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Archive for the ‘Traditions and Culture Around the World’ Category

These last few years, exchange programs between universities across the world have become very popular. Every year, thousands of students choose to go studying or working as interns abroad. They often come home with amazing memories, new knowledge and priceless experiences.

Within the European Union, the Erasmus program is the most commonly known. Erasmus stands for European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students and makes a reference to humanist Desiderius Erasmus who was, in his time, a real pioneer in terms of studying abroad. The Erasmus program was created 25 years ago and aimed at promoting exchanges for students and professors. Since then, more than 2 million young Europeans have been granted scholarships to go study in partner universities for one or two semesters. During the academic year 2009-2010, the number of students participating in the Erasmus program broke a new record and reached 200,000. France, Germany and Spain welcome the greatest number of students every year (source: http://ec.europa.eu/education/lifelong-learning-programme/doc80_en.htm).

Nowadays, having some experience of living abroad is no longer considered as a strength: it is almost an obligation.

What are the main advantages of staying abroad?

First, a better education: the tutorial system is usually different and classes are not organized as in the students’ home countries. Thus, they have to broaden their minds and go into further detail to understand perfectly their classes. They learn to master other ways of working and to consider their subject of study from other points of view.

Moreover, they are usually immersed in new languages and cultures which is an amazing experience and a real strength on a résumé. By getting in contact with the locals, they can really get to know a new culture and get a better understanding of the habits, ways of thinking and of functioning of the country they are in.

From an individual point of view, living abroad is even more enriching. Students will have to learn to live on their own and to be independent. Should they have problems, they learn to solve them by themselves as there is often no one around to help them. Multicultural experiences help broaden the mind and are really useful in a professional environment. Students usually grow up while living abroad and learn to be open when meeting new people. Strong friendships often grow between exchange students coming from all over the world. They develop international networks, which can always be useful when looking for a job.

As a general basis, managers usually consider that students who lived abroad have more managerial skills, know how to adapt to new situations especially intercultural situations. And usually, they are not afraid to go working abroad.

Still not convinced that you need international experiences?

Stop hesitating, pack your bags and go have an amazing experience that you won’t forget to find out by yourself!

More information on the Erasmus program:

http://ec.europa.eu/education/lifelong-learning-programme/doc80_en.htm

Few testimonies:

http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/SchoolofEnglish/FileStoregeneral/DeborahONeill/Filetoupload,101315,en.pdf

http://www.i-studentlife.com/2009/08/alec-wilding-my-erasmus-experience

http://erasmusu.com/en/erasmus-experiences

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We all have stereotypes about certain cultures. Sometimes, they are based on our own experiences, sometimes they are not. We imagine Dutch people as greedy, with blond hair and pants too short, English as real gentlemen, stylish and drinking tea, Spanish people as Casanovas taking a nap, German as always on time or Russians as cold and big on vodka…

Stereotypes have always existed, no matter the culture, and they are usually reinforced by their existence in literature and the media. The discipline in charge of creating such image is known as imagology. Even if there is still little research done in this field, it is really interesting. Joep Leerssen, professor of Modern European Literature at the University of Amsterdam, is a real pioneer. He published a book entitled “Imagology, The cultural construction and literary representation of national characters”, in which he describes stereotypes of certain cultures and nationalities throughout History.

More recently, this approach is found in the works of Ferber & Davies. In their book “Pardon our French: French stereotypes in American Media”, they focus on the image that Americans have of French people. They are seen as romantic, handsome, unpleasant, arrogant, pedantic, bossy, quarrelsome, negative, selfish, immoral, food-loving and elegant. In addition, they smell bad, they don’t shave, they talk but can’t make decisions, they don’t obey rules and don’t comply with deadlines and procedures, they go on strike for anything and smoke all the time.

These stereotypes appear in Stephen Clarke’s books, such as “A year in the merde” and “Merde actually”. His novels describe in a humorous manner the integration into French society of his hero, Paul West. He focuses on the differences between the French and English cultures and on various aspects of life in France. Paul West comes to Paris with highly stereotyped opinions and once he gets there, tries to check if his clichés are true or completely made up.

To conclude, here are some funny sequences of “A year in the merde”, filled with French stereotypes:

· “This is a real Anglo-style meeting. Taking decisions.” Decisions? We can’t agree, so we decide to pay a consultant who’s going to be bribed into agreeing with the guy with the crappiest ideas. Didn’t seem very constructive to me”.

· “H.L.M.” She spelled it out in English. “It means habitation à loyer modéré or something like that. Low-cost apartments.” She giggled. “Although all the residents are lawyers, doctors etc. Or the sons and daughters and friends of politicians. Papa got me this apartment from a friend at the Hôtel de Ville”.

