samedi 5 mars 2011

Alliance Francaise French Film Festival Australia 2011 Part II




Alliance Française French Film Festival Australia 2011

Part I

Les films continued :


Le bruit des glaçons (The Clink of Ice)







Imdb
Premiere.fr


Les mains en l’air (Hands Up)







Imdb
Premiere.fr


Aimez qui vous voulez (Happy Few)







Imdb
Premiere.fr


L'Italien (The Italian)







Imdb
Premiere.fr


Le nom des gens (The Name of Love)







My review here
Imdb
Premiere.fr


Tournée (On Tour)







Imdb
Premiere.fr


Les femmes du sixième étage (The women on the 6th floor)







Imdb
Premiere.fr


L’Amour, c’est mieux à deux (A perfect date)







Imdb
Premiere.fr


L'âge de raison (The age of reason)







Imdb
Premiere.fr


De vrais mensonges (Beautiful Lies/Full Treatment)







Imdb
Premiere.fr


Bus Palladium







Imdb
Premiere.fr


La tête en friche (My afternoons with Magueritte)







Imdb
Premiere.fr


Les petits mouchoirs (Little White Lies)







Imdb
Premiere.fr


Les Petits ruisseaux (Wandering Streams)







Imdb
Premiere.fr


Pièce montée (The Wedding Cake)







Imdb
Premiere.fr


Une vie de chat (A Cat in Paris) (animation)





Imdb
Premiere.fr


Loup (Wolf)







Imdb
Premiere.fr


Les arrivants (The Arrivals)







Imdb
Premiere.fr


L’Empire du milieu du sud (The empire of the mid-south)







Imdb
Premiere.fr


Ce n’est qu’un début (Just a beginning)







Imdb
Premiere.fr


L'amour fou (Yves Saint Laurent - Pierre Bergé)







Imdb
Premiere.fr


Deux de la Vague (Two in the Wave)



Imdb
Premiere.fr


La Meute (The Pack)







Imdb
Premiere.fr


Enjoy! Amusez-vous bien !

On Being an expat, culture shock and making friends







On Being an Expat, Culture Shock and making friends, Dream Analysis and Being Extraordinary




This morning I had an incredible dream. I so rarely have dreams these days and this one was so good I had to write it all down as soon as I woke up before it rapidly faded out of my memory.

Whenever I have really interesting dreams I write them down and then look up all the 'symbols' on Dream moods and various other websites. And EVERY TIME, without fail, after I look it up, everything just makes sense. It's so eerie. I know exactly what the symbols are referring to: thoughts, aspirations, fears, etc etc. You should try it sometime!

My Dream 

To summarise... It started off with me being in a smallish but busy airport and then eventually I got on a plane. Things happened in the airport and on the plane. Except being a dream, it wasn't like a normal plane. It was more spacious and the windows were large, like on a bus. I was sitting right at the front, right behind the pilots (there was no wall/door separating the pilots from the passengers, only a large window)... we were flying high up into the sky and I could see snow-capped mountains through the windows...

Plane 

To see a plane in your dream, may be a pun on someone or something that is "plain". Perhaps the plane refers to a new level.To see a planet in your dream, signifies creativity, exploration, and new adventures. You are trying to align yourself with untapped energies that you never knew you had. 
Airplanes
To see an airplane in your dream, indicates that you will overcome your obstacles and rise to a new level of prominence and status. You may experience a higher consciousness, new-found freedom and greater awareness. Perhaps you need to gain a better perspective or wider view on something. If the airplane is taking off, then it suggests that an idea or plan is about to "take off" and be put into action. It may also represent you need to get away and escape from your daily life.
To dream that you are flying an airplane, suggests that you are in complete control of your destination in life. You are confident and self-assured in your decisions and accomplishments.

This is so accurate and so... hopeful. And it totally makes sense. I find dream analysis extremely accurate, and much better than generalised horoscopes in magazines!


