petite anglaise

May 16, 2005

me me me

Filed under: navel gazing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 9:30 am

I have never partaken of a meme before – at first, because I didn’t really know what one was, and later, because I took the snobbish view that memes constituted lazy blogging. However, I’ve climbed off my high horse today because the prospect of being interviewed by blog goddess Zinnia was just too tempting. If you haven’t already discovered the beautifully written ‘Real E Fun’ (and I am mortified to say that I didn’t spot that obvious anagram for the longest time), then I strongly advise you to do so. In fact, it’s an order.

So, here goes:

Your writing, on your blogs, is excellent and enjoyable. Do you do any other kind of writing, and if not, would you like to?

Coming from Zinnia, that is a compliment indeed. Thank you. I’m blushing and I don’t quite know where to put myself.

Before I started writing as petite anglaise, the last person who complimented me on my prose was Mr Jones, my G.C.S.E. English teacher, back in 1989. I went on to choose languages and history over English, and never once looked back. As a career PA (by accident more than by design), I actually spend most days typing other people’s words, and no, sadly I don’t do any other kind of writing.

Looking back over my archives, I feel the discipline of writing every day, purely for my own pleasure, has taught me an awful lot. I’m just getting into my stride, but I really enjoy doing it. And, well, if another opportunity were to present itself, who knows?

If, for some reason, you (and Mr Frog and Tadpole) could no longer live in France or England, where would you choose to move your family to and why?

That is horribly tough. If language were no barrier, I think of the places I have visited so far then Italy appealed the most. But I abhor being somewhere I can only communicate with a phrasebook in my hand. The other language I studied at university was German, but my experiences there – through no fault of the German people, may I add – have put me off somewhat. The only other place I have visited where I immediately felt at home was New York, but I don’t much fancy living in a broom cupboard.

If I had to run for the hills, because, say, the copy of my criminal record (requested in conjunction with my naturalisation application) arrives in the post tommorow with WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE written all over it, then I’d plump for New Zealand. I’ve never been, but it has always appealed to me. Even pre-LOTR.

What is your ideal job?

If I was brave and financially secure enough to make a career change tomorrow it would be a toss up between going back to school to study creative writing, web design or translation. There was a point in my life several years ago where I was torn between doing a translation MA and a bilingual secretarial diploma. I went for the most affordable option, and I do harbour some regrets.

You write about many things, but very little about your friends. Are friends important to you?

A terrifyingly perceptive question. I think there are a number of factors at play here.

First of all, I don’t think I should write too much about people outside my immediate circle who don’t know about the blog. I tell my stories, and talk about my feelings, not other people’s.

Secondly, my friends from home and university are all in the UK, and we are all less mobile these days, with our young children in tow. The result being that I don’t see them as often as I would like. But I love the way that even if we see each other once in a blue moon, it is like we were never apart.

Thirdly, I have found that expat life in Paris means that you inevitably make friends only for them to move on, because they were only passing through in the first place. I don’t have a single really good friend in this city right now, I’m sad to say. Lots of potentially good friends, but job and parenting commitments mean that I rarely get chance to follow things through. I’m now trying actively to do something about this – with blog meet ups for example – because friendship is important to me and my life would be far richer for it.

If you could be someone else for a day, who would you be and what would you do?

I’d like to see life through Tadpole’s eyes. To potter about drawing pictures, singing songs and feeling loved, unconditionally, without a single care in the world. Just for a day.

Knowing my luck, I’d pick the wrong day and end up teething and throwing tantrums.

If you would like to be ‘interviewed’ by me, then please let me know in the comments box. First five to respond OUI will have the dubious honour.


