Category Archives: Girl Stuff

Bra Shopping in Paris

There are only a few situations that can be as awkward in your first language as in a foreign one. Getting fitted for a bra is one of them. Whether in English or in French, an open conversation about cup size, cleavage, sag, support, and sexiness can make even the most brazen feel just a tad uneasy. In Paris, with lingerie shops on nearly every block, the experience may seem just that much more intimidating. But, buying the right fitting bra or something for a special occasion doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable experience. Take a cue from les femmes françaises by reading our interview with lingerie expert, Stéphanie Lherminier. Stéphanie, owner of Boutique Clair de Lune in the 18th arrondissement, graciously answered the barrage of bra related questions we sent her way. We hope you enjoy Stéphanie’s insights into the purchasing habits of her Parisian clientele and can benefit from her advice!

Posted in Paris: Do you think French women go for practicality or sexiness when shopping for bras and underwear?

Stéphanie: French women generally prefer comfort when choosing bras. They will always keep the more glamorous and sexy lingerie in their wardrobe for weekends and special nights or occasions, but for everyday, comfort and “le bien aller” are most important.

Posted in Paris: Do you think the rumor that most French women usually wear matching bras and panties is true?

Stéphanie: French women, for the most part, like wearing matching bras and panties. When they buy more classic colored bras–black, white, or nude–they rarely buy matching panties; but when it comes to fun colors, they go for the matching tops and bottoms.

Posted in Paris: How often do women in France shop for lingerie? Just for special occasions or more frequently?

Stéphanie: You must consider that on average, French women purchase only 2 bras a year. However, my boutique’s most loyal clients, buy on average 3 or 4 a year I would say. They buy new bras most often when new collections come out; I would say, a new ensemble for each new collection, so one fall/winter and one spring/summer. Then the same clients often come back to take advantage of the soldes (sales held twice a year). I rarely sell lingerie intended for special occasions; the more coquette French women often already have what they need in their wardrobe. On the other hand, we do have a large male clientele who buy the more sexy lingerie for their wives or lovers in anticipation of a special moment.

Posted in Paris: What is your best selling brand and model?

Stéphanie: I have two brands of bras that sell very well in my store. The first is Prima Donna, a very chic Belgian brand specializing in large cup sizes, and the other is the more glamorous, sexy French brand Lise Charmel.

The Prima Donna woman is a woman seeking class, sophistication, and also comfort; Prima Donna is known among professionals in the lingerie world to be very comfortable. They offer 58 different sizes and cups ranging from B to I.

The Lise Charmel woman is looking for a haute couture lingerie. She likes wearing bras adorned with the finest lace, guipures, and other materials. She is seductive and hyper feminine.

The type of bra that sells the best is generally a classic form, padded. Women who want to feel secure and protected go for the close fitting type of bra and those who like the push up effect go for the “basket” form.

Posted in Paris: What brands do you recommend?

Stéphanie: As for my favorite brands and what I recommend, it really depends on the client. I section off the products in function of the clientele. For a client with generous forms, I recommend Prima Donna for a mature and glamorous look, and Twist (also sold by Prima Donna) for younger fashionable women. For smaller chested women, I recommend Marie Jo and Marie Jo L’aventure for women who appreciate fashion but at the same time want comfort and a natural looking chest. And I recommend Lise Charmel’s push up bras for women looking to feel sexy and chic under their clothes.

Posed in Paris: How often should women change their bras?

Stéphanie: I recommend changing bras every 4 years. Of course it all depends on how often you wear them. If you don’t have many and you wash them more than 4 times a week, I recommend replacing them at least every 2 years. It also depends on how well you take care of them. Hand washing your bras saves them from the wear and tear of the washing machine so they’ll last a lot longer. If you must put them in the washing machine, always be sure to close the clasp and use a laundry net. In any case, if your bra rides up on your back or if your straps are tightened all the way and have to hook the clasp on the tightest hook, or if you just feel like you’re not getting the support you need, it’s time to buy a new bra as soon as possible!

Posted in Paris: Do you have any suggestions for going bra shopping in Paris? Are there any “do’s” and “don’ts”?

Stéphanie: When bra shopping in Paris, I highly recommend going to independent lingerie shops where you’ll get real service and you might be surprised to learn that you have been wearing the wrong size for years. You can find the addresses of these types of shops in the yellow pages under the section “Lingerie” or on the websites of your favorite brands under the section “revendeurs.”

