La Belle Vie is our regular look at the real culture of France – from language to cuisine, manners to films. This newsletter will be published weekly and you can receive it directly to your inbox, by going to newsletter preferences or adding your email to the sign-up box in this article.
The annual French mood survey has been released, and this year it continued to dispel stereotypes that the French are a grumpy bunch. The 2021 results for the survey, which was produced by the Elabe Institute, found that a strong majority of French people are “happy” and about a third of respondents even said they were “very happy.”
While there were some differences amongst French people, overall the results showed that the population remained content, even amid rising fears about global phenomenons like the climate crisis.
I have some theories as to why the French are happy, but perhaps that question would be better answered by readers of The Local, who have their own ideas of what makes France so great?
My theory of why many French people are happy has a lot to do with boulangeries being so accessible, and it’s not just because of easy access to warm, fresh bread. I know that it may sound a bit silly, but I believe there is something about being nearby to community spaces where you can unexpectedly run into neighbours and have a quick chat – all within walking distance.
As an American, particularly one who grew up in a suburban area, it is easy to never see your neighbours, as we spend so much time in our cars by ourselves.
One of my favourite things about France is that no matter where you are in the country – in a large city or a small town – you can almost always a take a short stroll to the local bakery.
For those who are travelling in France, getting a small breakfast from the nearby boulangerie is almost a rite of passage. Personally, when friends and family visit, one of my favourite things to do is to surprise them with a full spread of croissants and pains au chocolat on their first morning in France.
But bakeries are not all that France has to offer, as you likely know. From art and culture to sport and activities, there are plenty of things you should try in France in addition to the delicious food.
And you may not have realised that you can enjoy this typically American – dare I say – holiday in France, but it has indeed crossed the Atlantic and it appears here to stay.
Black Friday does exist in France, despite attempts to get rid of it via boycotts, but it might be a bit different. Part of that has to do with France’s relationship to consumerism, but an even bigger part has to do with how the country regulates sales – in the effort of protecting small businesses.
But don’t worry – you can still expect to see some nice markdowns.
A lot of people in France like to do their Black Friday shopping online, but maybe you should avoid doing so on a computer with a French keyboard.
When I first moved to France, I was told a rumour that the AZERTY keyboard was specifically developed to be difficult, so that it would take people longer to type. I cannot say whether that myth has any merit, but I would guess that any foreigner used to a QWERTY keyboard – and has tested out the notorious AZERTY keyboard – has their own, individual horror story of attempting to type a simple sentence with the seemingly illogical key placements (I mean…why press shift to end a sentence?)
The AZERTY keyboard certainly has its quirks, and if you’re brave enough to make the switch, you should know a few things about the device beforehand:
And finally, you might be very emu if someone requires you to switch keyboards before you are ready – and I’m not talking about the long-legged bird. Emu is a ‘false friend’ – it actually means “emotional” or “moving” in French.
There are many of these false friends between English and French – and some are trickier than others. It’s best to go through the list to try to remember them – or to laugh at the mistakes you have made in the past. While in the moment it was not very funny, looking back I always chuckle at the number of times I have said “exhibition” in French when I meant to say “exposition” – the correct word for a public art display.
I’ll let you enjoy googling the difference.