Friday, April 15, 2016

All those ça se fait pas

"ça se fait pas", it is a phrase I often hear during conversations, which for me means "we don't do this". It touches the things that French won't normally do / ask, but they are more tolerated in other cultures. Since I'm a foreigner, I sometimes take advantage of the situation, by simply pretending that I don't know that it is not a common practice in France, and would go ahead to do it.

Example 1:
We went to a restaurant with grandmas and there were plenty of leftover. I suggested that we asked for a doggy bag, and the grandmas told me that "ça se fait pas en France" (we don't do this in France). After some thought I decided to ask anyway, the worst was that I get a "no" in answer, or I could take home the leftover and not waste the food. The result : they got me a doggy bag, the grandmas were surprised.

Example 2:
Recently we were invited to a birthday celebration. We asked around if someone would collect money to buy a common gift, but we were told that we would contribute financially as they were inviting a band to play traditional musics so that guests could dance. We had a great time.

The second morning, after greeting each other, the first thing I asked was how much did the band cost and if they managed to collect enough money to pay the band. I got an answer, but I was told later that "ça se fait pas", basically topics involving money are mostly taboo in France. I would know a French for long time and we are good friend, but we won't tell each other how much we earn (I'm willing to tell but I think it would make people uncomfortable because they would feel oblige to tell me theirs). Whereas money (how much you earn, how much you paid for your house, your car.... ) are something so commonly asked by the Chinese, even by those living in France, and during the first encounter.

Example 3:
When I go to Asian restaurants, and if I know the chef well, I would ask for things like changing to another table, asking to switch a dish I like that is à la carte to be included in the menu of the day. Hubby told me you don't do this in French restaurants, he was amazed to see how we always negotiate with the waitress / chef.

So over the years I get a lot of "ça se fait pas" comments on what I did, sometimes I respect and follow it because I was convinced of the reasons, but sometimes I just don't care or old habit dies hard the question just came out naturally. So far nobody got offended, or they were but they didn't show it.

On the other hand, there are things that the French do that the foreigners would think "mais ça se fait pas!" (but we don't do this!).

Example 1:
People on strike or on demonstration publicly destroying shops / blocking highways & public transports / burning cars.... We have many recently : demonstration against building an airport (the talk of building this airport was started like 40 years ago), demonstration on the new labor laws, farmers' demonstration due to falling livestocks prices. It was always a shock for me to see how much things got destroyed after each demonstration, and how the police were just there watching, and people in general tolerated these behaviors. I read in an article, the unions argued that having demonstrations and sometimes destroying stuffs is the fundamental right of each French people. Destroying, is just a way of expression, and that's in the French cultures. Ok these might only be the point of views of certain unions, but in general, French people just give a shrug of shoulder towards these behaviors.

Example 2:
When the season changes the flu virus has gone viral. People clearning their nose openly in public, in the office, that still amazes me.

Example 3:
French men, when they need, just stop their car in the middle of highway, and pee.
I have no word for this.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Her bla bla bla

Awena can pronounce some words and she loves to repeat after me. It has become a game between us.

Here would be how it goes (we speak in Mandarin):

Me : Mao (cat)
Awena : Mao
Me : Ma (horse)
Awena : Ma (this is her favorite word, whenever she sees a horse in a park or on a book, she will scream this word until I repeat after her)
Me : Zhu (pig)
Awena : Zhu
Me : Ji (chicken)
Awena : Ji (there is a book with chicken shape she would yell "Ji" each time she sees it)
Me : Niu (cow)
Awena : Liu (she couldn't really pronounce it)
Me : Gou (dog)
Awena : Gou
And it continues with other animals : Yang (goat), Yu (fish), E (goose), Ya (duck), Wa (frog)...
She understands but couldn't pronounce these : Xiao Tu Zi (rabbit)...

And then I noticed this:
Me : Papa
Awena : Papa
Me : Mama
Awena : Mama
Me : Jie Jie (big sister)
Awena : Aeyi (she wanted to say Aelig)
I paused as hearing her saying Aeyi.
I repeated : Jie Jie
Awena : Aeyi
Ok now I got it, for her Big sister means Aelig, which is her big sister.
I continued : Mei Mei (younger sister)
Awena : Mei Mei
Me : Ge Ge (big brother)
Awena : Ge Ge
Me : Di Di (younger brother)
Awena : Di Di
Me : Ah Gu (uncle in Hokkien)
Awena : Ah Gu
Me : Ah Kim (uncle's wife in Hokkien)
Awena : Ah Kim
She still couldn't pronounce Wai Poh, Da Yi, Er Yi, San Yi, my other family members' name.

And then this:
Me : Xiao Xiong (her stuff animal)
Awena : Dodo (French way to call stuff animal)

So each time I say Jie Jie (big sister), she would call the name of her big sister, and when I say Xiao Xiong (her stuff animal), she would say dodo.

