Are French Restaurants More Likely than American to Survive the Lockdown?

France is not unique in seeing its service industry shut down in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. But compared to other countries, France has a robust safety net of social security, unemployment, and healthcare. France has also implemented emergency measures that may prevent many of these businesses from going under.

As French restaurants begin to slowly reopen for outdoor service, the culinary landscape in France looks very different when compared to the United States.

Government Aid: Two Countries, Two Philosophies

In March, President Emmanuel Macron said he would do “whatever it takes” to ensure that no company, big or small, collapsed under the financial weight of the pandemic. He announced 300 billion euros in loan guarantees and tax exemptions. The government also played a role in negotiating rent forgiveness for restaurants.

Perhaps even more helpful, at least in the short-term, were easy-to-access “solidarity funds:” 1500 euros per month given tax-free to small businesses, compounded with an additional allowance of up to 2500 euros from URSSAF, a social security union for small businesses. On April 15, Gérald Darmainn, Minister of Public Action and Accounts, also announced that the restaurant industry’s taxes and social charges – about 750 million euros – would be forgiven instead of merely suspended for the duration of administrative closure.

In the U.S., by contrast, most small restaurants didn’t qualify for loans, while huge corporations like McDonald’s and Shake Shack did. According to the New York Times, big chains were able to access “tens of millions of dollars while many smaller restaurants walked away with nothing when the $349 billion fund was exhausted [April 16].” The Los Angeles Times reported that those small businesses that did qualify were reluctant to apply for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program because of the “strings” attached to loans.

Restaurant Workers Feed Us, But Can They Eat?

As far as restaurant employees are concerned, in France, most are secure within the net of the country’s robust social structure. When forced closures were announced mid-March, restaurant workers were encouraged to first use up their paid vacation (an average of about five weeks per year) before becoming eligible for partial unemployment (the equivalent of 84 percent of their salary.) Continue reading “Are French Restaurants More Likely than American to Survive the Lockdown?”

The 16 French proverbs to drop into any conversation

La fête passée, adieu le saint

From howling with the wolves to spotting grey cats – sooner or later in French conversation proverbs will rear their head. Here French language coach Llyane Stanfield introduces some of the most common.

French proverbs are usually recognised primarily by their form: they are short, quick, and most importantly, they have rhythm, like a free-form poem.

Their feel is musical, which makes them easy to remember and they are full of lexicons and cliché, built into the language as phrases or jingles. Most proverbs have a long history but they are far from being ruins and frequently pop up in everyday conversation.

Here are some of the most popular proverbs that live to this day in French.

Après la pluie, le beau temps – after the rain, the good weather.  In other words the cheering sentiment that happy times usually follows a period of misfortune.

La fête passée, adieu le saint – the festival ends and goodbye to the saint. The timely reminder that we quickly forget to whom we owe a happy moment.

Chacun voit midi à sa porte – everyone sees noon at his door. You’re basically saying that each person may have a different perspective on something, so it’s a handy one to wheel out if you’re desperately trying not to get bogged down in a controversial topic.

You will notice that quite  a few French proverbs involve animals. Here is a few examples of commonly used ones.

Wolves are frequently the bad guys in French proverbs

Quand on parle du loup on en voit la queue – speak of the wolf and you’ll see his tail. This means that when you’re talking about someone (usually speaking ill), that person suddenly shows up and is similar to the English phrase ‘speak of the devil’.

Les loups ne se mangent pas entre eux – wolves don’t eat each other. The evil people sympathise and support each other, again this one has a devil equivalent in English – the devil takes care of his own.

Il faut hurler avec les loups – we must howl with the wolves. Finally a wolf saying in which wolves are not the bad guys – this simply means that you must adapt to the customs of the people you hang out with.

Petit à petit l’oiseau fait son nid – little by little the bird makes its nest.  Alternatively, we must have patience and perseverance if we want to get results.

