Archive for the 'Faux Pas Fridays' Category

Faux Pas Friday Guest Post: Newcomer’s Follies

Greetings from snowy Vermont! I hope you all are having a lovely holiday season. I’m just starting the intense residency at Vermont College of Fine Arts (if anyone wants to follow along with just how intense, here’s the daily schedule.)

As I won’t have a lot of time to update the blog, I’m delighted to have a guest today. You may remember I interviewed Aurelia d’Andrea when her Moon Living Abroad in France guidebook was published. When I noticed Aurelia making funny comments on Facebook about her faux pas one day I said, tiens! Why don’t I invite her to contribute to Faux Pas Friday? I’m glad she accepted the invitation! And so, without further ado…

“Newcomer’s Follies” by Aurelia d’Andrea

triumph statueIf faux pas were an Olympic sport, I would be a gold medalist. The main difference between me and a true Olympian, though, is that I don’t have to train for my sport. Being a Socially Inept Expat just comes naturally, without even the slightest modicum of effort.

Since moving to Paris two-and-a-half years ago, this innate “gift” has flowered like an out-of-control weed. France, it seems, offers nearly ideal conditions for social awkwardness to flourish. I would’ve liked to have nipped this problem in the bud, but it’s too late for that now, and how do you nip when you don’t even know where to begin?

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Faux Pas Friday: Cheapskate at the Checkout

I grew up with a single mom who clipped coupons religiously. When the Sunday paper arrived, out came the scissors. Scouring for sales meant we sometimes ended up with strange foodstuffs in the cupboard, items we bought only for the discount. I dutifully absorbed these lessons. To this day, I don’t like shopping, but I love a sale.

Tender Leaf Tea Coupon, Front

Financial prudence has made my marginally-employed existence here possible. Paris is expensive; being a cheapskate serves a bohemian writer well.

Pinching pennies does mean I lack social graces at times, however, as I often turn down invitations if I think it will cost too much (though truth be told my hermit tendencies are as strong as my cheapskate ones).

I’ve been wondering lately if this really is the way. I’m in my mid-30s and I still approach life like a starving student? Should I buck up and spend more? Prioritize differently?

For the moment I’ve decided that in daily matters I’m fine with sticking to my cheapskate routine, but that I’ll make concessions as I go.

I was at Biocoop (the organic store! costs more!) this week picking up some dessert for dinner with a friend in the evening (at home – cheaper!)

My eyes lit up when I saw the word “promotion” on the chocolate mousse. Not only was chocolate mousse exactly what I wanted, but it was on sale. Score!

I readied my coins (the French love exact change), but the higher, standard price appeared when the cashier rang it up.

I dig into my purse for some extra coins, then say as I hand them over, “It’s not a big deal, but I thought that was on sale.”

Instead of being annoyed, the cashier smiles and studies the receipt.

The woman behind me is not smiling, however. She’s throwing daggers with her eyes. “35 cents?” she asks, not even pretending to mask her disdain.

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Faux Pas Friday: Misunderstanding on the Metro (or Save the Children)

Mid-afternoon, mid-week. Dark and wet like many a December day in the City of Light. I descend into metro Colonel Fabien and try to shake off the cold.

When the train arrives, I spy through the window the one free seat. It will be mine. The man behind me has the same idea. He rushes past me as soon as the doors open, nearly sprinting to get to the seat. He plops down and puts on that blank city face: I don’t see you even though you’re right in front of me.

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Faux Pas Friday: Hazards of the Happy Dance

Under certain conditions, I’m a dangerous woman.

Start with a little sun after a drawn-out deluge, dress in cute summer attire, add a little dancing and me without my glasses – these were this week’s ingredients.

It’s like this: It rained for days, for weeks without end. It was as if we would drown, as if the city might swim away. So when the sky suddenly opened into sunshine, I cannot tell you how miraculous it felt.

LAAAAA! The sun! Revelers enjoying some rays.

We skipped over spring fever and headed straight to summer. Life is beautiful again.

I went to dance class on Tuesday as I do; it’s my favorite time of the week. With the majority of my life spent sitting and struggling over words, the chance to move and express myself in a totally different way feels like freedom. Dancing is a saving grace.

After class it was still light outside – after 9 PM!

I don’t know if it’s all that rolling around and sweating and shaking it to good music, but I’m always much looser after class. Maybe too loose. I still have the songs in my head and sometimes I unwittingly break into a dance shuffle on the street. I try to keep it under wraps (conform to societal norms, Sion!), but I guess I’m not that much of a conformist.

So I’m walking up my block and I kind of throw my head back and arc my arms behind me; one of my involuntary improv moves.

Up ahead a man in a sky blue shirt does a double and then a triple take as he crosses the street. I smile because I realize – oh yeah, that probably looked kind of weird, huh?

But so now I’m smiling at him and he’s really like, what? (quadruple take!)

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Faux Pas Friday: Outing to the Osteopath

Fort Collins Back Pain
Before I moved to France, the word ‘osteopath’ was not in my vocabulary, much less a person I would actually go see.

Give me five years and several stretches of fifteen-hour days behind the computer, though, and an osteopathe becomes a savior.

