A spoofful of meat

Moooow the force be with you!

A couple days ago I wrote about the French agrarian activity, and today I was introduced to a brilliant American initiative about rational meat exploitation. Sustainable Table is a US organisation which promotes sustainable development with a focus on the food chain. To address and engage their audience, the group realised that there is a strange parallel between the matrixMatrix movie and the reality they were facing in meat production industry. Big food multinationals would be fouling the consumers by hiding the awful reality of industrial meat processing behind smoke screens called the Meatrix.

The Meatrix
Enter Moopheus, Chickity and The Chosen One, Leo Hamderson. The three cartoon characters will help the viewers to go beyond what they think to see and break down the meatrix... To date, there has been three spoofs of the Wachowski trilogy. These three films can be seen here: The Meatrix, The Meatrix II: Revolting and the latest opus, Meatrix II ½. A European Meatrix sequel would be in the pipe...

This initiative, although US-born, has been conceived as a truly international project. As a consequence, the films but also their derivative products have been localised in over 30 languages spanning from Tibetan to Swahili, from Serbian to Finnish... So no matter where you are from or the language you speak, you must find a match on their site. And since we are living in a digital world, these films are also available for download in PC, MAC and iPOD versions alongside with other PDA applications or questionnaires (see here).

Engaging your mind and belly.

This is becoming a cliché in nowadays marketing talks, but the key to success when delivering messages is to entertain the audience so that their engagement is greater. Take my example for instance. Amused by the first film, I went to their site and watched the full series. I have even gone through their entire site and connected galaxy to find out more about their motivations.

Sustainable Table partners in this project are starting to settle themselves as a reference on the viral scene. Free Range Studios indeed reached top of the charts with their spoof of Star Wars using vegetables:

As they put it themselves, Free Range Studios are "a team of passionate, wildly creative people who spend [their] days strategizing, branding and designing so the most important social messages get through loud and clear. " And let's face it, they do it pretty well. It is indeed interesting that there is a growing number of agencies that are focusing on ethical topics.

Do the marketers feel ashame about their encouragement to mass consumption? Advertising redemption seems to be on its way.


Words of the world

Habla Inglese?

As you have probably already read in previous posts, language schools are an highway for creative agencies. Their product allows to leverage cultural differences and misunderstandings. Most of the time, these disparities are turned into a humoristic twist (read here and here), well because what is alien, if it does not kill you, makes you laugh... As would have probably said Sigourney Weaver.

Belgian connection

Here is another series of great ads sourced on Ads of the World for a language school, Inlingua. The creative leap no longer relays on humour, but on more subtle references:

Agency: LGF, Belgium

The first one is very simple an execution, which relays on nothing but words. So rare nowadays... The second one is more visual, but remains as subtle as the previous one:German Jack

"Get rid of your German accent: Inlingua Business-English."
Ad Agency: Kolle Rebbe Werbeagentur, Germany

What do you think? Do you prefer conceptual or more farce-like ads? Personally, I am in favour of the earlier option, although this Berlitz TV commercial totally got me. But if you prefer more down-to-earth communication, here are two other campaigns produced, interestingly enough, by the same agency, agency Duval Guillaume, Brussels, Belgium:

1- CLL "Don't count on you acting skills"

2- Group T: "Don't learn languages through movies":
Pulp FictionTerminatorStar War
You will have noticed that most of these campaigns have been created by Belgian advertising agencies, which seems to imply that the fact that you leave in a country with more than one official language increases your ability to understand the challenges of foreign languages...

As mentioned my favourite remains by far the conceptual communication, but you could argue that I tend to intellectualize everything and look at advertising with a professional eye rather than through a consumer's. And I would agree with you... As a consequence, my second best campaign in this lot would probably be the Group T campaign which is also very simple, cheap to produce, and relays on personal experiences that have proven this idea as totally true.

Let me know your thoughts on these campaigns. I am sure that no matter how good your English skills are, you will be able to express yourself. Alternatively mime it and put it on YouTube!

Making the difference

This advert for Amnesty International is nothing but new. However it still deserves to be relayed as much as we can. So here it is:


Agrarian rants

No countryside for old men.

