paid maternity and paternity leave as part of the social security system everyone pays for. Even freelancers can take paid maternity leave.

Both countries have free schooling available (and private options if you want them), and the quality of the education is good. There are some small differences, though.

In France, the school days are long, but kids get Wednesday afternoon off. One parent per family is entitled to take time off work to look after the kids on Wednesdays. Every school has an on-site before and after school care program to look after kids from 7am until 6:30pm, often with cultural activities run by the local mairie. The system basically makes it easy for both parents to work. School lunches, the before/after school care, and all other forms of childcare are highly subsidised by the government according to your family income. For two parents earning modest wages, the childcare costs are negligible. For instance, we pay 115 euros per month for our two-year old to go to creche 25 hours per week with all lunches and snacks paid for. That’s over 100 hours per month, so we pay about 1 euro per hour. My three-year-old is at school (school starts at three – it’s basically kindegarten) and we pay about 20 euros for her lunches each month. They’re eating proper three-course meals with good meat and vegetables too. All of the staff at the childcare centres and schools are highly trained and certified, too. The only downside to childcare is that in some areas it’s hard to get a spot at a creche. But, there are alternatives like nounous, and since school starts at three, you don’t have to worry about that for too long.

I concluded that France is better for raising kids financially, and for the resulting bilingualism.

BTW, I didn’t know all this stuff about France before we moved here. It was a lucky accident.

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Anyone Want A Work-From-Home Job?

I’ve just been reading about being a “Search Engine Evaluator”, which basically involves being paid about $12 per hour to sift through search engine results and manually organise them a little. From home whenever you want (I love work-from home jobs, they’re some of the most expat-friendly jobs).

I looked a little further, and one of the companies listed has a position in France. It’s for someone who has excellent French skills and intermediate English, has been in France 5 years, and who also uses Google products a lot.

“Ideal candidates will be highly active users of Google’s search engine and other products; use Google Play at least once per week; use Google+ more than once per month and have more than 11 people per circle and have a Gmail account with web history turned on.”

I presume you’d also need to be on the auto-entrepreneur scheme. I fit the bill (depending on my French), but I really don’t think I have time for it. I figured it might suit some of you! Anyway, even if you get in too late for this particular job, it seems like this sort of job will come up more frequently in the future.

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I hope one of you takes it up!

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Want More Promotion For Your French-English Blog?

I had an idea. A really good one!

You see, I run a Goodreads group called Expats – The English-Speaking French. I started it so we could share books about France with each other (join if you like). I also made a corresponding Facebook page Expats – The English-Speaking French, but it really needs something to liven it up.

I’ve worked out what would be the perfect thing: If we make a combined RSS feed of blogs and send it to the Facebook page, we’ll get lots of new relevant content to chat about. In turn we might get more members to the Goodreads group, and more great books recommended to us, and more people reading our blog posts. It’s a plan with no drawbacks!

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So, if you have a blog about being an English-speaking expat in France (ou au sujet d’angleterre en francais), sign up to have your blog included in the pipe. Feel free to promote your blog in the comments too!

PS. Here’s the RSS feed for the English-Speaking French Blogs, if you’d like to subscribe in your feed reader.

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The Supermarket Relationship In France

In France, it seems as if everything in business revolves around the worker and their rights. This is fantastic for workers, but it does lead to some interesting results. Results which I am sure could be avoided by a few changes here and there which wouldn’t adversely affect workers.

For instance, Sundays. Workers can’t be asked to work long hours or long weeks. So, most small businesses don’t have staff available to work on weekends. In order to protect the small businesses, almost all businesses are forced to shut on Sundays. Some big supermarkets have a small window of three hours on a Sunday morning where they can open just to let a few random people grab a handful of things.

Except that it’s not just a few random people. On Sundays, everyone that works 9-5 and was busy relaxing on Saturday realises that they need to grab a few things or they won’t be able to do so until Monday evening. Many more people decide that they want fresh bread with their lunch, and since their favourite boulangerie is shut they may as well go to the supermarket and grab a bit of cheese too (instead of going to one of the extremely busy Sunday boulangeries, which are not usually your local favourite anyway). By 11:30 on Sunday, the supermarket is jam-packed with people, most of whom only have one or two items in their hand.

Now, here’s the fun part. The supermarkets are protecting their workers too. On Saturdays, Sundays, and in the evenings (all the times when the 9-5 workers are free to do their shopping), all the supermarket’s 9-5 workers are off work too. They are usually down to one or two cashiers… which leaves monstrous lines to pay for stuff and leave.

Today, my local supermarket had a surprising four cashiers on (none of whom I’d ever seen before), and each line had 40-odd people in it when I arrived, and more when I left. It took me two minutes to find what I wanted, then an hour to wait in the line to leave. I even took a photo.

