About Me

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French and Russian undergraduate student, trying my hand at the real world.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Translation of the below comment

You should be impressed that I didn't use google translate for any of this ;)
You will notice a different style of writing from my own - which is arguably the beauty of translation. I've tried to keep as much of the Russian syntax as possible, so I hope you will get an insight also of how amazingly musical this language actually is.

Also, for you Russophones who will understand the original comment - I  apologise if this is shoddy, I'm not the best at translation!

"Dear Fliss, Hello,

"In Russia we have different attitudes and you will certainly know this.
Men and women are different, but together they make up one whole. In the meaning of life, there is motion and progress, "the law of unity and the struggle of opposites". In China, this is Yin and Yang.

"If everything was identical, then life and society would stagnate and die. You would like to become a man, but why? Because as a woman, you have the greatest blessing and happiness. You are superior beings and own the world, direct it.

"In Russia there is the saying: "In a family, the man has the head, but the woman has the neck". She not only holds the head up, but directs it where she wants. In Russia this is considered harmony. Many foreigners coming to Russia to work say that the woman becomes more of a woman, and the man more of a man.

"None of this means that the woman should have less of a right, but that they are simply different and the woman makes her own way in life. And men have less biological abilitiy - they cannot give life.

"It seems that nature has given you more abilities than us - so we should have more rights as we are damaged. Just kidding. :-)

"By the way, you may not know that the question of women's equality with men for the first time in the world started during the Soviet Union - studies, work, science, culture, sport, social work. So Russia is the pioneer :-)

"Good luck to you, dear Fliss
Mikhail. "

Sunday, 28 April 2013

One of my favourite comments

So it's a silly hour of the night but I just had to post this. One of my favourite comments I've received - an interesting insight in gender roles in Russia. This commenter, Михаил (Mikhail), has commented on a few posts (спасибо большое вам Михаил!) when I have written about or asked about Russian culture. I'll work on a translation on Tuesday (most likely), but here is his original text.  Non Russophones - pop this in google translate for the time being! I'll post some other cultural insights in due course!

Счастье, всем!


Уважаемая Fliss. Злравствуйте.
В России другое мнение и Вы наверно это знаете.
Женщина и мужчина разные, но образуют одно целое. В этом смысл жизни, движения и прогресса. "law of the unity and struggle of opposites". В Китае это "Инь и Ян" - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yin_yang.svg?uselang=ru

Если все будут одинаковые, то жизнь и общество остановятся и умрут. Вы же хотите стать мужчиной, а зачем? Ведь то, что Вы женщина есть величайшее благо и счастье. Вы высшие существа и владеете миром, направляете его.

В России есть поговорка: - "В семье мужчина голова, а женщина шея". Она не только держит голову, но и вращает ей куда захочет :-). В России считают, что это гармония. Многие иностранцы приезжающие на работу в Россию говорят, что женщина становится более женщиной, а мужчина более мужчиной.

Всё это не значит, что у женщины должно быть меньше прав, просто они другие и выбирает свой путь она сама. А у мужчины такой возможности по биологии нет - он не может дарить жизнь. 

Получается, что вам природой дано больше возможностей чем нам - это мы ущемлены и нам, мужчинам нужно больше прав. Это шутка :-) 

Кстати Вы возможно не знаете, но уравнение женщин в правах с мужчинами началось впервые в мире именно в СССР и сразу после революции – учеба, работа, наука, культура, спорт, общественная работа. Так что Россия здесь первооткрыватель :-)

Удачи Вам уважаемая Fliss


Explanation of previous post

My last post, to my non-Russophone audience, is to thank my Russian audience for their continued support and loyalty. They remain my biggest audience - I've had 250 hits from them this week which is more than double that of my UK readership, who are (less surprisingly) my second biggest audience.

I receive a lot of comments from Russians - usually in Russian - which is fantastic for widening my knowledge of their culture and improving my Russian at the same time. The whole point of my doing this blog is to document my cultural experiences and observations and the support I get from them has opened my eyes in ways I never could have imagined.

I risk sounding like I'm at some cheesy awards ceremony - but unfortunately I am British so compelled to over thank everyone all of the time for the slightest kindness. You can at least take this as a sign of my sincerity!

I have immense respect for Russians and a deep abiding love of their country and cannot wait to spend more time there. Russia taught me so much about how to be myself - a lesson I will keep a tight hold on to.