She can also point to her body parts when I ask her where they are, but she couldn't prononce them : Tou (head), Tou Fa (hair), Yan Jing (eyes), Er Duo (ears), Bi Zi (nose), Zui Ba (mouse), She Tou (tongue), Tu Ji (belly button), Shou (hand), Jiao (feet). She could say Bao to represent Mian Bao (bread) and Fan (rice). She says Bei (cup) when she wants to drink. Mei You (finished) when finished something.

As for songs, she likes to listen to Da Xiang (Elephane), Xiao Zhu (Little Pig), Xiao Xing Xing (Chinese version of Twinke Twinke Little Star).

In French, she could say : Pain (bread), Au revoir (goodbye), paule (épaule) (shoulder - when she wants to sit on her dad's shoulders), ballon (ball), bateau (boat), feuille (leave), main (hand - when she wants us to hold her hand). And, Noooooooooo (with her mouth stops at O shape), this is the word that she learns fast and uses often.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A little girl in Malaysia : 2016's trip snapshots

It has been more than a month since we came back from Malaysia.
The girls would still look at the photos and videos from the trip, one night Awena even had a dream about my family, she kept yelling 'ah ku ah ku ah ku" (ah ku in Hokkien refers to her ancle (my brother)).

Here are some of the snapshots / highlights of Aelig's trip:
1. Two mothers
One day in the car, Aelig told us that she would like to go back to France quickly. We wanted to know what displeased her in Malaysia. Her reply :"but I have two mothers in Malaysia! Er yi (my second sister) looks so much like you that I couldn't distingush you from her! It is better that we go back to France, then I would only have one mother." She said it in such a serious way that all of us laughed.

2. The French speaking boy
During Chinese New Year, we would go to relatives' houses everyday. We met a lot of people but none of them speak French. One day we met a young boy, he was so bored as he was the only kid there, so he was happy when we arrived with our daughters. He quickly approached Aelig for conversation and wanted to share a game in the tablet with her. He spoke English to Aelig, but she didn't understand. I quickly explained to the boy that Aelig only speaks Mandarin and French. I knew he didn't speak Mandarin so I asked if he speaks French. He nodded, to my surprise. They started to play together with their own language because the fact was he didn't speak French. At one point, the boy's mother came to me saying that her son was asking password for the tablet, but it was upon Aelig's request. As soon as the tablet was unlocked, he handed it to Aelig. I don't know how they communicated, but she got what she wanted (she would glue to any cellphone/tablette/computer as soon as she gets a chance).

3. Mutton on the sky lantern
The sky lantern (KongMing Lantern) has become a popular tradition during the Chinese New Year in Malaysia. People would write their wishes on it then let the lantern rises into the sky. We asked Aelig to write something on it and she wrote "mouton", mutton in French. She was happy to see her "mouton" flying.

4. Fireworks
Kids are crazy about fireworks and firecrackers during Chinese New Year. My sister bought Aelig some and she finished all of them. She didn't remember anything about fireworks from her last trips, but I think she would remember it from now on.

5. karaoke
Karaoke is still big in Malaysia. We went to a company dinner, I had the chance to introduce karaoke to the little girl. She loved it and had asked me to replay songs that she knew.

6. The monkey king
It is the Monkey year, so she got introduced to the charactors in "The Journey to the West".

After this trip, back to France, there were several things worth to jot down:

1. Angpow to her classmates
We decided to have a project together : giving angpow to her classmates with a card and a candy instead of money. I wrote down their name and "Happy Monkey Year" in French and in Mandarin. When I brought the angpows to her school, her classmates were elated that they would have their names written in Mandarin. They all laughed and giggled when I told them it is the Monkey year. Her teacher later told me to teach her where is Malaysia on a map so that she could point it to her classmates.

2. A card to her classmates
We also sent a Chinese New Year card to her class from Malaysia. It took 4 weeks to arrive, we thought it was lost. Her message was "Hello my fellow classmates, I wish you all a very Happy Monkey New Year. It is very very hot in Malaysia."

3. New cloth everyday
It is the Chinese tradition to wear new cloth for the first few days of Chinese New Year. She got some from her grandma and we bought her some. Now back to France, she wants to continue the tradition, but we are in winter so no way she is going to wear summer dresses. I insisted that she wears at least a longsleeve suit. It doesn't seem to bother her though, she has been wearing her Malaysian clothes to school even though it was 0° outdoor.

4. Can't switched back to French
At the first few weeks after we are back to France, she complained that she would speak Mandarin to her classmates and she couldn't control it. She has difficulty switching back to French. I told her that's normal because I'm experiencing the same things.

5. Drawing in her activity book
This is what she drew in her activity book about her trip to Malaysia. On the left is about the lion dance and fireworks. On the right is a pond situated close to sister's house where we stayed. In Malaysia due to the hot weather most of the times we stayed indoor, so she was happy she got to go to the playground and ran around the pond.