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One guy tried hopefully to sneak into the line and got glared at by the guy in front of me. The lady behind me had one packet of coffee. The kids just in front of me only had three loaves of bread. The guy in front of me had some nappies and a few other bits. Not one of us had a huge load that would take a while. We’re all waiting here, buddy, get to the back of the line.

On that note, I think I have a look about me that says “Please step in line in front of me”. I’ve noticed on occasion that people will brazenly walk up, look me up and down, then stand right in front of me. Apparently, I don’t look like I will punch them. One day, I may well surprise a queue-jumping so-and-so.

Getting back to today, I really feel most sorry for the security guard, who was trying to stop people from entering the store when it was clearly going to be open for another hour anyway while the cashiers tried to catch up. He looked like he was preparing to block a stampede.

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I got home and the Aussie I spoke to next laughed at me and said “That’s why I buy everything online”. This is a dilemma too. You see, this particular supermarket has decided to open up online shopping. They had fliers in the store and delivered them to our house. Only every time I try to do it, the site refuses to acknowledge that my store is capable of being the one who delivers me my food. So, someone at Casino head office forgot to set that up. I wonder if the local supermarket thinks there’s just no interest in it here.

Another local supermarket also has an online service, which you pick up. But it’s completely flawed. If they don’t have the exact product, you supposedly have the option to choose whether they find something similar or just skip it. Only what they actually do is determined by whoever is filling up your bags. They also manage to skip items routinely and forget to take them off the bill. I eventually worked out that small orders were less likely to be screwed up, but that makes the whole thing a little pointless.

Oh well, I’ll just spend half my Sunday standing around in the supermarket like everyone else. :)

Wedges

Potato Wedges, Indeed

When we arrived in France, it didn’t take us long to work out that certain foods we considered staples were just not that common outside of Australia. It’s obvious when you think about it, but when you can eat them every day you just don’t think about it, do you?

The most obvious one is the celebrated eclectic fusion that only Australians could have come up with: Potato Wedges with Sweet Chilli Sauce and Sour Cream (link is to my recipe).

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Caitlin at The Taste Of Travel was surprised when she visited Australia and found Wedges with Sweet Chilli and Cream on a menu at a bar. That’s how ubiquitous these things are though. And then you can’t get them anywhere else. They really are the definitive modern Aussie dish.

This whole post was prompted by an awesome list of food worth travelling for to eat. Yum.

Image Credit: Alpha, on Flickr

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What English People Say [NSFW]

Prompted by an article about naughty things French people say in English, I just spent a good while regaling friends of stories where things have become a little lost in translation. I figured I should post them here too.

These stories are a little NSFW. You’ve been warned.

First off, a story about a French person speaking English:

I heard of a lady who walked into a hairdresser and asked for a blow job.

Now for English-speakers in France:

One lady chatted to her neighbour about the need to chop down the pine trees in her front yard for an hour or so. Her pronunciation was a little off. It was only later she realised she had said penis EVERY SINGLE TIME.
(click the speaker icon in Google Translate to hear the difference)

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I made the mistake of telling someone my embarrassing story about forgetting to fuck everyone in the room.
Baiser = to fuck, but also to kiss. There’s a reason the French use “Faire bisou” (to make/do a kiss) instead of baiser. Because the sentence can get a bit frisky in no time if you use baiser.

Apparently I also pronounced something we sang in choir a little funny. All I did was enunciate a ‘t’ between two words when I wasn’t supposed to. That gave the whole phrase a double meaning that was so raunchy that none of my choir friends would dare tell me what I’d said!
I can’t actually remember exactly what the phrase was. But it was a bit like any medieval music from anywhere, in that it always has a second meaning that involves sex in some way or other.

A friend screwed up her pronunciation for beaucoup (which means ‘a lot’ or ‘very much’, so you say it a lot). Years later her workmates told her they thought it was hilarious that she always told clients “Thanks, nice ass!”
(Pronunciation here)

When a bucket is full, you say it is ‘plein’. When a person is full, however, one is not ‘plein’. If you say “Je suis plein” you’re basically saying that you’re a pregnant cow (or other farm animal). Almost every English speaker screws this one up at some point. Waiters love it.
PS. You should say ” J’ai assez” in order to refuse more food.

Oh, and English speakers always translate their beloved “I’m hot” phrase word-for-word into French, however “Je suis chaud” is a bit like saying “I’m horny/wet/randy” times a thousand.

Image Credit: NDPettit

Link

So, a few weeks ago Bruce and I were interviewed by French Entrée Magazine about how we ended up here and what our plans for housing are now. The interviewer asked some interesting questions that we may not have answered elsewhere, so check out the article if you’re interested.

Then there was this day shortly after I’d started work when I was driving down a back country road, and coming the other way was a gentleman on a bicycle. He was wearing a beret, carrying a baguette, had a cigarette dangling from his mouth under his luxuriant moustache, and gave me a jaunty wave as he passed. I was inordinately pleased to see such a stereotypical picture of a Frenchman so charmingly realized. – Bruce.