Wikipedia: Stages of Culture Shock

Negotiation Phase
After some time (usually three months but sometimes sooner or later, depending on the individual), differences between the old and new culture become apparent and may create anxiety. Excitement may eventually give way to new and unpleasant feelings of frustration and anger as one continues to have unfavorable events that may be perceived as strange and offensive of one's cultural sensitivity. Language barrier, stark differences in public hygiene, traffic safety, food accessibility and quality may heighten the sense of disconnection from the surroundings.
The most important change in the period is communication: those people who are adjusting a new culture would feel lonely and homesick because they must get used to the new environment and meet people with whom they are not familiar every day. The language barrier may become a fiery obstacle in creating new relationships: special attention must be put one's and others' culture-specific body language signs, linguistic faux pas, conversation tone, linguistic nuances and customs, and false friends.
Due to the strain of living in a different country without parental support, several students might develop additional symptoms of loneliness, ultimately affecting the lifestyle as a whole. International students therefore often feel anxious and have a higher pressure in adjusting the new cultures. This is even more valid when the cultural distance is wide, as logical and speech patterns are different and a special emphasis is put on rhetorics.

Well that pretty much describes to a tee what I've been feeling around the 4-5month mark since I arrived. I guess it's all normal but that still doesn't make it any easier... I also realised that travelling doesn't bring me as much joy as it did before simply because nothing is 'foreign' anymore. It's all normal to me now. There is NO language barrier. Buying cheap baguettes and croissants all day long for all my meals seems totally normal, etc...


Friends

I have been feeling so down and annoyed about this whole friend-making thing. I'm tired of hearing about reasons and excuses for why it's so hard to make friends. I'm just over it. I have (or thought I had) lots of great friends here but their behaviour is not consistent. I need someone who is consistently nice to me. Not just be nice to me once and then ignore me for 3 months, for example.

I found this discussion Why is it so hard to make friends in Switzerland? and can relate to it all. I think you can pretty much swap 'Switzerland' for France (well, my part of France)! I KNOW my problem is compounded by the fact I'm stuck in a small town and I am sooooooooo over it.

I found this definition of provincial and it describes perfectly this small town attitude that many people here have :

Provincial
–adjective
3. having or showing the manners, viewpoints, etc., considered characteristic of unsophisticated inhabitants of a province; rustic; narrow or illiberal; parochial: a provincial point of view.

I need to go to a city where I can be with like-minded people. Open-minded, fun, young, single, successful, high-achieving, creative people. I cannot stand to be stuck around people with no great dreams or ambitions and just going with the status quo. It's driving me nuts!!! These people around me don't want to challenge themselves. They want an 'easy' life and never want to go out of their comfort zone. For the record, I don't think I am 'better' than these people, but just 'different', WAY too different. I've spent my whole life feeling and being 'different' and it's high time I found some of my 'own kind'.

Status Quo
The more things change, the more things stay the same. While there is some truth to this statement, more often things work in a way that allows for very little change. Many people prefer the current state because they don’t like to take risks. They are comfortable with the status quo, or the existing status.

Teachers in France

And all these teachers... they have to pass an extremely competitive entrance exam (CAPES) to become a teacher in the public school system (where they have something like a 10% chance of passing) and then after that, what? They do the same job for the rest of their lives because they want the illusion of 'job security' (which in my opinion doesn't exist in this day and age). Look, there's something very admirable about sticking it out in the same job for 30 or 40 years (and living in the same town/area your whole life) but that's just not me! Others may look down on me for that but that's my personality and I NEED to be around people who think the same way as me. I think that's why I'm so frustrated here. NOBODY thinks the way I do. My aim in life is not to be ordinary but to be extraordinary. If that sounds far-fetched, so be it. I needed my dream to tell me that that's what I want to do and be.

Go check out this book if you agree with my line of thinking that where you live is important:

Who's your city? by Richard Florida

Ciao for now...