  1. Oui.
    Are ya all to afraid ??? ;)

    Comment by schuey — May 16, 2005 @ 9:41 am

  2. Oui petite, oui! I would be HONORED to be interwiewed by a ‘blogging goddess’! *wink*

    Comment by sammy — May 16, 2005 @ 9:59 am

  3. Mais oui!

    Comment by witho — May 16, 2005 @ 10:37 am

  4. Oui ! That would be fun!

    Lauren ;-)

    Comment by Lauren — May 16, 2005 @ 10:38 am

  5. oui

    Comment by cheria — May 16, 2005 @ 10:58 am

  6. Estou aqui!

    Comment by vit — May 16, 2005 @ 10:55 am

  7. Non merci, as I’ve already, ahem, been done – but wanted to comment to say three things. First, thank you for your candid and interesting answers; I feel as if I know you better now. Second, thanks for the deification – made my day! Third, you know what? I think you *should* be doing something creative with your writing, because you’re very good at it. I bet I’m not the only person who thinks so. She is, isn’t she? Come on, guys, tell her what you really think!

    Comment by Zinnia Cyclamen — May 16, 2005 @ 10:57 am

  8. petite – your writing is compelling, descriptive and addictive. You could make a living out of your talent.

    Comment by Muse — May 16, 2005 @ 11:42 am

  9. oh!pooh! too late to be interviewed by my first blog writer.
    And yes Zinnia,Petite is FAB!
    mary 9cube

    Comment by mary — May 16, 2005 @ 11:44 am

  10. Damn my lateness and oversleepedness.

    Comment by Michael M. — May 16, 2005 @ 11:49 am

  11. Interesting comment about friends. You mention the expat community who are given to moving around, but there are plenty of other people in Paris. You are not just an expat – you are someone who lives in Paris who *happens to be* an expat. Granted, you have a lot in common with other expats, but you also have a lot in common with so many other people who live in Paris… and obviously you speak the language, unlike some expats who make little effort.

    I hope your blogmeets enable you to follow up some of these potential friendships… it’s good to have friends close by, especially when Mr Frog is not around so much…

    Comment by witho — May 16, 2005 @ 12:10 pm

  12. You are right Witho, I neglected to answer that bit.

    The thing is, I have yet to make a really good French friend. I tend to get on well with French blokes, whether met via Mr Frog or otherwise. But I have more of a problem with French females. The ones I have met are not interested in meeting up without their boyfriends in tow, or having a night out ‘with the girls’.

    And the other thing is that most ‘Parisians’ are not from Paris. They have a network of friends from home whom they keep up with regularly, and often they don’t really bother to make new ones in Paris – and are reluctant to go for so much as a beer after work -they just abscond most weekends. That IS a generalisation, but it does reflect my own experience.

    Comment by petite — May 16, 2005 @ 12:17 pm

  13. Now you come to mention it, I didn’t really socialise with any French girls when I lived over there either! All the people I hung out with were guys, although where I lived (in a technical lycée), there were hardly any girls around anyway!

    I think you get to a certain age where people are settled in their lives and don’t seem to want to make new friends, but I think there are enough out there who do. You just have to keep making the effort I guess…

    Comment by witho — May 16, 2005 @ 12:47 pm

  14. My solution to the problem was to find French people who had spent time abroad. They were generally more open and less tied to their home pays. It helps that they had tasted anglo-saxon habits of “girls night out” and “drinks after work.” Of course, I was also super lucky in that I was still friends with my French exchange correspondante who is finishing off med school here in Paris. That’s been awesome.

    Comment by EasyJetsetter — May 16, 2005 @ 12:52 pm

  15. Living in a small town in France, I envy the Paris expats just for the mere fact that there ARE others like them. I have been here three years, and though I have many French acquaintances, my only ‘real’ friend (other than my French husband) is Canadian.

    As for French friends, I find it hard to accept that even in our twenties, ‘relationships’ seem to be limited to taking turns inviting each other (couples only, of course) over for a meal. It seems so stiff to me, when all I really want sometimes is someone I can hang out and watch T.V. with or go get a beer. Here, I find there are more many rules than I am ready to accept. Sometimes I just want to scream ‘LOOSEN UP, YOU’RE NOT EVEN OLD YET!’

    The truth is it is so stinking complicated sometimes that I don’t even want to bother with it. I’ll just hang out and drink beer with my laid back French hubby.

