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How To Understand The French

It wasn’t long ago that I woke up to the realization that I had “crossed” the cultural divide and become more French in my outlook than American. Of course, it’s taken many years, many trials and tribulations, and in the end, rather unconsciously.

The best part about this is that I no longer think of myself as an outsider and now have the ability to maneuver the French system of life with much greater ease. It’s so much a part of me now, that I don’t notice it as different — just normal.

If you are a newcomer to France, then I can assume you are mystified, intrigued, irritated and frustrated…all at the same time!…much like I was, and even now, after all these years, I can still be all of those things and more. So, if you’re having a hard time figuring out the French and want to get more out of your stay – whether it’s a few weeks, a few months or a year or more, then you may be interested to learn that Harriet Welty Rochefort wants to help us all “Understand the French!”

Harriet has explored Franco-American cultural differences thoroughly and humorously in her two books, “French Toast,” which the LA Times called “wise and devastatingly funny” and “French Fried,” an ode to the delectation of French food and drink which nine-star French chef Alain Ducasse dubbed “lively and hilarious.” She has often spoken at our various workshops and conferences on this topic and how she came to write her two exposés of life as an American living in France.

Now Harriet is proposing a “wine and cheese chat” where she will discuss some of the most important Franco-American cultural differences and offer some simple but foolproof solutions. What could take years of practice, she’ll help you master in one session…how to put a smile on the face of the sourest salesperson…how to get what you want even when the answer is “non,”…and in general, how to be charmingly and disarmingly — French!

An excerpt on cheese from “French Fried” :

“My favorite French cheese? I truly like them all, but I must say that a Mont d’Or or Vacherin which you find in winter in
its characteristic wooden box – they sa

y you should not remove it even when serving – is one of my absolute favorites. I love a good Brie and a good Camembert…I love vieille Mimolette because of its distinctive orange color and crumbly texture…I love Reblochon and Beaufort from the Savoy region. I love Gaperon and Langres and Epoisses and Munster and even the strong Boulette d’Avesnes. I love all blue cheeses – the Bleu d’Auvergne, the Bleu des Causses, Bleu de Bresse, Bleu de Termignon…I love Cantal from the mountains of Auvergne…They say there are five hundred different varieties. It will probably take me the rest of my life to taste them all-but what fun along the way!”

On Politeness French-style from “French Toast”:

“As the years passed, I made an amazing discovery that enabled me to understand why the French have such a worldwide reputation for rudeness. In France, you are not expected to like everybody or even act as if you do.

The good side of this is that your smile muscles don’t get worn out, because you rarely use them; the bad side is that since the French in general reserve their true sentiments and warmth for the people they know, many foreigners come away thinking that the French are universally impolite. They can rest assured. The French treat one another even worse than they treat foreigners.”

Harriet’s passionate about French cheese so no small wonder that the talk will be paired with a tasting and explanation of a succulent selection of some of France’s most well-known (Camembert, Pont l’Evêque) and lesser known (Boulette d’Avesnes, Cancoillotte) “fromages” with a welcome glass of wine.

Time: 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Date: Thursday, January 15, 2004
Price: 15 euros per person

To reserve, email Harriet at mailto:[email protected][email protected]&subject=Parler_Paris_Reader or call her at

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]

P.S. Harriet’s two books will be on sale at a special price during the chat. You may also order them by visiting /parlerparis/books/booksaboutfrance.html


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