La nuit tous les chats sont gris – all cats are grey in the night. In certain circumstances, everything looks the same. It basically means that in a complicated situation, it is difficult to judge so is handy if you want to express a non-committal opinion on Benjamin Griveaux or any other French sex scandal.

But there are plenty of more general proverbs on the subject of relationships and human behaviour.

Too much kissing is bad for your productivity, who knew?

Qui trop embrasse mal étreint – He who kisses too much is badly hugged. Not specific to kissing, this means that a person who undertakes too many things at the same time ends up succeeding at nothing.

Il ne faut jamais dire ‘Fontaine, je ne boirai jamais de ton eau’ – Never say ‘fountain, I will never drink your water’ or more generally we can’t say we’ll never need someone’s help.

Il faut laver son linge sale en famille – dirty linen should be washed in the family, very similar to the English phrase about not washing dirty laundry in public, it means that domestic issues should not be dealt with in public.

Ce que femme veut, Dieu le veut – what woman wants, God wants. Slightly sexist perhaps, it means that it is hard to resist women’s desires.

Prudence est mère de sûreté  Care is the mother of safety, so we must act cautiously even when we feel confident.

La parole est d’argent, le silence est d’or – speech is silver, silence is golden. Another familiar sentiment in English – silence is safer than words.

Les murs ont des oreilles – the walls have ears. Familiar from spy movies, the phrase means you have to talk quietly because someone may always hear what you say.

Il vaut mieux parler à Dieu qu’à ses saints – it’s better to talk to God than his saints, or for more secular times it is best to talk directly to the most important person.

Source: The Local

12 French Words and Phrases You Should Know

Sometimes updating your French is as easy as just learning a few new words and phrases.

1. C’est mort

If you absolutely don’t want to do something and it’s simply not possible, “c’est mort” [say more]. You’re basically saying that something is dead or like death. If you had all-you-can-eat sushi for lunch and your friend suggests you get all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue for dinner, tell him, “non, c’est mort,” then suggest you go to a place that serves salads.

2. Dans le rush

“Dans le rush” [don le rush] is Frenglish at its finest. It means to do something ASAP, or as a rush-job. If you want the guy in your Paris office you’re working on a project with to get you that sales report ASAP, message him, “On est dans le rush, donc il faut que tu m’envoies le rapport très vite.

3. Sur place

A basic yet important pair of words to know, “sur place” [soor plahss] means “here.” This is essential for when in a pâtisserie and the girl behind the counter asks if you’d like your pastry “à emporter ou sur place?” To best enjoy the atmosphere, you’ll of course respond, “sur place, s’il vous plaît.”

4. Direction [location]!

When you want to say “let’s go!” but also specify where you’re going, say “direction [location]!” [dee-recsheeon]. For example, if you’ve been given the task of choosing the bar you and your coworkers are going to for un afterwork, as you’re leading them out of the office, you can say, “Direction le Perchoir!”

5. Une envie pressante

A fun and easy expression, “une envie pressante” [ewn ahnvee preh-sawnt] means “a need to pee.” (It can also mean the other reason you need to visit the bathroom, but mostly it’s a need to pee.) If your friend wants to run home from the Métro to her apartment after a night out of drinking and dancing, she might explain her behavior by saying, “j’ai une envie pressante!”

6. Chômage technique

“Chômage technique” [show-mahj tek-neek] is a handy expression to know because it gets you out of work; it means to be forced to not work. It can be used seriously (as a company would use it) or jokingly. So if there’s a fire in the break room at your office, you might get a few days off while they repair the damage, in which case you can seriously tell people, “je suis au chômage technique.” You can also use it in a funny way, like if the internet is incredibly slow, you might say “chômage technique” to your colleague and start a game of solitaire on your iPhone.