The time of the good old peasant is long gone in France. Forget the cliches of the grumpy old man with two smelly cow in a beetroot field. If few of them remains (certainly as part of our touristy heritage protection plan), nowadays farmers are more entrepreneurs than anything else. In the French corn belt tractors are equipped with GPS and automated. Cattle is computer-bred... And before all, farmers have become a minor part of the active French population. Their number has been divided by 6 in the last 50 years, reaching the mark of 400.000.

Nevertheless, traditionally and economically, they remain a critical segment of the population. Their unions are very influential a lobbying group, most of them are activists in causes like GMO or EU policy especially when it comes to Common Agricultural Policy, and they are always keen on impactful demonstrations... And trust me there is little more frightening than angry farmers! Maybe angry farmers pairing with routers...

All this explains why it has become a political exercise to attend the yearly International Farmer Trade Show in Paris. Not only is this a great opportunity for urban children to discover that milk comes from somewhere else than a bottle, it is also the chance for politicians to demonstrate their attachment to traditions and the agrarian background of our country.

Welcome to the fair.

As a result, at every edition of the Salon International de l'Agriculture, amongst prize sows and muscular steers, you can witness a parade of another type of animal: political representatives. Here are they shaking hands, drinking here a glass of Normandy Cider, eating there a slice of organic Corsican sausage... Pretending to be at ease for their day off in the "real" world. Chirac, as a former Minister of Agriculture, made it an unmissable date in his presidential diary during his time at the Elysée. And he has not missed a single edition...

The only problem is that whilst leaving their cosy, gold-rimmed offices, politicians risk to encounter the voters. And this is always an experience - please not the understatement here - to put a face on a ballot. It can sometimes be frightening (note the euphemism)! And to be honest, amongst already hot-tempered farmers, some are not of the best breed, especially after a few days tasting the liquid production of fellow-farmers...

Président Nicolas Sarkozy faced it this year when doing his official visit to the stands, shaking hands à la Chirac. He was making his way through the crowd when a guy shout at him: "don't touch me, you'll spoil me..." and the President to reply "then get lost, you dumb ass!":

Pragmatic talks.

Now this is what we call rock-n-roll, or what? We say that farmers are down-to-earth people, so maybe was that an attempt from our president to be empathetic. Anyway, this has turned into a mini-event for several reasons: first because it has been recorded and aired on YouTube by a major newspaper, Le Parisien ; second, because polls are not very favourable for Sarkozy at the moment and it was a chance for the opposition to strike back...

I won't add to the debate that a President, being the representative of all French, should respect any citizen whatever they could say. Such a reaction is indeed not acceptable from an ethical point of view: it does not respect the etiquette of the role. No, I prefer to look at this event from a different angle. Since I live in a foreign country, I am looking at the news with some distance. It reminded me of another political event which occurred a few years ago.

At that time candidate François Bayrou was in campaign in a sensitive area of the country. Whilst exchanging with a crowd of somehow young and hostile people, one of them tried to pick-pocket the politician. As an immediate and obviously not calculated reaction, Bayrou slapped the boy in the face, caught by the TV cameras. Interesting enough, following the broadcast of the event, the polls improved drastically for this secondary player in the presidential election.

As a conclusion, if the pen is mightier than the sword, the slap is mightier than the insult... May it be heard!


Wealth of the world

The other night I was visiting a friend in Hampstead, and I bumped into a scene which was for me so typical of London theatre of life.

Social clash on a pavement?

Imagine you have just finished your groceries at Tesco Express in what is probably one of the poshest area of Greater London. You have kept your eyes wide-open in every aisle in case a famous footballer or a pop singer was shopping at the same time, but without success. And then after cashing out, you step out of the shop and here stand a fellow trying to sell copies of the Big Issue.

Nothing special there would you say, but what was was right in the background. Next to the newspaper boy was parked a massive Rolls-Royce with chauffeur, someone waiting in the back seat. What a visual chock for me! But apparently no one seems to either care or be surprised.

Social mix in urbanism.

