perjantai 12. toukokuuta 2017

The Eurovision Song Contest - The French way

The month of May represents three things to me: my birthday, The Ice Hockey World Championships and...The Eurovision Song Contest. The event that people love, hate and ridicule. We watch it making fun of everything we see, but if our country does well, we cannot help but to be just a little proud (yes, France, I'm talking to you.)

This Saturday it is again time to watch the spectacle the French way. Or apparently the way most European countries watch the contest. It seems Finland is one of the few countries that still takes the whole thing somewhat seriously. Finland has even established a tv-program called "The Contest of New Music" and the winner of the show gets to represent the country in the Eurovision Song Contest. The commentators do not speak over the on-stage hosts or the show. There is no straight forward insulting of the contestants either. The commentary is more informational than sarcastic and listen to this: Finland subtitles all of the songs! I find it so touching that my sweet little home country is still doing such a thing. You know what I mean: How many lyrics in the ESC make sense anyway?

To be honest, having been used to the Finnish way of being able to follow the show made it a bit hard in the beginning to tolerate the French custom. The commentators don't hesitate to talk over the show (apart from the actual songs) or make fun of just everybody and everything. But this year will be my third time watching the contest in France and my husband and I are ready with our wine bottles to be entertained.

Some examples of the French commentary

"So, she has been in the ESC already three times. I sure hope she'll win this time, because I don't feel like seeing her again. You will see what I mean..." *singer gets on stage*

On Serbia's candidate

"All right, next up a woman who will be starting this craziness. You will see her with her white transparent dress, wind machine and there will be a man who joins her...a real song of Eurovision!" *laughter*

On Ireland's ballad boy

"He seems to miss just a bit of testosterone."

On Croatia's candidate 

"Oh, he is so pure!"
"This man is two men hidden in one"
"He is quite attractive...but not physically"
She continues: "I could even be having an affair with him! Imagine...Like, have you seen us? It would be horrific and against the law."
(my note: isn't this man the Cameron Tucker of real life of Modern Family??)

Commentator: "But the ESC is supposed to be kitsch! Isn't it? It is kitsch!!"
Colleague replies: "Of course it's kitsch. Otherwise you wouldn't be here!"

Fun fact: In the past the ESC was even less highly viewed in France and the commentators got once drunk on Champagne during the show...and they would not hesitate to tell it to the viewers somewhat like this: "Oh my god, it's so hot here and we are just drinking Champagne and getting drunk!!"

As we are anyway planning a tipsy Saturday I thought to make it a bit more fun with a little drinking game!

The Eurovision Song Contest drinking game

Drink if.......

Host country's show + on-stage hosts
  • Someone appears on stage in a traditional costume
  • This year's theme is something cheesy or vague. (For example: just love, come together, world peace etc)
  • Hosts flirting with each other
  • Host/s change clothes
  • Lame and/or awkward jokes
  • Hosts scream: "We looooove yooou!"
  • Your country's commentators are laughing at the hosts

  • Contestant shouts in a cringe worthy way: "Europe I love yoouuuuuu!" or "Thank you, Europe!"
  • Background dancers smile like maniacs
  • there's the line "...give up" in the song
  • there's the line "I can't go on" in the song
  • Singer wears a long dress with thigh high slit (drink again if the dress suddenly becomes a mini dress/body)
  • Singer is dressed in full white or black
  • Singer reaches dramatically to camera with her/his hand/s
  • Male background dancer is shirtless
  • You spot an instrument that is not being played
  • A piece of clothing is removed
  • Singer plays guitar on stage
  • Singer has disturbingly weird hairdo
  • Title of song makes no sense
  • Language is other than English
  • Lyrics make absolutely no sense 

Counting the votes
  • There's technical difficulties and the person who is supposed to give the points keeps staring at the camera. "Hello! Hello? Can you hear us??"
  • Person announcing the votes won't go to the point and keeps on talking...
  • Person announcing the votes is an ex ESC contestant (drink more if he/she makes a reference to his/her past show that nobody remembers...)
  • Drink everytime your favorite gets points!

And finally...empty all bottles if your country/favorite won!