I think I'll compile a post of my top comments - the ones that have taught me the most about Russia that is - they're too good to keep to myself!  Keep your eyes open, I'll do it when I get a spare hour ;)


Здравствуйте еще раз,

Я заметила что вы, мои уважаемые читатели, читали мой блог эту неделью, и я бы хотела вам благодарить. Особенно за мнении в моем статьи о Феминизме - мне очень интересовались!

Спасибо еще раз - ваша поддержка самая сильная из всех моих читателей и вы мне дарите надежду. Здоровья и счастье, всем и вашим семьям.

(Простите, пожалуйста, мой ужасный язык! Я долго уехала из России!)


Life updates

Good day everyone,

It's a lovely Sunday here in Tours and I'm meant to be doing six other things - so naturally I am writing a blog while I rearrange my brain. 

We've been blessed with some spectacular weather here this week, which has been fantastic timing as I'm coming to the end of my university mid term break. It was 26 degrees the other day and I have the sunburn and obligatory terrible tan  line to prove it. I've had some spectacularly awful tanlines in the past, but this is definitely the worst - wearing a scoop neck top and a crossover bag was never going to be a good idea, I am now stripy. Goodness knows I'm not complaining though. I've had ice cream, pizza and sangria in profligate quantities this week in a variety of locations (largely pavement cafe based) in some lovely company. Friends are a curious invention, aren't they?

Went to visit Leonardo Da Vinci's house this week. It's strange to think that such an important figure lived just down the road, where indeed he is also buried. Ate crepes and galettes in the sunshine and drank cider and thought about how good life is. I wore breton stripes and blistered my feet.

I've only got four weeks left here now, which I am frankly devastated about. The comes a point in every stint spent abroad where you hate the place and everyone in it, but once this phase passes you can think of nowhere better to be. Good grief. You can consider my sentiments of resentment and homesickness as cause for my lack of recent blogging - I will soon return properly to usual service.

Perhaps I say this purely based on what I've eaten today which has been nothing short of astonishing. The thought of leaving this place has made me want to eat everything French and delicious in sight while I still can.  I said in a previous post how little I like brioche. I think I am coming around to them slowly, based on today's work of art from one of the local boulangeries. This was followed swiftly by a macaron framboise from another boulangerie. I will miss macaroons. I must learn how to make them, they are one of the most delicious things on this planet.

Lunch followed and was simple and French, comprising of walnut bread (utterly delicious) and vieux pave cheese. And a cup of tea. Obviously.
I don't think you need anything else, quite frankly. 
What France does, and does well, is good basic ingredients that speak for themselves. Nothing else needs to be added - no fuss, no bother. Just good basics. 

I'll give you an example: the restaurant Chez Gerard in the heart of the Old Town here is one of my favourite places to go for a good meal. I took my parents here. It sits quite sagely in a 13th century wood-framed building. The proprietor is a fantastically French gentleman - he probably smokes about 20 a day, is covered in tattoos and as such looks about 20 years older than he actually is. Despite appearances, he is as sharp as his cooking knives and knows all there is to know about his building, his restaurant and the customers in it. He gallically shrugs when you call him out on his menu and provides you with an entire lecture on the history of his restaurant - how the beams are 13th century Portuguese. 

He serves roast chicken, chips and haricots verts. The chicken falls off the bone in strips. The haricots verts are just a touch overcooked, but smothered in garlic butter and parsley. The wine is local. You drink red because you like it and the proprietor couldn't care less; he's no micromanager. He is not trying to compensate for power he does not have. He knows what's what, it doesn't bother him that you don't.

After 3 hours of eating, you're stuffed. You can't exactly eat another bite, but the town and you are so sleepy, you decide there is nothing to do but eat. So, obviously, you order the panna cotta and wonder why on earth you don't eat more of it, in this restaurant, in this company. Then you realise it's four o'clock and try and work out what on earth you're going to have for dinner.

I've discovered blood orange ice cream. It's like a Solero. Remember how delicious those are? I'm locked in a perpetual struggle of trying to work out which is better out of a white Magnum or a Solero. But what about those Magnums with hazelnuts embedded in the chocolate? 

Some things are almost too much to bear.

Thursday, 18 April 2013


I'm not sure how many actual French people read this (I get stats for France but there is a difference between France-based and actually French), but I'm going to post it here anyway - it's my blog!

