Don"t bring bad wine to a party and avoid "tourist clothes": How to be the perfect madame, for English women in France


Don't bring bad wine to a party and avoid 'tourist clothes': For English women in France, how to be the perfect madameCodes and taboos of French living explained in new bookLearn simple French, don't wear tracksuits and greet all your colleaguesYou can say no to foie gras – but not because you care about the animals

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UPDATED:

08:15 GMT, 29 November 2012


Tips: Graldine Lepre teaches British ladies how to be a French mademoiselle

Tips: Graldine Lepre teaches British ladies how to be a French mademoiselle

With their reputation for being perfectly preened, primped and poised at all times, it’s no wonder French women tend to intimidate the British.

But according to one, the Gallic approach to life can be learned – just as long as you’re not too bothered about being punctual.

Graldine Lepre is determined to dispel the myth that Frenchwomen are perfect and to teach British expatriates how to avoid embarrassment in social situations across the Channel.

She has written a book called Comme
une Franaise – Like a Frenchwoman – which was inspired by her own
experiences of struggling to fit in during two years living and working
in Leeds.

Miss Lepre
realised that many Brits are daunted by the formidable reputation of
the French, especially after a torrent of publications – with titles
such as French Women Don’t Get Fat and French Children Don’t Throw Food –
telling them how their continental counterparts do things better.

But Miss Lepre, 27, from Grenoble,
said: ‘Our reputation is such that [British women] get the impression
they’re doing it all wrong.

‘We daunt them, so I break down the clichs and explain without taboos our codes – ones we don’t even know we have.’

Arriving on time for dinner in France, for example, is a cardinal sin.

‘You British are so punctual, but in France if you arrive bang on time you are likely to be met by someone without make-up and an uncooked dinner,’ Miss Lepre warned. She said she always tells her foreign friends to be 15 to 20 minutes late, but no more as this would be ‘impolite’.

The non-initiated should also brush up on current affairs as the French love to debate, she added.

British
women – and those from America – are also advised to learn to take
compliments in their stride, and make sure they do not interpret them as
a come-on or even as sexual harassment.

Secret goose lover: It is fine to say 'no thanks' to foie gras, just make sure you keep schtum about your reasons why - it is considered very rude to do so as a protest against the treatment of the geese

Secret goose lover: It is fine to say 'no thanks' to foie gras, just make sure you keep schtum about your reasons why – it is considered very rude to do so as a protest against the treatment of the geese

‘How many foreign married women are
thunderstruck to hear their French friend’s husband tell them “You look
ravishing this evening”’ she asked. ‘We flirt all the time.

‘If
a man in the street tells you “You are very pretty mademoiselle”, this
doesn’t mean he wants to sleep with you, it just means he thinks you are
attractive so he tells you.

Her tips

‘My advice is say “Thank you”, take it as a free pick-me-up, like a sunny day.’

Miss Lepre found said she found people to be very ‘warm and open’ during her time in Britain – but admitted she was perplexed by conversations that revolved around TV and popular culture, and shocked to see colleagues go out wearing miniskirts in subzero temperatures and drink her under the table.

She found she only began to understand British culture when she began to join her colleagues on their Friday lunchtime pub outings.

Realising many of the women among the 150,000 British expatriates in France must be going through similar issues, she decided to write her book and launch an online course.

She admitted French women do have high standards, but added: ‘If you start going toward them, you’ll find they love foreign culture and the British have a very good reputation in France.’

Mais non: In France, wine always accompanies a meal, so do not serve wine otherwise - and avoid the cardinal sin of bringing bad wine to a party

Mais non: In France, wine always accompanies a meal, so do not serve wine otherwise – and avoid the cardinal sin of bringing bad wine to a party