· “He explained that the waiter wanted to cash up now because, like all the other unionized waiters in Paris – that is, most of the blokes in black waistcoats, and they are, strangely enough, almost all male – he was going on strike as of now, “thirteen hours””.

· “At other tables, people were all taking part in the same deal but the waiter shouted at them or just ignored them”

Additional information:

Video about French stereotypes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERD2TnMNH98 (English version)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCIAyHEFTrQ&feature=relmfu (French version)

More information about Stephen Clarke and his novels:

http://www.stephenclarkewriter.com

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By Hélène Classine (5e MI)

A French success that would have great difficulties to impose itself in North America

The concept

Every year in France, at the end of September, just after the grape harvest, supermarkets organize wine fairs. For one week or two, they dedicate a large space to wine. Consumers can find a huge choice of wine, at all prices.

The biggest supermarkets also have employees working in that space to give advice to the consumers and to offer wine tasting.
This business concept is well-rooted in the French culture. Every year, supermarket wine fairs are very successful: around 20% of the total amount of wine sold annually in France is bought in supermarkets during that period.

Wine fairs were first launched by the supermarkets Leclerc and Auchan in the seventies. Later, other supermarkets as well as wine merchants and specialized liquor stores also implemented this concept.

Why is this concept such a success in France?

Wine and France
As beer is the first alcoholic beverage in other countries, wine is the major one in France.

First of all, it is a major aspect of French culture. France is well-known for its gastronomy, and French cuisine always has to come with the perfect wine to accompany it. It is much more than a sole alcoholic beverage: it is part of any proper meal – if not every day, at least on Sunday’s meals.
Traditionally, wine conveys a spirit of celebration, pleasure and sharing.

Many studies have also demonstrated the beneficial effects of red wine on the health when consumed in moderation (preventive effects against cardiovascular diseases, cancer and dementia).

It is also important to note that France is the world’s largest wine producer (before Italy and Spain) and the third exporter. There are 3,420 different wines produced in France.

Wine in supermarkets
Consumers can buy wine directly from the producer, through cooperatives or in liquor stores. Nevertheless, seven out of ten bottles are sold in supermarkets, where you usually find the cheapest wine. And it is also more accessible: when one is inviting friends or family over, he or she can choose the wine and buy the ingredients for the meal to prepare at the same time and place. It is a lot easier and faster for the consumer.

A commercial operation
This business concept is a success because supermarkets use a cultural tradition to highlight a product. This concept enables the expert consumers to buy good wines at interesting prices, helps the enlightened ones develop their knowledge about wine and discover new products, and teaches the basics of oenology to non-specialists.

Why wouldn’t this concept work in North America?

The concept would have to face great obstacles to impose itself in the United States or in Canada.

Legal Context
The first obstacle would be a legal one. In most states or provinces of both countries, selling alcohol is highly regulated. The 21st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution authorizes each State to regulate the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages.
It is generally forbidden to sell alcohol in supermarkets: you can only buy it in specialized liquor stores that own a specific license. Therefore, organizing wine fairs in supermarkets would simply be impossible.

Read more about US Wine Shipping Laws

Cultural context
Gastronomy and wine are not an integrated part of the North American culture as it is in France: even though the consumption is growing fast, drinking wine is not yet a well-rooted habit in North America.

In 2010, the average consumption per person amounted to 9.6 liters in the US, 13.4 liters in Canada… and almost 50 liters in France!

In France, most parents allow their children to taste wine long before they are legally authorized to do so. By doing so, they are teaching them an aspect of their culture and history. This behavior is really rare in North America, where wine is just an alcoholic beverage among others and is generally drunk outside mealtimes as it is not associated to gastronomy.

The cultural context also explains why American consumers can find many types of containers: plastic bottles, tetra-bricks, glass bottles with stoppers that unscrew easily, etc. Those now exist in France but are far less numerous than the classic glass bottle with cork stoppers and it took consumers a long time to accept and buy them.

Economic context
From an economic point of view, wine fairs in North America would struggle to be profitable, even if the law was to authorize them.

Wine in the US

The distribution system in the United States  is very complex. The great number of intermediaries increases the wine market prices and therefore makes wine less accessible to the general public.
Although the United States is the world’s first consumer of wine  (because of the great number of potential consumers) and the fourth producer, the share of wine represents less than 10% of their total consumption of alcoholic beverages.

And even though individual consumption of wine has doubled in forty years in the US and increased by 66% over the last ten years in Canada  (!), it remains marginal in North America

***

In a word, supermarkets wine fairs today would probably not be successful in North America… unless this business concept is adapted to the context, turning them for instance into supermarkets beer fairs?

Some other links of interest about wine consumption in the US:

  

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