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LA BELLE VIE

La Belle Vie: How to snack, watch a movie and drink Champagne like the French

From snacking like a French person and the history of champagne to the French love affair with the movies, our weekly newsletter La Belle Vie offers you an essential starting point for eating, talking, drinking and living like a French person.

La Belle Vie: How to snack, watch a movie and drink Champagne like the French
Picture taken on October 5, 1995 of the cinema Le Grand Rex, in Paris. (Photo by Pierre VERDY / AFP)

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.

Puns, sex and urban legends: How English movie titles are translated into French

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.

Paris and cinema: Why the French capital is the city of the silver screen

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.”

Why people don’t eat at the movies in France

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.

How to snack (or not) like a French person

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.

Galette des Rois: Everything you need to know about France’s royal tart

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.

Champagne: Four founding myths of a global icon

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LA BELLE VIE

La Belle Vie: The secret to the French love of strikes, comics and sexy accents

From the French love affair with comic books to why strikes happen on certain days and unpacking the myth of a sexy French accent, this week's La Belle Vie newsletter offers you an essential starting point for eating, talking, drinking and living like a French person.

La Belle Vie: The secret to the French love of strikes, comics and sexy accents

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 your newsletter preferences in “My account”.

People across France – both young and old – are gearing up for the 50th edition of the Angoulême International Comics festival – the third biggest comic book festival in the world.

To honour the occasion, I got in touch with a few experts in bande dessinée (French for comic books) to understand why French people love comics so much.

Bande dessinée: Why do the French love comic books so much?

This year for Christmas, I was gifted three bandes dessinées, and so far I have read one – the French, graphic novel version of Brave New World. Each year, I resolve to read more books in French, but when it comes down to it I either fall asleep or end up getting about halfway through before giving up and picking up a reliable English-language read. 

Oddly enough, I have found that bandes dessinées are a great way to read in French without the pressure of having to make it through dense, complex French literature. The pictures along the way help you to understand if you miss a word or two, and it feels more relaxing.

Six French ‘bandes dessinées’ to start with

The other big topic in l’Hexagone lately has been the government’s controversial pension reform plans, and the strikes to go along with them. Strikes are commonplace in France, so much so that our “Strikes” page on The Local France’s website is one of our most active tabs. (So if you find yourself in France during a strike, it might be worth bookmarking that link.)

But there is some science behind when these strikes occur. For instance, you may have noticed that they tend to fall on weekdays, and more specifically – Tuesdays and Thursdays. This is no coincidence.

Reader question: Why do French strikes always seem to be on Tuesdays and Thursdays?

If you have spent any time in France – either as a tourist or living here full-time – you have probably also found yourself in front of the Google search bar typing out the simple question “Why are the French rioting/on strike?”

The Local decided to allow Google to autofill some commonly asked questions about France, and we found that people have been pondering questions from “Why is France called France?” to “Why are the French always surrendering?” So in response, we have taken some time to dive into the FAQs about France.

Sex, strikes and surrender: The most commonly asked questions about France and the French

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a commonly Googled question – one people have been curious about for over 150 years – was “Why are the French so romantic?”

However, BBC Journalist Hélène Daouphars found herself asking a different question altogether: “Is France the home of romance or a place of rampant sexual harassment?” Daouphars made a documentary about sexual harassment in France, taking a look back at how #MeToo played out in the land of the Gauls. 

In an article for The Local, Daouphars explained why she chose this topic:

Is France the home of romance or a place of rampant sexual harassment?

In addition to France having a reputation for being the home of romance and love, the French language is also regularly named as the ‘sexiest’ accent for men, women and even cartoon skunks.

But according to linguists, there probably is not anything intrinsically attractive about the French accent, and perhaps it’s really all in our imagination.

Mythbusters: Is French really a ‘sexy’ accent?

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