But this reaction is in fact totally understandable (maybe not acceptable though). In London poverty and extreme wealth are cohabiting in every neighbourhood. When you walk in fancy places with large houses, you are never far from a social building. This leads to surrealistic situation like the one evoked above, but you can replace the RR by Ferraris, Porsches or other Aston Martins.

In France on the contrary, people of the same social background tend to agglomerate in the same places. And this is a vicious circle because since social areas lose property value and will consequently attract people who can afford it. Or in fact those cannot afford to live elsewhere.

The smell of money.

The recent events we have experienced with Les Banlieues tend to plead in favour of the UK system of social melting pot. But from a moral point of view it is disturbing, especially in the French mindset. You could argue and many will agree with you that the French approach is hypocritical as it consists in parking away the difficulties instead of handling them... But to be fair, the principle of the Banlieues were due to be short-lived. On the other hand, exposing external signs of wealth to neighbours who are, on their end, struggling is hard to swallow.

I assume that the success of such an approach relays on the perception of money in a society. In France there has always been an awkward relationship towards money. It is dubious to have money in my country, and it is often linked to negative perceptions and feelings like jealousy and envy. In a liberal country like the UK, money and success are not criticized, they are source of inspiration.

Anyhow, this is a major cultural difference and it is deeply rooted in the collective unconsciousness of each nation. This is probably why I am never at ease when I am facing such a situation... What about you?


Tecktonik your mother


Often enough I am pretending that what is happening in France is better, faster, stronger... So it is about time to get things balanced, because not everything is that perfect in my country. Take the example of music and dance. Yes, we do have some cracking artists that have ruled the dance floors in the last years. I am thinking of talents like
Air, Daft Punk or even more recently David Guetta.

free music
Want a refresh? Simply click on this widget to hear some of the bespoke tunes.

Those artists are what has been nicknamed the French Touch, or their heirs. They inspired legions of clubbers with a new kind of sound which had not been heard anywhere else at the time. Those guys rule... Or ruled in fact!

I am indeed afraid that their time is over. The sweet beats acid jazz melodies have been seen a layer of dust settling down on their vinyls recently. A new wave of dance floor addicts has arisen. There is a new trend in the Parisian clubs but, call it ageing, hair loss or whatever, I suddenly feel out of it.


Tecktonik is a mixture of hip-hop, techno, hair-styling blended in heavy music beats and tunes from the 80s. Here is an example found on YouTube, but there is more here:

As you can see, the principles look rudimentary: rotate your arms like windmills, shake your legs, wax your German-80s-like hair style once in a while... But no matter how weird is a real society phenomenon. For more in-depth knowledge about this, you can read a few articles
here and here. I feel my reluctance is legitimate, but again this is probably the expected reaction when a novelty arrives on the scene.

Marketing age.

Clothes, hair style,
websites, blogs, fanzine, a Mecca... Everything to become a real fashion. And as a matter of fact the Tecktonik has been siphoned by brands:

- Dolce Gusto (Nescafe and Groupe Seb)

- M6 Mobile:

- L'Oreal:

- Digitaline (Post-production house):


This reminds me of a quote by Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, the founder of Publicis and father of French advertising. Back in 1926, he is 20 when he announced his father that he would not take over the family-business but start a career in what the American were calling advertising instead. His pragmatic dad would have replied: "So what you want to sell is... thin air!" and Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet to acknowledge "I might be selling thin air... But this is the air that makes windmills work!"

It seems that nowadays, in France, windmills are paying their due back!


Stepping into your shoes

Would you be my shoe?

In French we have an idioms that says "trouver chaussure à son pied" which would translate into "finding your matching shoe size". This expression is used when two people meet and realise they are made for each other. When they match.

Going a little bit further in the metaphor, you could claim that each foot has its matching shoe somewhere. Somewhere in the world... Is this what inspired Adidas when they launched their initiative "
Flavour of the world"? The idea of this product development programme is to launch on a regular basis limited series of sneakers inspired by the event of the moment: the Carnival of Venice, Saint Patrick's Day, Sanja Matsuri...

This little widget announces you the release of the next shoes. To date, the next model to be released is an Adicolor Lo inspired by the Irish National Day...

