Monday, January 27, 2014

Two cultures and two ways of living

A while back I had a coworker who just got back from a 3-month training in India. He was sharing his discoveries, his experiences with us. I still remember his face expression when he exclaimed : " most of my team members live with their parents!" It was something so unbelievable and so astonishing for him.

Then I had a chance to talk to an Indian coworker who came to France for a year assignment. She told me that it was the first time in her life she had to cook for herself, eat by herself and do everything by herself. Even when she went to University to further her studies, she was living with a bunch of friends. Her family would come to visit her whenever she missed them. Life was always surrounded by friends and family.

Coming from Malaysia and now living in France, I know where they are coming from. There is no right or wrong, simply a different preference in life. I wouldn't trade off my life living two years with 11 house-mates sharing a 3-bedroom apartment, but I don't know if I could accept living with my in laws, just like many do in Malaysia. When I was studying in France, I discovered that most of the students lived in a studio, a tiny space where everything is included in one spot : bedroom, living room, kitchen. There were many private studios to rent out to students, and in the University hostel, everyone has their own room/space/studio. That was something I had never seen in Malaysia. My University hostel in Malaysia was consisted of rooms with minimum two students. Most people who rented private property would prefer to share a room or an apartment to minimize the rental cost. The University provided tutorial classrooms and the libraries were opened till mid-night. So students had places to go if they wanted to study in a quiet environment.

My MIL told me that in the past, maybe around 40 - 50 years ago, French families used to stay under one roof too. However the society evolves, and French emphasis on their privacy. Who knows maybe in 50 years, the Indian or the Malaysian societies will go through the same path just like the French? That kids would want to leave their parents and build their nest as soon as they go for their higher education?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Morning Ritual IV


In Morning Ritual III, I had established my own rule when greeting my coworkers in the morning. This rule was challenged several times, but I decided to stick to it. I have gotten used to many rules in France, but I consider greeting people by air kissing or hand shaking encourages virus transmission, especially during winters when cold virus runs rampantly. Starting from autumn, more and more coworkers are down with coughs, sore throats and running nose. Except those with severe coughing, people still hand shake and air kiss each other in the morning, this is something I do not appreciate much.

So, this was what happened. One day I was having meeting with my big boss and a female coworker. The boss came in, air kissed my coworker, then shaked my hand. Maybe he felt uneasy to greet us differently, so he suggested that from that day on he would air kiss me too. My heart immediately said no, so I politely said that in my culture I do not air kiss men. Well, in my culture I simply do not air kiss anyone, but I will be considered rude in France if I don't even air kiss female coworkers.

Well, every company has its own culture. In my company bosses are quite easy going and emphasis less on the hierarchy. However, most of them still shake hands with their female subordinates. I had heard coworkers saying that who and who are air kissing which boss so these who and who are in the gang with the boss. So, air kissing your boss could be interpreted as joining his club or having a very close working relationship.

Anyway, I don't always have time to tell people my rule. For example, right after that meeting with my boss, I met another male coworker in the corridor and guess what? He just came to me and air kissed me, I didn't even have time to tell him that I don't air kiss man. I met him another morning, this time I quickly told him that I prefer hand shaking, and his response was : "oh, you are sick!" Early January we were saying Happy New Year to every coworker. When one coworker came to me, I raised my hand, he asked me if I was sick, I said no, then he said then in this case we kiss. So he just air kissed me lol.

Maybe it is time to loosen up my rule, but air kissing 40++ people in the morning, I'm simply not ready.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

December : Cold and festivities

The month of December continues with rain and cold weather, sometimes scraping ice off windshield before going to work. It also marks the beginning of all the festivities.