    Comment by sammy — May 16, 2005 @ 1:05 pm

  16. All this stuff about making friends in a foreign country is fascinating.

    My own experience, having never lived abroad, is from the other side of the fence. Over the years several non-English people have moved in and out of our circle of friends. Currently we have a friend whose boyfriend is Turkish. But in this, and all the other, cases, I find the language barrier is immense. When you’re all hanging out and chatting, particularly if in a noisy environment like a pub, it requires so much concentration to understand someone with an accent and slightly unfluent English, that they end up sitting quietly in a corner. I do my best to include people but I confess to a certain laziness, especially when drunk. Sad but true. Their only chance is if they speak French or German, cos then they get to use their native language!

    P.S. When I saw you had asked Zinnia to interview you, I thought (having already missed Zinnia’s boat) “Oooh, maybe I could get petite to interview me!” And then I quickly realised I’d never be quick enough off the ball… you have too many readers for that!

    Comment by Clare — May 16, 2005 @ 1:18 pm

  17. I’m finding the blogmeets are an excellent way of meeting new people and I have exactly the same experience as you, petite, with the whole making friends with French women thing…

    Comment by Lauren — May 16, 2005 @ 1:43 pm

  18. I think the issue of making friends once you hit a certain age is not limited to France or expats. I’ve found it living in my own country. It probably merits a blog post of its own.

    I’ve got a lot to say about it and petite’s comment box probably isn’t the place! ;)

    Comment by witho — May 16, 2005 @ 1:47 pm

  19. Petite, I know what you mean about friendships. I was born in a Portuguese territory and I am now living in Canada. I have been here for 28 years, in the same town, and I do now have a small group of good friends.

    In Portugal, like in France, we like to invite each other for supper, with spouses if they exist, without if you are on your own. It does not matter if you are single, divorced, widow, or if I am. If I want you as a friend, I invite you. Here in Canada it matters if I am single and my friend is not — I will be invited for a party, but not for supper. That was confusing and hard to accept at first. It sent me a message that I was “kind of acceptable, but not exactly” which put a damper on prospective friendships.

    Another thing is the “going for a drink after work”. In Portugal we do not use it (and I suspect in France is not used either). We like to drink with food, and I still need to eat if I drink, so going for the pub for a drink on an empty stomach is not my idea of fun. Even after 28 years. At the beginning, I used to make a sacrifice and go because I was new here and wanted/needed to make friends. Now I don’t bother any more.

    Like we do in Portugal, if I initiate the friendship I usually aproach the woman. If I were a man I would approach the man. Some of my friends were single when I met them and some were already married. Petite, I do not have a “single” male friend. I wish I had. In Portugal I had plenty, and we could invite each other for supper without automatically thinking that there might be any kind of other interest besides friendship. Unfortunately that is not the English/Canadian way and I am sad it is not.

    I found out that the mores of one’s culture are the most difficult thing to get out of. They stay with you for a long time.

    Comment by Ana — May 16, 2005 @ 2:43 pm

  20. You’re going to post links to the interviews once they’ve been replied to right?

    Comment by EasyJetsetter — May 16, 2005 @ 6:08 pm

  21. Oh piss.

    I always miss bandwagons, buses and memes.

    Just one more missed, I suppose.


    V interesting, though, Miss Petite, well done…

    Comment by anna — May 16, 2005 @ 7:10 pm

  22. I feel so reassured that I am not alone in finding it difficult to make friends abroad. I’m English, but have been living in Canada for a while as my partner has a 6 month contract here. In many respects it is wonderful, but I have never been more lonely in my life. Most of my English friends were met through work, and without a job I just don’t meet anyone. Everyone tells me to join the gym, but as a committed exercise-phobe I don’t think we’d have much in common!

    Thank goodness for Broadband, I’d go mad without e-mail and blogging.

    Comment by Hannah — May 16, 2005 @ 7:22 pm

  23. oh thank goodness i am not alone in finding it difficult to find french female friends….
    when I first arrived to join J’s life here there was a community of (aging, rich and conservative) expats who were desperate for our company – it was almost as if they were buying and feeding off our creativity “mmm an artist and a cellist! ooh la la!”. Now I am working more I am slowly making friends through work. friends are simply people I get on well with> Sometimes language isn’t even necessary. I find it bizarre building friendships simply on shared language.
    I do miss my girlies tho – the ones ive known for 30 years and have trekked around the world with…. i long for their company.
    and ouch yes i would love to have been interviewed with you.

