Undercover boss

Get your handkerchiefs ready—we’re going to talk about Undercover Boss. If you’ve never seen the American version of this reality TV show, the concept is that the head of a huge corporation is disguised to pass as a trainee in various positions throughout the company in hopes of learning what is or is not working for the employees and the firm. To explain the presence of the TV cameras, a video production team is supposedly charged with documenting the experiences of this “newbie”. The participants are then summoned to headquarters where they believe that they will provide an evaluation of this worker’s performance and potential as a new-hire. In reality they meet the boss, out of disguise, and hear how she or he felt the employee did. There are at least a dozen countries that have their own adaptation of this program, including France, so we wanted to see how our local one compares with the US.

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Where there’s a will

Both of us have a Last Will and Testament on file back in the US where they were drawn up by an attorney familiar with those types of documents. They would be legal in France, although the practicality of executing them here might be challenging. For one thing, they are written in English and while we have copies with us that could be officially translated, they still might need authenticating back through the county clerk’s office where they are on file. To make things easier for one of us (or if we’re both gone, someone else entirely) in the future, we decided to visit a notaire and have him create a Testament for each of us. After all, we live in France and any assets that are left will be donated to a charity here in town so it just made sense, but where would we start?

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It’s OK or nothing

There’s a book called Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands that’s directed primarily to US citizens who want to conduct business overseas while avoiding cultural mistakes. As the title suggests, it addresses differences including  greetings, negotiating methods, and business practices. There’s even advice on what gifts to bring to a social occasion or in the case of France, what to avoid, such as roses or chrysanthemums since they are generally associated with “love” and “death”, respectively. Since Bill and I are retired, in our social interactions we aren’t really bound by the strict business rules suggested in the book even though we find these comparisons fascinating. Along those lines, when an article appeared in the online newspaper The Local, I was anxious to read all about “The biggest culture shocks foreign students face in France.”

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Christmas trains

Trains have long been a part of our Christmas traditions. Even growing up there was always an electric train encircling the tree and the big event in early December was going to see the elaborate miniature display set up at my father’s workplace that could keep kids captivated for hours. Bill and I left our French, British, and American HO-gauge train sets behind when we moved overseas but we certainly have not lost contact with the rails; they are now just much bigger.

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Christmas markets

My very first trip to Europe was during the month of December on one of those “8-day, 5-city, Capital discovery” motorcoach tours that started in London, ended in Paris and delivered everything in between as promised: a reasonable price, comfortable accommodations, meals, sightseeing, and transportation. Because of the time of the year, when we arrived in Munich I spent hours wandering the miniature wooden chalet lined walkways of their Christkindlmarkt, glowing with lights, scented with cinnamon and chocolate, and made especially enchanting by the falling snow. Forty years later I’d be doing the same thing, this time with Bill, but it would be in Strasbourg, France where their tradition of the Marché de Noël got started in 1570, a bit later than 1434 in Germany.

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Halloween beets

October 31st isn’t much of a holiday in France but it does seem to be growing in popularity. At the supermarket you might spot a few bags of miniature candy bars individually wrapped or as you can see in the accompanying photos, chocolate shops decorate their windows with sometimes creepy displays as did the tourism office (featured photo above). This year the city will be hosting scary stories this afternoon at the castle inside the walls and Chateau de Pennautier, just outside of town (photo and link below), got dressed up for the occasion too. This will be our sixth Halloween here and we’re expecting the usual number of trick-or-treaters that we see every year: between zero and one. For us it’s just an excuse to buy a bunch of Snickers. That aside, I wanted to see what, if any, history All Hallows Eve had in France and if they had anything similar over the years. Thanks to the website My Parisian Kitchen I found some answers.

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Mâcon in 1 day

We used to live in the Atlanta, Georgia area not too far from the city of Macon that was named for statesman Nathaniel Macon in 1823. Now that our home is in France, we’re still fairly close to a city with that same name except this one has a circumflex accent mark (^) and its origin dates to around 50 BC when Julius Caesar referred to it in Latin as Matisco, meaning “wooded hill at the water’s edge” that gradually evolved into its present day form by the middle of the 18th century. Coinciding with that time period was when native son and author Alphonse de Lamartine was his most prolific and we followed numbered bronze plaques honoring him on a heritage trail to trace 2000 years of history.

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