Bonjour tout le monde! Je suis étudiante anglaise et je suis en train de poursuivre un projet de recherche pour mon université anglais. C'est tres important, parce que cela compte vers la classification finale de mon diplome entier, alors j'ai vraiment besoin de votre assistance. Mon projet est autour du changement de la loi en France du terme "mademoiselle" dans les formulaires légaux. Depuis 2012, il est interdit de l'utiliser, parce qu'il y a des groupes de gens qui le trouvent discriminatoire. 

Alors, j'ai composé un sondage pour ramasser les opinions populaires autour de ce changement de loi. 


Il n'y a que 8 questions courtes et je serais vraiment reconnaissante si vous pourriez le distribuer entre vos ami(e)s francais et le remplisser vous-memes. 

Merci beaucoup!

I'm not very good at being French


I have tried. I have tried so hard for four months (to the day, actually).

But the thing is, I just do not like brioche...

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Good things come in small packages

Hi everyone,

It's been a while, as is a phrase that is uttered far too often on this thing. I've been busy - finishing term, doing exams and fitting in the odd social engagement in between.
The weather in Tours is gorgeous at the moment, it must be 20 degrees today, if not more. I'm very glad it's the end of term and I have a two week break, or my concentration levels in classes would be rock bottom as I would find myself unable to stop thinking about the ice cream, pavement cafes, friends and maybe a demi of blonde that would soon be mine for the taking. Good times all round then.

It's been a good week in general, for reasons that I am about to explain. It seems that Christmas has come early for me this week, as I received 3 care packages from 3 friends (and another one from myself). Not bad at all. It is the year abroad that has really taught me the value of friends. That is not to say, of course, that my friends were not valued at all before I did this crazy thing, but I certainly appreciate them more now. Friends are there to listen to your moans about homesickness and to supply you with honey and welsh cakes if ever you should need them. I had this irrational fear of being forgotten about as others learned to build their lives without me - which has certainly not been the case. Care packages have to be one of the perks of a year abroad, as well as being one of the most essential means of survival. I've got so much tea now, it's great - I'll certainly get through it all too!

I've been thinking though, and I guess this is just one of the main parts of how learning a language and living abroad make you question the world a bit. While mired in the depths of homesickness, one of the thoughts that popped into my head was how sick I was of pronouncing my name in a stupidly exaggerated French accent just so that people can actually write it down. My view on this is that it's a bit insulting - my name is my name, I pronounce your name correctly, or at least try to - why can't you make the same effort? Another thing on a related note is how annoyed I get by non-English, but anglophone, people pronounce "France" - instead of "Frahh-nce" (which is arguably closer to the French pronunciation of it) they pronounce it "Fraa-ntz". Yes, I am being a complete and utter snob when I say this, I make no bones about this. I will confess my belief here that when something is not pronounced correctly, it suggests to me a lack of comprehension of the subject. For example, I saw Chicago the other weekend, which was sung entirely in French, and it was fantastic. My only niggle was that the French mispronounced "Roxy Hart". This riled me no end. Sure, I understand that the French like to make many things their own, but given that the musical is called Chicago, they should at least honour the American pronunciation. It is rare that you will hear me say that too - I am a purist and consider British English and American English to be entirely separate languages.

A biscuit is NOT a cookie. They are two different things in British English. And a macaroon is certainly not a "cookie". It's a macaroon, it exists of itself. Calling it a cookie cheapens it. Colour has a "u" in it. (I'm just saying).

But then it hit me.

What does it mean to be correct, anyway? Correct here suggests to me that which has become culturally appropriated.

For example, It's not wrong in American English to say "the hospital" and "a couple things" - eg. "I took him to the hospital, he has a couple things wrong with his kidneys". This is fine in American English - in society anyway.

However, this is wrong in British English, due to the need for a preposition "a couple OF things" and the unnecessary use of the definitive article - "the" hospital would suggests that only one exists. Maybe it does. But I would be inclined to ask "which" one. In British English, we say "I took him to hospital, he has a couple of things wrong with his kidneys". Hospital here is less defined and more conceptual. One is still inclined to ask "which" hospital, so neither is more correct - it is just a question of what has become culturally adopted and accepted. Two different interpretations of the same thing and nothing more.

As for my name, it is a tough one. You could argue that I am being xenophobic by resenting that people who have another mother tongue to mine pronounce it differently. I mean, of course they will - they will pronounce it according to their own linguistic patterns. They don't do it on purpose just to insult me, it's not another symptom of their expectation for me to conform to their culture as I live in their country. Perhaps you are right. You could also argue though that they are equally guilty by not respecting that I am a foreigner in their country, so do not respect that I speak a foreign language to them. It could be argued that they think their language is superior, or that I think my own is superior. Again, both are probably right.