Not a chiropractor or a physical therapist, the osteopathe as far as I can tell is someone who uses manual manipulation to treat musculoskeletal problems.

It’s not exactly a newsflash that the human body isn’t meant to sit at a work station staring at a screen all day. And yet, alas, this is the fate of so many of us.

Back in May I had a crick in my neck that wouldn’t go away. After a few days it was not just a crick in the neck but a major pain in the….well, still the neck. I couldn’t move my head, I’d moan when I had to turn in bed, I felt almost paralyzed.

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Faux Pas Friday: Washing Machine Woes

Wringer en centrifuge / Wringer and centrifuge

I knew it was a bad sign when I heard the washing machine start making horrible noises as it hit the spin cycle. I realized it was even worse when I walked into the kitchen and smelled an electrical burn.

Panic isn’t exactly the word as my heart didn’t start racing or my palms start sweating. As I stood watching the vibrating machine, I thought, ok, that’s not good. (Good start – state the obvious. Maybe I had the part of panic where you stop being able to think).

Hmm, electrical smell, I continued ruminating. Electrical fires are different than normal fires, right? How does one put out an electrical fire should this thing become engulfed in flame? I know it’s not water, but I don’t have any baking powder.

By this point, my Smokey the Bear fire safety training is obviously failing me. So instead I turn to this line of questioning: Is it ok to just pull the plug or is that a dangerous move if unsure whether an appliance is about to explode?

Continue reading ‘Faux Pas Friday: Washing Machine Woes’

Faux Pas Friday: Banking Bloopers

For the first year I was in France, I kept all my money in a sock.

This was well before the global economic crisis, so it was not a protest against untrustworthy banks.

BFF Socks

No, the clothing/cash method wasn’t my choice. It’s because no bank would let me open an account.

Now y’all must remember, I came to Paris on a bit of a whim with not much of a plan. I moved straight into someone else’s tiny studio so my name wasn’t on any official document that could have helped me at first: the lease or gas/electricity bills (proof of stable address), payslips or work contract (proof of income).

Even after my name was plastered on everything from the phone bill to EDF (electricity bill – the best proof of residence) and I had just gotten married, this still wasn’t enough. We went to J’s bank where he had been a client for 15 years and they refused my request.

This became one of those tricky catch-22’s so infamous in France. To get my first carte de sejour I needed a bank account. To open a bank account, I needed my carte de sejour.

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Faux Pas Friday: Furry Feet/Free Swedish Gym

It’s been awhile since a Faux Pas Friday. No, I haven’t suddenly gained more finesse. I simply haven’t been going out enough to get myself into a fix. But never fear. Spring is near, and increased outings will surely offer me new ways to look the fool.

Here’s one:

I’ve been meaning to go to this free exercise class since mid-January (yes, I know it’s now mid-March). You’ve already figured out that I’ll do a lot of things for a good story; have I mentioned the great lengths I’ll go to for just about anything free?

“Gym suedoise.” Swedish gym. Ok, I have no idea what that means, but I decide that Swedes are usually in very good shape, so I will trust them with a fine workout routine. (Remind me to write another post about my former Swedish fetish).

I finally decide, spur of the moment (as I do many things) that tonight is the night.

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Faux Pas Friday: Beauty Blunders

Warning: The following post risks TMI. Still here? Great!

Last week I treated myself to a hammam. Actually, friends treated me as I received a “Bien-Etre Smartbox” as a birthday gift (great idea!)

The “Smartbox” contains a catalogue of “well-being” activities from which to choose – a massage, a Qi-Gong class, a hair-styling session (really?), entry into a hammam, etc, etc. Any of the listed partners accept the Smartbox card as a gift certificate.

If you’re googling “hammam” right now, I’ll save you time: it’s the Turkish word for steam bath and a bit of a thing in Paris. Why getting naked, sweating, and having someone scrub me down was my idea of fun, I’m not sure, but this was the option I selected. (Oh wait, I guess that actually does sound fun, in a racy sort of way).

Saletta Hammam allestita per uno dei trattamenti più esclusivi del centro Benessere
(This is not the hammam I went to, but you get the idea).

I’d only been to a hammam once before, but never to La Sultane de Saba. I was so excited for my little adventure, I wasn’t thinking straight when I left the house.

Halfway to the spa, I noticed the Smartbox’s advice: “prevoir un maillot de bain.” Bring a bathing suit.

Oh. Yeah. Duh. A bathing suit.

(Crap). I didn’t have a bathing suit with me.

I quickly ran through my options:

1) Show up with nothing. Enter the hammam completely naked or in my raggedy underwear. Risk eternal embarrassment.

Or, 2) Go back home, grab a bathing suit and hope I’m not yelled at for being late.

Continue reading ‘Faux Pas Friday: Beauty Blunders’

Living in Leisurewear

A few times in recent weeks I have stopped just shy of committing an almost unforgiveable act: leaving the apartment in my bathrobe. Thankfully I realized each time at just the last moment, and said to myself: I can’t go out in this. I’m in Paris.

Rough Day.

Is that sad? It’s the fact that I’m in Paris that stopped me from stepping out in sleepwear? (As if somewhere else it would be acceptable?)

Now, let me explain a few points.

Continue reading ‘Living in Leisurewear’


paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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