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Interview with Jamie Cat Callan - Author of "Bonjour, Happiness"
BonjourParis.com caught up with Callan to glean some of those secrets...What made you want to write: "Bonjour Happiness?"
Your book shares French women's secrets to whole-life happiness. What have you found to be the biggest difference in how French women view life vs. North Americans?
In your book you talk about how French people flirt differently than Americans who view flirting as teasing. How do the French approach flirting?
How can those "flirting" skills be used in the business environment?
These conversational flirting skills can truly make any encounter more interesting and more lively. In terms of a business environment, it gives you an opportunity to display your intellect, your charm and your sense of humor. It's a a great way for you to demonstrate how much joie de vivre you have and what a great team player you will make when you do conduct business together or engage in a group project. You know, how in America a lot of "business" is conducted in the context of playing on the golf course? Well, in France, life is a golf course!
What are some unique things about social interactions in France? What might surprise us?
If you're visiting as a guest in a French home, what should you expect and what would be expected of you?
I love this question, because I've stayed as a guest in French homes from very upscale in the 16th arrondissement in Paris to tiny Left Bank flats to farm houses in the southwest and apartments in Toulouse and many other places. (As part of my research for my books, I love to see how real Frenchwomen live, so I prefer homes to hotels). So, to answer your question--first I think that staying as a guest in a French home is similar to staying in an American's home. It's important to pay attention to your host's routines and expectations. If you're just visiting for an afternoon, don't expect a "tour" of the house. The French are very private and keep a distinction between the public areas of a home and the private areas. If you are staying for just an afternoon or for a few days, it's nice to ask how you can help. Some French people will welcome your contributions, such as setting the table for dinner or even participating in cooking in the kitchen, while some French people might prefer you to stay in the living area and chat with other guests. As a general rule, I've found that most of my French friends like cooking together and that's a wonderful experience and opportunity for sharing and cultivating a deeper friendship. Food is a great way to find common ground! And in terms of a hostess gift, food is also most welcome--you can bring chocolates or macarons or even some fresh jam from the country, if you're visiting a friend in the city. I like to ask French friends what they'd like me to bring from America. You'd be surprised at the responses. Once a French woman asked me to bring Reese's mini peanut butter cups! Apparently you can't get them in France!
What are some of your most favourite places in Paris?
What are some great places for women to go visit in Paris if they are travelling solo?
Certainly, walk through the Tuileries and go to the Louvre. Musee d'Orsay is wonderful, as is the Musee de l'Orangerie. Follow Hemingway and Fitzgerald's path and go to the cafes along the Left Bank--Les Deux Magots and Cafe de Flore [these are fairly touristy spots, however]. I also love Cafe de l'Industrie on rue Saint-Sabin. I conducted interviews in there for my first book, French Women Don't Sleep Alone. For shopping, there's Printemps and of course Gallerie Lafayette. My French friends won't like me to reveal this--so this is just for your readers--but, there's a fabulous shop called "La Piscine" which means swimming pool. It's located in the Marais and there's another around Boulevard St. Germaine. They have the most exquisite designer clothes at a greatly reduced priced. The salesladies are so helpful. Everytime I'm in Paris, I go there!
In the book you talk about something called "The Lingerie Diet" -- Why is beautiful lingerie important for women?
First, I want to say that French women wear good lingerie everyday, for themselves, not necessarily to impress a man. It's about wearing something fine and beautiful right next to your skin. Beautiful lingerie gives a woman a sense of confidence and ooh la la. Also, by wearing beautiful lingerie everyday, she develops a sense of balance. She gets away from that either/or mentality. You know, either "I'm on a diet" or "I'm off my diet." In terms of romance--if she is wearing lovely lacy panties and a matching lace bra then she always feels beautiful and desired. There's a disconnect between wearing cotton granny panties for everyday and then a Frederick's of Hollywood lace-up bustier get-up for that "special occasion." When a woman wears lovely undies on a daily basis, she always feels beautiful and confident.
A lot of women (and men) are self-conscious about their bodies and there's even a Weight Watchers in France. Based on your experience, what are the key differences between the American and the French attitudes towards dieting?
I actually attended several Weight Watcher meetings in France. They were very interesting compared to American Weight Watchers. Here, we're all about low fat or sugar free and how to eat a lot more, with fewer calories. The French are much more about eating delicious food (yes, even chocolate and wine) with all the calories intact. They'd rather eat a little less, than give up real food. In fact, they call our diet products and processed foods "cuisine industrielle." French women are all about making little adjustments and maintenance. And if they do go on a diet, they're very discreet about it. Oh, and French people don't eat out as much as we do. They cook at home, and I think that keeps the calorie intake down. That said, the French struggle with weight just as we do. However, I think they aren't as self-conscious about their bodies, and this comes from a tradition of self-care (massages, spa treatments), good lingerie, dressing well everyday and walking everywhere. So, it's not so much about dieting, as building confidence.
What do you love most about French women?
For me, French women are endlessly mysterious. You know, my grandmother was French and I always felt as if there were so many layers to her, I could spend a lifetime getting to know her. I think all French women are a little like this--they are fascinating because they reveal only a little at a time.
What do you love most about France?
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