We asked French people how to get around in France, and particularly in Paris. One piece of advice that we heard over and over: buy this book.
“Paris practique par arrondissement” includes a map of each arrondissement in Paris. Buy in advance if you want to study up. Or better yet, find it for cheap once you’ve stepped off the plane. Expect to pay about 6 euros at a newsstand.
The Russian rock band DDT (ДДТ) has recently caught the attention of Forbes magazine. The magazine placed DDT’s lead singer Yuri Shevchuk number 45 on their list of 50 most influential Russian celebrities.
In their Russian-language version, Forbes wrote that Shevchuk earned $1 million last year. Shevchuk had a bone to pick with Forbes over this statement. He said that he’s actually in debt, that Forbes’ claim of his millions has ruined his reputation, and that he resents being placed on the list of Russian “oligarchs.”
In Russia, art is only done for the sake of art. It’s rude to speak about the financial worth of the artists.
“Autumn, I haven’t seen you for a long time.”
Like most Soviet and Russian rock bands, DDT’s music is non-conformist. Unlike many of today’s bands, DDT also performs benefit concerts for various charities. Last year, Shevchuck was seen singing “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” with Bono at U2’s first concert in Russia. The concert benefited the charity ONE Campaign Against AIDS.
Check out the music video for one of DDT’s most popular and iconic songs, Osen’ (Осень, “Autumn”):
DDT’s newest album Inache (Иначе “The Other Way”) comes out this year. It has already generated a huge amount of interest both in Russia and abroad.
Taiwanese food is delicious. Even the pickiest traveler will find several dishes to enjoy (and to miss upon returning to the US). Because dining out is so cheap, travelers can enjoy eating out in Taiwan’s many restaurants.
But, Taiwanese eating customs can be very foreign to the American. To avoid confusion, follow these tips.
1. Write down your order
Some restaurants leave a pad of paper on each table. Mark the dishes you’d like to order, then bring the paper up to the register. This system is pay-in-advance. Expect to pay for your meal when you bring your order to the server.
If you’re not sure what to do, take a look around. Pay attention to what others in the restaurant are doing, and do the same.
2. Get a feel for chopsticks
Even soup in Taiwan is eaten with both a spoon and chopsticks. Forks are usually not available, so it’s a good idea to brush up on some chopstick skills before traveling to Taiwan. If you’re really having trouble, it might be best to just carry a fork with you–although you might get some funny looks from locals!
In the past, most Taiwanese restaurants were family style, meaning that everyone ate from each dish. Today, many restaurants have switched to Western style service: each person orders their own dish. Because of this history, many Taiwanese people do not consider it rude to start eating if you receive your dish before everyone else.
If your dinner companion starts eating before you’ve been served, don’t take offense. They aren’t trying to be rude; it’s just what they’re used to.
4. Take tea after the meal
American restaurants usually serve ice water with every meal. But, the Chinese believe that cold water can be unhealthy. Instead of ice water, Taiwanese restaurants serve tea.
Look for a giant pot of tea on the side of the restaurant, with small paper cups that customers can use to get their own tea.
Most Taiwanese people don’t drink anything at all while they’re eating. The tea is used to clean the palate after a meal is finished.
5. Get a yummy dessert
You won’t have to look far to find dessert in Taiwan. Just don’t expect Taiwanese desserts to be as sweet as American pie. Here are a few sweet selections that are popular with the Taiwanese–and visitors to Taiwan!
Treats from a bread shop
Bread shops carry delicious sugary treats in unusual flavors. (Try red bean!)
Shaved ice (剉冰, cua2 bing1) consists of a scoop of ice cream smothered in a sweet fruit of your choice. Try shaved ice with mango. (Taiwanese mangoes are especially juicy and delicious.) Combine several flavors of shaved ice, or share with your friends. Most shaved ice dishes are huge, more than enough for a couple of close friends.
Boba milk tea
Boba milk tea (珍珠奶茶, zhen4 zhu4 nai2 cha2) is another popular treat. Black tapioca balls (珍珠, zhen4 zhu4) are mixed into milk tea (奶茶, nai2 cha2) to make this delicious concoction. When you order boba milk tea, you might be asked how much sugar (糖, tang2) you want in your drink. The normal amount of sugar is quite a lot, so ask for “half sugar” by saying “半糖” (ban4 tang2). If you don’t want any sugar at all, you can say “無糖” (wu2 tang2).
6. Watch the spice
Taiwanese food may be cooked with different seasonings than your body is accustomed to, so give your stomach a few days to adjust. When you travel to Taiwan, your body will be adjusting to the heat and a considerable time difference. Don’t overwhelm yourself with spicy and unusual foods.
In other words, don’t dig into the scrumptious night market food scene until Day 3 or 4 of your trip.
How does the modern Russian person live? Just about the same way Russians have been living since the early 1960s.
Between a rock and a hard place
In an attempt to solve the issue of overcrowding in major cities, the Soviet government under Nikita Khrushev devised a plan to mass-produce apartment buildings. The goal was to move everyone out of communal living and into public housing. The new apartments gave residents the freedom of personal ownership, but were also very small and poorly constructed. This option was hardly ideal. The public would come to call these apartments khrushchovki (хрущёвки) after Khrushev.
Khrushchovki are still the most typical living arrangement across Russia, including in larger cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg. Take a look at this short video tour of a khrushchovka, to learn about how Russians live today:
Make sure when you enter someone else’s house, that you take off your shoes. Usually, your host will provide you with tapachki (тапачки) (slippers) to wear while you are in the house.
Practice your Russian: Sanuzel (санузел) or tualet (туалет)?
Practice your Russian with the following words about living arrangements. Notice all the different types of bathrooms that Russians have!
vannaya (ванная) – bathroom (contains a bath only)
sanuzel (санузел) – combined toilet and bathroom
tualet (туалет) – toilet (or bathroom with only a toilet and sink)
Movie Recommendation: Enjoy your bath
The cookie-cutter aspect of хрущёвки apartment buildings is commented on in the funny Soviet romantic comedy, “The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath.” The movie is full of footage of Russian apartments and daily life.
If you have a chance, rent it before you travel to Russia!
If you wonder what Paris looks like beyond what you have seen in postcards, check out this travel video. See Paris from all sides as a young couple makes its way through a Parisian train station, up the Eiffel Tower and past the Louvre.
As you watch, keep an eye out for:
a rented Vélib bike
big, bright boulevards
l’Arc de Triomphe
les Jardins du Trocadéro
people traveling “en voiture”
The video is set to the music “Senegal Fast Food” by Malian folk duo Amadou and Mariam. The original music video is chock-full of footage–not of France, but of Senegal. Mali and Senegal were colonies of France until 1960.
Like the young man in the video, thousands of people immigrate to France each year from the former colonies. Since taking office in 2007, President Nicolas Sarkozy has focused on immigration issues.
Ready to dive into French language and culture?
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Looking for an in-depth read on the cultural differences between Americans and the French? Look no further: Cultural Misunderstandings.
Written by Raymonde Carroll (translated by Carol Volk), this book will fill you in. Drawing on her personal experience as well as formal ethnographic field research, Raymonde Carroll exposes some deep issues that lead to cultural clash.
Cultural Misunderstandings is a well-written and engrossing read, full of humorous anecdotes to illustrate the points Carroll makes.