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Hi all. Bruce and I are Australians who have settled in the South of France. We’ve started this blog as a place to share our discoveries and frustrations about the whole process, with the hope that it might be useful (or at least amusing) to other people doing similar things. We’re going to try to keep our personal lives out of it (since there is already a blog for family and friends at alcorn.id.au). Basically, we’ll be noting things that are different, unexpected, tricky to understand or just plain interesting.

We’re a bit late to start writing this, since we’ve already been in France a while. But, we figure we’ll still have plenty to write about in the future.

Also, we’re already stretched over several blogs, so posts will be a little infrequent, but they’re guaranteed to be on topic. So, if that’s what you’re after then subscribe away (rss feed is here) and take things as they come. Enjoy!

What English People Say [NSFW]

Prompted by an article about naughty things French people say in English, I just spend 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)

DSC00006

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.

Jobs for Expats

I’ve been reading the expatriate websites and chatting to a number of expats in France about the work they do here, so I thought I’d share my ideas on jobs for expats.
Finding work in a foreign country can be tricky. Not all people make the move with work lined up – some are the trailing partner, who merely hopes they can find a job that works for them. This is made even more difficult when you’re still learning the language – not many local businesses will hire someone who can’t speak the local language well! So, I put a little thought into the sorts of work expats (or those wanting a working holiday abroad) can pick up fairly easily in a new country.

What could you do?

Types of work for expats could include:

  • Freelancing Online (piece work or ongoing tasks for regular clients)
  • Starting a Business
  • Freelancing with Local Businesses
  • Full/Part Time Work Locally

Specific ideas could include:

  • Writing Online
  • Website Design
  • Teaching First Language to Locals
  • Teaching Music, Computing or other Non-Language-Based Skill
  • Assisting in a Help-Line in your First Language for an industry you are familiar with (eg. Banking)
  • The list goes on forever..

Tell us what you think in the expat job ideas poll and feel free to add your expat job ideas in the comments!

Need a Job Now?

For those of us living and working abroad who are always looking for freelance contracts and piece work, you know all too well how annoying it is to trawl the same websites for the new jobs or to see a pile of RSS jobs that are so old that there’s no point applying. To get around this, I created a few websites that pull in the RSS feeds for the best jobs. This way, you can just check out the new work and ignore the older stuff.

Best Web-Worker Jobs
Best Expat Jobs in France

For writers and web designers, I’ve put together a page of the Best Web-Worker Jobs.

For the Expats in France, I made a job board for the Best Expat Jobs in France. It pulls in both the web-worker jobs and jobs for English-speakers in France (this includes translation and jobs to teach English in France). Hope it can be of use to you!

If you’re still confused and could use a bit of motivation in regards to getting a new career, check out some of my other posts (from Bootstrap Your Life) on careers and work.

Hazards of Booking Online International Air Travel in Europe


I noticed something disturbing about international payments the other day. I thought it might be worth sharing as a warning to expats and travellers.

We bought plane tickets online from an Australian airline, QANTAS. The prices listed on the website, in our confirmation and receipts were in Australian dollars. We paid with an Australian credit card. You’d think that would be fairly straight forward. But, no.

QANTAS in its infinite wisdom had decided that since we were in Europe it would change the price it charged into Euros for us. QANTAS didn’t ask us or even tell us it was converting the price to Euros. So, naturally our Australian bank charged us a fee of AU$150 for converting the cost of the payment from Euros back to Australian Dollars. We had no idea QANTAS had converted the currency until this fee turned up in our account.

Excuse me QANTAS, but that’s bloody ridiculous.

(It’s also possibly illegal, since all my receipts say AU$ I should fully expect to be charged in AU$).

I appreciate that for many customers this would be helpful. However, if you’re going to be smart and work out where people are, why don’t you be a little smarter and ASK what they want. A little pop-up saying “We’ve noticed you’re European, would you like to convert this payment into Euros?” would have been sensible. We could have said no – others could say yes. But at least QANTAS would be keeping everyone happy. ASK. Just because you know where we are doesn’t mean you know what we want.

Anyway, I realised this might not be a problem with just QANTAS so I thought I’d share the story as a warning to expats, tourism operators and web designers everywhere.

