tiistai 20. kesäkuuta 2017

The Microculture Of One International Couple



Years ago I remember watching a program about French weddings. There was a French-American couple that mentioned having created their very own culture that only the two of them were part of. Back then I just thought it was interesting and sweet, but I can now actually identify with them! 

We live in France, but I don't feel like we are living in a particularly French way. I am not either imposing Finnish culture on my husband. I think this has a lot to do with both of us being open minded and flexible people. We are ready to make changes for each other's comfort. But the biggest reason behind the development of our own little microculture must be that neither of us has never been the typical French nor Finn. We have been the odd ones. We had the hunger to go out there to adventure and find someone who shares our view of the world in a way our own kin never did. When I met Q for the first time, I got the most familiar feeling from him. Cheesily put: we found in each other the home we did not find elsewhere. 

In our house we don't really cook Finnish nor French food. We speak English, but there are words that we always say in Finnish or French. There are also expressions that nobody else uses. Also, if someone ever catches us chatting, they must think we are some of the most bad mouthed English speaking people. I wasn't used to using so many curse words before I met Q, but he told me he compensates his lack of vocabulary with other words. In our microculture it is okay, but I feel sorry for the natives that might be shocked by our language. I know how much bigger impact it makes, when someone curses in your mother tongue. In the very beginning Q used to call me in Finnish a pikku paskiainen (a little bastard). I knew he was joking, but I couldn't help being just a bit offended. When I told him about this, he said that he didn't realise, because to him it's just words. I try to keep this on mind when I am around other people. This applies on the French too as in our mutual language we have quite a few French swear words...


A Few examples of our microculture's sophisticated language

grandma/any aged female individual = Mummo
grandpa/any aged male individual = Pappa
a basket = panier
a trash can = poubelle
a red neck = jorma
thank you = kiitos
a man = dude, dudelsson
a pigeon = pulu
small = pikku
cute = buyo
making love = guzi-guzi
something we don't know the English word for = this/that shit
a very nice man = a man of fine feelings

Use in sentences

"Do we need any poubelle bags?"
"The pappa seemed like a man of fine feelings."
"The poubelle dude was such a jorma"

I didn't include the swear word part of our vocabulary as that might attract some questionable audience here. As neither of us is a native speaker of English, we have adapted each other's ways of pronunciation and even grammatical mistakes. Already last year my English colleague told me that she found me having a French accent very disturbing...I didn't even realise.

The other day we were looking for a nice hotel for a little weekend get-away. Q found a place and went to see its reviews, informing me that we can't go there because people had found "shit" on the sheets. Later I told in dinner table my father-in-law how outrageous it is that these people found poo in between the sheets! My husband going, "What?!" And me, "But you told me there was shit in the bed!" Him (laughing his ass off), "I meant that there was some dirt!!" Yup, we do still sometimes get lost in translation. I know a few international couples that don't even have one language they both speak fluently. They still manage to understand each other and be happy together! The power of love really is something quite amazing.

Do you have experience of a mixed culture relationship? Is your mutual language as sophisticated as ours? ;D



torstai 15. kesäkuuta 2017

Oh, Hello Summer



The past three days have been gruelingly hot and there seems to be no end to it for at least an other week. Today's temperature is 37°C in the shadow! As our front yard faces the south, we are obliged to keep our wooden window shutters closed as long as the sun is up. Otherwise the house is soon one big sauna. My poor plants are basically turning into ash before my eyes as the terrace becomes an owen. The power of the sun is impressive. Even my succulents are turning brown. I'm trying to place them in the shadowy corners the best I can though...Isn't there any plants that love to be roasted in direct sun light all day? Are cactuses the only ones?


Since I started feeling sick about a week ago, things have only gotten worse as I now cough day and night. For the three last nights neither of us has been able to get more than just a few hours of sleep. I'm obliged to secure myself in a sitting position in the bed to not cough my lungs and insides out. It is a strange feeling to be sick during the summer. Soaked by both cold sweat and the natural heat that never leaves us. Nobody we know has an AC at home...

I wish that was my bus stop...nicely in the shadow.


Today I gathered all my strength and ventured out, under the merciless sun, as I had an appointment I couldn't miss. I had to take three busses in total. I was already beforehand worried about disgusting the fellow passengers with my gagging sounds. I tried to endure the tickling of my throat without coughing my viruses all over the place. That is something of the Japanese culture that I have kept: feeling the need to protect others. Too bad it's not a custom in Europe to wear mouth masks.

