Yep, Sophia!!!! She’s the guest columnist for this week, freshly back from her trip to France, with a playlist full of French songs!
I don’t know what you’ve heard about French stereotypes, but I can tell you that -for the most part- none of it’s true. At least not in my limited, 10 day experience earlier this month staying with a family in the village of Epernay in France’s Champagne region. The home of Moet & Chandon, which I have never tasted. By the way, this is not the Mistress of the Mix…it’s La Fille de la Maîtresse du Mix, Sophia. AKA the little pumpkin. The Mistress has taken the week off so that I could tell you whether or not the fears she talked about in her last column ever came true.
I was so sleep deprived when my plane landed at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris that I didn’t even know what day it was. But everyone else seemed to be making a big deal out of the date: June 6th, D-Day. President Obama landed in Paris just a few hours after me to make a speech with the President of France. In the United States, D-Day is something we learn about in school, and then promptly forget about after taking our history final. But as soon as I met my host family in Epernay, they began thanking me for what America did for France in World War II. Everywhere I went, people asked if anyone in my family had been a part of D-Day (they hadn’t. Although two of my great grandfathers were involved in the war effort, they never left US soil). I heard stories from people about how when the Americans arrived to help get the Nazis out of France, the first thing they did was hand out chewing gum to everyone. When the French say it, it sounds like “Shwonghum.” Throughout the entire trip people smiled and thanked me (as if I had anything to do with it) when they found out I was une Americaine, totally blowing any preconceived notion about the stereotypical ‘Snobby Frenchman.’
Another stereotype that turned out not to be true was that the French eat VERY slowly. I’d heard that because of this you might end up sitting for a long time waiting for your next course. Though it’s possible that I’m just an extremely slow eater, I ALWAYS finished my food after everyone else. It’s not the eating that makes them slow. It’s wanting to enjoy their time with each other. Every time I had dinner, people ate fast, but then spent a long time talking. And talking. Oh, and also talking. Also present at every meal were multiple baguettes, different types of fromage, and dessert. I was talking to one of my friends about how all these French people managed to stay so fit, even with all the bread and sugar they consumed, and we came to the conclusion that exercise probably had something to do with it. Though the US isn’t the most obese country in the world as its typically advertised, it IS in the top 10. So what is it that makes the French so fit? Well in the US, people have a strange phobia of exercise and will try any diet to get away from it, whereas in France, they will walk or bike anywhere. There are entire blocks specifically for pedestrians.
Although I spent a few days in Paris with my American classmates, for most of my stay I was with ma famille in Epernay. It was glorious. The parents were very welcoming and wanted to help me dive into the deep end of French culture right away. They took me to local shops, churches, cathedrals, champagne vineyards, and the family farm, where I picked cherries and hung out with the sheep. The French like to stick to small shops rather than huge malls and grocery stores. But there was one supermarket in the area, and mon pere took me there. He pointed out aisles upon aisles dedicated solely to wine, from the 2 euro wines imported from California to the thousand euro wines imported from Paris; he directed me to the horse meat (and laughed at my reaction); and he presented a huge array of cheeses, fruits, and seafood.
A la maison, I hung out with the kids, Marie (my 15 year old host sister), her 13 year old sister Alix and 10 year old Pierre. We played games like Uno and Badminton (both of which Alix were very good at), threw some hoops, and sang songs. Pierre and Marie were constantly laughing whenever we were together. We all sang “Zizicoptere,” (included in today’s playlist) and I taught Pierre the lyrics to “Cotton Eyed Joe” and the correct words to that old 90’s song “Everybody Dance Now.” Until he learned them in English, Pierre sang in gibberish that sounded a little bit like “Ebber gebben get now.”
Probably the only stereotype that proved itself true during my entire trip were the street vendor/pickpockets. So here’s the scam: you’re walking down the street, when a guy asks you if you want to buy a bracelet for 1 euro. When you say no, he throws a string around your wrist, so you can’t get away, and asks you again if you’d like to buy the bracelet for a euro. From there, they either try to steal your purse, sell you the bracelet for much more than 1 euro after its already been permanently attached to your arm, or watch where you put your money and follow you to pickpocket you later when you’re not paying attention.
For me, it was a little bit different. I was hip to the scam, so I was prepared to keep my arms to myself, and to either ignore the vendors, or say ‘non!’ and keep walking.
So there I was, minding my own business, walking through Montmarte, past one of the filming locations de mon film Français préféré, Amelie. You know, the place with the carousel and the telescopes. I was with a good sized group of American classmates, but that didn’t stop one of the ‘street vendors’ from grabbing my wrist to pull me towards him to try to strongarm me into buying a friendship bracelet. Unfortunately, the guy didn’t take non for an answer. I knew not to give in and just kept walking, but every time I took a step, the guy tightened his grip and tried to pull me closer to him. Luckily, one of the chaperones in my group, who also happens to be a British soccer coach, turned around and yelled at the guy, “Bugger Off!” The guy let go of my arm and I ran back to the group. Disaster averted; stereotype confirmed.
And there you have it, mon voyage a France in a nutshell.
My mom didn’t ask me to buy her any gifts while I was in France. She only asked that I pay attention to the music that was popular and write it down so that when I returned I could become La fille de la maîtresse du Mix for a day, put together my own playlist de musique populaire and tell you a bit about my journey.
- Sebastien Patoche – Zizicoptere
- Keen’V – Ma vie au soleil
- Dezil – San Ou (La Riviere) This song was a huge hit in France; the band is from Seychelles.
- Karimouche – P’tit kawa
- Zazie – J’envoie vaiser
- Stromae – Tous les memes Stromae’s réal name is Paul van Haver, he’s Belgian.
- Khaled – C’est la vie An Algerian rai singer
- Margaux Avril – L’air de rien
- Christophe Mae – Dingue Dingue Dingue
- Magic System – Bouger Bouger They’re from French speaking West Africa & popular in France
- Jenifer – Je Danse
- 1789, Les amants de la Bastille – Maniaque the soundtrack from a popular stage musical
- 1789, Les amants de la Bastille – La nuit m’appelle
- Emmanuel Moire – Beau Malheur
- Matt Pokora – Pas sans toi
- Jena Lee – U.S. Boy Jena was born in Chile, but adopted as a baby by a French family.
- Keen’V – Prince Charmant
- Daft Punk – Harder Better Faster Stronger Did you know Daft Punk was French?
- Shy’m – Et alors!
- Fauve – Sainte Anne
- Coeur de Pirate – Comme des enfants This singer is from Montreal, Canada.
- Admiral T & Daddy Mory – Hum Riddim Admiral T is from the French island of Guadeloupe
- Collectif Metisse – Laisse-Toi aller bebe
- Italobrothers – Stamp on the Ground Very popular in France, but this group hails from Germany
- Maitre Gims – J’me Tire The lead singer was born in Zaire, but immigrated to France at 2.
- Alex Beaupain – Apres moi le déluge
- Saule ft. Charlie Winston – Dusty Men Saule is actually from Belgium, Winston is British.
- Brice Conrad – Songe
- Joyce Jonathan – Je ne sais pas
- Zaz – On ira
Valerie Ing-Miller has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for nine years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She’s the mother of a teenage daughter and a 7-year-old West Highland Terrier, and can’t imagine life without them or music. Valerie wakes up with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.