----


OMG I can hardly contain myself. My hands are still shaking. Only 1.5 hours after I posted this post, I got a call... it turned out to be a 1 hour phone interview! (luckily it was in English. I think I would have died if it was in French as I have not prepared myself for that. I mean, phone interviews always catch me off guard). I have only applied for 2 jobs so far and got a rejection letter for one of them and an interview for the second (this) one. That has NEVER happened to me before. It usually takes dozens of applications to score even one interview and certainly a longer time frame. I am feeling good. I am feeling very positive... The lady seemed very nice and it was more like a chat rather than an interview with stupid questions like, "Where do you see yourself in 5 years' time?" She told me what the interview would involve... I am so nervous but so excited at the same time! Wish me luck :)

Alliance Francaise French Film Festival Australia 2011




Alliance Française French Film Festival Australia 2011


It's with much fondness that I write this post because I had an awesome awesome time at last year's festival. I met so many people (including Jean-Pierre Jeunet!) and saw so many great French films. It also started a whole chain of events for me with involving myself international film festivals in Sydney...
I wish so much I was back in Sydney right now so I could experience those happy moments all over again!

This is the biggest French film festival outside of France. Not bad for a country with a relatively small population...


C'est avec une tendresse que je vous écris ce post, car j'ai passé de très bons moments au festival de film français l'année dernière. J'ai rencontré tellement de gens (y compris Jean-Pierre Jeunet!) et j'ai vu tellement de supers films français. Ce festival a également lancé une chaîne d'événements pour moi avec des festivals internationaux du film à Sydney ...

Je souhaite tant que je suis à Sydney en ce moment pour que je puisse vivre ces moments de bonheur une fois de plus!

Ca c'est le plus grand festival de film français hors de la France. Pas mal pour un pays avec peu d'habitants ...



Previous related posts:
List of films (with links to imdb)
French Film Festival 2010 Opening Night

Official website: French Film Festival Australia 2011


et voilà ! Les films :


Potiche




Imdb: Potiche
Premiere.fr: Potiche


Une exécution ordinaire (An Ordinary Execution)




Imdb: Une exécution ordinaire (An Ordinary Execution)
Une exécution ordinaire


Carlos





imdb: Carlos
Premiere.fr: Carlos, le film


Nannerl, la soeur de Mozart (Nannerl, Mozart’s Sister)





imdb: Nannerl, La Soeur de Mozart
Premiere.fr: Nanner, la soeur de Mozart


Des Hommes et des Dieux (Of Gods and Men)







imdb: Of Gods and Men
Premiere.fr: Des Hommes et des Dieux


Hors La Loi (Outside the law)





imdb: Outside the Law
Premiere.fr: Hors La Loi


La Princesse de Montpensier (The Princess of Montpensier)





imdb: The Princess of Montpensier
Premiere.fr: La Princesse de Montpensier


La Rafle (The Round-Up)




imdb
Premiere.fr


Tout ce qui brille (All that glitters)





imdb
Premiere.fr


Angèle et Tony







imdb
Premiere.fr


Un balcon sur la mer (A view of love, lit.: a balcony by the sea)





imdb
Premiere.fr


Donnant, Donnant (Fair is fair)





imdb
Premiere.fr


Un Poison violent (Like Poison)




imdb
Premiere.fr


Les invités de mon père (My Father’s Guests)





imdb
Premiere.fr


Sans queue ni tête (Special Treatment, lit: with neither tail or head)




imdb
Premiere.fr


Comme les cinq doigts de la main (Five Brothers)







imdb
Premiere.fr


Sans laisser de traces (Traceless)







imdb
Premiere.fr


Joseph et la fille (Joseph and the girl)







imdb
Premiere.fr


Crime d’amour (Love Crime)







imdb
Premiere.fr


Gardiens de l’ordre (Sphinx)







imdb
Premiere.fr


Tête de turc (Turk's head)







imdb
Premiere.fr


Blanc comme neige (White as snow)







imdb
Premiere.fr


Part II

vendredi 4 mars 2011

Campus Electronique French proficiency test

Campus Electronique
It's been a while since I've done or written about a French proficiency test... I think I am going backwards! I just did this one and scored B2, not C1 as I had hoped.  The part with the newspaper article about the 2 girls in Australia (is that story for real?!) really stuffed me up. I think I would have trouble with that section even if it was in English!