7. J’ai piscine

Swimming is such a common activity in France that the phrase “j’ai piscine” [jhay peeseen], or “I have swimming,” has become the de facto generic excuse that everyone knows is a fake excuse. Or when your coworkers want to go out after work and all you want to do is go home and watch Netflix, tell them “je peux pas, j’ai piscine” on your way out the door (they’ll know you don’t have swimming, but it’s an endearing way to get out of something!).

8. Être un(e) touche à tout / toucher à tout

This noun, “un(e) touche à tout” [toosh ah to] is the equivalent of a Jack-of-all-trades, meaning someone who is good at everything. For example, a job interviewer may ask what your current responsibilities are, and after you rattle off about 10 things, you could say “je suis une touche à tout.” There’s also a verb form of the word, “toucher à tout,” which means to be good at everything. For example, you could be in the middle of a discussion about Elton John, how he’s a singer, songwriter, pianist, philanthropist, and AA sponsor of Eminem, and say “il touche à tout.”

9. Franco-français

Because it isn’t enough just to be French, we have the word “franco-français” [franco-frahnsay] which translates to “French French.” It’s an adjective used to say something is very French. A business started by a French person in France is franco-français. The debate about whether headscarfs and veils should be allowed in public is franco-français. A U.S. Open tennis match between two French players is franco-français. A girl whose family has been in France for five generations is franco-française.

10. Coup de cœur

This is a useful noun you’ll see a lot in women’s magazines, “coup de cœur” [coo duh cur]. It means “favorite”; it’s basically something that you’re loving right now. Visualize: a page in a magazine’s February issue, titled “Nos Coups de Cœur” that includes images of lemongrass candles, grandma sweaters, a vinyl of Angèle’s album, AirPods, and other trendy things.

11. Michto

Okay so maybe you don’t need this word, but it’s good to know. “Michto” [meeshtoe] means “gold digger,” and it is unfortunately only used to describe women. It’s short for “michtonneuse” and it used to be another word for a prostitute, but the word has evolved to mean women who date men for their money. If your very wealthy friend Laurent is being pursued by a woman who only wants to do expensive activities together then push the bill his way, you might consider gently telling him, “c’est difficile à dire, mais vraiment, c’est une michto.”

12. Quelle histoire

This one comes in handy in everyday conversation. “Quelle histoire” [kell eestoir] means a crazy — in a good or bad way — or funny story (it’s literal translation is “what a story”). You can use it to respond to your coworker’s funny story about he lost and recovered his ID during a wild night out: “Quelle histoire!”

Source: 12 French Words and Phrases You Should Know

Why are the French so pessimistic? 

French people have a reputation for being world champions when it comes to pessimism. Year after year, polls confirm that the French tend to see the glass half empty. Some argue that they’re more pessimistic than they should be, given the relatively high standard of living in France. So what is it that French people are so gloomy about and where does this grim outlook come from? We take a closer look.

Source: Why are the French so pessimistic? – French connections

“Drôle de drame” un film de Marcel Carné

More than 80 years after its theatrical release, rediscover “Drôle de drama”, the unusual classic by Marcel Carné, on December 18 at the cinema

One of the most jubilant, delusional, absurd, “bizarre” films in French cinema!

Weird, yes, we said weird… An adaptation of Jacques Prévert (script and dialogues), from the novel His First Offence by the British author Joseph Storer Clouston.


London 1900. The very serious professor of botany Irwin Molyneux is none other than Felix Chapel, author of detective novels. The Bishop of Bedford, Irwin’s cousin, does not like this kind of literature and declares it very loudly during a supper where he is invited to the Molyneux. The absence of Margaret, Molyneux’s wife, at this supper, will trigger a series of very amusing misunderstandings.   

“Drôle de Drama” The cult film by Marcel Carné and Jacques Prévert, finally back to the cinema on December 18 in a restored version at the cinema.    

Plus de 80 ans après sa sortie en salle, redécouvrez “Drôle de drame”, le classique insolite de Marcel Carné, le 18 décembre au cinéma.

Source: “Drôle de drame” un film de Marcel Carné / France Culture