A little peek of the sandals I found at a flea market last Sunday!

My appointment was before noon and I had left the house with just a bottle of water with me. I love breakfast, but with the heat and being sick I haven't been inspired to eat in the morning. So at lunch time the need for some fuel started to be quite critical! Before the bus home I ventured to Casino grocery store to search some lunch. I spent like 15 minutes trying to find an option that wouldn't ruin my weightloss efforts. The salads were either too expensive or didn't have utensils included. I ended up buying a pack of plastic forks and a quinoa vegetable salad. At least now I have lots of emergency on the go utensils...

An improvised lunch set up next to the crowded bus stop.

When trying to stay consistent with healthy eating, this kind of situations are the worst. As I had failed to prepare, I was forced to try to make the best choice out of a very limited selection. In a hurry and feeling more hungry by the minute. Not good! So I am relieved that I managed to not take a mega sandwich with extra cheese or such. I have been going through also some other changes when it comes to food, but I will be talking more about that sometime in the near future.

When I made it home from my adventures, I made myself a big mug of some good old iced coffee! I recommend to sweeten it with some agave syrup. Yummyy.


I hope you are having a lovely day + see you soon!

lauantai 10. kesäkuuta 2017

5 Differences Between French & Finnish Culture

1. Personal space


In France cheek kisses are obligatory when greeting family, friends and even the colleagues at work. The French will never tire to discuss how many kisses are expected in the country's different regions as the number varies from two to even four. The subject is often a conversation starter when people coming from farther parts of France meet up.


As in Finland we have only in the past ten years started hugging people, such thing as approaching somebody else's than our lover's face with our own can be quite a shock at first. My husband has experienced this first hand as upon arriving to Finland the very first time he tried to approach a classmate to greet with cheek kisses. The poor girl packed up in horror.


The French are also in general more at ease with other forms of physical contact. They way of interacting is so much more intimate than in Finland. I still sometimes freeze when someone touches for example my shoulder during a conversation. In my adaptation I am now somewhere in between Finland and France in this matter. I have no problem with the cheek kisses, but other, more spontaneous, physical contacts still feel a bit too much at times. It is funny though that when I visit Finland, it feels somehow wrong not to cheek kiss upon meeting.


2. Wearing shoes inside the house


In this the Finns and the Japanese are on the same page: one does not wear shoes in the house. In France it is common to do so. People don't wear shoes necessarily all the time indoors, but they will not blink twice if you do. In the beginning my Mother-in-law thought that I was just being too polite to keep my shoes on and she encouraged me to put them back. I had to explain that I just genuinely prefer being barefeet. 


I think this will be one of the things that are so deeply drilled in my code of conduct that it will never chance. Makes keeping the house clean so much easier! Everybody has by now gotten used to remove their footwear when they cross our doorstep.


3. Coffee consumption


The Finns consume annually 9.6 kilos of coffee per capita, which makes us the number one coffee drinkers in the world. The French are far behind as they consume 3.2 kilos per capita and thus hold only the 21st place on the list. As Norway is right behind Finland, we can make some assumptions of our long, cold and dark winters having something to do with our high ranking. In Finland social interactions revolve around coffee. When we ask someone out, it's always "To have a coffee." And that one cup turns into two, three...a beer. Tea drinkers exist, but everybody assumes that you must have some medical condition that prevents you from consuming the stronger stuff. 


via GIPHY


The Finns consume generally filtered coffee, while a cup of coffee translates to the French as an espresso. Many Finns find the French counterpart too few in quantity, but also too strong and bitter. Personally, I much prefer the taste of espresso. So, what has happened is that I have quit filtered coffee for the thicker stuff which I still drink in the same quantity as I'm used to drink my coffee in Finland. Makes me a bit jittery at times, I agree...



4. Sweet vs salty breakfast


My husband said that he felt like puking when at 8 am I presented him for breakfast with my parents a salty fish cake. It makes me giggle as I think of his horror. My reaction to the French breakfast customs is not quite as extreme even if I don't quite understand them: nutella, sugary cereals and biscuits. Just thinking about eating so much sugar first thing in the morning makes me cringe. The only sweet things in the Finnish breakfast are orange juice and yogurt!

