Taking French leave

French leaveTo take French leave (or go AWOL as we say in North America) is known in France as ‘filer à l’anglaise’. Like the humble condom (variously known in French and English as a ‘capote anglaise’ or a French letter), this is another example of something that neither side wants to take credit for.

As the year draws to a close, it’s important to take a step back and reflect on what’s been accomplished – and what’s been left undone. So I’m taking a time out – to recharge the proverbial batteries, spend precious time with my family over the holidays and think about where I want to go next year.

I started this blog back in January with the vague notion of sharing my experiences of life in the land of the Gauls while venting twenty years of pent-up frustration over culture clashes and feeling like a stranger in a strange land. It has been cathartic. Also educational: I’ve learned a lot – about myself and the wonderful world of blogging – along the way.

Living in a foreign land means there’s an endless supply of material. Especially one as rich and wonderful as France. I’ve barely begun to exhaust my treasure trove of humorous, embarrassing and sometimes outrageous examples of how things work (or don’t) in this country.

As I clear away some of the clutter from my mental shelves, I find myself struggling to distinguish very clearly what is of interest to anyone but moi.

I feel inspired to hold up different facets of life in France to the light. The tiny nuances of behavior, of mindset and of what makes the French, well, French. And the rest of us, well, foreign.

So, what do you think? Should I continue in the same vein, attempting to decode the culture cues? Do you find the observations of language as interesting as I do? Or would you like to see more positive examples of beautiful things and places that la belle France has to offer?

I would love to hear your thoughts, so please share them in the comments! And the meantime, bonnes fêtes de fin d’année!


  1. Suzanne et Pierre · December 19, 2013

    I am new to your blog and haven’t had a chance to go back to read all of what you have posted but so far I find it interesting. Maybe, mixing some of the positive with the frustrations would give a more balance view of France. As a fellow Canadian (though a French-Canadian one) living in Paris only for 3 years (job brought us here), I found it interesting to compare notes with what we have experienced and what you write. (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · December 19, 2013

      It’s great to get input from a fellow Canadian! Thanks so much for the positive feedback…I do find that now I’ve exorcized a lot frustration I am feeling a bit more inclined to share some of the good things about life in France. Hope you continue to follow along and enjoy! All the best to you both for a wonderful Christmas!

  2. Food,Photography & France · December 19, 2013

    I very much like the tone of your blog as it is…that might be because I’m in a similar boat to yourself, and your observations resonate with me. You failed to mention “le vice anglais” by which the French attribute both buggery and flagellation to Perfidious Albion; also “anglaiser” which means “to cheat”; Meilleurs voeux:)

    • MELewis · December 19, 2013

      I guess us expats with family ties in France are more or less all in the same boat. But some people see the world in rose-tinted glasses, which I decidedly do not (and it’s good to know others share this character trait!) Wishing you a very happy Christmas!

  3. davidprosser · December 19, 2013

    If you are able to share the beauty of France alongside some of the more obvious cultural and/or humorous differences it would be ideal, but as it stands your blog is great.
    xxx Cwtch xxx
    Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda.

    • MELewis · December 19, 2013

      Thanks David! I shall strive for that in the coming year.

  4. 365thingsiloveaboutfrance.com · December 19, 2013

    I very much enjoy your blog just the way it is. Your writing is excellent and hilarious for me, the tone is perfect. You capture what it is like to be a foreigner in France. I find it so interesting because you have been in France for so long and you still have similar frustration to us newcomers. With two decades of experience in France, I find your writing very authentic. I don’t find it too negative or anti-French. I think it is realistic and wonderful. It brings balance to a blog like mine (spurred on by the fact that I will mostly likely have to leave this complicated but beautiful country in 8 months–so I choose to highlight the positive most of the time).

    That’s my two cents.

    Keep going and have a wonderful Christmas and time with your family.

    • MELewis · December 20, 2013

      Thanks a million for your warm comments! It means a lot to know that my blog finds its mark — especially with people who are living similar experiences. And kudos to you for making the most of your time here in France with your blog. Hopefully new adventures will be on the horizon in 2014. In the meantime, keep your postcard posts coming…we’ll be like the yin and yang of the French experience!

  5. Anna · December 19, 2013

    Mel, please keep writing and please don’t change anything! I love your blog, and I’m particularly fond of your “bienveillance” towards all things French… Even if I still cherish our more sarcastic conversations ofthe good old days ;o)

    • MELewis · December 20, 2013

      Anna, my dear, what fond memories we share in France…. Hopefully there’ll be good conversations to come in 2014!

  6. minerva · December 24, 2013

    As a relatively new reader of your blog, I have very much enjoyed what I have read so far. As someone who dreams of owning a little place in France in the future, a “warts and all” approach is real leveller as it’s so easy to believe in the “rose-tinted spectacles” ideal if you’re not careful! I look forward to your further experiences next year!
    Wishing you and yours a very Happy Christmas.
    Alison x

    • MELewis · December 25, 2013

      Thanks so much for your lovely comments! Wishing you a Joyeux Noël and a new year that will move you closer to your dream. I am sure that with your amazing eye you will be able to transform your experiences in France into lovely photos – warts and all!

  7. Maison Bentley Style · December 24, 2013

    I love what you write..always makes me chuckle! festive greetings to you and yours..hope it’s a fab one!! x

    • MELewis · December 25, 2013

      Merci mille fois! All the best to you for a wonderful Christmas – with that lovely tree you’re off to a great start!

  8. Pingback: Filer à l’anglaise – FranceSays

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