More French proficiency tests

Qualities that make a nice person and a good friend

CV, friends, advice

I think I'm about to go insane with my CV. See, I found this perfect job. I mean my DREAM job. Perfect location. Perfect description. I don't know the salary but as long as it's reasonable, I don't care. And when I read the description I couldn't believe that it just fitted with my experience, like a jigsaw puzzle. And it's for a company I highly respect and have loved for a long time. It's so perfect which is why I'm obsessing about my CV and cover letter being perfect. The due date is in a couple of days but I want to send it off as early as possible. Problem is, I have to rely on Frenchies to help me correct it and of course noone is available exactly when I need them. If it were in English I could've sent it off on Monday or Tuesday already.

But... Just when I'd almost lost hope in humanity (after recent events and feeling kinda shit that people always let me down), my lawyer friend from Paris did a shitload of work on my CV today. I actually didn't expect it to happen. On Monday night we talked on Skype and he said to send it over and he'd have a look and he'd have it to me by Wednesday. On Wednesday night we talked again and he said he didn't have time to look at it yet but he could do it during his lunchtime on Thursday (ie today). I asked if it was possible to have it finished by 6pm today (not getting my hopes up too high or anything).

When 6pm came around and I hadn't received it back yet by email I wasn't surprised, and I wasn't angry, just a little disappointed. However, at around 6:30pm I got his reply. And I was completely blown away. I gave it to him in plain text format, not Word (because I don't have Word on my computer) and he actually put it into Word and not only just pasted it in, but formatted the whole thing for me as well. Then he basically went through the whole thing and practically retyped everything so it made sense in French, but not only that, changed the wording so it sounded more professional. You know, like using 'small' instead of 'little' and things like that. And he's a lawyer and a perfectionist and has an excellent vocabulary. I couldn't have asked a more perfect person to help me correct it.

As if that wasn't enough, he also sent me 2 links to 2 people's resumes online that would help me, as well as his own. Last night he said he couldn't show me his (for what reason, I don't know) so I accepted that but then he obviously changed his mind. It's weird how weird people get with their CVs. I've asked friends to send me their CVs and some will readily send it to me and other people will get funny about it, because it's like soooooooo private? I don't quite get it. All it does is make me think I'm not really their friend but I don't hassle people or anything. I'm just curious more than anything.

And then, as if that wasn't enough, he then spent 2 hours with me tonight going through it again to make sure there are no mistakes (after I made a whole lot of changes and re-sent it to him). And THEN (this is all without me asking for it by the way) he gave me tips on what to say in the interview when they ask me about jobs a, b and c...etc... all the while being extremely positive and encouraging. In fact he told me to aim higher - that I could do anything if I wanted to - which was so nice to hear from a total stranger no less.

Every now and then we both got sidetracked onto other topics we wanted to talk about but we had to get to the mundane task of finishing the freakin' CV. And I didn't even get around to showing him my lettre de motivation which has been so difficult to write in French...  I'm so tempted to just send them the letter in English. This is taking WAY too long.

So I was thinking back to late 2008 when my life started to take a fork in the road. I was sick of getting rejections when it came to applying for jobs so I sought the advice of everyone I knew. I'm talking almost everyone. And I went online and read stuff, and asked random people online, and signed up to various newsletters, blogs and websites about job searching. I bought and read that What Color is your Parachute? book, which wasn't the first time I'd done that. I asked friends who worked for big firms if they could find me job ads in my fields. Etc etc. And shock horror, it actually worked! I was getting lots of interviews. Sometimes 2 in the same week. I became less and less nervous with each one. I was getting somewhere!

But now the thought of doing an interview gives me anxiety and fills my stomach with butterflies all over again (because it's been a while since I've done one and because if I have to do it in French...). It's kind of funny that I give job hunting related advice when I need it myself now!

There's something I've realised and it's not just related to job hunting. It's that... it's so easy to give advice to others, yet it's really hard to take the same advice for yourself. It's easy to tell someone what to do during an interview - smile, be confident yadda yadda yet it's hard for me to actually do that. It's easy for me to give my friends relationship advice when they ask for it, yet I know, deep down, if I were in their shoes it would be really hard to follow my own advice as well. Why is that?

The other thing I wanted to say was... I discovered that if you want career advice ask a man, don't ask a woman. Of course if they are super successful sure... I know this sounds sexists against my own 'kind' but I discovered that the advice I got from men was vastly different to that of women when it comes to careers. It's all to do with our makeup and personality. It's because men know how to talk themselves up and women tend not to do that. Men are overly confident and that's why they tend to get the better jobs (I realise there's a host of other reasons too but that's getting off the point).

