Hi! How was your September? Mine was unseasonably warm and has left me buried in schoolwork, so I’ll keep it short (software localization awaits!)
I’m currently working on an interesting project in a class on internationalization and culture – we have to come up with a product that would not fly in our home country (or, for Americans, the foreign country we know best – France in my case). It’s funny, because a lot of things that people think wouldn’t work in France have actually already been adopted, like fast food, fashion sneakers, and to-go containers (well, they’re on their way in…)
(Side note: Did you guys read this article by Lindsey Tramuta on the reality of “French girl style”? I liked that she pushed past the tired stereotypes regurgitated by fashion publications ad nauseam and showed a more diverse look at the many “French” styles, albeit from a Parisian perspective.)
In brainstorming with friends who know both cultures, two themes appeared consistently. One, many of the strongest French cultural institutions involve food (no surprise there), and two, the adoption of American products or customs usually involves a French twist (you can go to Starbucks in major cities, but you don’t take your drink to go; brunch is now very popular, but you don’t usually see waffles and mimosas on the menu). As always, I find it difficult to generalize – things that are available or accepted in big cities won’t necessarily be the norm in smaller towns, and things that apply to older generations might not hold true for young people.
What do you guys think? With all the foreign products that have wormed their way into France, what is left that will never make it in the Hexagon?
Liberty in North Korea
A friend of mine at MIIS started a chapter of the non-profit Liberty in North Korea, an organization that saves North Korean refugees and helps them resettle in South Korea or in the United States. We hear so much about North Korean politics, but not a lot about the people who actually live there, or about what happens to people who escape.
Did you know that for North Korean refugees, escaping across the border into China only brings them halfway to safety? If caught by the Chinese government, they are returned to North Korea and sentenced to hard labor. Many North Korean women are sold to Chinese men. They must make it all the way to Southeast Asia before they can apply for refugee status.
I was really moved by this short film that recounts the story of Eunmi, a North Korean woman who was sold away from her infant daughter in China and later escaped.
At MIIS, we had the chance to hear from Charles, a 23-year-old who escaped from North Korea twice before he turned 18. You can hear a short version of his story here.
I didn’t know much about North Korea beyond the political situation until this month, and I’m glad I had the chance to learn about the stories of North Korean people (particularly through a documentary about North Korea’s millennials).
You can read more about Liberty in North Korea here. If you check them out, let me know what you think!
Favorite thing at Trader Joe’s
I am super excited because Trader Joe’s is selling pâte feuilletée (flaky dough used for quiche and other magic) right now! It’s only available a few months out of the year (they roll it out – pun intended – for holidays. This is inconvenient because I want to make quiche year-round, but am unwilling to make my own dough.) It comes in a square instead of a quiche-shaped circle, so I cut off the corners and roll them up with cheese and bake them.
September in photos…
If you follow me on Instagram, you might be under the impression that I still live in San Francisco (latergrams all the way). I haven’t had much time to get out and take photos this month, but here are a couple September snaps:
I’m hoping to get an actual post out soon (I have something to share that I think a lot of Americans abroad will like!) In the meantime, I wish you all a wonderful, cozy fall, wherever you are (or a lovely spring for those on the southern half of the globe!)