Beki Grinter


In European Union, France on August 18, 2009 at 4:33 pm

So, today the mailman delivered our flyers. Flyers have made it to France. I don’t know why but I always thought that some how the French would avoid them, and yet today flyers for all sorts of stores showed up in the mail box.

In Atlanta I throw them all away immediately. But, here in France, I figure that this might be the way to learn about more of the stores whose names mean othing to me… Atac, Match, Simply Market (OK, good guess), FNAC, Cora, Tati, Auchan, Carrefour (yes, big presence), Gemo, Tati, Fly, etc… So today I decide to read them. And I suppose as mundane as they are, we see a glimpse of the culture. What do our flyers say about us?

France is “back to school” not perhaps in quite the same way that the U.S does back to school, one doesn’t feel the full force of discounts, or read the command back to school. But, the markers are cheaper, and there are lots of notebooks to choose from. As I mentioned and photographed, some of these have mixed messages, I’m still unable to decide what to do about the Blow Jack Tatoo stationery products for example. Perhaps it’s just best to walk away, which I largely did, except I purchased a school diary with a nice rabbit on it, that informs me that today is St. Helene’s day. No problem with a planner designed for those taking classes to include the Saint’s Days.

So, back to the flyers. There were surprises in store.

<Vegetarians, this is the worst of meat, jump>

I have to say I was grateful that découpe gratuite was offered for the lamb on sale. Découpe is head removal, and its free if you buy half a lamb (or more presumably). More generally, as K pointed out, the French are far more into pictures of raw meat. Not wrapped, just raw meat. In U.S. flyers you see a variety of meats advertised, but most are cooked or wrapped in some way that the full rawness of them is somehow not quite as visually apparent. And it’s also true in the stores. I don’t think either K or I will forget quickly the canard (duck) we saw that was completely plucked, and de-beaked, but bizarrely the head, complete with eyes, was still attached. This was in the store front window… not hidden, but a lure into the shop, it was centre place in the window. Now I know the phrase, I am almost tempted to go back to the store and ask them whether they could découpe the heads, frankly I’ll pay.

<Vegetarians, resume>

So, many of the French grocery magazines made reference to Ramadan. This was either explicit, with adverts for foods that would help those observing have energy and/or stay healthy during the fasting times, or more implicit, but frequently picking up Middle Eastern foods and decorative motifs in their typographic illustration and photographic presentation. All also had profiles of Halal foods. This is not surprising given the Muslim population in France, but what I’m trying to say is that seeing the foods advertised in the flyers made me more aware of the fact that Ramadan was coming, but it’s not how I expected to be reminded of Ramadan.

Another theme this year for back to school seems to be British. Well it’s some version of British, although it’s not the one I grew up with. A doormat that has the union jack, but replacing the red with light blue and the blue with grey. Well that was confusing. I ask my American reader(s), how would the US cope with a Star Spangled Banner as a doormat, and then to add to the fun, change all the colours …  A couple of other things I learnt about my home country through France back to school, Tati is selling a t-shirt under their British branding that says on it “strong brands” I’m not sure whether to be alarmed or in agreement. I’m not sure which brands are strong, Triumph, a British car, has more enthusiasts than British Leyland (yes, my parents were Maxi owners and my great Uncle had a Marina) but even the best of the cars were still pretty bad. BP is a pretty strong brand, but that seems easier in the petroleum markets… So anyway, still working through that one.

By contrast, Fly sells pillows with “My tailor is rich” in their British back to school collection. My tailor is non-existent, but I think you, dear reader, already knew that (I suppose I could start a rumour that my tailor is seriously ill after the years of abuse I’ve given him, perhaps I will in France, since apparently the odds that I might have a tailor are perceived to be higher?).

I know, I promise, that adverts do not constitute a full description of what the French think of the British, but I find them an interesting pulse. What I mean is that this likely wouldn’t sell if it didn’t some how connect, and it’s that connection I’m trying to understand.

And now onto rules and regulations.

I’m not a too frequent visitor in Home Depot, which is what we in Britain call a Do-It-Yourself shop, like B&Q, but at least the times I have been there I am not aware that we let the average citizen alone with staircases. K has a theory that staircases are regulated, that perhaps someone would care that people didn’t self-assemble stairs that killed them, although the worst offenders are the few that don’t have hand rails (page 8). But, stop and pause, and think about what it might mean to put a new staircase in your home. Ripping out the old, but then there’s the question about the large hole, and it’s support… oh, the mind boggles. And some percentage of French housing is actually really old.

Finally, there’s the store called Vet Affaires. That was the store that made me pause and remember, no this is France. Vet Affairs conjures up other images in the United States.


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