Avoid franchises (H&M, Etam, etc.) at all costs. They are less expensive but you won’t get the same quality. Often times after only 3 washes, they become stretched out. And most of the time the sales people are not capable of informing you about the different models.

Don’t forget that the primary function of a bra is support. Good bras are expensive but our chest is subjected to a lot throughout our lives (puberty, contraceptive hormones, pregnancy, breastfeeding, swelling during periods, menopause…)–all the more reason to take care of it and provide it with good support. Otherwise, mesdames, you can expect to find yourself with a drooping, sunken chest because you didn’t do enough to maintain it. Besides their primary function, lactation, breasts play a very important role in seduction and sexuality. So take care of them!

Posted in Paris: Merci Stéphanie!

Boutique Clair de Lune
119 bis rue Ordener
75018 PARIS

Baring it All: What to expect at the French gynecologist

Today’s post is written by Aidan Larson. Aidan is the author of the popular blog Conjugating Irregular Verbs where she shares stories of her life in the South of France. Thank you Aidan!

When you think of moving abroad, doctors and health care are no doubt high up on your checklist. You wonder what you’ll do in an emergency as well as the random sinus infection, and if you have children, you are sure to find a doctor who can take care of them with checkups and preventive medicine.

But don’t forget about the gynecologists for the yearly going over that every woman needs. Just because you live abroad doesn’t give you a get out of jail free card for going to the gynecologist, even if you don’t know the French word for ovary. Admittedly, I put off my first French gynecologist appointment a bit longer than normal because I was nervous about finding a doctor who spoke English. And then I realized that, just as in all things, I would be able to figure it out. And if I can, then so can you.

One interesting plus is that the medical system in France is much more personalized. A visit to the doctor can be like a social call with an armful of prescriptions as your parting gift. But because of this, be prepared to wait patiently for your turn across the desk.

You will find large practices and clinics shared by several doctors just like in the U.S. but it is more common for your French doctor to have an office wedged into a section of a former residence or in some cases, inside their own residence. If there is a receptionist, she (it just usually is) sits at a desk taking calls and making appointments and is less concerned with announcing your arrival or taking payment. You just waltz right in and sit in the waiting room unannounced. This always feels a bit strange to my American sensibilities because we are so used to being announced and then called in by a nurse, but don’t worry. Somehow they know you’re there and they’ll come for you. I think it has to do with all the little buzzers and bells you sound upon entering the office.

In France it is more common for the doctor herself to come out and welcome you with a handshake. There are usually two portions of the doctor’s visit, gynecologist or not. You will meet and greet, exchange niceties, and then be directed to sit across the desk from the doctor to discuss the reason for your visit. Any paperwork, medical history, or concerns will be handled here, in conversation, rather than on a fill-in-the-blank form. This process can take awhile, especially if your French is around second grade level like mine, and may include drawings. But the doctors don’t mind. They really don’t.

The only time I remember going to a gynecologist appointment and sitting at a desk in all the years I visited the ob/gyn in Texas was during a pre-baby consultation to check for any genetic disorders. The rest of the time it was straight into the exam room, knickers off, gown on, perched on the table waiting for the exam. If this is what you’re used to, it may seem a bit strange to sit and chat about things across the desk while the exam table peeks out from behind a screen in the adjoining room. This leads me to the next portion of the French gynecologist visit.

After all the chit-chat the doctor will kindly ask you to go into the screened off exam area and take off your clothes. If you’re lucky there will be a tiny changing room where you can discreetly disrobe. If not, you’ll just have to chuck it all off right there. And I mean all of it. There are no softly worn cotton gowns with teal star designs or yellow duckies. There aren’t even any rough, blue paper gowns that gape open at the back. And there certainly is not a sheet to cover over your knees.

Nudity is not an issue in the doctor’s exam room. It’s as if you’ve passed through an invisible barrier from the get-to-know-you niceties into strip it and let’s have a look zone. I have had discussions with fellow non-French women about this, and we think it may be one of the reasons the French are obsessed with matching underwear. But of course you’re meant to peel your undies off too–at least you match while losing them!