My favorites this year are: France, Bulgaria and Belgium ;)

keskiviikko 10. toukokuuta 2017

Tää on hulluuden highway

Wednesday evening on the couch with a purring cat needy for love. Good music on the earphones. Scented candle burning in the freshly cleaned kitchen. I can feel the zen levels already increasing in our little, messy flat. The whole afternoon we have been attacking every dirty corner and pile of random stuff with white vinegar and trash bags as our weapons. Sounds like this place is a junkyard, but the truth is that we are two adults and two cats (currently also losing their winter fur..) in an apartment of 35 squaremetres with no space for storage. My husband laughs at how many "nice boxes" I keep on buying to hide all the clutter. We have big boxes with a collection of smaller boxes hidden inside and so on. Even at this very moment I am planning to go to IKEA to check if they have cute biiig containers...

I finished organizing and cleaning our kitchen area and there is something so calming and satifying in lighting a candle in a freshly cleaned space. Ahhh. Tomorrow I shall continue "putting our life in order" by cleaning our living room and eventually my wardrobe. I have been making so much research during the past week on how to create a wardrobe that makes sense. Now I just have a bit of this and that in my closet and nothing really goes well together. I dream of being able to mix and match pieces with ease...and the answer seems to be a capsule wardrobe!! I am so excited of this concept of having a limited amount of clothes for each season, but you can create so many different outfits since nearly everything is combinable! Can't wait to talk more about capsule wardrobes, but I'll have to wait until I finish the rest of my big cleaning. Then it's time to raid my garde-robe! Yasss.

While writing this I am listening to my favorite band "Haloo Helsinki!" Their lyrics always manage to touch me so deeply. This song that I have linked for you below reminds me of the days last winter that I spent at the school, learning about being a receptionist in France. When our teacher had not prepared anything to teach for the whole afternoon, I was in my own world, listening to Hulluuden Highway in the language of my emotions.

Kun valot sammuu niin sä kaiken näät
Kun valot sammuu niin sä valvomaan jäät
Suljet silmäsi ja hengität
Kyllä kaikesta sä vielä selviät
Joku voimas vei, vaik sä huusit ei
Tää on hulluuden highway

Haloo Helsinki!, Hulluuden Highway

tiistai 9. toukokuuta 2017

Little pieces of home

May 5th last Friday was my birthday and I have been expecting a gift package from my parents to arrive just about any moment. When I got the notification of a package for me at the post office I was sure that it was from my parents. Well, quite close, since it was from my brother!! Nothing could make me happier right now than knowing that someone from my far away homeland has thought of me and sent a bunch of the things that I miss so much!! I'm so happy that I will receive not only one, but two boxes from home during the same month. What a rare treat. Last time I got a delivery of candies and other Finnish goods was last summer when everybody was here for our wedding. 

Not only was the surprise perfect, but they had chosen the perfect content for their package! All my favorite candies, xylitol gum, magazines (food and handicrafts), sour cream rye crisps, Sisu salmiakki pastilles and a Moomin dishcloth (Moomin is to Finns what Pippi Longstocking is to the Swedes). Even Manu and Noki got some yummy treats from their Finnish cat-cousin ^^ 

I can't wait to check out that Novita-magazine. I appreciate so much the modern patterns the Finnish handicraft blogs and magazines are full of. Keeping the traditions alive, but not getting stuck in the past. Isn't that crocheted pullover gorgeous on the cover?? I think I need that in my life..

These candies arrive at a bad time as I have again decided to focus more on clean eating. Can I stick with just two treats per day with a cup of coffee? You have no idea how I have missed Finnish candies in this country where you can choose between Haribo and...Haribo. The French are not as much into candies as us Finns so there is not that many new tastes to choose from either. In Finland even adults love sweet treats :D

We are plotting to start a huge "home detox" this evening. That means that everything in this house will be washed inside out and all of the clutter driving us crazy will find its place. You know, when you start cleaning your surroundings just to feel like you got your life together? Well, it's kind of that sort of project. More about that soon!