Back to my friend.. I realise that 1) I'm far too trusting of people and 2) dating is actually not that different to finding/meeting friends. The only difference is you can only date one person (for the long term) at a time and you become intimate with them. With friends you can have as many as you want, and you never get intimate with them.

So getting back to this lawyer dude and thinking back to all the chats I've had with people on Skype (that I find/meet through language learning websites NOT dating ones*) and thinking about my recent and past dating experiences... there are some conclusions to be made. And I know this is basic stuff for most people but it's something I need to learn to apply (if I don't already).

1. Actions speak louder than words. 
Call it a 'bullshit' detector or what you will.. but I never really believe the credibility of someone through their words alone. They can say anything to you and it won't mean anything unless they back it up with actions. Take for example this other person I was speaking to on Skype. We got along just as well as the lawyer dude and I. Yet when I asked him for help with my CV he said he couldn't do it until the weekend. I do realise that people work, and are busy, and are tired after work etc...  but the response contrasted with the lawyer dude and my other friend was totally different. Plus after, he basically stopped talking to me. No "I've gotta go" or anything like that. The conversation just stopped dead in the tracks after that. OK...
So in a dating sense, this is totally true as well. And it's related to timing too. If someone says they are going to do something by a certain time and don't... well they're not that reliable. 'Don't say it if you don't mean it' is what I think.
The scariest thing is... With my ex (of 5.5 years that I broke up with in 2008) he was totally unreliable when it came to the time. Always late and making excuses etc. The guy I dated after him was better but still not perfect. Then, once I actually made a decision that I wouldn't put up with that sort of behaviour anymore, the next guy I dated (just before I left Sydney for France) was absolutely perfect in this regard. He was ALWAYS punctual, so punctual he made me look bad. And then the same thing happened with my ex (here). Always punctual. Never late. If he was late (even by a few minutes) he'd text to let me know. I couldn't believe that this....powerful thinking... I dunno the technical term for it.... whatever I was doing actually worked.

I kind of really got the shits with certain people here who told me time and time again they would invite me over or do (activity) with me and yet never came through with the goods. Why bother bringing it up if you don't want to do it? Are they waiting for me to call them begging them to invite me over or what? Geez I'm not that desperate! I don't get this French small town mentality and it shits me. OK I lie. At the beginning I didn't understand French protocol (still don't and probably never will) so I did make the first step. I basically had to invite myself. But then I wouldn't get a reply or something would come up (excuses).. or... I'm soooooo over it now. I mean if someone's not going to invite you over after knowing you for 5 months then they never will, right?

2. Consistently displaying nice behaviour.
I had a problem where I thought if someone did 1 or 2 nice things for me, it meant that they were my friend. That's 'proof', right? Nooooooooooo... because then they'd drop off the earth or only TALK about doing stuff but not taking any action. It's the same with dating. If someone is truly into you they will display consistently nice behaviour towards you. No treating you great one day and then ignoring you for weeks on end after or being cold towards you.

3. Offering help without you asking for it. 
With most people I feel like I have to ask for help all the time but a truly nice person and/or good friend will realise you need help and offer it without you even having to ask for it.

4. Giving time. 
A good friend and a good date/partner is someone who gives you their time. It's the most precious commodity. I give time to those I appreciate and who I consider friends and expect the same back. If they don't give me any time it's obvious to me I'm not really a friend of theirs at all.

5. Giving you something/time/help/etc without expecting anything back at all. 
If you can find someone like this they are a rare gem indeed. Sometimes I feel that people want to befriend you only because they want something from you. Then once they get it, they're gone. If someone is truly your friend you want to help them anyway but with others you soon realise if they are just using you. It's so true that when you give, you get back (but only if you don't actually expect to get something back).

