Three Great Female Voices from France

Listening to music is one of the best ways to improve your language skills. There’s so much good stuff out there! Don’t know where to start? Here are some recommendations — three great female voices from France.

Keren Ann

Keren Ann is a singer-songwriter with a soft voice who moved to France when she was 11 and has since been recording primarily from Paris.


Patricia Kaas

You might have already heard of Patricia Kaas… Born in Lorraine, France, she sings jazz, pop, and chanson in a luxurious voice. Here is her version of the Edith Piaf classic, “La Vie En Rose.”


Paris Combo

The world music group Paris Combo has an eclectic style including instruments like accordian, banjo, and trumpet. They play jazz/swing/chanson style music.


Want to dive into French language and culture?

Check out our France ForeignIQ service. Make the best of your trip to France by learning how to communicate and what (not) to do when you get there.

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Smoking in France

“Dieu est un fumeur de Havane” (God is a Havane smoker) used to sing provocative musician Serge Gainsbourg who would ad, “Je suis un fumeur de Gitane” (I am a Gitane smoker) –‘les Gitanes’ being those non-filtered cigarettes that would blacken one’s lungs pretty fast. Despite that, many other French people used to smoke “des Gitanes”. So what’s the news?

The Good News

  • Good news No.1: French people now smoke cigarettes that are lighter and therefore less stinky.
  • Good news No.2: A law was recently passed that forbids smoking in public places, so that you won’t necessarily smell like an ashtray after spending the night in a bar or a club!

The Bad News

  • Bad News No.1: The French still smoke a lot, at the end of a meal especially, while sipping an espresso.
  • Bad News No.2: Smokers tend not to care too much if they’re bothering you.

Avoid smoking areas

What to do in front of such adversity? Well, you certainly won’t change the French, so just remember to ask for non-smoking areas in bars and restaurants and non-smoking bedrooms in hotels and trains. Unless you’re a smoker yourself that is… In that case, smoke away –NOT!! “Fumer Tue” (Smoking kills) as indicated on every French packet of cigarettes.

Want to dive into French language and culture?

Check out our France ForeignIQ service. Make the best of your trip to France by learning how to communicate and what (not) to do when you get there.

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French Strikes

You are getting ready to go to a country where people didn’t hesitate to cut their beloved king’s head. “Vive la Révolution” (Long live Revolution) they’d chant. What’s left of that historical time? Surely some of its spirit.

Strike! Strike!

When the French are not happy, they moan, they complain, they start complaining louder, take on the streets and demonstrate. They stop working, they create a mess, and when they’re tired of it or occasionally when they get what they want, they go back to work.

French Firemen on Strike

It’s all part of the experience

So you need to be aware that when traveling to France, the French may very well STRIKE!! What can one do when there is no train, no plane, no post office, and when the streets fill up with tons of people? Hide in a corner and hold you head tight? No, that shouldn’t be necessary.

Just enjoy the cultural experience. Don’t try to go anywhere, just take advantage of a day of leisure. Alternatively you can join the crowd and try to embrace the revolutionary spirit! Or not… up to you! Just make sure you don’t end up frustrated, tired and angry… because guess what… Nobody will care AND it’s not going to change anything! Lucky you, experiencing a strike in France first hand!

Want to dive into French language and culture?

Check out our France ForeignIQ service. Make the best of your trip to France by learning how to communicate and what (not) to do when you get there.

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Dealing with Critters in Taiwan

Lizard in Taiwan

As amazing, beautiful, and entertaining as Taiwan can be, there are of course some less than pleasant issues that travelers may have to deal with that are specific to Taiwan — namely, the animal life.

Arm yourself with bug spray!

First of all, because of its latitude and weather, Taiwan does have many bugs common to hot, humid areas. Mosquito repellent is a must, especially when going out at night, as mosquitoes can carry dengue fever.

Of course, there are traps set for mosquitoes. One notable trap captured 4 million mosquitoes in a month!

Don’t leave windows open

Those traveling to Taiwan should also be aware that if they go out at night (especially in a more overgrown area) they may encounter cockroaches, spiders, and all the usual critters that inhabit tropical areas. Lizards and large bugs may find their way into un-screened, open windows at night, so it is advisable to make sure windows are closed and latched.

Lizard in Taiwan

Don’t feed the dogs

One unusual aspect of Taiwan life is the stray dogs. Most countries have some of these, but Taipei especially has a large number of them roaming the city and streets. This is a fairly recent phenomenon, and comes from the number of foreigners who buy dogs as pets in Taiwan, but on returning home are reluctant to deal with the month-long quarantines and abandon the dogs when they leave. This is a cruel and sad situation, but unfortunately quite true.

This does, however, mean that the stray dogs are nearly all tame and mostly harmless, and will only approach humans if offered food. Many Taiwanese people are opening what they call “salons” to provide food for these dogs and try to find homes for them. These dogs often know how to cross streets using crosswalks, and some have even been seen riding the MRT (subway)! Many visitors to Taiwan are at first unnerved and sometimes alarmed by the large number of these dogs, but become accustomed to them after a time. It’s not recommended that you touch them, though, however tame they may appear.

Top Tips for Saving Money in Paris

Like most big cities, Paris isn’t cheap! In fact, it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. So how can you save money during your trip to France? Just follow these top money saving tips!

