Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bénédictine D.O.M : A marketing success in Malaysia?


We were discussing about Cognac, a variety of brandy, that is popular in Malaysia, but less popular in France. Within my social circle in France, I seldom see or hear people drinking Cognac, while in Malaysia brand like Hennessy, Rémy Martin and Martell are so well known that they become hot gifts during Chinese New Year to business partners.

Then I told my coworkers about Bénédictine D.O.M, one of the confinement tonic for Chinese women in Malaysia after giving birth to a child.  This tonic is produced in France, in the Chinese name it is even called "French Bénédictine". My female coworker said that she has never heard of this, and it is certainly not a practice in France to drink this post-natal. She was even wondering how can the Malaysian women drink it if they are breastfeeding? I wonder the same. It consists of 40% of alcohol, how can breastfeeding mothers drink it?

Anyway, the real question is, why is this drink being included as something nutritious for post-natal women in Malaysia and Singapore, while it is not in the country where is it produced? Is it due to a successful marketing strategy? So the Malaysians and Singaporeans are being fooled then?

PS : According to Wikipedia, United States, Malaysia and Singapore are the three biggest consumer markets for this alcohol.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Three Malaysians in Paris

I had a friend coming to visit from Malaysia. We met in Paris, and a friend who knows Paris very well was touring us around. When three Malaysians get together, we have to talk about food. And when this friend asked if I was craving for Nasi Lemak, I hesitated. I could jump into any Malaysian food anytime since there is no Malaysian restaurant in my city, but I have to think about my friend who came all the way from Malaysia and could have authentic Malaysian food once she goes back. Anyway, thing sorted out as she just had a week dose of French cuisine and she was happy to try something else. So Malaysian food it is!

We chose three menu with the same appetizer and three different dishes (so we can share among us). The appetizer was delicious with freshly prepared curry puff, spring roll and mixed vegetables (taste similar to Lou Sang).

One of the main dishes : Nasi Lemak. The rice didn't have much coconut taste, I think they have to tailor to their French customers. I would give it 7 points out of 10 points, -1 point for the rice, -2 points for the sambal : once again it lacked the coconut milk, but the rendang chicken did taste heavenly.

The second main dish: curry laksa. The verdict : very authentic and scrumptious. The spiciness was just right at my taste. The ingredients were fresh.

I forgot to take photo of our third dish : Chicken satay. I was disappointed though. It didn't have the thick peanut sauce to go with, and it didn't come with a stick. It would probably suit the local better.

Dessert : corn and pandan steam cake.

Anyway, for 19€ per person, it served my craving well. Thanks to my friend who brought us there, and thanks to the other friend who didn't mind spending almost RM100 for these. With this price, I guess she could have gotten 10 bowls of curry laksa or 10 plates of Nasi Lemak in Malaysia.

Restaraunt Langkawi Paris

Note : It is a tiny restaurant with 17 seats. It was opened 6 months ago. You could call them in advise to prepare certain Malaysian foods that are not in their current menu.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

A Japanese car : a revolution in the family?

One day while arriving at my in laws' house, we saw a Honda CRV parked outside the house. I was very surprised to find out that my in laws bought a Japanese car,as the whole family was a die-hard fans of French cars.

It never occurred to me that this day could come. A Japanese car in the family? That's certainly a revolution. When I bought my car, I wanted a Japanese car with an automatic transmission. And I got a French car with stick. I have always loved Japanese car, because I had a very good experience with my Honda Civic, the first car I ever bought, when I was living in the USA. It seems that automatic cars are more popular in Malaysia and in USA these days, but not in France. Here are the responses from different people concerning automatic car:
A friend from USA : You meant you are still driving a stick? Oh my God!
A friend from France: Why would you want to drive an automatic car, they are for handicap people!

So when I got my French manual car, emotionally I was not happy. But on the practical side, I know my family was right, it would have lower maintenance cost plus a better resale value, compared to an imported auto car. Today, I'm totally comfortable to drive with my car, on the other hand I have lost my skill of driving in Malaysia. Well, that would be another story.

Back to the story. Why the sudden change in my in laws family? They told me that they had no choice. They needed a powerful car as when they go on vacation, this car has to tow along their camping car. And the French manufacturers do not produce these cars anymore. They had visited several car distributors, and this was the only one that has a manual transmission. Well, it will be another revolution if one day they decide to change to auto transmission!

Hubby and I had a very weird feeling while riding the car. We thought we were in Malaysia! Especially hubby, as he remembered he was driving one the earlier years he visited Malaysia, he found it weird that he was not the one driving as he was sitting on the right front seat, the driver seat in Malaysia.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

We did celebrate Chinese New Year 2014

We did celebrate Chinese New Year 2014, but after the 15th day of Chinese New Year.

We did it during two weekends with two different group of friends. Both time I prepared Yusheng, a dish created in Singapore and is widely accepted in both Singapore and Malaysia during Chinese New Year, but less popular within other Chinese communities.

I couldn't find some of the ingredients so I simply decorated it with seven type of colorful vegetables. I like the gesture of tossing the dish with chopsticks with everyone around the table. Yes, the higher the better!

Making dumplings with the kids. Preparing dumplings during Chinese New Year is a tradition in North of China, but we had never practiced this in my family (our ancestors were from the South). We chose this dish instead of steamboat so that kids can participate and have fun with us.

We also celebrated with a group of French friends who had been to Malaysia and experienced Chinese New Year there. In the earlier years in France I used to invite people over and prepared steamboat or other Malaysian dishes, but these years I was simply not motivated. Instead they invited us over to celebrate. It was very nice of them, we had a lot of fun and so did the kids.

