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How to embrace French culture in 2021

With the arrival of a new year comes a renewed desire for change. Many of us make resolutions to help us live healthier and smarter lives – and if you live abroad, you may want to discover new aspects of your host nation.

How to embrace French culture in 2021
Photos: Getty Images/HelloFresh
While France is a wonderful country, with a long and proud history, honoured tradition and gregarious, outgoing people, it can take a while to fully grasp all its idiosyncrasies. The language and the cuisine are both enormously rich – but can also be challenging.
 
Together with HelloFresh, we look at some of the choices you could make in 2021 to embrace French culture. What better time than the arrival of la nouvelle année to make a commitment to becoming more like the French? 
 
 
Learn the language (or master your accent!)
 
Many languages have their difficulties, and French is no exception. On a basic level, it’s a language that counts by twenty, leading to numbers such as eighty being written as quatre-vingt (‘four twenty)’ and ninety nine as quatre-vingt-dix-neuf (‘four-twenty-ten-nine’). It's a somewhat peculiar system compared to many languages. 
 
Then there are the ‘false friends’ – words that appear similar to English words but have different meanings that can lead to unfortunate misunderstandings. A librarie is not where you borrow books – it’s a bookshop. Nor should you think that a préservatif is something like a jam. It’s actually a condom. Be really careful about that one when ordering toast!  
 
There are hundreds of language apps and courses available for those who wish to improve their French skills. You could also embrace French films and television shows as part of your viewing habits. These present you with language in its natural context, and you'll soon pick up valuable expressions for day-to-day use. Perhaps you're already feeling confident and just want to refine your French accent? Bonne chance!
 
Get cooking and discover French food  
 
France is widely known as the home of haute cuisine, and many of the worlds finest chefs and restaurateurs hail from the country. If you dream of cooking like the crème de la crème of French gastronomy, you’ve got your work cut out and may feel daunted by the challenge.
 
However, that doesn’t mean that learning to cook some of the country’s dishes is altogether out of your reach. As the late great Anthony Bourdain, a tireless advocate of French cuisine, said: “Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.” In France, there are countless cooking classes and organizations dedicated to helping you use local ingredients in dazzling, tasty ways.
 
Perhaps a simpler way that you can truly embrace and enjoy the delights of French cuisine is through HelloFresh meal kits. Each week you’ll receive all the ingredients you need to cook up to five distinct recipes put together by chefs.
 
 
Soon, you could be cooking Filet de poulet et sauce forestière à la moutarde (pictured below) or if you want a vegetarian option, perhaps Velouté de butternut et tartine de bleu d'Auvergne
 
Filet de poulet et sauce forestière à la moutarde. Photo: HelloFresh
 
Other past HelloFresh French favourites have included Chicken Provence, Steak Frites and French Lentil Salad. 
 
France’s love of food is one reason why it has become so serious about food wastage. Indeed, the country’s revolutionary food waste law has helped to ensure that every day hundreds of dollars worth of good food is donated to NGOs and other organisations to feed the less fortunate. Across the country, primary food producers have instigated various means of ensuring that the majority of food produced ends up on plates. 
 
Want to help cut food waste and the carbon emissions associated with imported food in 2021? Signing up with HelloFresh could be a good place to start. Not only do meal kits reduce waste by providing only exactly what you need, but HelloFresh has also pledged to source local ingredients where it can from across France. This means the fruit, vegetables, meat and diary that you get delivered showcase some of the country’s finest produce. 
 
HelloFresh meal boxes are also easy to dispose of. Designed to be folded when empty, and made out of renewable materials, the meal boxes can be put out for weekly recycling collection. In addition, all separators, paper boxes and plastic bags included can be recycled, meaning almost nothing ends up in landfill. 
 
Plan a trip to one of France’s hidden corners  
 
Sure, everybody typically flocks to the Mediterranean coast in summer and the Alps in winter. But there’s much more to France than sun and skiing. If you’re willing to explore further and perhaps get a little lost, then treasures abound.
 
Lockdowns and curfew rules mean voyages of discovery in France remain largely off limits. But this could be the time to learn more about the country by doing some research on the treasures you could discover when the time is right.
 