This is one of the very basic cultural differences in our international family that will likely remain unchanged. As I make oatmeal, I prepare mine salty and hubby's sweet.


5. Complaining


In France talking about everything that you find wrong about the world is completely normal and in fact, makes a great conversation. You get to let out some pressure and feel a sense of unity as others share your frustrations. Some even go as far as saying that the French have turned complaining into a form of art.

The Finns are quite the contrary in this matter. To the point that we have a saying, "kaatua saappaat jalassa", which means that you fall down with your boots still on. Meaning that you worked hard until the bitter end, without complaining or asking for help. It is seen honorable to take on all of the life's burdens without bothering others with your own problems. Complaining is also seen as a weakness and being ungrateful for the things you have.

Personally, I symphatize with the complaining French. Whining about things together can be so much fun and it is a very cheap form of therapy!




torstai 8. kesäkuuta 2017

Why The French Don't Speak English




I'm home feeling sick with this weird illness that makes you feel exactly like you got fever...except that you don't. Anyways, this means that I have plenty of free time to reflect on the big questions of the Universe. More particularly on such things as the French and their relationship with the English language. Why, exactly,  the French do not speak English? Why do you have to feel as a foreigner that you are not allowed to speak it?

Now someone yells from the crowd, "But in France we speak French!!"  Yes, but is it not ridiculous to choose rather not to communicate with someone until they have mastered your native language instead of reaching out in an other one to open means of interaction? 


Let's be clear here though. I absolutely think that those who live permanently in a country should demonstrate efforts of learning the official language. However, It should not be frowned upon to speak other languages in a public place if all persons included in the conversation agree. I have slowly but surely learnt ever since the beginning that it is unnatural to speak other language than French. Usually I find this out when I am out in public with my husband. I never speak English with anybody else than him, but still people like to comment on how we should speak French as my husband is a native and we are in his country. Once at the end of an argument over the warranty of our broken vacuum cleaner the clerk yelled, "At least I don't speak foreign languages!!" As the conversation had been very fast paced and technical, my hubby had translated some of the main points to me in English. In grocery stores people jump 20 centimetres in the air when they hear us chatting behind them in the queue. This is rather strange behaviour from people who have all studied English about 10 years at school and the country has anyway a big population of immigrants from all over the world. The languages also have lots of similarities in the vocabulary. Coming from Finland and speaking Finnish as a native language the "our languages are too different"-argument doesn't persuade.


So what is it all about, really?


They are scared shitless.


I have been discussing with several French about their and their fellow countrymens' relationship with English and upon presenting my theory, the reaction has often been delight for someone understanding them. They are not assholes, they are just scared. They are scared because most French have been traumatised by the language already at school. It turns out that many French English teachers are extremely strict and easily frustrated. So, the students tried, but each failure and the insults of the teacher made them feel worse and believe English is impossible. What happens usually, when you can't do something? You diminish its value. Math is difficult? Whatever, it's stupid anyway. Can't remember anything of History? It's anyway just for the uncool nerds! This is what happened to the English language as generations of the French were humiliated trying to learn it. For the people of such an old country, it was easy to adopt the attitude, "Anyway, why should we make efforts for anybody who comes here? In France we speak French!"

As they say in Star Wars, "Fear leads to the dark side." Fear creates a base for many unsightly attitudes and behavioral models to grow on. The fear of being made a fool of lives strong in the guts of many French. As wild animals cornered, they slash out and end up giving the impression of nationalistic arses. So in the end, a skill that could be fun and useful is seen as a mere threat. Something that cannot coexist with le français.

The change should happen at the root of the problem: the schools. The students should be encouraged to speak English despite of their little flaws of pronunciation or grammar. It takes time to change attitudes that have been already passed down during generations. However, there are already some small improvements. Many tv-channels and cinemas offer movies in both French and original versions, which will demystify the language as people get more often in touch with it in their daily lives. Baby steps, baby steps...


sunnuntai 4. kesäkuuta 2017

A Day In The Life

We woke up once again to sad news from England. We took a deep breath and made a silent wish this madness will soon be over. Then, heavy heartedly, carried on making breakfast and coffee as we had plans to go check out some flea markets with my husband's parents. Pick up at 9 o'clock as in thrifting the early bird catches the worm!

Quick breakfast. Coffee and natural yogurt with oats, honey and nuts.