Travel for cheap

If you’re in Paris and want to take the metro, ask for a “carnet de tickets” which has 10 tickets at a reduced price. If you intend to stay in the Île-de-France region (or just Paris) for a little while, you can also get an electronic “Carte Navigo,” which can be credited for weekly/monthly/yearly use, for just 16 Euros. A picture ID is required for the Carte Navigo, so make sure you have one on you!

You can also rent bikes for free for 30 minutes, which is usually enough to get from A to B. Ask for the closest “Vélib” station and start cycling away! (This has the added bonus of keeping you in shape!)

Eat a big lunch

Many restaurants have a daily combo lunch menu called “Formule du jour” or “Formule déjeuner” which includes a starter, main course and dessert for a reasonable price.
At the restaurant, don’t hesitate to ask for tap water and bread, it’s free!

Keep an eye out for good exchange rates

When looking to change money, rather than going to the most touristy areas, keep an eye out for a small “bureau de change”. If you’re in Paris, Pigalle has many of those with great exchange rates. Ok– it may be stuck in between 2 sex shops– but you will save money for sure! (Always double check the rates though before going ahead with any transaction.)

Watch for “museum days”

Whenever possible, plan your “museum days”. Be aware that museums are
free the first Sunday of each month and the Louvre is cheaper from 3pm onward.

Shopping is cheaper as an American

If you go shopping in department stores such as Lafayette and LePrintemps, take
your passport with you. Americans are entitled to a tax deduction. Don’t leave the store before making sure you got that sorted out!

Want to dive into French language and culture?

Check out our France ForeignIQ service. Make the best of your trip to France by learning how to communicate and what (not) to do when you get there.

ForeignIQ is a unique subscription service that shows you how things get done in foreign places. Need to shop for clothes? Get directions? Schedule a meeting? ForeignIQ will get you ready.

How to Get Around in France

TGV

You’re going to France! Plane tickets are purchased, hotel is booked, and you’ve got your 10-page list of things to see in hand. But how are you going to get around France (and Europe) once you get there?

Take the Train

One of the best ways to travel around France is to use the train. There’s a few different types of trains in France:

Corail Intercité

Corail Intercité are the normal intercity trains that go to most destinations in France. They don’t require a reservation, which makes them easy to use. These trains will get you from point A to point B.

TER

Transport express régional (TER) are the standard commuter trains in France, and they also don’t require reservations. Don’t be fooled by the name, their actually fairly slow… relax, enjoy the scenery!

TGV

You’ve probably already heard of the high-speed trains known as TGV (Trains à Grande Vitesse) which travel across France and Europe. These are the ones you want to take if you need to get somewhere far and get there fast. They run several times a day and require you to book a ticket ahead of time. You can book a ticket at several different websites, but the official one for English speakers is http://www.tgv-europe.com. You can even have your ticket mailed to the US, or pick it up at your train station in France. Just make sure to come early!

TGV

  • Train travel tip: When taking the train, keep a look out for your track number (voie) and your coach number (voit. no.)… don’t get these two confused! Also, make sure to get your ticket punched by the automatic machine (composteur), or you can be fined!

Rent a Car

If you’re going to France on a visit, you are allowed to drive in France using your US driver’s license, but you might want to get an international driver’s license as well. (It’s cheap and easy to get… more info on how to get one is available here.) Most cars in France use manual transmission (stick shift). If you need to drive an automatic, make sure to book your car rental well in advance. In any case, try to get a small car. Most streets in France were built before cars were invented, so they are difficult to maneuver through in a big car. In cities, it’s often better to park your car and use public transportation to get around. Finally, remember France uses the metric system, so distances and speed limits are posted in kilometers, not miles!

Hitchhike

If you’re a true adventurer and have some time on your hands, maybe traveling “by thumb” is your preferred method of transportation! Keep in mind that in France it’s illegal to hitchhike on motorways/freeways, but motorway on-ramps are free game. While this is the best way to see the countryside, practice your French, and get to know the French culture, this method is only recommended for the most experienced travelers and backpackers!

Want to dive into French language and culture?

Check out our France ForeignIQ service. Make the best of your trip to France by learning how to communicate and what (not) to do when you get there.

ForeignIQ is a unique subscription service that shows you how things get done in foreign places. Need to shop for clothes? Get directions? Schedule a meeting? ForeignIQ will get you ready.

14 Taiwan Food Vocab Words

Taiwan is full of delicious food (just take one look at this video and you’ll never doubt that again), but if you don’t speak Chinese, you could be in danger of never getting a taste! So here are some useful words to start you off…the essential guide to reading menus in Taiwan.

  • 燒: shao1, fried/cooked
  • 湯: tang1, soup
  • 飯: fan4, rice
  • 麵: mian4, noodles
  • 雞: ji1, chicken
  • 牛: niu2, beef
  • 豬: zhu1, pork
  • 魚: yu2, fish
  • 蝦: xia1, shrimp
  • 蔬菜: shu1cai4, vegetable
  • 素: su4, vegetarian
  • 肉: rou4, meat
  • 酸: suan1, sour
  • 辣: la4, spicy (This one’s important!)
    • So can you guess what 牛肉湯麵, a famous and popular Taiwanese dish, is?
      That’s right–beef soup with noodles! With these vocab words, you should be able to order like a pro. Quick tip: print out this list and carry it in your wallet– it’ll help you read a menu whether you speak Chinese or not! Good luck!