Now, if I can give you any one piece of advice for a successful visit to the French gynecologist or obstetrician it is this: wear a skirt. This way you can slip off your dainties and leave the skirt on in order to maintain some level of Anglophone dignity. I even kept on my T-shirt (although braless), so on the surface it looked like I was just a normally dressed girl who happened to be up on a gynecological table in stirrups. The exam will be carried out in the usual way; sorry, that’s universal ladies. And then you’ll be done for the year, having marked another one off of the ‘scary things to do in another language’ list.

After this, you get yourself all back in order and return to the doctor’s desk to take care of any prescriptions (i.e. your goodie bag) and payment.

Here’s some helpful vocabulary to keep drawings to a minimum…(interesting how so many of the words are masculine!)

gynecologist le gynécologue
ovary l’ovaire
fallopian tubes les trompes de Fallope
uterus l’utérus
cervix le col
vagina le vagin
pap smear le frottis
menstrual cycle la menstruation
to menstruate avoir ses règles
menopause la ménopause
breasts les seins
mammogram la mammographie
pregnant enceinte
pregnancy la grossesse
miscarriage la fausse couche
birth la naissance
birth control la limitation des naissances
contraceptive le contraceptif
the pill la pilule
emergency contraception la contraception d’urgence
condom le préservatif
sexually transmitted infections infections sexuellement transmissibles (IST)
abstinence labstinence sexuelle
test (by doctor) l’examen
test (of blood, etc.) l’analyse
to test examiner
prescription la ordonnance, la prescription

Getting Your Nails Done in Paris: A Guide for First Timers

by Lindsey Passaic

Like many women, I enjoy being pampered at the salon. But since the thought of going to a salon in Paris was more terrifying than relaxing, I found myself doing one home manicure after another with the same sloppy results each time. When I could not handle my imperfect polishing skills any longer, I finally braved a salon to get the classic French manicure.

Not wanting to embarrass myself beyond my already bitten and chewed nails, I spoke with a true Parisian woman (with a beautiful red manicure nonetheless!) to prepare myself for my first salon visit. In addition to teaching me basic nail vocabulary, she shared simple phrases to communicate with the nail technician.

Unwilling to pay top euro, I avoided chain salons and beauty institutes, instead searching for “mom and pop” shops with lower prices. The average price of a manicure at a full service beauty salon is between 25 and 50 euros. At a no-frills nail salon that price is cut drastically! For around 12 euros or less you can get a quick polish change and have ring-ready fingers in no time. But even for luxury enthusiasts, 12 euros may be too much (especially if you’re blessed with a steady hand and eye for color).  In Paris, like everywhere else, the cheapest and most convenient manicure is still the one give yourself. You can buy topcoat, polish, nail files, and polish remover at Sephora for a little less than 20 euros. Splurge a bit and you can find an all-in-one kit and have a French manicure at your fingertips whenever you please. Beauty Monop and Marionnaud also offer similarly priced products for creating a nail salon at home.

If you’re ready and willing to dive into the French beauty experience, here are my suggestions for getting the manicure you want:

1) Visit  Qype to search for Paris nail salons by neighborhood and price.

2) Visit Manucure & Beaute to find American-style nail salons in and around Paris.

3) Visit one of the following English speaking salons:

Stylepixie Salon
2 rue Edouard Vasseur
Ivry sur Seine 94200
Tel: 01 46 70 25 69

Artistic Nail
84 rue du Cherche-Midi
Paris 75006
Tel: 01 42 22 00 62

Vocabulary

la main, les mains hand(s)
le ongle, les ongles nail(s)
la cuticule, les cuticules cuticle(s)
la manucuresoin des mains manicurenail care
la pédicuresoin des pieds pedicurefoot care
faux onglesles ongles gelles ongles acryliques fake nailsgelacrylic
les vernis à ongles nail polish
la lime à ongles nail file
le bloc abrasif nail buffer
le bloc polissoir, la lime finaliseur nail polisher
le bloc emeri emery board
le dissolvent doux sans acétone nail polish remover w/o acetone
dépose nail removal
ongle cassé broken nail
spray sechant pour vernis drying spray
Je voudrais une manucure. I would like a manicure.
Je voudrais une French manucure. I would like a French manicure.
Je voudrais un changement de vernis. I would like a polish change.
Je voudrais des faux ongles. I would like a set of fake nails.