A nice idea to hype up your product portfolio with exclusive reference, totally in line with the values of this blog: from the great diversity of the world can rise creativity and outstanding products.


Most useless blog chain

Black-listed friend.

Miss Plasseraud first canceled her attendance to our home brunch this week-end pretending that she had caught a virus on Friday (a virus which I am almost certain is a hangoveritis), and now she throws at me this hot potatoe... A what?

In French, when you are delegating a dodgy topic you don't want to handle personaly we use this image: "passer la patate chaude", i.e. passing on rapidly to someone else as with a hot potatoe which would have landed in your hand. So many thanks Sandrine... I owe you, and trust me that won't be antibiotics.

By the (cooking) book.

Anyway, I am fair play, so I will follow the rules which consist in quoting 6 uninteresting facts about myself before passing the burden on. Some people would argue that in my previous post about my 2008 resolutions I have already anticipated these rules, but here we go:
  1. When landing in Singapore in 2000, my first relief against the absolute fear of a cultural choc was to see Manchester United scarves laid on the back of taxis parked at the Airport.
  2. In Canada, the only affordable "cheese" is Cheddar... And that was a real challenge to survive during 6 months with this only tasteless variety available in the next door supermarket.
  3. In Berlin, "Berliner" are saussages whilst in the rest of Germany they are doughnuts.
  4. When living in Paris I was working on the Champs Elysees and was walking in front the Arc de Triomphe everyday, implying that I must be on thousands of pictures across the world, especially in Japan.
  5. To help a Burmese monk with English pronunciation, I read him an English lesson from an old class book. The lesson happened to deal with so-called democratic republic...
  6. I am born on 6.7.76 and as a consequence I have played my entire volleyball career in France and Canada with either a 6 or a 7 on my jersey
And now that I have completed my task it is about time for me to throw the potatoe back to other fellow bloggers. As a result, Sarah&Laurent, Jean-Remi, Mao, Deborah, Raphael and La Londoneuse you are on. Man, it's incredible how the French blogging scene in buoyant in London!

Love turf war is on...

Online Dating Turf War in the Tube
Tribute to Sergeant Pepper

Large cities like London, Paris or Berlin are renown for being reservoirs of lonely hearts. Online dating is, as you can imagine, a major online business and the current challenge for the various players is to recruit a sufficient customer base to monetise it properly. A few days after Valentine's day, love brokers are consequently investing loads of money to increase their brand awareness and traffic to their website.

But where to intercept the young urbans who constitute the core audience of these sites? Well, the Tube has got a very high likeability to be selected since the bespoke target market is very likely to use public transports to commute. As a result, for a few weeks now you have been able to enjoy a few advertising campaigns in the London tube. And since the media planning strategy of the two dominant brands tend to be convergent, that leads to some awkward and funny situations like the one pictured above.

In the left corner, DatingDirect, the new acquisition of French giant Meetic in the UK. Created by advertising agency V, the campaign describes how the rules have changed in the traditional game of seduction. In a society where everyone agrees that it is about time to finally get rid of sexism, the adverts demonstrate how girls are now applying the Spice Girls' creed: Girl Power. After all why wait for charming prince to come riding his white battle steed when you can put your hand on him... Literally! See the TV commercial at the end of this article for more vivid images of this concept. But for the time being, this mini poster will do the trick: "Let him make the first move" pretends the headline, whilst you can already see in her glance that she is not ready to wait that long...

What makes the situation even more incongruous is that, a few meters away, their competitor, match.com, seems to answer with their own poster. In their advertising, the US-originated site epitomises the two mythical deities involved in love relationships: Cupid and Fate. The creative relays in the personification of these two characters as anti-heroes on which you cannot apparently count any more: they hang up at the pub, play video games... And in our tube carriage they do aerobics! Ironically could this be the above-mentioned "first move" DatingDirect was referring to? Moving your body in rhythm...

Anyway, the war is on, and such a personal service calls for always more creativity to stand out of the clutter. So as a advertising fan, I am delighted because these jousts are likely to bring the various players to new areas of disruption. Unfortunately for them, I am extremely interested in their marketing moves, but little in their product. Have I mentioned that I was married since October 2007? Sorry... Too late, mates!