1. Christmas tree and advent calendar
I did not grow up with these so there is nothing special for me but annoyance. Our tiny apartment is already burdened with toys everywhere, but we still need to make a corner with a tree and a nativity set, as the suggestion of not having any of these was frown upon. The father and daughter probably enjoyed 20 minutes of tree setting up, but the rest of the month I see leaves and Christmas ornaments wandering around the living room, the nativity set messing up with different toys (how about a wolf with baby Jesus?). Nobody but me actually took the time explaining to her the history behind, but I have a very limited knowledge about all these. And, since when eating two three chocolates a day is good for a kid? I love chocolate before coming to France, now I simply hate it. It appears in every celebrations in abundant, I do not hesitate to throw away chocolate bunny or Santa Claus these days because I really have have enough. All these rants just to say that the Christmas tradition has been passed down without the meaning behind, what a waste!

2. Company Christmas Party
This year my company invited us to a circus. This was the first time she watched a circle performance and she was glued to the stage. Her favorite part was during the tigers performance, unfortunately it lasted for merely 5 minutes. The lion was sick else she would had gone crazy.

The party continued with some afternoon snack and a room full of games : for kids and for adults. We stayed for a while to learn some, and she went home with a balloon card game which she enjoys very much.

3. Christmas festival organized by our Town Hall
 The Town Hall organizes a Christmas festival every year. They set up a Merry-go-around, for free. Considering that a round normally costs around 2.50€, you bet we took advantage to the maximum.

We queued up for the carriage. They also had short films and story telling sessions, puppet and art exhibition.

4. Gift hunting
I had been "interviewing" several coworkers on how they choose their gifts. Most of them said that with their kids, they browse through some catalogs and make a list, then send it to the family. Some of them don't give present between adults anymore.We didn't have problem picking up gifts for Aelig, but for the rest of the family, it was a tough task. Family members also asked what I wanted, but at that point I really didn't need anything. They insisted, so I had to come out with something. So Santa did give me a lot of gifts, whether I like it or not.

5. Christmas meals
What I love the most about Christmas is time spent preparing foods with family. It was convivial and enriching. My MIL was the main chef, she was a chef with ideas.

Foie-gras (fattened liver of a duck or goose) was one of important Christmas ingredient. We put a slide of foie-gras on top of a homemade bread, topped with some pan-fried apples and almond slides. I don't eat Foie-gras so she prepared one for me without.

A platter with a combination of cherry tomatoes, mixed nuts, olives and lychee. I prepared this but I made a mistake, I shouldn't have mixed lychee (considered as a dessert) with other appetizers.

Crab meat wrapped with a slide of smoked salmon, sided with mixed avocado and chopped shallots. It took us quite some times to have those crab meats.

The highlight of Christmas Eve : when Santa met the Angel. A neighbor disguised as Santa and brought over a bed sheet full of gifts, all for her. Of course she was elated.

La bûche de Noël (Yule log) made by my MIL. It was not as heavy as those she made previous years. Everyone loved it, it served as birthday cake for the Angel too.

Welcoming 2014 with three full stomachs

Happy 2014 everyone! I hope everyone had a blast welcoming the New Year.

I worked on New Year's Eve. when I got home, I was welcomed by hubby and the Angel. Apparently hubby had been slaving in the kitchen since the morning.

And the outcome? A set of elaborated meal which filled three stomachs to the maximum.

He did take some time decorating the table. He also played songs from my favorite singer Faye Wong.

Me and Aelig don't drink, so he got us a kid champagne. He told me that what we had during our wedding dinner back in Malaysia was this kind of champagne. How embarrassing, I thought the restaurant was offering us a bottle of real champagne!

First appetizer: red pepper stuffed with tuna.

Second appetizer: baked mushroom stuffed with cheese.

Third appetizer: choux stuffed with cream cheese.

Fourth appetizer: baked banana wrapped in ham.

First mise en bouche: verrines. The second mise en bouche was also a type of verrine but I forgot to take a photo.

We needed a break for our stomachs so we danced, and Aelig was lecturing us on something.

Third mise en bouche : shrimps, grapefruits, avocado and some herbs. This was a scrumptious combination.

At that point I was so full that I didn't even have energy to take photos. So I missed a photo on the entrée, which was chicken placed on a leave of endive. Followed by the main course : rice with baked mushroom & salmon.

We concluded the meal with a fruit salad.

A meal prepared with love and a lot of effort. Thanks a lot!