Notes to Self

Today’s entry is reposted in its entirety from Chez Loulou: A Taste of Life in the South of France, the blog of Jennifer Greco.   Jennifer lives in the south of France with her husband, two dogs and a cat.  She is a chef, writer, photographer and French cheese addict.  

by Jennifer Greco

Olonzac Market Day

The expression “I almost had to give up my firstborn child” does not translate into French. Use it and they’ll think you’re certifiable.

Your neighbors and your hairdresser will never stop commenting on your weight gain or loss.

There’s a reason behind la priorité à droite. You will just never understand it.

The type of bra you prefer is a balconnet, not a banquette*.

As soon as they learn that you’re American, they’ll assume that you’re rolling in dough. The expression “rolling in dough” doesn’t translate either.

Stop trying to order your steak à point*. It will always arrive bleu*, no matter what.

That sweet looking, little old lady standing uncomfortably close to you in line at the boulangerie is trying to cut in front of you. Stand your ground.

It is de l’eau* or un verre d’eau*. Get that through your head already.

The day that you’re running late for an appointment in town is the day that all the streets on your route will be shut down for a manifestation.

You will never be able to pronounce the words grenouille* or moelleux*. Stop embarrassing yourself by trying to.

You will continue to have those incredible “oh my god I live in France” moments. Savor them.

As soon as you get comfortable and think you’ve got this whole living in France thing all figured out, remember that you really haven’t.
And remember to breathe.

*banquette – seat
*à point – medium
*bleu – rare
*de l’eau – some water
*un verre d’eau – a glass of water
*grenouille – frog
*moelleux – soft or mellow

The Skinny on Getting Married in Paris

Today’s post is reposted with permission from Parisian Party, the blog of Kimberley Petyt, an American wedding planner living in Paris.  Kim has been creating events for almost 10 years, both in the U.S. and in France.  Her firm, Parisian Events, caters to the English-speaking community in Paris – people who either live here on a long-term basis, or come to Paris just to celebrate their wedding or special event.  Her specialty is combining traditional American elements with classic Parisian elegance- and ending up with fresh, stylish, “oh la la” events that keep guests talking for ages after!

by Kimberley Petyt

le baiser de l'hotel de ville, doisneauFrom the classic Technicolor dance scenes of An American in Paris to more recent films like Moulin Rouge and Amelie Poulain- for many Americans, Paris is the epitome of romance. And what could be a more romantic place to get married? For most couples, after deciding to get married in Paris, the first thing they do is make a giddy, “so crazy this just might work” phone call to their local French consulate, where they are instantly jerked backed down to earth by their first official French Non: “Mais, mademoiselle! C’est impossible! You must live in France for 40 days before you can marry in France. Impossible! Why are you calling me? Au revoir!!” Click…. And for some couples, that will be that. In a flash they’re swept directly to Plan B, their local country club with a Paris themed reception, do not pass Go, do not collect 200€…

Some couples, though, will want to see the dream through- they may choose to have a legal ceremony in their own country, and then come to Paris for a symbolic ceremony. Symbolic ceremonies aren’t legally binding, but are as romantic and as meaningful as you’d imagine them to be. I’ll post more about symbolic ceremonies in the future. This post, though, is for the hard-liners- those couples that are ready to dance with the big boys, to run the gauntlet, fight the fight… Getting legally married in France as a foreigner will be one of the strongest tests to your “coupledom” as you’ve probably gone through so far. Forget about Couples Fear Factor: if you can survive this, you can survive anything…

The Nitty Gritty

What the curt civil servant at the embassy told you is true. In order to be legally wed in France, one of the couple needs to have lived in France, in the district around the city hall in which they plan to marry, for a minimum of 40 consecutive days before the wedding. Some sources say 30 days, but you have to add on an additional 10 days for the city hall to publish the Banns – a public announcement that is put up in City Hall for 10 days preceding your marriage that lists your names and your impending marriage date so that any estranged husbands or wives have one last chance to find you before you’re married off…

Before asking for that sabbatical from work, though, you should know that this one little detail is actually a big one. You must show 2 proofs of domicile (“justificatifs de domicile” )- a gas or electricity bill (a cell phone bill doesn’t count), a rent receipt, a lease, a French social security card, etc. If you are planning on renting an apartment here on a short-term lease in order to meet this marriage requirement, know that it could take several months before you receive any of the above documents. Another option is to live with a friend or relative, and have that person sign an attestation d’hébergement sur l’honneur. This is a statement swearing that you have been living at that persons residence, and that they take responsibility for you if you happen to be a drug trafficker or illegally downloading “Desperate Housewives” or something. There is a ton of small print on this one, including a huge fine and a short trip to the guillotine if its ever found out that you, in fact, Paris City Hallwere not living with them.

