Bread: The biggest culture divide.

In Australia I remember talking to Seb about bread. The conversation went something like this..
“When you get to France Nik you are going to eat bread, it’s amazing the bread, the texture and everything.” Seb was starting to rapture and I interjected here with
“But it’s just bread.”
“JUST BREAD?!?!? JUST BREAD?!?!” You could see his french side growing and taking over (think a Jekyll and Hyde transformation)
“It is not just bread, it’s never just bread. It’s our culture, identity, life! Bread is …..” and I then got lectured for over half an hour about my slight ignorance on French Bread (yes, with capitals). He still tells people about this conversation and people in France regard me as the “weird Australian girl”.

"it's just bread"

Basic comparison of Australian and French breads

Growing up in Australia my family focused on healthy living and an outdoor lifestyle, bread was never at the top of my list for something on the foodchain to worship. Choclate: Yes. Bread: Never.

I remember working in a bakery during highschool. I worked there for three years. The boss always fed us for free and I ate salad for my lunch followed by fruit that was supposed to go on top of the cakes. For 3 years.

It. Was. A. Bakery. With. Bread.

Which shows exactly the Australian attitude to bread. I regarded it as something that was as exciting as eating cardboard. A filler for more interesting things. And Australian bread is exactly that. The general character of an Australian piece of bread is boring, dry, chewy and lifeless.

But slowly over the last two years Seb has slowly changed my attitude. I still won’t eat bread in Australia. But in France? Well it’s way too easy! Everyday I buy bread. EVERYDAY. Baguettes that are usually arriving warm out of the bakers oven.

The difference, which is like explaining sex to a virgin is the bread itself. It’s in the flour that makes it. The way they cook it.The kneading of the dough.

French bread

Baguettes ripped apart!

It’s the way that when you tear it apart steam rises like an advertisment. It’s maybe the pride behind the bread too.

The crispy crunchy outer layer. I hated crusts in Australia. Now in France I search the baguette for the best bits. And the crunchiest bits still soak up juices. That crunchy robust outer layer then gives way to the inside of a baguette. The bread is never dry, more humid and soft. The texture like a chewy sponge. For me that is the difference of France and Australia.

Bread is so important that it has led to riots and even a war called la guerre des farines In the history of France you can find it used in slander against the French Royalty. The “great princess” learning that there was no bread for peasants responded with “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” (Let them eat cake).

And that’s what it boils down to for the French. While life can be complicated the things to be proud of are simple. Bread is eaten by everyone: from a street beggar to a millionaire. You have the most amazing chefs and michelin starred restaurants. But yet what do you find a French person misses when living abroad. The BREAD!!! Bread such a simple staple that it must assist the enjoyment of life. Not hinder it.

Australians forget the simple joys in life. We are always going somewhere, doing something. We struggle to stop on a Sunday (I still feel crazy on Sundays when nothing is open). And we struggle to enjoy a piece of bread. We look at it in quantities of health and how much we’ll have to run after eating it. Or how much better something else is for us than that slice of bread.

And that’s my education and my lesson for you with bread.
1. Take the time to go to a real bakery.
2. Pick a baguette or a roll NOT A SQUARE LOAF.
3. Take it home. Turn off your phone, TV, INTERNET, RADIO Or Fax.
4. Sit down to silence and listen as you rip it apart. You should actually hear cracks from the crunchy bits and whispered tearing from the soft parts.
5. Eat torn chunks. Not neat cut off pieces but chuncks. With demi-sel buerre (semi-salted butter) and cheese!

And just enjoy life while you have it!

*Images sourced from interenet, if you do not wish them to be displayed please leave a comment below.

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Chat Noir

So I am pretty convinced that I am THE BLACK CAT… Seb has passed on his bad luck to his usually good tempered wife.
In the space of a fortnight I have
# broken my favourite necklace
# burnt my leg on Sebastien’s motorbike exhaust
# paid an extra $700 to get to France
# Got a flat tyre on the four hour drive home from the aiport turning it into a 6 hour adventure after 29 hours of plane trips.
# paying a further 300 Euros to get a stamp to validated my visa.
# have catered for a friends birthday only for them to invite an extra 5 people for what was a 6 person dinner…

The necklace is fixed, and my leg is healing.

The car tyre was replaced along with the other front tyre. (Found out that here if you want to be covered by insurance you must replace both at the same time, nasty surprise)

I am seeking reimbursement for the airport problem.
I had arrived and my travel agency had not reissued my ticket for a date change. Emirates had me as having already flown on the 29th of July. Luckily they re-issued the ticket on the spot. (I paid $700 and am now seeking a refund for said money)

The dinner for our friend I felt a little like Jesus, turning what was supposed to be a few tomatoes for a chicken salad into some bruschetta, followed by roasted stuffed chicken breasts and then pan fried rosemary potatoes. I literally was pulling stuff out of nowhere with the aid of some bread and potatoes. (Gotta love carbs to fill someone up!)

And the extra 340 Euros is for my medical stamp. Which leaves me to fume silently considering that if I was a student it would be around 55-60 Euros and a worker pays about 100. Why is it that an unemployed housewife (at the moment, I am looking for work!) has to pay so much for a stamp considering that I will be in the french society a lot longer and plan to conribute to it rather than a student or worker who is here for studies or money? That goads me into those silent snarls.

Does anyone else have these bad runs? I am trying to stay positive but sometimes that smile is just pasted on a face that is hiding a snarl!