    Comment by ruth — May 16, 2005 @ 8:20 pm

  24. ‘Would you like to do any other kind of writing?’…Your regular ‘Blog from Paris’ column in the weekend section of the Sunday Times would be a far more enjoyable regular read than Micheal Winner’s weekly pompous dribblings? And it could even pay for that trip to NZ? Go for it Petite…. your writings are, as many others have commented, compelling… and addictive!

    Comment by fella — May 17, 2005 @ 12:22 am

  25. How difficult friendship is after school. It is often said of the French that they stick to their school “cohort” forever. But we’re no different here in New York. Our closest friends were all classmates here or there.

    But I am enjoying making friends through blogging. Or getting near to that.

    Comment by R J Keefe — May 17, 2005 @ 1:45 am

  26. I read your blog because I enjoy your writing. You write very well, please consider how you can write outside of your blog. The great American novel is still waiting to be written. Maybe it is waiting for an non-American to write it. Consider attending some writers workshops rather than going back to school.
    You can always consider the writers workshop at the University of Iowa.
    (being from Iowa I am prejudist.
    Have you considered poetry?

    Comment by Iowa — May 17, 2005 @ 2:10 am

  27. OUI – would be enormous fun am also anglaise in France (7 years now; aged 28, 3 sproglings)

    Comment by Lucy-Jane — May 17, 2005 @ 12:25 pm

  28. Yes, do expand your writing ambitions. The Telegraph’s expat section takes submissions and prints people MUCH less accomplished than yourself. They don’t pay, but then you’ll have that magic password to writing professionally: clippings.

    Comment by EasyJetsetter — May 17, 2005 @ 1:50 pm

  29. Just got back from 10 days in Paris at a flat in the sixth; the second thing on the Net I looked at (after the weather) was your blog to read your marvelous writing – it is addictive and I am of a certain age – off this weekend to my granddaughter’s wedding!

    Comment by Bruce — May 17, 2005 @ 2:48 pm

  30. While we are on the subject Petite, I picked up a paperback in WH Smiths yesterday called ‘A Year Among the Strange Cheeses’ or something equally preposterous. It was like A Year In Provence except it was the diary of- guess what??- an English ExPat living in Paris (a bloke, I can’t remember his name). Looking at the blurb it seemed to have got excellent reviews- and obviously it is being pushed hard cos this was only a little train station branch of Smiths and it was right there in the centre of the display…

    Anyway, I thought, if there was ever a book you should have written then there it was.. still, it shows there is a market for this kind of thing if you can find, maybe, a slightly different angle… looking at the masses of parenting literature on adjoining shelves, for instance, anything to do with Bringing Up Baby seems to be guaranteed a hearing…

    It’s like everyone else says- your writing cries out to be read more widely.

    Comment by jonathan — May 17, 2005 @ 3:01 pm

  31. Here it is. The title was slighly ruder than I thought…

    Comment by jonathan — May 17, 2005 @ 3:09 pm

  32. Yes, your writing is so good that you’ve inspired me to start my own. Though I pale in comparison. I always look forward to reading your blog. I also hope to become a Paris blogger soon, but we’ll see what happens….

    Comment by juliana — May 17, 2005 @ 8:35 pm

  33. .

    Comment by zed — May 17, 2005 @ 11:10 pm

  34. Funny how reading your lines abut moving somewhere else I was thinking of my own beautiful residency country right now, New Zealand, just before you mentioned it yourself! At least you could come on holidays here.
    Too bad I’m too late for the interview. Can I get it because I can blame the 10 hours time difference ;-) ?

    Comment by Maurine au bout du monde — May 18, 2005 @ 2:16 am

  35. yep, other avenues would be great – don’t limit yourself to English/French papers / publications though … maybe try some of the countries you’d love to live in ie a Kiwi Paper, or the Sydney Morning Herald / The Age (Melbourne) / The Australian … love to read a regular column in the travel section from an ex-pat (or four or five or six!), it’d be great!