torstai 4. toukokuuta 2017

When Murphy's law gets real

Are there powers in the universe that are capable of playing games with us? Does positive thinking attract good things? How about negative energy? How about all those times after that exam/interview/presentation you were feeling so confident, but ended up getting a horrible feedback anyway. Or when you are so afraid and nervous before something important you got to do, but everything ends up perfect. Or getting it just right when you are not even trying. Beginner's luck. Fool's luck. In our case... Murphy's law. Were there mystic powers in the universe or not, my husband and I have got our asses kicked so hard during the last three years that when good things seem to be knocking on our door, we come with a rifle to ask: "Who is it? What do you want?" We have even went so far that, when something great seems to be about to happen and according to all logic it just cannot fail, we make jokingly scenarios about how it will go wrong. We knew we are no longer those lucky bastards we used to be, but when our scenarios became reality...I must say we were like Salieri in the film Amadeus (1984) asking: "What is God up to?" :D

As I have gotten used to the worst imaginable scenario being true, when I didn't get shifts at work for a whole busy weekend I knew that I will probably never work there again. All while my boss was still pretending that nothing was wrong. After two weeks of no work we found out that the restaurant is looking for new chef and waiters. That meant that the old staff had all been either fired or they had decided to leave. The boss had not bothered to inform me of not renewing my contract until tomorrow, my birthday. The only reason why he doesn't get to drop the bomb on me when I go to get my last pay check is that I was forced to ask directly what I already knew to be true.

I have so much things I want to say related to how fucked up the treating of employees has become in Europe. So much frustration. Anger. But I feel powerless, seeing how money dominates and corrupts people. The amount of poor who accept their treatment and even help to raise to power those who will rob them of the few things they have left... Look at the French presidential elections.

Tomorrow I walk into that restaurant and go get that last paycheck, get the hell out of there, go eat cake and drink some goddamn Champagne. 

tiistai 11. huhtikuuta 2017

Time for new goals

The village where I work: L'isle sur la Sorgue

It has been one year and nearly 1 month since we arrived to France and I started this journey of adaptation and building a new life. When we hit the one year mark, I was trying to evaluate my progress and decide if I had accomplished a decent amount of things. Had I improved enough my French? Had I pushed my boundaries hard enough? Or had I avoided stepping too far from my comfort zone? At first I felt like I was exactly the same as when I first arrived. Time seemed to have gone by so fast that I could possibly not have made much progress in anything. But when I really thought about it, I remembered last summer:  working on my first job, going to French lessons, fighting with the administration and preparing our wedding. And then in the autumn I attended a receptionist course, followed by a successful internship. 

I have certainly been pushing my boundaries. I wonder though if my impatience, perfectionism and need to get everything done right away played a part in creating my burn out at the end of last year. I am not a religious person, but on some level I'm always looking for signs to guide me in life. And I have believed that by following one's intuition and putting in maximum effort, the universe will reward you.  A lot of things happened that made me question this perception of life: the hotel of my internship betrayed me, Pôle Emploi told me I had abandoned their course and I was humiliated in a job interview for my French. I was hit hard because they were outcomes of three things that I had been aiming to get right for several months. In the end everything I had worked hard for seemed to fail and I was left with the question: now what??

It was time to take a deep breath and do absolutely nothing for a while. I did crochet. I played video games. I drank wine. Then I took the decision to stop trying to get a job that would make sense with my degree. I accepted that I am not a super human and I just cannot pick up where I left off in Finland. We started looking for manual jobs such as fruit picking, factory jobs and dish washing. As I mentioned in one of my recent posts, I had a job interview in a restaurant where the boss looked like a captain of a pirate ship. Well, I got the job of a dish washer there and I have now been working a few weeks. The contract is for the season and this will help us to achieve an other goal we have set for me: enrolling in the University of Avignon to study French. I have come far by myself in terms of learning the language, but it's time to get to the next level. The whole academic year costs about 2500 euros and I intend to save up that money, shift by shift, by washing dishes.

My first year of being an expat has taught me this: if the first plan doesn't work out, just re-evaluate the situation, set the goal and start working towards it. 

maanantai 20. maaliskuuta 2017

How living in France has changed me

And how meeting my French husband has changed me. Let's remember that before I fell head over heels in love with him, I would have told you that I have no desire whatsoever to visit France or mingle with its people. Shame on me for having been so prejudiced, but needless to say, that's no longer the case! Having lived now in this country of baguette and cheese lovers (and having become one myself), I do notice that slowly but steadily me and my lifestyle are experiencing quite a metamorphosis. 