I had all these thoughts going through my head when this lawyer guy was helping me with my CV. I mean, seriously, we don't know each other at all. Apart from these last few days (where we didn't talk about much other than my CV) we had only talked ONCE. I realise it took up heaps of time to do what he did. I honestly can't imagine anyone that I know here doing that for me (and to be honest, even if they did, they wouldn't have done as good a job of it because they don't have the education and the vocabulary). All I could think of was - what's going on? Yes I realise there are plenty of nice/good people in the world and my true friends are these kinds of people but I told myself not to get ahead of myself. I am way too trusting. Just because something does something nice for me once... Only time will tell I guess. I admit I feel paranoid because I've been hurt by so-called 'friends'. But for this moment now, he's restored my faith in humanity.

* You would not believe it, but I do on the rare occasion meet people who think that any kind of website where people have a photo and a vague profile is a dating website. Gosh that aggravates me! Is it too much to ask just to talk to someone and to be platonic friends? Seriously. Using a language learning website as a dating service is just plain creepy and stalkerish in my opinion.

jeudi 3 mars 2011

High Schools and Teaching in France



French Culture and Society observations..

Every time I go and teach a class I have all these thoughts that run through my head and I think about doing a blog post later except I forget.. well... here it is!

First of all, I can only speak about my school. I don't know if all French high schools are the same. And since I'm from Australia, these comparisons will be to my public high school in Sydney, Australia (private schools are vastly different).


School Uniforms:

The first thing I noticed when I started working here were the uniforms of course, or lack thereof. I guess to Americans it's nothing unusual but to an Australian it's 'weird' to see high school students not wearing one. Over the months I've been thinking about this over and over in my head which I think is 'better'.

Pros of wearing a school uniform:

Of course my first reaction was that uniforms are infinitely better... even students I have talked to agreed with me! Why? You're there at school to learn. It's not a fashion parade. There is no competition between rich kids and poor kids. As we all know rich kids can afford the latest trends and expensive brands and buy lots of clothes and the poor kids can't. You don't have to think about what to wear each morning.

I remember when I first started high school we were given a sheet of paper with 'rules' about what sort of shoes and jewellery we could wear. Or even what sort of things we could wear in our hair (only school colours of course). There are strict regulations for that sort of thing in Australia mainly for safety reasons. Ie only very small stud or hoop earrings. Fully enclosed-toe shoes with no heel - ie black leather shoes with laces. I find myself thinking about this a lot when I see massive crazy earrings  and stilettos on girls here (I kid you not). Obviously, occupational health and safety regulations aren't quite as important here ;)

Cons of wearing a school uniform:

I can actually see some benefits of NOT wearing a uniform, and it goes along with my thinking that co-educational schools are 'better' than single-sex ones. The reason is because ours is a non-uniform wearing (except certain types of jobs) and co-educational society. We all start off in pre-school not wearing uniforms and in an co-ed environment but then we progress into this 'other period' and then once we're finished high school we're back to the same thing as before. By keeping it consistent it doesn't 'confuse' the kids and also I think in a way it makes them mature quicker. By choosing what you get to wear each day you are allowed to make adult-like decisions.

But then, teenagers in France are less likely to be competitive with their fashion compared to American or Australian teenagers. I remember when I was in high school, once in a blue moon we'd have a "non-uniform day" and I felt pressured to buy something new (and oh so trendy) especially for this rare event. I'm sure my friends felt the same thing. Also, due to colder weather or cultural reasons it's much more acceptable to wear the same thing several days in a row here. France also tends to be more economical and less materialistic than Anglo countries, I've found. At home I wouldn't dream of wearing the same outfit two days in a row. I don't remember wearing anything twice in a row during my time at university or work. It just felt 'weird' but it's completely normal here so now I often find myself wearing the same thing 2-3 days in a row.




Canteen/Cafeteria:

I talked about this before in my post here. We don't really have them in Australia so they fascinate me. If you've seen Supersize me there's a section in the documentary that compares canteens in the US vs those in France. That scene alone gives you a good idea about why America has an obesity problem and France does not. I think anyone who is NOT French would be fascinated by how canteens 'work' in France and what sort of food they serve up. I don't think there is another country out there that does it the same way.

Like in other countries in Europe, you pay with a swipe card loaded up with credit. This of course creates efficiency and noone in the canteen has to worry about cash handling. All of that is done in the administration part of the school.