I'll give you my view on this one though.

American English and British English are different languages. If I were in America, I would speak American English (as far as my knowledge of it stretched - it'd take a lot of mental effort to get myself out of the habit of saying "trousers" for example).

In England, I speak British English.

In France, I speak French. To a French person, I would pronounce their name as a French person might as a sign of respect.

In France, I pronounce my own name as I would in England, contradictory though this is to my previous point. It is my name, therefore I will keep it as such. It is a Welsh surname that has already been pretty slaughtered by the English anyway.

I find it rather sad that friends from countries such as China and South Korea have been forced to adopt an English name in order to make their lives more simple when heading westwards - why can't we make the effort to call people by their names, even when they are linguistically different from our own?

The golden rule of translation is that you never translate the name of someone or something - eg. Downing Street is always Downing Street. It's never "rue Downing". Everything else, you can translate. This is my view on the pronunciation of individual names also.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Easter / Pacques / Пасха

Hello chaps,

So it was Easter Sunday recently and I just wanted to write a little something about it. It must have been the first really sunny day that we’ve had in a while here in Tours, so I thought I would make the most of it and go for a walk. I personally love walking as you can stumble across so many little things that you otherwise wouldn’t and it really clears your head. It’s also the first Easter I’ve spent away from my family, so I thought I’d take a bit of time to reflect. I’m not religious but I’ve usually spent the weekend at home eating more chocolate than can possibly be considered good for me.

Easter in the UK, as my UK readers will know, is a hugely commercialised “festival” where chocolate manufacturers and card shops cash in big time. Here, though, it seems eggs are reserved more for children, where Carrefour sells its net worth in Kinder Surprise. Easter is instead a day for family; I have never seen so many people out walking their dogs in big family groups. One of the things I love about France is the strong sense of family. Girls and their mothers walk arm in arm with the dog, in a way that is just so quintessentially French.

Everything shuts in France on a Sunday, except the odd boulangerie (where else would you get your brioche?) so it seems the whole of France, or Tours at least, leaves the house and does more spiritually fulfilling activities than shopping. I’m not necessarily talking about religious activity, such as going to church, though of course some choose to do this. People go to chateaux, museums and the cinema. The Sunday roast does not exist here, as we do it in the UK, but the French certainly know how to “do” lunch, as I read an article recently that discussed their campaign to UNESCO to get it internationally protected – such as is the case with parmiggiano reggiano and er, Melton Mowbray pork pies…

So what, you ask, did I do for Easter? I savaged two Lindt milk chocolate bunnies sat in my jogging bottoms watching the American sitcom “Community”, drank impossible amounts of tea and walked in the sunshine for three hours when the guilt of such profane acts of domestic sluttery proved too much. 

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Stupid things I have done while not in my home country

Hello chaps,

So I have just returned from a soirée at the beautiful, actually, Hotel de Ville where all the exchange students got together and drank plenty of free wine. It made me think about how far I have come in 4 months and that this has been one of the best things I've ever done. Despite the ups and downs, I have been incredibly privileged to have met some amazing people from all over the world and have fallen in love with an incredible city.
Here endeth the cheese fest.
Instead, here are some of my more stupid moments in France for your entertainment.

1) putting washing up liquid instead of olive oil on pasta. (Both green, in the same cupboard and in a similar bottle. Still idiotic).

2) forgetting to put teabag in tea and not realising for a good 10 minutes.

3) being misunderstood by a French waiter when asking for "vin rouge", who instead thought I asked for "vingt rouges" - who then proceeded to panic and Gallic shrug at me.

4) being refused sale of bananas. (Still not worked this one out)

5) saying politely "No, I don't think I will thanks" when shop assistant asked me to remove my card. (I thought she said "do you want to open a card with us today?")

Why am I allowed in public?

Monday, 1 April 2013

Statement to the Press

My publicist would like it very much if all journalists and PR agents read the following statement issued on 01/4/13 at 2056 BST:
Felicity says: I have not ordered a half price Easter egg from Hotel Chocolat.
Such actions I consider to be utterly frivolous and a symptom of this me-me-me culture that seems to bestow itself upon the youth of today.
I will discuss this matter no further, except via my publicist in future press releases.