"I could never speak French"

Prior to meeting my husband, I had had ONE French language course at school. All I remember is that me and my friends could not stop giggling and laughing out loud at how bad we were. We wanted to be good and on paper we were okay, but it was the actual speaking part that felt impossible. I was obsessed about trying to pronounce the French 'r' properly. All the throat sounds and nasals were also unattainable at the time. The language of love is hard on the mouth! You have to literally retrain your mouth to be able to produce all the new sounds. I have proven my old self wrong and I am now able to tell people that you can learn to speak French. It takes time for the mouth to learn the new movements and develop the muscles, but eventually anybody can do it. A key for me also was to find the best way for me to pick up the language. I get very bored if I have to study from a textbook. Even researches have shown that it is not, in fact, the most efficient way to learn languages. Obviously just being physically in the country where the language is spoken helps enormously, but you can still fail. My best tip is to always listen even if you don't understand. As a human being you have the natural ability to learn by observing. By active listening and observation, you will learn even without realizing it.

"The French are rude"

Yet another crushed prejudicial thought I used to have in the past. Ask me now, what I think of the French and I will tell you how they are actually some of the most polite people in Europe. They will be rude to you though if you do not follow some basic rules of common courtesy: 

1. Always greet people (in French).
2. When addressing people, always start with French language even if you know only a few words. When they see you tried, they will feel more comfortable to try and speak English.
3. Don't forget to say Merci and s'il vous plaît.

What makes the French so great for me is their humanity even when they are on duty and the rules would advice them to do otherwise. The foreigners who have visited Finland know all too well how the Finns will not make exceptions for anybody as "the rules are the rules." In France I have several times been saved by kind people on duty who were willing to help me despite of everything. Once I was getting on the bus and wanted to buy a ticket from the driver. He told me it is not possible as the tickets are available only inside of the station (it was quite far). I told him that he was probably going to have to leave without me then and I started to make my way out of the bus. The driver called me back and made me a sign with his hand to get back on. The ticket would have cost 8 euros and this man broke the rules to make my life easier. This would never ever have happened in Finland!

"I eat just a sandwich or a yogurt for dinner"

To be honest, despite of everything else, this is one of the biggest lifestyle changes I have made after moving to France. In Finland we are not used to eating a big family dinner that lasts for hours and includes everything from starters to dessert. During the first months that me and my husband were accommodated by his parents, I gained easily 1 to 2 kilos weight per month. The French start their dinner with apéro around 7 pm and about an hour later it is time for the main course accompanied often with wine. In the end, before the dessert, the cheese box will be fetched from the fridge. The length of the whole dinner can vary from 1 to even 3 hours. Despite of the first shock and my sore butt muscles, I have grown to appreciate it as a great way to keep the family close and everybody updated on what's going on in each other's lives. I have also become dependent on the apéro. The whole experience is just not the same without it! Especially now that the weather is warm and we can have glasses of rosé and snack on olives in the garden.

No more heavy makeup

The company makes one alike. My husband used to always tell me how he finds that girls in Finland wear tremendous amounts of makeup. When we moved to France I started to understand what he meant: the French girls use a minimal amount of foundation and nobody has fake nails, hair or eyelashes. In Finland most girls don't stick to their natural hair color either, but in France anything unnatural is not considered chic. I used to wear twice more makeup and I have even stopped dyeing my hair. My whole approach on beauty has changed as the true key to the French chic is simplicity. Now I can even spot a foreigner on the street based on how much makeup they are wearing! Less is truly more for me these days even though I am yet to reach the ultimate level of chic as for social meetings in restaurants and bars I am still the one wearing the most makeup.

Greeting is obligatory!