After that you take a tray, the cutlery and proceed to follow the queue to choose what you want to eat. You're only allowed to take a certain amount (it's not a buffet afterall) but if you take less, you still get charged the same. The other assistant and I, being budget conscious and all, take all the components and often don't eat them all and save them up for later for snacks in our room.

Everyone agrees that the meals are HUGE. They have to be because the French don't really snack. Contrary to the pre-packed over-processed stuff served in canteens in high schools in America, everything is freshly prepared and cooked. OK, there are some pre-packaged things like yoghurt and cheese but this is for ease, convenience and hygiene purposes. The entrée is a wide selection of salads, the main meal is always hot and always eaten with a knife and fork and the dessert is usually a cake or mousse, or pastry or something equally yummy and French. There is also fresh fruit and of course bread, because the French love their bread!

For a drink is there only water. I'm sure this is for health reasons as well as cost-saving reasons. It doesn't worry me at all because I love drinking water.

Something else I noticed was that men and women eat the same amount. No matter how thin the ladies are that I've seen, they finish everything on their tray. The French are big on not wasting anything (be it tangible things like food or intangible things like electricity).  Back home I'd notice whenever I ate out with friends, the guys would always eat much more than the girls. Not so in France. Yeah sure there are probably lots of French women who diet and have eating disorders as in any country but as far as my experiences are concerned, I have never seen a French woman picking at her food or talking about dieting etc. I have, however, seen plenty of women (of other cultures/backgrounds including Australian and American) do that though. As a female, I've seen and heard it all amongst friends and acquaintances. The "Oh I already ate earlier" or "I had a big lunch" (while leaving a plate of food entirely untouched) etc etc. It's so obvious. Or the old favourite, "I'm going to start my diet/exercise routine next week..." after feeling guilty for eating a nice big meal. It really saddens me to see women treat their bodies with such contempt not knowing how it truly works and not loving and appreciating food. Have you ever noticed that food-loving nations* have far less incidences of obesity? Why? I believe in the fast-paced Anglo Western world we obsess over the fact that food is the enemy and we punish (or reward) ourselves with food.

* By food-loving nations I mean nations which have the culture of food, growing and cultivating it, making things by hand, the history, the love... all of it. I also had a thought that in countries where obesity is generally not a problem, the food tends to be a lot cheaper and it is much easier to get fresh fruit and vegetables. Going back to Supersize me, it mentions that everyone wants to buy/eat what is the cheapest and in the US (and Australia) fast food is cheaper whereas in France fresh food is cheaper.

In the canteen at my school there are posters and little brochures/leaflets telling you food and nutrition facts. On tv there are lots of ads/community announcements about health and food and exercise pointing to this website: Manger Bouger (Eat, Move). Eating and being healthy is a huge deal to the French.

So a little thing like the canteen has really made me understand how important food and eating is to the French. And I like their way. I like that they eat slowly because I eat slowly. I like that they stop what they are doing to have lunch. I like that they eat at a table (unlike what I did in Australia: we had to sit on the ground, outside). I like that they appreciate food and treat it like a friend, rather than an enemy.


Students:

When I'm teaching I often feel like the main character in the movie Never Been Kissed. Of course I'm not posing as a student but being in close contact with them gives me insight into their lives, a life I'd long since forgotten. I didn't enjoy high school at all so I think I've blocked out most of it and honestly don't remember a great deal about my time there. But being around teenagers, in a different country no less, makes me realise (and remember) that it's all still the same!!!

Teenagers are teenagers everywhere. You have your popular 'clique' and your unpopular kids. You have your smart, ambitious kids and the ones who couldn't give two hoots. Peers are extremely important to them. It's the same in every school in every country.

They think they are adults but they still act like children. They hate authority. Many hate school and can't see the point of learning (subject). It's the same ol' same ol'.

I see certain students who remind me a lot of myself. The ones who really want to learn but are stuck in a class full of extroverted insecure clowns. Yes, I say insecure because it's those who are insecure that seek attention and always have to be loud and annoying (to cover up the fact that they don't understand anything about what they are learning.

I find myself remembering things my father said to me when I was a teenager. "You don't understand... I'm older than you and have more experience... You're too young... You'll see when you're older that..." all those types of thoughts keep flooding back to me and I can't help but think he was right all along. It's so funny like that. When you're 16 you think you know EVERYTHING but actually, you know NOTHING.

