We Wish You a French-y Christmas

So this was the first time I spent Christmas in another country….speaking another language. As upset as I was to not go home and see my friends and family I must say I am extremely lucky and my host family really made me feel like I am a part of their family. For those who haven’t followed my blog, I am an au pair in Lyon, France and loving it. 

Christmas Eve

Any event I have been to here always involves lots of champagne and wine. Which I am totally okay with, in fact they think it is funny that I love both so much until I explain how ridiculously expensive really good wine or champagne is back home. Either way I feel like I should explain how dinners work here. For Christmas there are traditional meals (at least in this region anyone know about the others?). Here it is salmon, oysters and foie gras. All of which are delicious and all of which I ate.

We always start with a cocktail hour. Always. Usually this is champagne and then little quiches and snacks (for Christmas Eve we had smoked salmon on bread and a few other little things). Basically everyone just sits around and talks for awhile but at Christmas I felt like I was in a movie. The tree was decorated and lit up and everyone was laughing as we started to pour the champagne. The wife of my host mom’s brother said that she wasn’t drinking champagne….they announced they were pregnant and expecting the baby just before I leave in July. Then we sang Christmas carols in English and french. It was a really cool way to see both cultures blended, since I was their first American at Christmas. 

The food  is always absolutely fantastic after an entrée of boudin blanc, we moved onto a chapon (which is a rooster) complete with sauce, roasted chestnuts and green beans. All the while, keep in mind, the wine is flowing. I have a wine book that my friend Nicole gave me for graduation, that everyone loves. I record what wine, the flavors and give it a number on a scale of one to ten. It is always a source of entertainment as people rate the wine we are currently drinking and look back on past ones. 

ImageFor dessert at Christmas, the tradition is a “bouche de Noel” which is a thin cake that you add some sort of filling to and then roll it up with ganache on top. It is decorated to look like a log. I also made three different cookies with American flavors: peanut butter chocolate chip, pumpkin chocolate chip and oatmeal. 

The traditions may be a bit different here but Santa is still just as anticipated by the children, I actually showed the kids something I used on the internet that can track Santa anywhere he is in the world which everyone just loved. 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Day

Joyeux Noel, Merry Christmas. 

Christmas Day we went to my host father’s uncle’s house. Christmas Eve is spent with the mom’s side and Christmas Day is spent with the dad’s. Our appetizers were little puff pastries with various things in the center and something resembling caviar. So fancy. So the first bottle of champagne was opened with success, although not by me. There were several things that I learned about champagne that day, such as “how not to open a bottle of champagne”. One a champagne bottle there is first the foil on the bottle, then this little metal thing that holds the cork in and the cork itself. Apparently also if the champagne is cold, the bottle is not as pressurized. If the bottle is warm, however, the pressure inside the bottle builds up faster so that after you start to open the metal clasp, you have to get the cork out quickly as the pressure inside can pop the top off. 

I wish they had shared this information before I opened the champagne bottle. 

I took too long between taking the metal thing off and taking the cork out. This resulted in the cork being shot to the ceiling as I for some unknown reason turned the spraying bottle towards my host father’s uncle, showering him and soaking him in champagne. Not my best moment, although luckily no one was mad at me for it. 

For the big Christmas lunch, we ordered from a nice restaurant all the things. After fresh oysters and foie gras, we had a lobster salad on a bed of turnips. So delicious. They have “lard” here which is pretty similar to bacon, or the closest I have found here. For my main course I had pheasant with lard/bacon on top on a bed of green veggies with a bacon/lard sauce. It was fantastic. And of course for dessert another delicious bouche de Noel, this one complete with a gnome (I named him Mike) and his hatchet and a polar bear. It was adorable. Also, they think it is like a game to make me finish the bottle of everything. I hadn’t slept muh the night before so when we went to the movie theaters later….I fell asleep for a few minutes. Image

 

All in all I had a really great Christmas and really felt like I was a part of the family here. My host dad even said to me after “I hope you were too busy and having too much fun to be sad about not being home”. It was hard not being home but Christmas was really great here as well, still a good time with a great family. Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

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The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly side of being an au pair

So there are both pros and cons in being an au pair abroad. I shall talk about them all here.

