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How to embrace French culture in 2021

With the arrival of a new year comes a renewed desire for change. Many of us make resolutions to help us live healthier and smarter lives – and if you live abroad, you may want to discover new aspects of your host nation.

How to embrace French culture in 2021
Photos: Getty Images/HelloFresh
While France is a wonderful country, with a long and proud history, honoured tradition and gregarious, outgoing people, it can take a while to fully grasp all its idiosyncrasies. The language and the cuisine are both enormously rich – but can also be challenging.
 
Together with HelloFresh, we look at some of the choices you could make in 2021 to embrace French culture. What better time than the arrival of la nouvelle année to make a commitment to becoming more like the French? 
 
 
Learn the language (or master your accent!)
 
Many languages have their difficulties, and French is no exception. On a basic level, it’s a language that counts by twenty, leading to numbers such as eighty being written as quatre-vingt (‘four twenty)’ and ninety nine as quatre-vingt-dix-neuf (‘four-twenty-ten-nine’). It's a somewhat peculiar system compared to many languages. 
 
Then there are the ‘false friends’ – words that appear similar to English words but have different meanings that can lead to unfortunate misunderstandings. A librarie is not where you borrow books – it’s a bookshop. Nor should you think that a préservatif is something like a jam. It’s actually a condom. Be really careful about that one when ordering toast!  
 
There are hundreds of language apps and courses available for those who wish to improve their French skills. You could also embrace French films and television shows as part of your viewing habits. These present you with language in its natural context, and you'll soon pick up valuable expressions for day-to-day use. Perhaps you're already feeling confident and just want to refine your French accent? Bonne chance!
 
Get cooking and discover French food  
 
France is widely known as the home of haute cuisine, and many of the worlds finest chefs and restaurateurs hail from the country. If you dream of cooking like the crème de la crème of French gastronomy, you’ve got your work cut out and may feel daunted by the challenge.
 
However, that doesn’t mean that learning to cook some of the country’s dishes is altogether out of your reach. As the late great Anthony Bourdain, a tireless advocate of French cuisine, said: “Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.” In France, there are countless cooking classes and organizations dedicated to helping you use local ingredients in dazzling, tasty ways.
 
Perhaps a simpler way that you can truly embrace and enjoy the delights of French cuisine is through HelloFresh meal kits. Each week you’ll receive all the ingredients you need to cook up to five distinct recipes put together by chefs.
 
 
Soon, you could be cooking Filet de poulet et sauce forestière à la moutarde (pictured below) or if you want a vegetarian option, perhaps Velouté de butternut et tartine de bleu d'Auvergne
 
Filet de poulet et sauce forestière à la moutarde. Photo: HelloFresh
 
Other past HelloFresh French favourites have included Chicken Provence, Steak Frites and French Lentil Salad. 
 
France’s love of food is one reason why it has become so serious about food wastage. Indeed, the country’s revolutionary food waste law has helped to ensure that every day hundreds of dollars worth of good food is donated to NGOs and other organisations to feed the less fortunate. Across the country, primary food producers have instigated various means of ensuring that the majority of food produced ends up on plates. 
 
Want to help cut food waste and the carbon emissions associated with imported food in 2021? Signing up with HelloFresh could be a good place to start. Not only do meal kits reduce waste by providing only exactly what you need, but HelloFresh has also pledged to source local ingredients where it can from across France. This means the fruit, vegetables, meat and diary that you get delivered showcase some of the country’s finest produce. 
 
HelloFresh meal boxes are also easy to dispose of. Designed to be folded when empty, and made out of renewable materials, the meal boxes can be put out for weekly recycling collection. In addition, all separators, paper boxes and plastic bags included can be recycled, meaning almost nothing ends up in landfill. 
 
Plan a trip to one of France’s hidden corners  
 
Sure, everybody typically flocks to the Mediterranean coast in summer and the Alps in winter. But there’s much more to France than sun and skiing. If you’re willing to explore further and perhaps get a little lost, then treasures abound.
 
Lockdowns and curfew rules mean voyages of discovery in France remain largely off limits. But this could be the time to learn more about the country by doing some research on the treasures you could discover when the time is right.
 
