Monday, 5 November 2012

The top 10 things you can learn from French people

There are so many things about the French way of life which those from other nations envy. Some, such as their excellent food and wine, are well known. Others, such as their good work/life balance, are less recognised.

Many people dream of living in France or achieving a more French way of life. For some it’s the language – choosing to stay in the country to study languages with ESL Language Studies Abroad or another study provider is a dream holiday. Others appreciate French cultural offerings, from art to literature.

But what are the top 10 things which we could learn from the French?

1. How to achieve work/life balance

According to the uSwitch Quality of Life Index 2011, those living in France have an average of 36 days holiday per year. This compares with the UK’s 28 days and the US workers lack of holiday entitlement under Federal Law.

2. Great family life

Although paternity and maternity leave is organised along similar lines to other European countries with mothers due longer paid leave than fathers, in France parental leave is available. Either parent can take a length of time off work and still be able to return to their job once the child is old enough.

This makes planning for the family more fair, and enables women or men to take responsibility for child care depending on the family’s situation.

3. Starting the day

Unlike the heavy British or American breakfast, the first meal of the day in France is lighter and more delicious. The range of pains available for breakfast are impressive, including baguettes, croissants and croissants flavoured with chocolate, raisins or other fruit.

4. Effortless style

Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier, Dior. French fashion is famous the world over and French men and women, especially in urban centres such as Paris and Lyon, are known for their seemingly effortless style.

5. Making cinema

From the eyrie proto-sci-fi narratives of Georges Méliès to the kooky exploits of Amelie, French cinema takes an innovative and forward-thinking approach. Film-making in France has impacted upon the medium worldwide.

6. Atmospheric cities

Paris features as a cultural reference point for film, literature, arts and music, and no other city can compete with its scenic views. Other French cities similarly touched with a certain je ne sais quoi include: Avignon, Lyon and Dijon.

7. Not dieting

Books such as Why French Women Don’t Get Fat explain the sense of balance which French people have when it comes to eating. Food is not seen as guilt-inspiring, but instead small measures, such as eating a lighter lunch after a heavy breakfast, keep weight in balance. This is a far cry from the extreme diets of other cultures.

8. Greeting people

If you meet up with a French person you are close to, you are likely to faire la bise, or share several kisses on the cheeks. Depending upon the region, you may repeat the gesture up to four times.

9. Delis and patisseries

Those visiting or going to study French in France for the first time often stare wide-eyed into the windows of delicatessen and patisseries at the intricately created delicacies inside. French strawberry tarts are like no other.

10. Regional loyalty

They love all things French in France; a vital part of French culture is to take pride in preserving the French language, customs and history.

But loyalty to a local region is also important. In rural towns, markets stock produce from local producers and shoppers always choose regional goods, such as cheeses, vegetables and meats.

There’s a reason that French culture is envied the world over. We could all do with living a little more like French people from time to time.

Useful links

The history of French cinema
A short history of French cinema on the Guardian

Gestures for each situation
Never embarrass yourself again – here are the top 10 French gestures

French strawberry tart
Cook your own French strawberry tart with this recipe

Friday, 2 November 2012

Top ten things to pack for your travels


Getting everything packed into your suitcase can be a stressful affair. This article offers tips on ways to save space and money while you pack for travels.

From books to toiletries, there always seem to be too many items to fit into one suitcase. We often pack a lot of things that we never end up using without taking some of the most essential items. Here are the top ten things to take on your travels.

1. Luggage scale


Overweight luggage fees can really swallow up your budget so make sure you avoid extra charges by packing a luggage scale and weighing your bag before you leave for the airport.

2. Sunscreen lotion

If you are jetting off to somewhere sunny then sun lotion is a must. Shop around for a deal in your local high street because sun block sold in tourist shops is often really expensive.

3. Compression sacks

One way to lower your checked in baggage weight is to put heavy items into your hand luggage bag and to stuff as many clothes as possible into your suitcase. Compression sacks help you to create space by eliminating any air surrounding your items.

4. E-reader

If you have a bunch of books that you want to get through while you are away then you are definitely better off saving space by investing in an E-reader. Instead of dragging around hefty hardbacks you can just slip your lightweight reader into your hand luggage.

 5. Snacks

Airport shops can be pretty expensive and not all flights will provide you with complimentary food so make sure you take a trip to the supermarket before you leave to stock up on some of your favourite snacks.

6. Empty water bottle

Bottled water sold at airports is overpriced but you are bound to want some for your flight. Save money by packing an empty water bottle in your bag which you can then fill up at a water fountain when you pass through security.

7. Travel-sized containers

Travel sized products are a rip-off, but you probably don’t want to take all of your full-sized toiletries on holiday with you. Solution: buy empty travel-sized containers and fill them with your favourite products.

8. Security bags

You want to make sure your belongings are safe so invest in a padlock for your backpack and a secret pouch that you can wear under your clothing to hold your passport and money in.

9. A VoIP adapter

It is important to work out how you will keep in touch with loved ones back home, especially if you are planning on travelling for a while. A voice over IP adapter is an easy way to connect to a broadband connection allowing you to make cheap calls home.

Click here for more information on low rate VoIP.

10. A camera

An essential for your trip is a decent camera. Instead of spending all your money on postcards and expensive souvenirs you can take meaningful photos of your time away. Take plenty of pictures so that you can make a scrapbook or album of your favourite memories when you get back home.

Everyone over-packs and you are bound to end up taking something away on your travels that you won’t use, but by using these tips you will create more room in your luggage and so that you won’t be hit with hidden charges at check-in.

Resource box
Traveller’s Point has an article on 21 tips to help you pack for a trip.
This website offers information on what pack if you’re going on a long-term trip.
Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum enables you to swap tips and advice with other travellers.