Overall it was a nice trip to the little girl. As for her younger sister, she was sick the first few days after we arrived. She was sticky to me most of the time so it was very hard for me to relax. She was finally comfortable with my family at the last few days. The day before we headed back, I finally got a chance to go out with hubby without the kids, we shopped for what we wanted to bring home, and ate plenty of food in a peaceful environment. We didn't have to worry about diapers, naps, yelling, what kind of food to order for them. It was so nice.

Friday, February 19, 2016

hot and cold

We went to this hot spring place for swimming.
And we heard that Nantes was snowing.
I hope adjusting back to the cold life in Nantes would be easier this time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The kids love roti, but not the sauces

Growing up in France, my kids are more exposed to French food than Malaysian's, but they can accept rice, roti canai (frozen one in France), not much of rice porridge though.

So we discover food they love and food they just won't touch during this trip to Malaysia.

Last several trips, Aelig loved roti canai, bah kut teh (pork herbal soup), chicken rice, but she refused anything spicy.

The first trip for Awena, my BIL ordered a plate of cheese roti, she loved it. She asked for cheese everyday at home in France, so that is not a surprise for us.

They both love roti cheese.

Awena dipped her roti into the red chili sauce, she didn't cry, but just asking for water. I have a feeling that she could accept spicy food more than her sister.

We went for Dim Sum, but Aelig only ate dumplings, Awena didn't want to try any. At the end we ordered fried rice for them.

Hubby loved Chay Kueh Tiao and Asam Laksa, but none of the girls tried them.

Dishes during reunion lunch. Aelig didn't eat much, I added some pork sauce in her rice but she said it was spicy. It was only the ginger! Awena ate a lot of meat roll.

I brought the raclette set to my sister,  she invited her friends over to try. Aelig enjoyed it a lot. My sister also prepared steamboat for those who didn't want to eat cheese, Awena discovered fish balls, yam...

Overall, Aelig doesn't eat much in Malaysia, well she is not a big eater anyway in France. As for Awena, she discovers, she tries, she takes whatever that pleases her, including all the Chinese New Year biscuits.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Driving in Malaysia : Can't do this anymore

Yes we are back to Malaysia for the coming Chinese New Year celebrations. I haven't been driving in Malaysia for a while, since hubby knows how to drive like Malaysians now. I told myself that I should take up the courage again, so that I could go anywhere whenever I want, but I just can't do this anymore.


There are too many cars on the roads. We passed through a roundabout with heavy traffics and I don't think I would ever be able to cross. Cars and motocycles drove at extremely high speed, when there are two lanes, you will have three lanes of car queuing. Photo shows a blue car joining the roundabout through the right lane (in Malaysia we drive on the left lane).

Heavy traffics everywhere especially when we are approaching Chinese New Year.

Here are what really scare me:
1. Pedestriens crossing everywhere, as sometimes they have no choice, there is definitely lack of zebra zones for them
2. Motocyclists sneaking through wherever they can, you have to pay extra attention for what is around you.
3. When I drive in Nantes, there is always several seconds for me to join the main roads as cars waiting for lights to turn green. But here, there is no time, seconds before the light turns green, the motocyclists already waiting at the front would just pass through. As soon as the light turns green, the remaining who did not cross on red light would drive at high speed. So there is really no time to merge!
4. Whenever there is enough space, cars form an extra lane no matter how many lanes are meant for. In the roundabouts, sometimes there are simply no lanes, I won't have know which lane to merge into.

I guess this is part of reverse culture shock! I drove in Malaysia since I was 17 until I went overseas, and I didn't notice all these. French peopld o respect the traffic rules after all!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cream crackers vs chocolate

I mentioned that I love cream crackers. My girls look them too, sometimes I give them some as breakfast, as many Malaysians do with a cup of Milo (chocolate drink).

Well, this didn't go too well with hubby. For him cream crackers are junk food and we shouldn't give junk food to our kids. Does it mean the Malaysians who are having crackers with Milo are eating junk to provide them energies for the whole morning?

During the whole month of Decembre we had advent calender, so every morning the girls had a chocolate. I didn't like this idea. For me Chocolate provides nothing nutritious except fat and sugar.

So, I accused him of serving the kids junk food (chocolate), which he disagreed, while I didn't think that cream crackers are junk.

We decided to look at the nutrition information. Below is the table of comparaison. We can see that crackers have more carbohydrate, protein and salt whereas chocolate has excessive fat and sugar. Both are to be avoided I guess but chocolate is evil if you ask me.

Nutrition information

(Average Values)

Jacob’s Cream Crackers (Per/100g)

Côte D’Or’s Chocolate



1851kj / 440kcal

2370kj / 570kcal




Of which Saturates






Of which Sugars