So the ugly side. Children can be brats sometimes. Not all the time but you cannot expect to walk into sunshine and roses when you are living with a family and two children. Sometimes you have days where you just want to cry.
For example, last week we just had to buy this sticky stuff that makes posters stick to walls. I bought it with the younger girl while the older was at basketball. Cool. They can share I thought. False. Very false. When her sister asked to have some the next day (a wednesday) she literally screamed and cried in the corner saying she would not share because she would run out. If she cries I automatically do no sympathize, mostly because it is a frequent occurrence in this house. I yelled at them and told them that no one got it then. I was so overwhelmed that I almost cried.
Today (another wednesday) they said I cooked the burger too much and before even eating it the older girl told me she would not eat it. I made her try it and she told me it was disgusting. So while they ate french fries to their heart’s content. I made cordon bleu (its comes in a little pack) after sending it back for being cold the first time they finally took a bite the second time. In total they probably took five bites combined and refused to eat the rest. The of course were hungry for candy though, and then they told the cordon bleu tasted gross also. Again I almost cried I was so fed up.
So in summary the ugly side: Wednesdays and school holidays. Twelve lovely hours a day.

The bad. Sometimes they get sick or tired. They are children after all. When they are tired they are eitehr slap happy or like little tiny demons. When someone doesn’t tell the younger one something. She cries until she gets her way. This isn’t an au pair child thing, it is simply a child thing. They are a pain sometimes. If you don’t choose the right family, or ask the right questions. That could be the ugliest part of all though.

The good. You are a part of a family. I have a really good relationship with my family. The first time I wanted to go out in Lyon, they were afraid I would get lost and so the dad drove me to Lyon and picked me up at 12:30 in the pouring rain. They also let me try whatever I want. I ate foie gras the other day because I had never had it. My close friend came to visit last weekend and they invited her over for dinner so they could get to know a good friend of mine. My friend and her boyfriend didn’t leave until 1am because we had such a good time. My friend is coming to visit named Kaitlyn which is a hard name in french. They have repeated her name every night this week so they can say it right.

The kids are also definitely a good when we play all together and dance together. Last week was the older one’s birthday

Birthday time!

and I made a cake a we celebrated and it was a family moment. That’s what makes it worth it I think. There are bad days and good days. Days the kids love me and days we don’t like each other. But I like being a part of this family. I am even invited to dinner parties with their friends. So You have to make a pro and con list to be an au pair. For me the really good outweighs the few bad.

 

Happy Wednesday fellow au pairs. Bon courage.

I Don’t Like Condoms on My Cheese: and several other things I have said and done

So I actually said that. I said in America we have too many condoms on our cheese and that French cheese is delicious. What I meant to say was that French cheese in America has preservatives in it….but in French “preservatif” means condom I apparently was supposed to say it is pasteurized. Oh well.

Last night I also said that I liked the sound of the sandwich the host dad was eating. Not sound like “that sounds good” sound like I could hear his sandwich. They find it amusing I find it extremely frustrating.

I tried these one of my first days and the family laughs at me because I keep asking if we can eat them again

I tried these one of my first days and the family laughs at me because I keep asking if we can eat them again

Also the traffic rules here are a bit different than they are in America. For instance, a yellow light doesn’t mean you can go through it. A yellow light apparently means that you need to stop immediately. As a result of not understanding this, I have run several red lights (once when Cassandre was in the car with me. Awesome.)

But I have also gotten to try things this first weekend that were crazy. The first day I got here I was so exhausted that I started speaking English in the car (which got me some odd looks since they don’t speak a lot of English). I tried this kind of gel thing in a cake pan that was basically everything left over from the pig….it was interesting. I also had “salad” which was made of pig cheek. It surprisingly was not that bad but since I knew it was pig cheek, it freaked me out a bit. I tried these things that are apparently a specialty here. It is fat. Literally fat in like a chip. It was so gross but I tried it just to see. Last night we had brioche with sausage in it which was super delicious.

The macaroons here are just fabulous and so is the cheese. It is really great because if I want to try something they let me try it so I literally get a taste of everything.

On to the wine. Okay so they own a winery with like thirty five other people. Which is school because only thirty five people in the country get wine from this winery. It is pretty good wine too. We have so far had three bottles of wine and a bottle of champagne. The white wine was from the winery they own. The other two were thirteen and fourteen years old. The one that was fourteen years old was absolutely amazing. I have this wine journal my friend Nicole gave me for my graduation that has really come in handy and I write down all of the wine I taste. They told me they will find me one that is a 10 and also I will probably need another journal.