In the summer time, most of the flea markets are held on Sundays. They start typically already early morning and end in the beginning of afternoon. The biggest ones might last just until 5 pm. You can make great bargains if you know where to go. We choose always the more wealthy villages where people have invested in quality and have taken better care of their items. For best results it is best to go often and visit several villages. For many sellers the day of the vide-grenier is about enjoying the beautiful weather, picnicking and the friendly atmosphere.

We headed first to check out the village of Saint-Saturnin-lès-Avignon. It is a long weekend and people have all left to enjoy a mini-vacation. This means more space for the rest of us. St Saturnin had luxuriously many parking spots available. You can imagine the hell of parking in these small Provencal villages during events.

Saint-Saturnin-lès-Avignon. Market and  vide grenier.
St Saturnin's market turned out to be a bit of a disappointment as it was only half of its usual size. It was quickly checked and none of us found anything to buy. 

This was the first time going thrifting after starting my capsule-experiment. I felt liberated to know exactly what I was looking for and not even having to concider anything else. It is still fun to look at everything and enjoy the hunt of the long sought perfect item. I was checking particularly all the shoes for sandals.

The day was windy AF so I walked around holding tightly both sides of my skirt.

The day was still young so the adventure continued with the search of an other vide-grenier. We ended up turning in circles in the rich village of Les Angles, just next to Avignon. Thanks to my phone's gps we finally made it to our destination. They had sure hidden well their event! We joked that it is to prevent any poor from finding the place. Les Angles is well known as where the crème de la crème of the area lives. Of course this makes their flea markets very interesting for the rest of us.

We were not disappointed. The huge field was filled with items to discover. I had to practice some serious self-discipline more than once. There were high quality garments everywhere for very  reasonable prices and merino and alpaca wool sceins for 1 euro 50 cnts! I needed to be firm and tell myself that I have a very specific list of what I need.

I didn't find anything on my capsule wardrobe-list, but we finally came across a proper  little table for our living room! It cost only 5 euros. It's wood with some hand drawn/painted flower decorations. Fits perfectly in our little Hobbit-home ;)

Hubby also had some great luck as he found amazing shirts for just 2 euros each.

Our new living room table!


We left famished but happy with our finds. Time for our traditional post-flea-market-lunch chez my parents-in-law. Lunch starts with apero and it lasts at least good two hours in total. As we are all incredibly appreciative of good food, we take our sweet time enjoying it.



After lunch we headed to L'isle-sur-la-Sorgue to visit the annual festival of everything Italian. My Mother-in-law was in her element as her mother was Italian. Nothing makes her happier than being able to chat with the people from there. It's funny how similar French and Italian are. I have never studied the language, but I was still able to understand a lot of the conversations.



The event turned out to be the perfect end to the lovely day: Italian music, clothes, wine and food. 



When I'm enjoying Italian red wine from 2013, next to a sculpted fountain, with the wind in my hair and the sun in my face...I can't help but to feel so very happy and lucky to have the access to all of these simple, but wonderful, pleasures.



You see, how French I am becoming? Enjoying the moment with the help of the best things in life: food, wine and family.





Ps. As we lose everything in this family we have to do again with the awesome pictures taken with my iPhone4. Our camera has gone for a vacation to the place where all the lost things go.




perjantai 2. kesäkuuta 2017

Summer 2017 Capsule Wardrobe


If you search the Internet for ideas on what to include in your capsule wardrobe, you most likely end up with many that consist nearly completely of basics and neutral colours. This can lead you to believe that to be a minimalist you need to also love the pared-down aesthetics. Basics and neutrals are easy to mix and match, which explains their popularity when trying to dress with less. However, never think that you have to give up your personal style for a capsule wardrobe. It's all about finding out what suits you best and what pieces you would like to be wearing all the time. No matter, what kind of aesthetics you prefer.

I include in my capsule wardrobe
everyday clothing
outerwear
bags
shoes

I will aim to have no more than 33-37 items per season.

I do not count sleep and sports wear nor my jewellery or the one hat I own. I usually sleep in a old tank top or during summer simply naked. For sports I have a few old shirts, one sports bra and a pair of sneakers. My accessory collection is also so small that I see no point to include or restrict it.

I will not be mentioning the brands as nearly all of the pieces are made by fast fashion companies which I don't wish to promote anymore. On the bright side, about half of the clothes in my capsule are second hand, hand-me-downs or have been in use nearly 10 years already. Ever since my teen years I have been a big fan of thrifting.