If you are able to meet the 40 day requirement, the first thing you want to do is to get the most recent list of required documents from the city hall (mairie) in which you plan to marry. Most of these documents have specific time frames in which they must be dated before being submitted, so it’s important to get the list as soon as you can. Here is a general list of the documents that you will need to be legally wed in France. It’s important, though (and I can’t stress this enough) that you get the official, most up-to-date list from the mairie in the district (arrondisement) that you are planning to marry.

A valid passport or a French residence permit (“carte de sejour”)

A birth certificate (”extrait d’acte de naissance“): Most city halls require that you present an original copy of a complete birth certificate (with full details of your parents) issued within 3 months of your wedding date along with a sworn translation. You have to get the translation from a sworn translator (”traducteur assermenté“). Sworn translators are listed at every “mairie”.

A certificate of celibacy (”attestation tenant lieu de declaration en vue de mariage ou de non-remariage“) less than 3 months old

An affidavit of law (”certificat de coutume“) Many mairies request an affidavit of law (”Certificat de Coutume”) in addition to the affidavit of marital Status from foreigners. The affidavit of law certifies that the American citizen is free to get married in France and that the marriage will be recognized in the United States. Only an attorney licensed to practice in both France and the United States may execute this document.

A medical certificate (“certificat médical prénuptial”): You both must get a pre-nuptial medical certificate which says that you were examined by a doctor “en vue de mariage.” (Don’t get nervous, girls- it’s just a standard check-up plus a couple of blood tests: blood type, syphilis, rubella and toxoplasma…) The marriage banns cannot be published until medical certificates have been submitted to the mairie. The certificates must be dated no earlier than two months before the publication of banns. Any qualified doctor can perform the medical examination (the Embassy publishes a list of English-speaking doctors).

Proof of domicile (”justificatifs de domicile“) (see above)

A “certificat du notaire“: If you are planning on having a pre-nuptial agreement, you must go through a lawyer (a notaire) who will provide a “certificat du notaire” which must be submitted to the mairie as well. It must have been drawn up no more than 2 months prior to the marriage.

If there are no pre-nuptial contracts, then you will be married under the communauté réduite aux acquets. This means that what each of you owned personally before the marriage, or whatever comes to you afterwards through inheritance, remains your own, individual property. Only that which is acquired during the marriage is owned equally by both parties. (If you’ve ever seen or read Le Divorce, this scenario may look very familiar to you…)

If either of you were previously married, you must provide a certified copy of the death certificate of the deceased spouse or a certified copy of the final divorce decree.

In addition to all of the above, you will also have to choose and provide information on your witnesses (”temoins”)- 2 to 4 people who will act as sort of your best men and/or maid of honor, and sign the registry after the marriage ceremony. You will need to provide their names, addresses, their professions and photocopies of their passports with your dossier.

All of this needs to be presented to the Mairie in time for them to check and approve your documents before posting the Banns- they typically ask for your completed marriage file 10 days before their publication, but I usually suggest that my clients submit their dossier sooner than that- the curt civil servants will almost always insist that there is a document missing, sending you into yet another frenzy of frantic phone calls and emails.

When all has been accepted and approved, you will receive word from the Mairie of your wedding date and time (you can request a specific date and time ahead of time, but they will assure you that nothing is confirmed until the dossier has been approved). Keep in mind that you must be legally married in a civil ceremony before you will be allowed to have a Catholic church ceremony in France. After your civil ceremony, you will receive a “Livret de Famille” (Family Book) a sort of wedding certificate that also has pages for all of your future children. This little blue book is the Holy Grail. If you live in France, this book will make your administrative life here a lot easier pretty much until the day you die (in which your death will be noted in said little blue book). If you don’t plan on staying in France, think of it as the ultimate wedding present.

Getting married in a foreign country is rarely easy. A Parisian wedding is just a bit more difficult than that. But if you are willing and able, the lasting memory of exchanging your vows beneath the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, or in the cobbled halls of a centuries-old chateaû is worth a few months of frustration.

Like I said, if you can survive all of the above, your marriage will be built to last.