Champagne from champagne. Checked off my Bucket List

Champagne from champagne. Checked off my Bucket List

The champagne was amazing. I told them a few days ago that I have a “bucket list” of things I want to do. On that list are going to Italy, skiing in the Alps, and drinking real champagne from Champagne (these are things we will be doing). I will post the list later but I actually got to drink said champagne. It was so good and they have a wine cabinet that has like 80 bottles of wine. Its insane.

Packing is Easy!…Said No One Ever

So I leave in two days to go to France for a year and all anyone asks me is “are you packed yet?” My response should be absolutely I am super prepared but I actually say “What are you kidding me?” 

Packing is really really hard. They say to take your favorite things which I really agree with. If you are going for a year I would definitely say to save up your pennies and to spring for the extra bag to go over. Even if you don’t need it to go over, you will need it to come back after all of the fabulous shopping and gift getting. I am planning to make my bags under the weight limit each so that I have plenty of room to bring things back. So here are my tips for packing to travel.

1. Make sure you have two outfits for every occasion. If you are going to dinner you want to have at least two options so you don’t look the same in every single picture.

2. Scarves are awesome. Make them your friend. 

3. So are camisoles. It is easy to put them under different clothes and match it with a scarf to create a brand new outfit. 

4. If you can’t fit it in your suitcase, bring heavy things on you, like a trench coat, because you can always take it off on the plane and no one will weigh you for it.

5. In your carry one keep at least a week of clothes in case they lose your luggage so you don’t look like a homeless person in the same clothes while they find said luggage. 

6. For the love of God please bring facewash on the plane because if you are traveling internationally you will feel gross on your layover and face wash just makes you feel less icky. 

 

Any other suggestions?? Please help if you can!

Everything you need to know about American visas to France

So for anyone that stumbles upon this I want to share exactly what you need to obtain your visa to go to France as an au pair (and a student).

The first thing you will obviously need is a passport. Before you start looking for a family or start looking for things to pack in your suitcase make sure you have a passport. These can take up to eight weeks I think so plan ahead. So okay you have a passport? And it doesn’t expire soon? Awesome step one accomplished. 

Now you need a family, which is really what you want to focus on. I used aupairworld.com and found families there. It is a bit like Facebook where you create a profile and talk about yourself, etc. Make sure to skype the family first thing you can. You can really get a feel for who they are, and the children if you can skype with them. There are many other websites as well, so look around if you can. Make sure you ask them if you can go out, if friends can visit, what they exactly expect from you and so on.

 

Now begins the visa process. You need a contract from the French government that is an agreement between you and the au pair host family (this can take a week to a month, mine took four days to receive). Everything must be translated into French but do yourself a favor and use Google translate as your new best friend. Then send them to your host family to double check the grammar. I spent two hours translating my transcript from college by translate and my own knowledge but they accepted it. 

Once you have received your work contract get enrolled into a school, your family should be able to help you with this and hopefully pay your entrance fee (even if you work out the money later). Have them FedEx you the originals of both the entrance to the school and your contract. MAKE COPIES OF EVERYTHING! The consulate wants copies of everything, however, they also want to make sure that you have the originals also. 

Now you need to make an appointment with your consulate (the website will have the rest of the information on what is needed for the visa). Make the appointment at least a month before you are preparing to leave as the visa may take up to three weeks. 

you have to go to the consulate in your region I live near Philadelphia and had to go to Washington (this is all of PA so if you live near Ohio but are still in PA you must drive all the way to DC, it’s super fun). 

Here is the consulate website: http://www.consulfrance-washington.org/spip.php?rubrique2

If you are going to be a full student there (or on exchange from your university) you will need to buy your plane ticket or at least have the schedule of the plane you want to take with you. I use student universe. It. Is. Awesome. When I studied abroad I got a round trip to France and back for $850 which is actually good pricing (your piggy bank will cry when you buy your ticket, be prepared). 

Use this website for tickets: http://www.studentuniverse.com/

If you have any questions I would be happy to answer them having gotten two different visas. Next blog will be packing (which is currently a nightmare).