    Petite, I’ve been reading blogs for about 6 months now … and blogsites come and go in my address book, but yours is the only one that has stayed the pace and lasted the whole time :)

    Comment by Miss Lisa — May 18, 2005 @ 3:11 am

  36. All this talk of friendships is making me panic. I am moving to Paris in two months and was hoping that I might have a few french friends as well as expats. Oh well, I guess when my french gets better I could always walk the streets and go up to strangers asking if they will be my friend.
    I like your blog by the way, you are linked to my friends blog(, so I found you that way. I’ll keep checking…

    Comment by Anne — May 18, 2005 @ 9:21 am

  37. Friendship is a funny thing, isn’t it? It’s one of the main things what have kept me here all these years, really. I love the English way of socialising: it’s not couple-based or home-based like in France. You just go to a pub and have a good old time, whether you’re single or not! I think in England people are a lot more used and prepared to spend time and have a life outside the home, and it makes it a lot easier to make friends. I don’t have a single French friend here and one left in France; I’m just much more suited to English than French society!

    Comment by céline — May 18, 2005 @ 1:10 pm

  38. :D great choice petite, New Zealand’s great! although, i do live here and that would probably make me biased…

    Comment by logan — May 18, 2005 @ 1:23 pm

  39. Bummer! I knew this business trip would only cause me trouble…missing out on being interviewed by Petite, I can’t stand it!

    Comment by Bob — May 19, 2005 @ 12:09 am

  40. You okay, petite? You’re awfully quiet…

    Comment by witho — May 19, 2005 @ 10:10 am

  41. sort of

    will try to get the questions and a new post done today, mood permitting

    Comment by petite — May 19, 2005 @ 10:17 am

  42. Petite, where are you? On a London-bound Eurostar from Paris yesterday I overheard a young woman of about your age explaining in fluent but heavily accented French that on Friday she’s going up to Leeds for a girls only school reunion.
    Connection or coincidence?

    Comment by Parkin Pig — May 19, 2005 @ 11:40 am

  43. I have never had a problem making french friends but I’m in a completely different circle… the fashion/art circle is extremely social, international, and given to inebriation.

    As for girls, its funny but it was only till I was in Paris that I made a group of girlfriends that were actually tight. But, I have to admit, these are not your standard prissy Parisiennes… these are full-time super-filles. A rare breed.

    Comment by nardac — May 19, 2005 @ 1:46 pm

  44. Parkin Pig – from what I’ve read of petite, I wouldn’t have thought that she would speak “heavily accented” French. This girl knows what she’s doing…

    Petite – hope your mood improves. The questions can wait until you’re ready :)

    Comment by witho — May 19, 2005 @ 1:58 pm

  45. Nah, Witho y’ doylem, I obviously di’n’t think she WAS ar petite but culd it just be thet t’girl on t’train’s off ter t’same class reunion up in Yorkshire this weekend? Eh?

    Comment by Parkin Pig — May 19, 2005 @ 2:23 pm

  46. Ahhh, I see what you mean!

    Comment by witho — May 19, 2005 @ 2:32 pm

  47. Hey Petite, I miss my daily Petite dosis, I hope everything is ok, and that you are enjoying spring in Paris.

    Comment by mélanie — May 19, 2005 @ 3:17 pm

  48. Well, my first comment on your blog to acknowledge that I’m addicted to it and miss my daily doses…
    Hope everything’s fine for you.

    Comment by Landrellec — May 19, 2005 @ 3:27 pm

  49. Sorry dont know whether this is just me being daft but what is the anagram from Real E Fun?!

    Comment by Kirsty — May 19, 2005 @ 4:49 pm

  50. funereal?
    (if you look at Zinnia’s blog, it will make sense)

    Comment by witho — May 19, 2005 @ 5:14 pm

  51. Mortified, geddit? Dead easy really.

    Comment by Parkin Pig — May 19, 2005 @ 7:27 pm

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