I have some female students who think their only role in life is to look pretty and 'hot'. They come to class late (or don't come at all), and then spend the whole time fixing their hair, their make-up and acting as if school is one big fashion parade. I've spoken to their head teacher about it and she told me there's nothing you can do. That's just their personality. One day they'll wake up to themselves. I wish I could tell them what I really think. "You're not going to be 16 forever. One day you'll have bills to pay. Maybe you should think about getting some ambition, or are you just going to wait for some guy to rescue you? You may think learning English is a joke now but when you are actually out there looking for a job you'll realise how useful that skill really is..." (I actually had a 20-something English-learning student/client of mine tell me exactly that).

I actually had a female student of mine (age 18) tell me her goal was to get married by age 22 (much to the shock of her classmates because French people, like most people in the Western world) get married quite late these days, around the age of 30. That's if they get married at all.

My BTS students are the worst. They are already in their early 20s and still don't know what they want to do in life and have zero motivation or care. It's just so so sad to see people like this. It actually gives me insight into what it's like to be a parent.

They don't call France the most romantic country for nothing. There is 'romance' everywhere you look. Or should I say, there are horny teenagers everywhere you look. I'm not sure what the rules and regulations are but it seems like they can do anything as long as they are not naked. You see couples hiding out making out everywhere and teachers don't stop them. Oh did I mention there are condom vending machines scattered throughout the corridors?! When I first arrived I was surprised and shocked when I saw this. There are also condom vending machines outside almost every pharmacy in France (for when you have - ahem - an emergency, since pharmacies and supermarkets close at around 7pm).

I asked one of my classes to discuss the subject of love and relationships and I was surprised when one girl actually told me in detail the status of her relationship (which, honestly, I couldn't follow anyway because it was confusing as all hell)... "I dumped him because I realised I was still in love with my ex, and then I got back with him because... and my friend started going out with his friend.. and then we... and then someone else dumped someone else and got together with someone else..." Woah. Made my head (and heart) hurt wondering how people could get their emotions so knotted up like that.

Then there are two couples in one of my other classes. They are all good friends with each other and both couples seem like they've been together for an eternity. They are popular and are good students. They seem so sweet I wouldn't be surprised if they ended up together for long long time... They seem so devoted to each other and just too perfect!

Then there's the issue of smoking. The teachers and staff don't care that students as young as 12 smoke! Mine is a big school and it's the lycée (senior high school) and collège (junior high school) combined. Although I don't teach the youngin's I see them around and I've seen them smoking too. The rule is that they cannot smoke on school property but they can smoke outside the school gates. Hmm...




Driving

Driving seems to be a big deal to teenagers here as it is everywhere. It's the first taste of freedom. Students sometimes come to class late because they just had a driving lesson. Driving schools are everywhere. Even in my small town there are a handful. They have an office or shopfront (which is something I never saw in Australia). Apparently the lessons are quite expensive so if your parents can't afford it.. well... bad luck. I felt so sad when one of my students (a really lovely girl) told me her parents couldn't afford it so she couldn't get her licence.

I did a post on the French driving test (the written part) before: Code de la route and from what I've read it does seem to be difficult to pass the test but then again there are so many drivers out there it can't be that difficult ;) Apparently French people make bad drivers and from what I've personally experienced, I'd have to say that that is true. Off topic, but up until the third month mark I'd actually get into the driver's seat when I got into a friend's car because I was so used to the car being the other way around (in Australia we drive on the left hand side of the road)!!




Hobbies


What do my students get up to in their spare time? Sport is high on the list. Many went skiing during their Christmas holidays, horse riding, ice skating, skateboarding, soccer, tennis, cycling, hiking... Sport or art/craft classes, music lessons, driving lessons,  nightclubbing (the legal age is not a big deal in France so 15 and 16 year olds go), big parties at someone's house, time with parents (or other extended family), cooking and eating,




What I love about teenagers


They are so open and honest. They'll tell you anything (almost) if you ask it. I love that. I'm so used to guarded and private and aloof people it's so refreshing.

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