Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

French Etiquette in a Nutshell

October 25, 2008

Yesterday, my french class talked about the world of french food and dining. My french professor’s wife Catherine shared a few tips on her french dining experience as a Singaporean in his family. Here’s a brief recount on what I learnt en ma classe de français..

Attire

Whatever the occasion is, always make an effort to dress well. Your best bet would be smart casual for casual gatherings though you should avoid jeans. The french being fashion forward, pays extra attention to dressing details. So impress while not being overdressed.

Arrival Time

Punctuality is a sign that you have been well brought up, and it is said that the higher north you go in France, the most stricter it gets in terms of punctuality. As a general guideline, you should never be more than 15 minutes late. Anything after that grace period, please inform the host before hand.

Gifts

Yes you need to being your host something as a token of appreciation for inviting you over for dinner. Save ideas include fresh flowers or chocolates. And of course like in most other cultures, Chrysanthemums are out of the question since they are typically associated with funeral wreaths! Wines are definitely generous, but skip it unless you are some sort of wine specialist! Don’t forget, most french people know their wines very well and can be very particular on the type you bring. So yes, skip it!

Aperitif / Cocktails as Pre-Dinner Drinks

An aperitif is an alcoholic drink taken before a meal to stimulate the appetite. The term comes from a latin origin in the 19th century which meant, “to open”. A cocktail is an alcholic drink consisting of a sprit or serveral sprits mixed together with other ingredients such as fruit juice, lemonade or cream. Of course, you can always ask for a non-alcoholic drink, and your host will offer juice or fizzy drinks. Never choose upon these offers, take whatever that he offers first!

Also, wait for the host to lead before you drink. It is polite to make eye contact as you say, “Santé”, which means, “to health”.

Main Course

Even though the invitation starts at 8:00pm, the actual dinner will commence around 9:30pm at the earliest. Expect a starter, a main course, salad and then cheese. At the table, observe how the host places her guests. The female guest-of-honour will be placed next to the host on his right. The “next-female-in-line” will be placed on the host’s left. Likewise, the male guest-of-honour will be placed on the right of the hostess. The other guests then seat accordingly, alternating between men and women. Take note that there should never be 13 people at a table as it is a sign of bad luck.. apparently because of a religious origin, that at The Last Supper before Jesus died, there were 13 members at the table.

Don’t eat before the host starts. As the french people do not like the idea of refrigerating or warming up food that has been set out for a while, the host will shuffle constantly to the kitchen to prepare the next course. The french believe in serving the food french, taking care of all the preparation details.

Try everything even if you don’t like it. Refusing food is taken as a form of insult to the host.

Chat

You can talk about everything except taboo topics such as religion, politics and sex. The french enjoy a “verbal conflict”. Sometimes, they will provoke you to talk about how you really feel towards a particular issue just to hear different opinions. In this case, talk to them and make them see your point even though they disagree. In the conversation process and for obvious reasons, ensure that you don’t hurt the anyone’s feelings, shock them unnecessary or attack them.

Salad

Served after the main course with vinaigrette dressing. Don’t ever cut the leaves if they are too big. You should instead, fold them with your fork and knife. Remember, it is impolite to the host to cut them.

Cheese

There are over 400 types of cheese in France. The french eat more cheese than any other nation in the world, an amazing total of 20.4 kg (45 lbs.) per person per year! A definite must for any french meal.

Bread

The french bread is bread made from white wheat flour that has a strong and chewy crust, served constantly through the meal. Usually the bread is shaped into a torpedo, batard, or baguette style. The host may prepare the bread several times a day so his guests can have access to fresh bread for dinner or a late-night snack.

Coffee/Infusion

The french pressed coffee is usually thicker and stronger and has more sediment than drip-brewed coffee. As the used grounds remain in the drink after brewing, the coffee should be served immediately so as to not become bitter from over-extraction. Coffee is usually offered after the main course and is normally taken in the living room.

Final notes

For more notes on french dining, check out the following website: Table Etiquette in France. Just remember, you should always go with the flow and observe the people and their behavior around.

And finally Catherine quotes Oscar Wilde, “Experience is the name we give to our mistakes”, so you will be more experienced on your next visit!

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24th Singapore French Film Festival

October 5, 2008

What is the French Film Festival?

In its tradition, the French people love the arts and the theatre. The annual event is organised by the Alliance Française de Singapour, the French Embassy and and Cathay OrganizationSG Private Banking and Unifrance are the world-wide presenting sponsors of the French Film Festival. And they also have Air France as the Airline Sponsor of the festival.