Take a look at France’s prehistory and the amazing carved Neolithic tomb at Gavrinis, in Brittany, covered in intricate swirls. The delectable flammkuchen of Alsace – a variation on pizza – awaits you around Strasbourg and the pretty city of Colmar. And if you’re a shopper, you could find all sorts of treasures – and tasty treats – around the covered markets of Albi, in Occitane. 
 
In Europe, we're blessed with far more public holidays than most of the world. Once restrictions on movement are lifted and it's safe to travel, this could be the year to discover more of the glories of France. 
 
Keen to start 2021 by enjoying more of what France has to offer? Click here to save €50 on your first three HelloFresh meal boxes in France as a reader of The Local (just use the code ‘THELOCAL50’ at checkout)
 
 

MONEY

Everything you need to know about France’s 2022 summer sales

In France, you can only shop the best deals twice a year - during the soldes. Here is everything you need to know about this year's summer sales.

Everything you need to know about France's 2022 summer sales

They happen twice a year – Each year, France has two soldes periods: one in the winter, usually starting January, and another in the summer, usually starting in June.

This summer, the soldes will start on Wednesday, June 22nd in most parts of France and run for four weeks, so even though you might be tempted to go on the first day, keep in mind they’ll be going on for a while.

They are progressive, so items will be continuously marked down as the soldes wear on. If you wait, you are risking that your favourite t-shirt might sell out quickly, but if you’re lucky it might end up marked down even further.

During 2020 and 2021 the government altered sales dates and time periods to help shops cope with closures and lockdowns, but now we’re back to the usual timetable.

This is the only time stores can have “sales” – Technically, the soldes are the only time that stores are allowed to have sales, but the definition of ‘sale’ is important.

Basically, the French government qualifies a ‘solde‘ as the store selling an item for less than they purchased it for.

During the rest of the year discounting is allowed in certain circumstances, so you might see promotions or vente privée (private sales, usually short-term events aimed at regular customers or loyalty-card holders) throughout the year.

In these situations the stores might be selling items for less than their original price, but they are not permitted to sell the item for less than they bought it for. 

Shops are also permitted to have closing-down sales if they are shutting down, or closing temporarily for refurbishment.

They are strictly regulated by the French government – Everything from how long the soldes go for to the consumer protection rules that apply to the very definition of ‘solde’ is regulated by the French government, and the main purpose of this is to protect small independent businesses which might not be able to offer the same level of discounts as the big chains and multi-national companies.

Whether you shop in person or online, the same rules apply.

As a consumer, you still have the same rights as non-sales times regarding broken or malfunctioning items – meaning you ought to be entitled to a refund if the item has not been expressly indicated as faulty. The French term is vice caché, referring to discovering a defect after purchase.

On top of that, stores must be clear about which items are reduced and which are not – and must display the original price on the label as well as the sale price and percentage discount. 

READ MORE: Your consumer rights for French sales

They started in the 19th century – France’s soldes started in the 19th century, alongside the growth of department stores who had the need to regularly renew their stock – and get rid of leftover items.

Simon Mannoury, who founded the first Parisian department store “Petit Saint-Thomas” in 1830, came up with the idea.

Funnily enough, this department store actually is the ancestor for the famous department store Le Bon Marché. His goal was to sell off the previous season’s unsold stock in order to replace it with new products.

In order to do this, Mannoury offered heavy discounts to sell as much merchandise as possible in a limited time.

The soldes start at different times depending on where you live – The sales start at the same time across most of mainland France, but there are exceptions for overseas France and certain départements, usually those along the border.

France’s finance ministry allows for the sales to start at different times based on local economies and tourist seasons. 

For the summer 2022 sales only two parts of metropolitan France have different dates; Alpes-Maritimes sales run from July 6th to August 2nd, while on the island of Corsica they run from July 13th to August 9th.

In France’s overseas territories the sales are held later in the year.

You might qualify for a tax rebate – If you are resident outside the EU, you might be eligible for a tax rebate on your sales purchases.

If you spend at least €100 in one store, then you qualify. You should hold onto your receipt and tell the cashier you plan to use a tax rebate so they can give you the necessary documentation (a duty-free slip).

Then when you are leaving you can find the kiosk at the station or airport dedicated to tax rebates (détaxe) and file prior to leaving France. For more information read HERE

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