Mignonne
x

PART 1: The process of Marriage to a French Citizen

I was just starting to bask in the idea of being engaged when we took our first visit to the prefecture. It is something that I prefer to think of as an ambush which I wrote about here. We are in love, we were in love. We are pathetic apart. Really badly, Sebastien’s friends don’t like him anymore when I am not around. And me? I can’t stand being away. Our decision to get married was compulsory. We could no longer handle being apart.

However after that episode I continued down our set idea and path. Originally we started looking at marrying in France. I was caught up in the romantics of a French wedding. The real reason was that I would get the marriage paperwork straight after the wedding. Taking less time than being processed in an Overseas French Embassy. There was also the bonus of using it to hide from a case of family politics. Who would I invite, who I would forget and who I would deliberately forget. That was a very lovely bonus.

However at that point in time we realised a few things. The amount of paperwork, apostilles, translations I would need would be utterly crazy and ridiculous let alone the time constrictions and the massive cost. Some people have Daddy behind them but we did not. And I was completeing full time uni in the process.The French Embassy in Australia didn’t help at all. The marriage office could barely speak English and never replied to any emails that I wrote.

To summarise the marriage process in France:

  1. I would need to apply for a marriage visa with required paper work, translated, apostilled. Applying for this visa would require a flight to Sydney from Brisbane to get it then endorsed by the French Embassy.
  2. I would then fly to France and we would lodge a Banns and also the Australian version of the Banns (Notice of Intent to Marriage). This process would take about 4 months to complete if the French were in a good mood and if all paperwork arrived on time. (More about this later)
  3. Please do remember that at this point I could arrive at the Mairie of my husbands townn and even though I have the Visa permission he may or may not accept our Banns on  various conditions such as a of a lack of paperwork. I may not have enough sufficient identity, or proof of relationship. If I flew over there was still a risk of rejection.
  4. After the required time had passed of 4 weeks Australian, and 3 Weeks France. We would then have permission to marry.
  5. We rush to marry and collect required marriage paperwork. Of marriage certificate AND livrette famille.
  6. THEN I would return to Australia and apply for my spousal residency visa. In France, they have phased out the Fiance visa for Australian’s. The choice was this or marriage in Australia.

Because of this run around. We chose to marry in Australia. It still was stressful but cost wise, translation and apostille wise it was a lot easier to do and more economical. We basically cut out the whole step of the Marriage Visa including flights.

Next time I’ll let you know about the actual marriage paperwork from France to marry in Australia. That’s when the fun/mess/anger/stress truly starts 🙂
Mignonne 🙂

How to explain it all? The basics

I’ll start this bluntly in the hope that it answers the basics quickly and efficiently…

  • I hope to be moving to France in a few months.
  • In the last year I have spent more months here than home in Australia. (Ironically I feel out-of-place back home now.)
  • To state the obvious my partner, VGT, is french. He is a classic geek but with a few quirky areas like surfing and ice-skating. He still loves the odd LAN which contains large doses of aggression at his computer.
  • I am getting married and no it’s not for Visa’s, pregnancy, or money reasons. It’s not to get away from my beautiful Mum and nor is it to get a new citizenship. (Just addressing here all the nasty comments that arrived at the announcement of my engagement.) It is in fact for that universally cliché thing called Love.
  • The French visa application process is interesting,to be nice about it: It’s a complicated bureaucratic mess. Being Australian I hope that I have better chances than a Tunisian.
  • To obtain any form of longstay visa I must return to Australia and then come back to France. (I go back to Australia in about 2 weeks to start it all)
  • I am only learning to speak French now, with interesting results.

Ok now we have that out-of-the-way… I love chocolate and comfort eat when I am under any type of stress. I hate McDonald’s(which VGT adores) and love fresh veggies and fruit(horrendously expensive here) I do love the odd wine but when I can finally force down a beer I am drunk after a single stubbie.

I miss cooking Australian food here, the ingredients are different which results in different flavours. Sometimes better tastes but usually disasters (For example my soon to be father in law had to HACK SAW my frozen oranges for dessert last night, the ice cream had refrozen into milky orangey ice)

Australia is being flogged right now weather wise and personally I am glad we picked France for the first country to live in… It’s a loud passionate nation who strikes over the craziest reasons, you are lucky to be served with a smile and it can be a chaotic mess. However at the rate Australia is going economically and weather wise I will be coming home to a card board tent, thankful, that I get some newspaper for a pillow.

My second seemingly crazy reason is this. VGT knows Australia culture and customs a little. He speaks nearly fluent English and can happily communicate with any of my family or friends. I speak no French and often ruin a moment of tradition or culture with my habit of Australian blundering. Their perspectives are sometimes totally opposite to what I try to communicate. So it’s a little human experiment of learning french culture and customs then back over to my land of sunshine….

I am overly curious, and love new things. Love being on the move and visiting and meeting friends and family everywhere. In the last month I Have been to Bourges, Font Romeu, Paris, London, Bournemouth, Lyon, Nantes, Anger, Bordeaux, Biarritz and La Pointe du Raz….  I am known as G like a Golden Retriever, how happy they are to be loved and surrounded by people. But also how curious they are. We watch Rhianne, VGT’s dog and she is 14 with bad hips and she still gets in and about the most amazing little places. Wiggling her body, wagging her tail you can see the pleasure of a new sensation. That’s me, just in human form. (I get excited over a 10 euro bowl of pasta that tastes amazing)

Lastly, Why not?