I seriously think now that failing to greet someone is a clear sign of hostility. And I come from Finland where it is normal to pretend you don't know your work colleagues or class mates when encountering them in public places. In France you will say bonjour to a big bunch of people that you would never even look in the eyes in my home country. If you pass someone on the streets and your eyes lock: say hello. If you step into a doctor's waiting room: say hello to everybody. Even when entering a restaurant you can greet the people in the neighbor tables. And when you leave, you'll wish people a good day. When we moved to our current house, our neighbors used to never greet us during our brief encounters. Not greeting your neighbor in France basically means: "I hate you." Now they have changed their mind (after deciding apparently that we are not after all a bunch of thugs) and they say bonjour when passing by.

In collaboration with:

Living in France

maanantai 13. maaliskuuta 2017

Job hunting & the long way home


It's been a while and I think it is time for a little life update. I have been mainly working on myself and most of all: feeling better. As I mentioned a while back, I have finally quit the nasty cigarettes and that has been helping me to feel stronger both mentally and physically. Of course, there are the symptoms that come with quitting, but the coughing, shortness of breath and old cigarette taste in the mouth just enforce the feeling that this is the right thing to do. Yay! Apart from that, my husband and I have made it a habit to go have a walk every morning right after waking up. And you wouldn't believe what a huge difference 30 minutes in the fresh air moving your body can make. We have so much more energy and especially for me it has been a big mood booster. Not to mention that it helps with weight loss! Which brings me to my new diet...I have been more consistent with my meal times and with what I actually eat. Before I might eat my first meal of the day sometime in the afternoon (too lazy to eat), but now I take care to get all the nutrition I need in the day. I also focus on following in general the principles of clean eating. All that is going great, but I must admit my biggest struggle is with le vin!! Wine is life, but I'm working on that haha! And I do also love the apéro, but now we eat vegetables with a dip instead of chips and bread sticks :)

When it comes to work..I had another interview today and this time in L'isle sur la Sorgue. I have recently been looking for just simple jobs to do while I'm working on my french. I'm bored of staying at home and slooowly leveling up my language skills. I want to do at least something and also preferably be left alone considering my french for now. So I applied for a dish washer's position and after today's interview they will let me work one day as a test with them. Basically after the first day I'll be fired or hired. The hard part is that they have a loot of customer places and I'm expected to be done with the dishes at the same time as everybody else is done with their work. Also, the boss looks like he could be the captain of a pirate ship. Sometimes my life really surprises me...

After the interview I made my way to the train station of the village. I noticed there were men driving with a big ass tractor back and forth the train rails and I was just there guessing that they will give way to the train once it arrives. There were nobody telling us otherwise anyway. Well, there I am waiting and I spy a japanese adventurer looking quite lost with his big backpack. I get an itch to chat with him in japanese, but I feel shy so I decide to mind my own business. I hear the announcement for my train and make my way towards the rails, but...the tractor is still making mayhem there. My instinct tells me that this is again one of those things. You know, there is a crazy arrangement that nobody tells you until you ask the dutiful, hardworking employees of the place. At this point I find out that the japanese dude is two inches from my face and tries to ask something without realizing that he is talking half english, half japanese. I get so nervous that I just stare him mouth open, because I want to speak japanese, but I'm looking so hard for the words. Poor man takes this as a rejection and apologizes in three different languages. I finally get my shit together and explain to him in japanese with a french accent (??) that it seems like we'll not be having any train arrive today. I ask at the counter and find out that there's a bus actually arriving in two minutes to take us instead. At this point I feel like such a genius as I maneuver the situation in three different languages, making sure that the japanese adventurer also finds to his destination. 

When the bus finally came and I had specifically told the dude where I'm going, what followed was a veeery long trip home. As the bus arrived to my village, I pressed the "stop" and was expecting the driver to slow down at any moment: okay...stop there...oh, maybe the next one,..there? no?..fuck...we are out of the village. So I made it all the way to Avignon in the end until I was able to get out :D There I became a victim of the "works today, tram tomorrow" mayhem and found out that the bus line that used to go to my village leaves from a different (unknown) stop these days. In the end I had to alert my father in law to graciously come to save me. Instead of a 15 minute trip back home, I was finally at my house 4 hours after the interview 😆😆😆

So that's what's up! See you soon!

Ps. The cats are doing well also. Manu brings us lots of birds and rats as gifts and Noki enjoys his comfy indoor life ^^