This year 2008, the French Film Festival in Singapore Films will showcase the finest french actors and directors, box office hits and award winners. With over 20 French films debut screenings in Singapore, it is a highly anticipated event to the expatriates and local Singaporeans. The event also pays tribute to Alain Resnais who is an extraordinary film maker who imposed a cinematic style of entertainment to replace the traditional cinematographic narration. The 24th edition of the French Film Festival will be held from (now!) 3 to 12 October.

Movies I would like to watch..

La Reine Soliel
(Princess of the Sun)

In French with English subtitles
Director: Philippe Leclerc
France, 2007, 90mins, TBA
Cast: Catherine Conet, Gérard Duquet, Nathalie Homs, Arnaud Léonard,
Mathieu Moreau, Philippe Résimont, Martin Spinhayer

>> AF Theatre, Sunday 5 October 2008, 4.30 pm
The Cathay Cineplex, Sunday 12 October 2008, 2.30 pm

Mauvaise foi
(Bad Faith)
In French with English subtitles
Director: Roschdy Zem
France, 2006, 88mins, NC16 – Some mature content
Cast: Cécile De France, Roschdy Zem, Pascal Elbé, Jean-Pierre Cassel,
Martine Chevallier

>>AF Theatre, Saturday 4 October 2008, 6.45 pm
The Cathay Cineplex, Wednesday 8 October 2008, 7.30 pm

Je crois que je l’aime
(Could this be Love?)
In French with English subtitles
Director : Pierre Jolivet
France, 2006, 90mins, PG – Some sexual references
Cast : Vincent Lindon, François Berléand, Sandrine Bonnaire,
Kad Merad, Liane Foly

>>AF Theatre, Wednesday 8 October 2008, 9.15 pm
The Cathay Cineplex, Saturday 11 October, 7.30 pm

Hiroshima mon amour
(Hiroshima My Love)
In French with English subtitles
Director: Alain Resnais
France, 1959, 91mins, Black and White, PG
Cast: Emmanuelle Riva, Eiji Okada, Bernard Fresson, Stella Dassas,
Pierre Barbaud

>>AF Theatre, Monday 6 October 2008, 8.30 pm
The Picturehouse, Saturday 4 October 2008, 9.30 pm

L’année dernière a Marienbad
(Last Year In Marienbad)
In French with English subtitles
Director : Alain Resnais
France, 1961, 94 mins, Black and White, TBA
Cast : Delphine Seyrig, Giorgio Albertazzi, Sacha Pitoeff, Françoise Bertin

>>AF Theatre, Tuesday 7 October 2008, 6.45 pm
The Picturehouse, Sunday 5 October 2008, 4.30 pm

For the full list, download here French Film Festival.

Amélie: Film français à SMU (24 Sept 2008)

September 22, 2008

My french professor has arranged for a french movie screening in school Wednesday evening at 7pm this week. Titled Amélie, the film starring Audrey Tautou is a whimsical and rather idealised depiction of contemporary Parisian life, set in the northern Paris Montmartre. The story introduces a shy waitress, Amélie, who seeks to improve the lives of those around her while struggling with her own isolation.

Which got me to think about french movies in general. In US, a movie is considered another form of entertainment and it’s success is measured by ticket sales. In France, a movie is often thought as a message sent by a director for the audience’s reflection, and the success of each film is measured by the number of viewers, and not so much of whether if it stays in the box office.

They have the Oscars too, its called les Césars, held in February.

Anyway here’s the movie trailer for Amélie.

Are French People Rude?

September 11, 2008

Related Article: The Rude French Myth @ About.com

I chatted with M something about the french people yesterday. According to M’s friend X, X regarded the french people as snobbish and rude. X proved his point with his little trip to France, and said that the french do not seemed to like talking to him, as if they were looking down on him as a foreigner. What repulses me is the way X (who by the way I see has absolutely zero knowledge on the french culture) talked negatively to potential visitors about the “rude french people”.

Which reminded me of my class last week on the common misconception on the french personality. French people won’t smile unless they mean it, as they consider smiling unnecessary to be hypocritical. When you smile at a French whose face remains impassive, it does not mean that they are disapproving you or that you are rejected socially. It is just the way they operate. As such, it is unfair to dismiss a french person as unfriendly or rude solely by his facial expression.

Generally, most cultures smile upon meeting new people. By smiling, we believe that we are reducing the tension and therefore create a less hostile environment as a result. This we know, is particularly true with the Americans. So imagine if an American were to meet a French and how the American would be put off immediately because of the lack of cultural understanding. It’s not that the French won’t make the effort or that they don’t understand, its simply not part of their ecosystem.

So yes, I don’t think that the french people are rude. The only rude people are the people who come to conclusion too soon without any effort to understand the situation. Of course if you want to argue for the rest of us, you can, start your own blog too.