Finally, as promised, here is the UK TV commercial for DatingDirect released late 2007 (thanks Raphael):

And for the full length version, unfortunately with French supers but images are self-explanatory:

And to remain unbiased here is one of the Fate&Cupid videos available on their microsite alongside with games:


Cuisine like no other

L'Atelier Joel Robuchon, LondonL'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, in Leicester Square - London

Sony-like cuisine.

I know that yesterday I iterated my dedication to loose to weight as part of my 2008 resolutions, but on the other end I also specified that I just got a new job. So I needed to celebrate. With my wife, we are both food fans: we like to cook, we love to experiment new styles, and we just adore restaurants from all over the world. But this time it was different: it was a big occasion and it needed to be celebrated accordingly.

As a TrustedPlace heavy user (this is an image, my "weight problem" is not that bad), I had a quick look at the recommended high end restaurants and suddenly a familiar name popped out: Joel Robuchon. The French chef, who is in France famous for his TV show on national TV France 3, but also for his numerous product endorsements (coffee, pre-cooked meals, etc.), is no Jamie Oliver. He is not hype, young and dynamic... But he has managed to market himself very well, and to capitalise on the numerous distinctions he gathered in the last decades. For instance, he was elected Chef of the Century by Gault Millau in 1990. Because Robuchon might be a brilliant entrepreneur, an efficient marketer, he is before all a fantastic chef with Three Stars on the Michelin guide.

Fullfil your dream.

When you are a gastronome like me, you can't wait for the right moment to meet such a talent, or at least his work. Fortunately, in 2006, Joel Robuchon opened in London a venue after New York, Vegas, Paris and Tokyo. L'Atelier, or Workshop in French, is a concept-restaurant where the patrons are seated at the counter around the open kitchen. You can thus experience the conception of your meal in real time, right under your eyes. But this is a workshop, not a gallery, so the atmosphere is rather informal which does not impact the quality of the experience, on the contrary. This is a fantastic induction to culinary art à la Robuchon.

The concept of L'Atelier is aligned with what made his genitor famous: simplicity with a twist of sophistication. I know this is an antinomy, but it actually works. Here is for instance a sample of what can be found on the menu:
  • Pumpkin velouté, smoked ham cream
  • Crabmeat in tomato jelly and avocado
  • Egg cocotte topped with light wild mushroom cream
  • Hot foie gras with autumnal fruits and ginger
  • Scallop cooked in its shell with seaweed butter
  • Free range quail stuffed with foie gras and truffled mashed potatoes
All this looks rather simple compared to some other fancy restaurants. Nothing over-complicated... But the surprise happens not to be in the menu, but in your plate. It is amazing to appreciate so many subtle flavours from a single dish. The aromas, scents... are combining in a delicate symphony.

Mountain flavours.

As a French mountain dweller, I could not skip the desert made of Chartreuse: a Chartreuse soufflé with its pistachio ice cream. The liqueur, whose recipe remains today a secret shared among mountain monks of the Chartreux Fraternity in Voiron, is an iconic product of my home region. Alongside with Grenoble walnuts and its derivative, the liqueur has to be found in the kitchen or bar of any Alpine family... So you can imagine that we know how to leverage its specific flavour and healing capabilities. Some pernicious souls even pretend that it is a perfect liquid to clean up your pipes (with an alcoholic concentration up to 71% they might be right)... But the first spoon of this delicacy led me to unknown summits. Simply fantastic!

The only downsides of this perfect night out: the fact that Joel Rebuchon is not in person in this restaurant and the bill. But both are completely compensated by the quality of the experience. So forks up!


Good resolutions.

Two months later.