Take a look at France’s prehistory and the amazing carved Neolithic tomb at Gavrinis, in Brittany, covered in intricate swirls. The delectable flammkuchen of Alsace – a variation on pizza – awaits you around Strasbourg and the pretty city of Colmar. And if you’re a shopper, you could find all sorts of treasures – and tasty treats – around the covered markets of Albi, in Occitane. 
 
In Europe, we're blessed with far more public holidays than most of the world. Once restrictions on movement are lifted and it's safe to travel, this could be the year to discover more of the glories of France. 
 
Keen to start 2021 by enjoying more of what France has to offer? Click here to save €50 on your first three HelloFresh meal boxes in France as a reader of The Local (just use the code ‘THELOCAL50’ at checkout)
 
 

CULTURE

How to make the most of France’s ‘night of museums’ this weekend

More than 3,000 French museums will stay open long past their bedtimes on Saturday May 14th for the 18th Long Night of Museums.

How to make the most of France's 'night of museums' this weekend

The annual event takes place on the third Saturday in May each year in towns and cities across the whole of Europe. There are temporary exhibitions, themed guided visits, musical entertainment, lectures, concerts, food tasting, historical reconstructions and re-enactments, and film projections. Best news of all, almost everything is free. 

Here’s The Local’s guide to getting the most out of the night:

Plan, plan, then throwaway the plan

Consult the online programme and map out your route. A little preparation will make the night much easier – 3,000 museums will be open long into the night in France, and you don’t want to waste hours standing on a bridge arguing about where to go next. 

The site has suggestions for major cities, including Lyon, Dijon, Bourges, Strasbourg, Lille, Rouen, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Marseilles. And four museums that have been closed to the public for years – Musée de Cluny in Paris, the Musée de Valenciennes, the Forum antique de Bavay in Nord and the Musée départemental Albert-Khan in Boulogne-Billancourt – are reopening on the night.

So, decide where you’re going beforehand – then feel free to dump your carefully plotted plan in a bin when you overhear someone else talking about this extraordinary thing they have discovered and go with the flow.

Be patient

When you are consulting the official website, try not to scream. You have to navigate a map rather than a traditional programme format – though, at least, this year it’s broken down in to French regions, which is marginally less frustrating.

It is actually much easier if you know the specific museums you are interested in visiting, as they have individual programmes of events. But half the fun of a night like this is visiting somewhere you’ve never been before.

Wear comfortable shoes and travel light

Wear shoes for the long haul rather than the first impression. There will be distances to cover and you might even find yourself dancing in the middle of a museum. 

And blisters are never a good partner with great art. Leave your skateboard and shopping trolley at home, they will just prove a nuisance when you are going through security checks.

Come early – or late – to avoid endless queues

Arriving at the Louvre at 8pm is always going to mean a giant queue. And nothing ruins a night quicker than spending most of it standing in an unmoving line. Try to escape peak times at the major museums – but check they’re not doing something interesting that you don’t want to miss – hip hop dance classes in the Department of Oriental Antiquities, in the Louvre’s Richelieu wing, for example…

Go somewhere you’ve never been to before

Do a lucky dip. Pick somewhere you’ve never heard of and know nothing about. What about the Musée de Valenciennes, which reopens after years of being closed to the public, for example. Its giving visitors the chance to see its fine art under ultraviolet light – which will reveal things you wouldn’t normally see.

Or you could delve deep into the Aude Departmental Archives, in Carcassonne, and discover the amazing life stories of some of the region’s historical figures

Make it social

Gather the troops, this is a night for multi-generations of family and friends. Art, history and culture, is very much a shared experience and you can usually find something that everyone loves – or hates.

Plan a pitstop

You will always need refreshing and wouldn’t a night of culture be wonderfully enhanced by a delicious picnic on the banks of the Seine, if you’re in Paris. 

Your mind will need a little pause from all the intellectual overload. Find a spot, listen to the music (there’s always music from somewhere) and watch the Bateaux Mouches go by as you eat a baguette with some good local cheese and some saucisson.

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