Anyway, here is what my base capsule wardrobe looks like for the Summer 2017!


Dresses & Skirts


I love all of the dresses, but I have noticed the same malfunction with a few of them: too much cleavage! I was chatting with my mom on Skype and she basically told me to hide my boobs...hmm. The problem wasn't there last summer, but the 6 kilos I have gained since then have made me quite a bit curvier around the chest area. This is of course easily solved with a tank top layered under, but during the hot months such thing is just annoying. Solution N° 2 is naturally to drop the weight, but as we quit smoking a few months back, our metabolisms haven't been the same as before. I'm working on it though!

Style-wise I am quite happy with my collection, but I think there is space for a little black dress. I would also like to have one of those midi skirts with the buttons going all the way down in the front.


Jeans


I'm afraid that during July and August it will be nearly constantly too hot to wear any pants, but I'm keeping these anyway for the days when the heat has a bit more mercy on us (wearing jeans today, yayyy). The pair on the left are high waisted skinny jeggings and the ones on the right are regular waist and ankle length.


Blouses & Shirts


Many of my blouses have been with me already a long time and  most I found in flea markets. The first one from the left on the bottom row is a fairly new addition and good for creating more chic or dressy looks. The two button down shirts I own date back to when I was working at the hotel in Avignon. When the weather permits, I like to reach for them for a more sleek, simple look.

T-shirts are conspicuous by their absence in my wardrobe. I would like to add in at least one good quality gray and one black t-shirt.

Sleeveless tops


I was left with a quite sad little collection of sleeveless tops. The black spaghetti strap top has way too long straps and is very poor quality, but I'm keeping it for the moment until I can replace it with something higher quality and better fitting. 

I will be on the lookout for a black, white and gray top.


Jacket & Knitwear



Yeees yes yes, I know it is a summer capsule, but coming from Finland I couldn't help myself! There's always the what ifs. Maybe it will be the coldest summer in 50 years or something. Who knows. I will be taking advantage of every chance to layer with these. I just love my knits...

The khaki coloured jacket has been my companion in many adventures. My Mom bought it for me about 10 years ago in our little home village where the shop keeper was proud to announce that, "This jacket comes from Paris!!"

Bags


This is my go-to bag that for its colour goes with everything. Its space is very limited though so I would like to invest in a good quality tote bag.

Shoes


Yup, I kept both two black ballerinas I own. The pair on the left is super sturdy one and they should last a long time in use once I'm finally brave enough to wear them in...I'm 100 percent certain they will give me the worst blisters. The pair on the right did also in the beginning, but now they are super soft and comfy.

I am in a desperate need for some nice sandals. My poor feet are boiling in their own sweat when I wear my ballerinas on a hot day. It's just been so hard to find sandals that are ethically made and ship to europe for a reasonable price since I haven't yet found any cool ethical shoe brands in the EU. They MUST exist though. I guess I need to keep hitting flea markets until I find the perfect pair that's been waiting for me.




And there it is! The right side is mine and left hubby's (don't worry, he has more clothes elsewhere ;D)


At least it is now confirmed that I am indeed a boho chic girl, who loves her dresses and flower patterns. The general impression of my garde-robe might be at first loud, but I do have a little selection of some plain neutrals that, when combined, can create more chic looks. They can also be used to tune down the pieces that otherwise have a lot going on. It would be a lot easier though if the Summer of South of France was like in Finland: plus 19-25 degrees during the day and cooler evenings. How easy it would be to combine a cardigan with a little dress. But here the Summer is HOT and you basically dress in as light, tiny clothes you dare, because unfortunately being naked is not an option...When discussing about which is worse, hot or cold weather, I always say hot since you cannot relieve the situation by how you dress. In the end you can even be naked, but you still don't feel cool!!



My list

5 dresses
1 skirt
5 blouses
2 shirts
2 cardigans
1 jacket
1 knit jumper
2 spaghetti strap tops
1 sleeveless top
2 jeans
2 ballet flats
1 bag
_______________
Total of 25 items

Wishlist

a gray t-shirt
a black t-shirt
a white spaghetti strap top
a black spaghetti strap top
a gray sleeveless top
a little black dress
a midi skirt with buttons in the front
sandals
a tote bag
_________________
9 + 25 = 34 items