New year, new resolutions... Every January is the same story, you decide to tackle all the flaws of your life and try to get them behind you. You want to seize the opportunity to have a fresh start. And I am no exception to the rule. Now, with almost two twelfth of 2008 behind us, I thought it was about time to have a quick look back at where I stood:

  • Get a new job: Done. To be started in a few days...
  • Take photo classes: Done. But as Akira Kurosawa once said, "I will a student all my life"...
  • Write a novel: Work in progress. Not sure that it will be worth publishing, but at least it will be out of my brain. I will definitely need this extra RAM with the first above-mentioned item.
  • Start a diet: Work in progress, and yes this is really hard work. Especially with a mum like mine who is afraid his son might suffer from chocolatisys, a fantasmagoric illness which would harm you if you don't swallow loads chocolate every day. I am fortunately under treatment for years.
  • Get rid of the love handles: Work out in progress, but as a new wed, it is tough to already compromise on love after only a few months.
  • Start planning ahead: being practised... I already know where I will spend Easter Break, and I have even bought tickets for two upcoming shows (1 and 2) and a rugby match. Trust me these events might take place in 2008, but they are more than a month away, which is already a giant step for me.
  • Visit Britain beyond M25: to be implemented in Easter.
  • Continue the diet: to be strengthened during Easter
  • To be continued...

Now what about you? What was your main resolution for 2008, and how are you getting along?


Life's a game.

It's in the game.

Whilst one of my friends, Flavien, is cycling in Middle East to close a loop he started last year, I am cosily enjoying the present Santa Claus had the kindness to bring me last December: a shiny Playstation 3. I know, most of you will complain about a 30-something-year-old married guy still fooling around with a joystick in hands instead of doing sports or wandering the world.

To a certain extend, you are right... I should be more active, but with the new generation of consoles these physical and social activities are at reach from your sitting room. So why the hell would I want to get stuck in the Tube, hearing in loop that I shall mind the gap or keep my belongings at all time. Seriously, aren't we better at home?

The most recent consoles like the XBox or PS3 happen to be internet-connected devices which allow you to keep in touch with your community in some very engaging ways. So now when you play, you are no longer alone. I am sure that both Sony and Microsoft engineers were Liverpool fans to get the inspiration for this break-through. The innovative Wii by Nintendo has also broken another paradigm: you don't sit and play any more. With their movement recognition joypad, you now shake, throw, punch, slash... You even place your health at risk since some medical publications have already reported cases of Nintendinitis!

Ancient modernity.

The funny thing about the situation is that whilst the above-mentioned Flavien was crossing Israel for his trip, I was following his path. Well... Kind of. My console came indeed with this brilliant game by Ubisoft, Assassin's Creed. The pitch for this game is the following:
Jerusalem, 1191 AD.

The Third Crusade is tearing the Holy Land apart. You are an elite Assassin sent to stop the hostilities by suppressing the powers on both the Crusader and Saracen sides. But as you carry out your missions, a conspiracy begins to unfold. You find yourself tangled up in a conflict that threatens not only the Holy Land, but the entire world.

Now that is a scenario! Forget Mario, Pong or Tron. I was talking of new generation consoles, this is a new generation game. Not only is this game thrilling it is also rushing adrenaline in your veins, inducing historic facts in your brain, displaying beautiful cinematic sceneries in front of your eyes... So realistic that when Flavien was refering to some ancient ruins he rode by, I had the chance to see them in all their splendor.

Politically correct game.

This game is a great one, my enthusiasm must have betrayed me by now... But the reason why I have decided to write about it in this blog dedicated to cultural disparities lays in the dullest part of the game, before the gameplay even kicks off. As a matter of fact, a game that depicts an arab assassin who walks around the Middle East with sabre and knives to behead threatening opponents (fellow Arabs, French and English cruisaders, German templars...) can rapidly deviates to dodgy territories.

As an attempt to cool down any potentially offended ethnics, the developers have introduced the game with the following disclaimer:

This work of fiction was designed, developed, and produced by a multicultural team of various faiths and beliefs.
If they say so... But what is interesting to me is that they had to integrate that kind of disclaimer for a very fictional story. It cannot be seen as an allegory of any contemporary action, especially when you discover the hi-tech plot that goes around the central story-telling. But yet, I read that Iran had complained because of how the Persian people were depicted in the epic movie 300, so should we be surprised? If we were to follow such poorly enlightened examples what can we foresee? That the French police will ask for the same disclaimer before every Louis de Funes' Gendarme films? That the WSPA will impose a billboard reinsuring that no animal was hurt during the production of the latest Tom and Jerry cartoon? Seriously...


