samedi 1 mai 2010

Ask a Frenchman blog

I've been reading this blog for quite some time and the Q&A "session" is quite informative.

However, today's question is really really bizarre. I am pretty sure it's a joke. It has to be a joke, right? I'm pretty sure this person is a 'troll' and I wouldn't be surprised if 'she' was really a 'he'!

Even so, I haven't had such a good laugh since I finished reading A year in the merde. The answers are just as funny as the questions!

Check it out if you dare... Warning: the topic is sort of R/X rated.

vendredi 30 avril 2010

A year in the merde - Stephen Clarke - book review

A Year in the Merde

I bought this book many months ago and started to read it. Then I kind of forgot about it and only recently picked it up again a few days ago. Once I got into it, I couldn't put it down! It was so hilarious. Anybody with a sense of humour could understand and like this book but it is far more fun and rewarding to read if you understand 1) the French culture and 2) the French language.

There are so many word plays and so many instances where French words are inserted into otherwise English sentences, with no explanation or translation so if you didn't know French I think the book would be less funny.

It is obvious the author, Stephen Clarke, has lived in France for some time to make all these observations and in that regard I found some of the observations in the book a bit too deep for someone ("Paul West") who had only lived there for 9 months total.

One of my French friends actually told me he read one of Stephen Clarke's books (not this first one though) and found it funny and I thought to myself, if a French person finds it funny then surely it must be good!

I get the feeling that at least 80% of the story is based upon his own life and the other stuff is fabricated or embellished. It basically takes the piss out of everything French but not in a nasty way, just in an interesting and fun(ny) way. It's nothing like any of the other books about France I have read and it's just a hilarious feel-good read when you are feeling crap (like I am/was).

When I found videos of Stephen Clark on YouTube (below) I was a bit shocked that he appeared so old, because the main character in his books, Paul West, is only 27. Stephen also appears to be quite softly spoken and humble, which is not what Paul West is like! Ha! In some ways this book reminded me of A town like Paris by Bryce Corbett because it was about a man around the same age, whose main goal in Paris (it seems) is to find beautiful girls to 'shag'. There were so many sexual jokes and innuendo which didn't offend me, but I'm sure it might offend others.

I went to my local library and am currently reading one of the sequels Merde Happens.

Here's the list of books in chronological order:

1. A Year in the Merde (2005)
2. Merde Actually (UK title) / In the Merde for Love (US title) (2006)
3. Merde Happens (2008)
4. Dial M for Merde (2008).

Stephen Clark - A Year in the Merde interview

Stephen Clark - Merde Happens and Talk to the snail interview/promotion

If you haven't read it yet, please check it out! It'll have you in stitches!

PS the cover image I've posted here is the cover that I have, but the US version is different.


Edited to add French version of the same book "God Save La France" review.
Merde Happens book review

mercredi 28 avril 2010

Studying in France

The other day I was reading this excellent blog post by Kristie in Paris on getting a carte de séjour to stay in France. It addresses getting work, studying or getting married. It's quite a useful and indepth blog post for us non-EU people.

Imagine my shock when I read up to the part which said:
The problem is that you must be studying to further your existing studies. I tried to get a student visa with a confirmation from Alliance Française that I was a registered student. The visa application asked for a copy of my educational qualifications. My law degree obviously isnt relevant to my French language study, so I didnt provide it. What a nice surprise when the guy at the embassy told me that studying French in France just didnt cut it.

I wrote this post in November last year and got all the information from Alliance Française Lyon website, but obviously it's incorrect because I then went to the French embassy website which says clearly:
Student Visa

To be considered as a student in France, you have to be enrolled full time in a public or private educational establishment, approved by the French authorities, and of which studies are endorsed by a French State Diploma. Studies must be related to the Diplomas obtained previously or your current professional occupation.

Therefore, the following will be considered as students in France:
• Applicants pursuing academic studies at a University or High School;
• Adults willing to spend a year in a French College full time;
• Professionals on training to acquire or complete a professional qualification;
• French courses leading to a post-graduate diploma.