Recently I also had a similar rant about how annoying it is when websites change the language settings according to where you are. As a traveller in Europe, a resident in a multi-language country or an expat who’s still learning the new language, this is especially annoying. Note to web designers: ASK.

Image Credit: Simon Sees

Is France behind when it comes to the internet?

Here’s a question posed by a French-English newspaper on Twitter. I saw it and instantly felt obliged to rant a little. I love France, but I do sometimes wish there was a little more internet usage around here.

> Is France behind when it comes to the internet? Do you find it frustrating trying to find information online?

Hell yes!

Take for instance my local public library. A thorough look at the Mairie website and tourism website will tell you where the library is and the opening times. In fact, the Mairie has several different pages with slightly different information about the library. None of these pages mention that the library has a website. In fact, when I signed up at the library they didn’t tell me there was a website either.

But there is one. A quick search of Google tells me that the library has a blog! It’s outdated and discusses recent renovations. From there I find the actual library website. There’s no URL, it’s just an IP address. The library website is actually fairly useful – I can search the database and reserve books with it. I don’t know if these reservations worked or not, since there was never any email or SMS sent to me to say that the books were ready for me, though. In fact, given that the staff didn’t tell me there was a website I’m starting to wonder if they know it’s there. *sigh*

And yes, generally French businesses and clubs have awful websites, no SEO, very little information and generally point you back to a phone number you need to call before you can get more information. And since the websites are all out of date, you can bet that phone number is entirely useless (plus, phone numbers are evil nightmares to people new to the language).

My husband wanted to start a tech support wiki to help his customers and colleagues to sort out problems with equipment, but he couldn’t even convince the other staff members to warm to the idea.

Oh, and don’t get me started on Tourism Offices creating Facebook profiles in order to get with the times. You’re not a person – Make a page or a group!

On the flip side, there are a couple of websites doing really well. LeMouv, for instance has radio streaming, a Facebook page, podcasts and all sorts. Larger businesses often have decent websites and there are a few great government websites. But, the good websites are far from the norm – there could easily be plenty more and no-one would complain.

I’ve had the France-and-the-internet chat with a few people now. Here’s some thoughts I’ve heard:

  • According to a French kid, there’s too much English on the internet – she wants more French. This could be the main reason younger French people aren’t very interested in the internet. She’s all excited when she gets online, then she finds out most things she wants to do are all in English. And since she doesn’t know how to use a computer very well, it all gets too hard. TV is easier because it’s all verbal and there’s an army of translators ensuring she can hear it in a language she understands.
  • One Aussie guy I spoke to says he thinks the schools should be teaching computer literacy from an early age. Apparently, assignments are still expected to be handwritten, so the kids don’t get practise using a computer even for assignments. I feel sure that this probably isn’t the case in all schools – surely some have moved to computers now?
  • Most French people I know use the internet at work and will stay half an hour late in order to send personal email (from their work email account, because they don’t have a personal one). It seems that in France, internet access just isn’t something most people feel they need at home.
  • Geeks, young people, English-speakers, expats, freelancers, small business owners and people who work from home all seem to have internet access and use it regularly.
  • Plenty of French people over 40 don’t have internet access at all and just don’t want it.
  • Most English people I know in France have broadband and couldn’t possibly live without it.
  • Most ISPs in France find the bureaucracy is just too damn difficult to give you internet access.

Personally, I think most kids have taught themselves pretty quickly, because there’s definitely plenty of French under-30s on Facebook. Generally, to me, internet usage in France feels like it did in Australia in the late 90s. Some people understand the internet and are using it in the best way they know how. Others just haven’t caught on. There are black holes of information.  The problem though is that those that do understand the internet in France are now 20 years ahead of the rest. It’s time to get the others to catch up!

What we need to do (this probably isn’t just for French people, but for all non-English speakers):

  • Get more French people to create stuff online.
  • Try to convince more people to add translations (or at least translator buttons) to their sites.
  • Teach more non-English speakers generally about Google Translate, so they can use the English pages they find.
  • Teach SEO skills to more non-English speakers so that things can be found!
  • Make websites more intuitive and less dependent on text found in pictures (which don’t get translated).
  • Ensure kids get computer training, either at school, in clubs or at home.

