Mar 152012

Peculiarities Pictured Above

Block of butter: I really prefer my butter in already measured strips that are easily used in recipes, but apparently that’s hard to find in France. It’s still butter though, so that’s good.

Bathroom (toilet), Bathroom with a bath: For some unknown reason, our hotel room and every apartment we looked at had one room for the bath, sink, mirror, etc, and a completely separate room for the toilet. …because everyone wants to be locked in a small, windowless, sinkless, room, where the smells have nowhere to hide while they’re doing their business.

Potato Pizza: This isn’t just France – this is pretty common in at least Italy too.

Things to note from France about weeks 2 and 3.

Saving money on furniture is easy when shopping at Ikea, but don’t forget that when you get it home (or when the delivery arrives) that you still don’t actually have furniture – you have to build it first. This can be interesting with small children that like to help and swallow screws.

Internet and TV service is cheaper in France than it is in the States, especially if you bundle together Internet, TV, and telephone service. Use to get the best deal. Use Bouygues to be overcharged and not have any internet service a week after the install date.

Tip: Open your bank account before you arrive. Start very early because the required paperwork is ridiculous even once you get there and already have a bank account. I also suggest trying BNP Paribas instead of Crédit Agricole (CA) as I haven’t had many good experiences with CA.

Ham is everywhere and you cannot escape. The french have it in sandwiches, pizzas, mixed vegetables, and anywhere else you can imagine. Definitely do not order a pizza with bacon and expect that it will have bacon on it. The bacon they have is “Canadian bacon” (aka) ham.

My current work schedule:

9am to 12:30pm: Work
12:30 to 2pm: Lunch
2pm to 6pm: Work

This is not an accurate representation of a typical work schedule in France, but somehow this is normal to the people at my work. My coworkers and other people have told me that it depends on the company where you work and I have seen that this is true. Work schedules vary greatly.


Sometimes the french language doesn’t have enough words, so they reuse them. Some of these are words where you can’t simply say “I have a …” without any context because it would be unclear what you’re talking about.

une trombone:
1) a trombone.
2) a paperclip.

une serviette:
1) a napkin.
2) a towel.

une pile:
1) a battery.
2) a pile (as in a pile of papers).

une feuille:
1) a piece of paper.
2) a leaf.

la crème aigre:
1) sour cream. Not to be confused with crème faiche, which is easier to find but is not sour cream.

Oct 172011

The company that wants to hire me in France is hiring me in part because I have a Master’s degree (aka, high school plus 6 years of study). It’s not only because they want an educated person working there. Apparently there is a different path for getting a visa for people with more education. I think the idea is that they want to encourage people to get visas by making it easier.

As part of the process I sent the company a copy and translation of my Master’s degree. The translation has to be “official” of course, meaning it’s notarized and has an apostille (a stamp by the Secretary of State). Here is the problem.

The translation of the word “Master” on my degree was translated into “Maîtrise.” Fine, right? says that’s right, and so do lots of other places. Unfortunately, “Maîtrise” means high school plus 4 years of study. So the company contacted me to let me know that the translation was not acceptable. They could plainly see that the original degree says “Master” and that the translation says Maîtrise. Naturally, I contacted the translation service I used to request a more accurate translation. The response?

That is the correct translation. The word “Master” doesn’t exist in French dictionaries.

Technically they’re right about the dictionary. “Master” doesn’t appear in many French dictionaries online. Unfortunately, the word they used in the translation does have a different meaning than the original word. A simple search for French diploma equivalencies reveals that they do use the word “Master.” Apparently a google search wasn’t good enough for the translator. He eventually agreed to “not translate that part of the degree.”

This “translation” was apparently good enough for the company that wants to hire me. We’ll see if it actually works out that way.

Later I discovered that the word “Master” is in French dictionaries. It’s spelled “Mastère.” Needless to say, I am very displeased with my official translation.

For the record, here are some American and French diploma equivalents (roughly).

United States France
High School Diploma / GED Baccalauréat (aka “le bac”)
La licence (+3)
Bachelor’s Degree (+4) Maîtrise (+4)
Master / Mastère (+5)
Master’s Degree (+6)

To get a “certificate of comparability” of your degree,  which is probably better than a translation, visit Start early though, the process is supposed to take two to three months.

May 252011

The DELF and the DALF are government approved French tests used to measure one’s proficiency with the language. Passing them gives you a “diplôme” which attests to your level of French and is useful when finding employment. Also, apparently if you pass any of the two levels of the DALF then you don’t have to take an additional language test before you take classes in France at the University level. The current levels of the DELF and DALF are as follows (as of 2011).

Section Description
DELF A1   basic – the learner can interact in a simple way
DELF A2  basic – candidate can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring the most common polite phrases and exchanges of information
DELF B1  independent – he/she can understand and maintain a discussion and give his/her opinion
DELF B2  independent – the candidate has a degree of fluency and spontaneity in regular interactions and is capable of correcting his/her own mistakes
DALF C1  proficient – can produce clear, well-structured discourse without hesitation and which shows controlled use of structures
DALF C2  proficient – proficiency in the language is illustrated by precision, appropriateness and fluency of expression

As you can see, the tests are listed in order of difficulty. The little description of each test is from

I had already taken parts of the DELF in 2003 and the sections above were introduced in 2005, so I had to figure out how the old corresponds with the new before beginning to study again (huge pain). I eventually found a PDF file explaining the equivalences at and luckily saved the PDF since the link now seems to be broken. Here is the PDF file I found: DELF-Table de correspondances-prev-to-2005. There’s also a little lookup application type thing on the website at

So I’ve taken the equivalent of section B1 and need to study for B2. I looked at taking courses at a local school, and driven by the inconvenient class schedules I’ve decided to first try some tutoring at home via Skype. I found two sites for this which look decent: and Since verbal planet has some tutors that are much, much cheaper than the other site, I’ll be trying that one first. We’ll see how it works out.