People enrolled in a French language school are not considered as students and therefore have to apply for a Long Stay Visa without Work for Metropolitan France.

Please note that, from January 2009, all student visa applications have to be formally assessed on academic criteria by a French Government authority. As this new requirement is likely to increase the time needed for processing, applications should be lodged at least two months before departure.

Oh là là ! Quelle horreur ! :(

Meanwhile, this whole time I have been looking at university courses somewhat related to my undergraduate bachelor degree. Problem is, degrees in Australia (or the US) are so different to those in France.

For one thing, almost every French person I know has done a masters, that is a bac+5, ie 5 years of university. There seem to be a lot of these courses where the masters is included, notably at the Grandes Écoles. So you do 3 years of an undergrad bachelor/licence degree/diplôme and then 2 years of a masters/maîtrise.

Sounds simple enough but because so many degrees are combined, you can't just cut in halfway and do the last 2 years of the masters. Then there are masters degrees that require you to have a bac+5. Huh? You need to have done 5 years of university study already to do a masters? Talk about confusing and annoying! I happened to have studied a 4 year degree so where does that put me? Nobody can tell me.

It would be stupid of me to do a licence, not to mention next to impossible as I would have to sit a concours (exam) first, and in most cases it's far easier to go straight for the masters but then I have another dilemma. Most masters degrees require you to have at least C1 level of French. There is no way I can get to C1 level in just a few weeks as a lot of university applications are due in May.

To say that I feel frustrated is an understatement! But when there's a will there's a way, right? I have the will I just need to find the way dammit!

Here's part of an online conversation I had recently to show the confusion between the university 'systems'. ;)

Them: je suis encore étudiant donc non je n'ai pas cours :)
Me: tu as de la chance. qu'est-ce que tu étudies?
Them: business administration!
Me: MBA?
Them: non, master!
Them: :p
Them: comme un MA aux USA, c'est bien ça?
Them: enfin oui MBA en fait
Them: ha ha :D
Me: d'accord :)

PS - Please correct me if the information here is wrong (in the comments), it's just what I've found by reading many French university websites and etc.

Dazed and confused

As per the movie title, I'm feeling a bit dazed and confused... or maybe that should be sad and annoyed.

I'm waiting and waiting for news on certain aspects of my life and I am just sick of waiting!

As well as that, these things all happened in the last 2 weeks and made me feel sad and annoyed. Then there are other ongoing up-in-the-air matters which are too personal to write about here.

In no particular order:

1. Came back from my very short trip and got a dose of the post-vacation blues.
2. Found out one of my (family) friends from childhood (that I hadn't seen for about 10 years) died a year ago aged only 30. Don't know the exact cause but was in disbelief and shock for a while there. She's buried in the same cemetery as another family friend who died (also before her time) a year ago, so now I have two people to visit there :(
3. My friend got stuck in Asia for one week (after flying there from Australia for just a stop over), unable to make it to Europe because of the whole Iceland disaster. It took over a week to hear his news and I was getting seriously worried!
4. It's getting quite cold here now. Although the days are nice, as soon as the sun sets it becomes cold, and in the early mornings it's even down to single figures (ie 9deg C!).
5. My French class is going to end soon and I'm sad I won't see my teacher and classmates again.
6. I've been applying for some jobs because I'm sick of my current one, and I'm sick of all the rejections.
7. Found out there is something wrong with my car which will might cost a lot to fix.
8. Got a serious case of RSI so I shouldn't even be typing this post. It's debilitating but what can I do? I can't stop using my hands! :(
9. All these people that I thought were my friends... well let's just say you eventually find out who you can count on in bad times.

I just feel so stressed with all the uncertainty in my life at the moment and wished more than anything I could have some good news! I can't help but feel this sense of 'loss' also, like all these good things happen to me but then I 'lose' them. I meet these wonderful people and then I might not ever see them again, I go on a great holiday and then suddenly it's all over... I know this is just a phase I'm going through (probably spurred on by the sudden weather change from the hottest April in 88 years to a normal April temperature)...

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