Chinese to me...

Even without mastering ideograms from the Empire of the Middle, you can sometimes understand the meaning of a sentence. Chinese can also be a not-so-alien language when it comes to great causes. Here deforestation and its lethal aftermaths:Forest / Woods / Tree / Death
Source: adsoftheworld. "Forest / Woods / Tree / Death" (agency: Shunya, Beijing, China)


Mappa Mundi Definitiva

A very good ad, found on a very good site, ads of the world, promoting a very good TV channel: Discovery Channel. The claim is simple, but nicely executed: "There is more to the world" (best seen in large, simply click)


Groceries: electronics strikes back

The joy of choice.

There is one amazing thing that you can miss when living in a huge megalopolis like London or Paris: mass consumption! Convenience forces you to do your groceries in small outlets like Tesco Express, and the result is that you don't have the same kind of variety as consumers who live in smaller towns and shop in hypermarkets...

Don't get me wrong, I am totally aware of the hassle to visit such impersonal places where queues are the length of an fully-grown anaconda and chavs are legion... But on the other hand, it is such an experience to see the width of the product offering that you can find in such outlets. And I am not the only one.

Having exchanged on the topic with friends living in Paris, we have realised that every one of us enjoys the same simple pleasure when going back home, at their parents for instance. They light-hearted accompany their relatives in their shopping adventures and feel like children in front a well-garnished Christmas tree: overwhelmed by the number of shampoo references, stunned by the diversity of cheeses in the refrigerated aisle, amazed by chocolate biscuits they have not even heard of, etc.

The internet revenge.

The alternative for these urban consumers is the internet. Diversity at your finger-tips, one click away... The main supermarket chains like Carrefour, Casino or Leclerc actually offer almost their entire catalogue online with the extra bonus to deliver at home, a blessing when like most Parisians you live in a 5-story building with no lift. But yet, this is not the same experience. You don't have the visual impact of a cornucopian shelf bending under the weight of these goods. A click will never totally replace the manipulation of a king-sized cereal pack in an attempt to identify the free goodies hidden inside.

The wired urbans try to compensate their consumption frustration by the claim that they are more modern than the Burberry-caped sheeps who push their carts in oversized retail outlets (note: in France, the indigenous cattle tends to wear three-band jogging with white socks and leather shoes and in some instances a Lacoste polo shirt).

e-Groceries on premise.

But this privilege is about to vanish, leaving the pretentious Bo-Ho in dispair. I have indeed visited one of these Hypermarkets during my last stay in France, and was amazed to see how the shopping experience has evolved. Hi-tech is to be seen everywhere... Here are just a few items that were highly visible: plasma screens among carrots and leeks to promote the 5-a-day diet, digital price tags which can be altered on-the-go depending on stocks or promotions, individual scanners to check-out whilst droping the items in your cart...

French smugglers.

On this last device, as for self check-out which is already implemented in my favourite Tesco, I was really surprised. French are indeed well-known for their shrugging, grumpiness... but also their greed and ability to trick the system. Over there rules are made to be bent, especially if one can make a profit out of it (please note that I am speaking of rules, not laws, but the reader of these lines will acknowledge that the difference between the two is very slim).

Since the self check-out relies on honesty and self-discipline, I sincerely thought that we would never see such devices in my country. But it seems that the French are evolving for the better... But cynical I was, and I remain. So before I confirm the assumption of a honest France, I will wait for the first stats about these practices. After all it is a matter of balance between the costs of technology and mischief and the savings linked to the reduced staff at the cashier.

In the meanwhile, I will try to behave like a well-educated shopper, and finally go and fill this empty fridge which is desperatly crying for healthy food.


Quote of the day

"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."
L. P. Hartley (1895-1972)

This week, I am enjoying a nice week off in my home mountains, delightly diving into my own past, a country which, as Hartley puts it, becomes more and more foreign. Fortunately, there are some bridges that still connect this land to my current life, even on the British shores.

Here are some pictures for you to share my delight:

As you can see, they indeed do things differently there... They tend to freeze everything!