Expat Thanksiving

(NOTE FROM JOHN: I’m bumping Chris’ post from early this morning because it’s actually quite interesting and I know I at first missed it, and suspect others may have too.)

To those who talked about the benefits of brining a turkey, you were 100% correct. The bird was pretty good to start with (turned out to be a 10 pound, free range) but the brine produces a great end result. I have never, ever, had such a moist turkey. The recipe was in the San Francisco Chronicle. On the side were sweet potatoes, cornbread stuffing (host is a Southerner) and the flashback food from childhood, tin of cranberry “sauce.” Cranberries were easy to locate for a few years but with the exception of “Thanksgiving” (a local store that sells expat food at stupid prices) none were to be found. Lots of conversation from the mixed French-American crowd with a heavy tilt towards politics. Topics included:

– Is George Bush really that dumb? Followed by, “Americans know that Harvard and Yale accept buffoons like that to keep the endowment money flowing, don’t they?”
– The view from here is that the Democrats will roll next year. After Obama and Hillary, nobody hears about anyone else for the Democrats. And the GOP? No interest. This was less indicative of political preferences and had everything to do with cold hard realities of current political state in America.
– Health care in America. (There were a few public health types present.) They were interested in the opportunity for change arriving and the positive impact it could have on the health of the country. Related to that, they discussed the new studies on diet and its impact on cancer. Diet and exercise should not take a back seat to the traditional focus of cancer prevention as they can be as important, or even more important. Processed foods are trouble.
– The French Grandes Écoles are the best schools in the world, but for higher degrees (Masters, PhD) nothing comes close to the US, possibly the UK. One reason is that the US and UK generally provide much more competition from around the world whereas (in general) the French system limits you to the best in France. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the US and UK will take “the best” of everywhere into classrooms which is much more difficult. Academic competition is healthy.
– Diversity in America. The GOP has made “diversity” a dirty word, like “liberal” but it’s something that sets us apart and makes America the great country that it is. In much of Europe (the UK, less so and closer to the US) it’s always the same white men in control of business, politics, education, you name it. The Socialists in France, for example, held control for years and failed to promote through the ranks people other than white men. Segolene Royal was a very junior minister so it was amazing she even made it to the top position for the last election. Destroying America’s diversity and implementing an “Old Europe” (to use the rights term) is interesting.
– Sarkozy. Is he a Bush lover? The general consensus on this is not really. He’s a realist and he uses what is available and today, it’s Bush. He also reached out to Democrats in Congress when he spoke about climate change and working together in the world instead of the cowboy politics of recent years. They are not exactly pro-GOP positions to take and people believe he will work even better with a Democrat. Maybe, I suppose we will learn more if/when that happens.

In general, he loves the idea of the American work ethic. France has the highest productivity in the world on an hourly basis, but when you stretch it out over the year the number drops due to a number of factors. My own observation is that people in France work pretty long and hard days. The system is heavy and doesn’t reward risk takers, who tend to leave for the UK or US. Once gone, they build new companies, hire lots of new people so instead of creating opportunity at home, it just seems to be somewhere else.

In addition, Sarkozy has been the first president in France to change the cabinet and introduce diversity. Half of the team are women and top ministers are not all white. You can argue that Bush has done the same (Gonzalez, Powell, Rice) but that doesn’t quite fit for a few reasons. Changing the look of the cabinet is something the US did years ago whereas it is only happening in 2007 in France. Like his politics or not, that’s big.
– Iran. It would be insane to attack Iran. Nobody would even allow such crazy talk, would they. That would be even worse than Iraq. Americans know it would be a fatal and insane move, don’t they? (There was a complete sense of shock on this issue and the fact that it was even being discussed.) Lots of concern about how the Sarkozy government could react/respond on the issue.
– Finally, Mizzou or Kansas? (Actually, that was me when I arrived home at 2:30AM but the game was still 0-0.)

An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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