So people, are we up for helping non-English speakers get the most out of the internet? It needs to be done!

Facebook Fan Page and @OzCroissant Twitter

Smange Facebook Fan PageI just thought I should let you all know that I’ve made a Facebook Fan Page to collect all my best professional writing, including my work at MakeUseOf, NetSavoir, writings at Vegemite Croissant and more. Please feel free to “like” the Facebook Fan Page in order to keep updated.

If Twitter is more your thing, I have a few different accounts you might like to follow:
@Ozcroissant – This tells followers when there’s new posts from the Vegemite Croissant blog, plus the occasional related link that readers of this blog might be interested in.
@AngelaAlcorn – This updates followers with links to all my professional writing.
@Smange – This is where I actually Tweet. This covers a lot of different interests and activities, but is generally interesting.
@Thornae – This is Bruce’s Twitter. In theory he writes this blog too. :P

Hope there’s something useful for you in that bundle of information and that you can now easily keep track of my posts whichever way suits you best.

On Learning French

We’re still plugging away at learning French ourselves, but we’ve hit upon some very good websites and ideas in our efforts to learn.

Lyon

So, I thought I’d share some resources I’ve put together about learning French:

  • Twitter French Teachers List – This list of Twitter users is hand-picked to ensure almost every tweet in the list is teaching you French. Most of the accounts listed are dedicated to teaching French with every tweet. The only account which isn’t entirely dedicated to teaching you French is @lkl, but since she’s the about.com French teacher, she’s pretty valuable to the list when she does tweet about French (and the rest of the time she’s usually talking about French food or culture, so it’s all good).
  • @FrenchMot (and @FrenchMotEncore for repeats) – This is my own dedicated Twitter account for teaching/learning French. Obviously, I’m a learner and I might get things wrong, but I try to keep it simple and I check things pretty thoroughly before I post. If you’re interested, I have also written a guide on how to maintain a dedicated educational Twitter account (and why).
  • Spreadsheet of @FrenchMot words – Just in case you want to use the @FrenchMot words to create a set of Flashcards, I also add the words to this spreadsheet. This spreadsheet of flashcards is also available in the awesome Android flashcard app, GFlash+.
  • French Learning Links – Every time I find a useful website about learning French, I save it in Delicious and tag it appropriately. All my favourite French learning links are in this list, which will continue to grow. You can also subscribe to the RSS feed of my favourite French learning links if you like. The RSS feed can be very useful to add to your Netvibes or iGoogle page for learning French.
  • Books on learning French – I compulsively note down any good French textbooks I hear about in Goodreads. This list has all of those, plus a few good books on the process of learning French. It’s best to view the list in “Covers” view.
  • Free eBooks on learning French – This is a subset of the previous list, showing just the books available as free eBooks. Some are Creative Commons works, while others are now in the public domain.
  • French novels as free eBooks – Learn French by reading some of the best novels written in French! These are mainly books that are old enough to now be in public domain. Some of them are only available with an English translation, but many of them have the French version online too.
  • Listen to French novels as audiobooks – Some of the aforementioned French novels in the public domain have been recorded as free audiobooks by the LibriVox project. If you can listen to the French audiobook while reading the text of the French novel, it can really help to improve your French.

I highly recommend these great free ideas for learning French, from the obvious to the unexpected:

  • using buddy-finding websites to find a language exchange partner for Skype chats or in real life
  • checking your DVDs to see if you can watch the movie/TV series in French
  • listening to French radio stations online
  • reading French blogs and news that will teach you French
  • reading and listening to public domain novels written in French
  • free PDF ebooks of French textbooks (or going to your local library!)
  • practise pronunciation by reading French news aloud
  • playing a French mudd
  • change the language settings of your games to French
  • use French chat rooms and IRC channels
  • watch French lessons or random French stuff on Dailymotion (lots of French users here) or YouTube
  • use online flashcard services to increase your vocabulary
  • listening to French lessons via free podcasts.

If you don’t mind spending a little money, there are also plenty of good books, audio lessons and online French lessons you can also use to learn French. I’d also suggest reading French graphic novels, bilingual books and French movies with subtitles on.

I hope these resources and ideas can help you in your efforts to learn French – Good luck!