As simple as 1 2 3

Aelig was watching a Taiwanese cartoon. At one scene it was teaching kids to read Chinese numbers from one to ten. She could read 一二三 (1 2 3), when she saw number four 四, she yelled and said it looked like a 口 (mouth). When the cartoon repeated the numbers, she was furious and told me that the number four was wrongly written! It should be like this like this, she explained to me with writing gestures. I told her that what was shown was the right way to write, but she insisted the other way, and quickly ran to write down what she thought should be the number four : four straight horizontal strokes, a continue series from 一二三 (as shown on the photo below).

lol. If Chinese characters could be as simple as 一二三, then we wouldn't have to spend hours and hours practicing thousand of characters since our early life.

Sometimes she likes to venture into my bookshelf, picking up books and try to see if she could recognize any Chinese characters. With her limited knowledge, most often she concluded that she would have to learn more in order to read those books. Hopefully one days she would be able to read my books.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Confronted with French alphabet prononciation

The same 26 letters, but in French they are pronounced differently compare to English. I didn't get to learn how to pronounce them probably because when I went to the French school here I started at level II. So, one of the biggest challenges while talking on the phone in my earlier years here was to be able to spell my name correctly, in French.

Today, there are certain sounds I still don't know if I pronounce them correctly. I still have problem with "G" and "J", as it seems to me that they sound exactly opposite when pronouncing them in English.

These days Aelig likes to write. She would ask me how to spell certain words like father and mother and she would write them down. One day she asked me to spell her classmates' name, and I couldn't because for some of them I have never heard of so didn't know how to spell. The other day I was deep into my reading so when she asked me how to spell "Elouan", a common Brittany name, for some reason I pronounced the letter "U" in English. She kept asking for confirmation, and finally told me that she didn't know how to write "U", that "U" didn't exist. Ops, I quickly corrected my mistake, and told the opportunity to tell her that in English all these letters have a different pronunciation. Well, she didn't look convince.

She is very keen into names now. She told her father that in his name, there are two "A". It was wrong as there was only one "A" in hubby's name. She revealed that in "PAPA" (father in French), there are two "A". We finally realized that she thought the word father and mother in French is our name. We tried to explain to her but she hasn't quick grabbing the concept yet. And, she writes only in capital letter.

Sadly, she refuses to learn how to write in Mandarin. I don't know when she would be able to write father and mother in Mandarin. It does seem that writing in alphabet is so much easier than writing in Mandarin.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

French tolerance 1 : The traveling people IV - Expulsion?

I can't believe it, they actually took our parking spots!

Last week they were occupying the last row of the parking spots, in which most of the time were almost empty. So my coworkers who used to park in that row just moved to the middle row. This row is usually 90% full.

One thing I love working in this office is that we have no problem finding a parking spot. I usually park in the middle row. However, one day, I was surprised to find that the middle row was also invaded by camping cars, they took around 70% of the spots. Some of my coworkers had to park between camping cars, some parked on the side road. At first I parked between two camping cars and I was very worried. While walking towards my office, an owner of a camping car told me to park in another spot. I think he meant well, as parking between two camping cars could cause problem in case they decide to move around.

The photo above was taken before 9am so there were still some spots left. It filled up quickly. Our managers informed us that the property management had sent their protest to the Préfet (police), some of the camping  car owners already got the expulsion notice. However, they have 21 days to leave the place. So meanwhile, we were advised to park in parking lots of other offices around 5 minutes walking distance. 

French laws, or French police, in my opinion, are very lenient in terms of land trespassing. When they are too strict, things could turn into violence, and they get enormous pressure from the medias and public. This leads me to think about trespassing laws in the USA. I once heard that an owner fired his gun when a group of people came to his property for threat or trick during Thanksgiving. The medias condemned him but he had the right to do it. So, what if the property owner fires a gun towards the sky to chase away these camping cars? I think he would be the one arrested.

Counting the days when the camping cars will just be gone and leave us go to work in peace.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

French tolerance 1 : The traveling people III

I was chased by a dog today while leaving the office parking lot. A dog belongs to the traveling people, who just settled down on the parking lot earlier this week. I was driving, it barked and followed the car, I was afraid to run it over as I couldn't really see it.

See those camping cars at the back of the parking lot? Most of them have decent cars too.

They were a group here for a while but disappeared for around two three months. After they left, the property management decided to block the access road with a huge dumpster. Well, it didn't do the job, as when they got back, they just used whatever way they could to get into where they wanted to park.

This time there are three main groups : one at the parking lot, one on the photo here, and one parked at the far right edge of this photo.

This group brought along their dogs. See the small wood house? One morning the temperature was at freezing 0°C, I was a bit worried for these little dogs. There were two dog houses for two dogs plus one not on leash (the one chasing me).

I watched a documentary one day, it mentioned that the laws require each city to allocate around 3% of their lands to welcome the traveling people. However, some communities didn't respect it, so the traveling people think that they have all the rights to stay where they want as long as the government didn't provide them enough lands. The documentary followed a group of 150 camping cars, the leader's job is to spot a new location for his group every week. He would out searching for lands that could fit his group, discuss with his team how to make entry to public parks accessible (by moving stones or destroying gates that prevent them from entering). To my surprise though, they do pay electricity and water to the Town Hall where they stay. Most of them work (selling stuffs at market, repair jobs...), and women take care of kids and houseworks.

Look like our neighbors are staying, might as well get used to them, and the dogs.