La Belle Vie is our regular look at the real culture of France – from language to cuisine, manners to films. This newsletter is 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.
If you have ever gone to the movie theatre in France – or simply walked through a French Metro station where movie posters are plentiful – you have probably noticed that the French are not afraid of taking creative liberty with translating English film titles.
A few years ago, I was introduced to the world of strange movie title translations. I remember texting a French friend that I wanted to go see the new Little Women film at the theatre. I had just recently moved to France, and I had somehow managed to avoid the movie posters up until that point. He sent back a link with showtimes for a film titled “Les 4 filles du docteur March” (The four daughters of Dr March) and for a moment I genuinely thought he had misunderstood and sent the wrong film.
And Little Women is certainly not the only English-language film to have gotten a bizarre French translation, there are many more.
I have to admit – I love going to the movie theatre, but when I lived in the United States, it was something I did maybe once or twice a year, maximum. In France, however, I have several friends who go to the movie theatre once or twice a month.
Not only do French people enjoy going to the cinema, they also tend to have an astounding cinema repertoire – it would not be shocking to meet a young French person who spends their spare time enjoying old French films on the streaming platform Mubi, which offers a wide array of arthouse and classic films.
But Paris is unique even amid a country of cinephiles. One of its movie theatres was even recently named the most visited in the world.
But going to the movies in France can be a different experience than in the United Kingdom or United States. In France, you are probably unlikely to sit next to someone in the theatre who has brought in a personal size pizza and box of fries. You probably won’t even find fiery buffalo wings on the snack bar menu at the movie theatre (much to my own dismay).
But French movie etiquette does not operate in the same way, and unlike the US, theatres are more likely to offer a niche and simple concession menu. You might even find some French cinemas that operate with a “no food or drink rule.”
France’s general attitude when it comes to snacking might be to blame for some differences in cultural attitude surrounding eating at the movie theatre. Eating in between meals is generally frowned upon in France – unless it is during the dedicated goûter time of course.
Walking down the street with a bag of crisps might get you some weird looks in France. If you are craving some Pringles, it is best to wait until apéro time, when they are more socially acceptable.
There is one time where it is very acceptable – if not encouraged – to enjoy a sugary snack in France, and that is throughout the month of January.
Galette des rois – or Cake of the kings – is traditionally eaten on January 6th each year to mark the feast of the Epiphany – when the three kings (allegedly) turned up to give gifts to Baby Jesus. The traditional accompaniment to this cake is cider.
But many French people invite their friends over to enjoy Galette des rois all month long. The tradition is not just about enjoying something sweet, though. There’s an age-old protocol that needs to be followed and it’s all to do with the little charm (known as the fève or the bean) that bakers hide inside the cake.
Finally, while many people in France drink cidre alongside their Galette des rois, others enjoy a glass of Champagne during the festivities (it is a pastry fit for kings, after all).
But interestingly enough, Champagne has not always been a beverage associated luxury and royalty. There are several myths surrounding the bubbly drink whose image seems to have been ever-changing these past 250 years. Professor of marketing at EM Lyon, Joonas Rokk, takes a look at the legend surrounding Champagne.