Chez Cecile

Press reporter Cecile Meier shares impressions of her new life in Christchurch, far away from home in France, as she struggles to master the quirks of New Zealand English and culture.

It's a nice day for a French wedding

05:00am 19 Sep 2014


"Monsieur," said my assistant, Jen, "remind me why we are going to the wedding of two strangers?"

"Because we are being paid a very large fee to do so."

"But it's a stupid case."

"Our client wants to know if it's safe to invest in Nick Butcher's project."

"And he'll base it on whether Nick is under his fiancee Cécile's thumb? Preposterous . . ."

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Those foreigners . . . they do some funny things

05:00am 12 Sep 2014


"We don't do it like this in France!" Variations of the above phrase can often be heard coming out of Cecile's mouth.

Her moaning and banal cultural comparisons are met with fatigued looks and blunt reminders of our current geographic location.

Defending one's country is instinctive. However, New Zealand hasn't always been my home and I must confess that after 11 years here I still occasionally hear myself saying thing like: "This would never happen in England." I'm usually referring to a lack of central heating or the overall pace of building.

When Cecile roped me into writing a guest column in her absence, I struggled to pick a topic, seeing as another contributor had already written about how annoying our French colleague and friend can be . . . and then it hit me.

Being friends with a foreigner leads to an improved understanding of the delightful idiosyncrasies that make cultures - and countries - what they are.

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Why Cecile is annoying

05:00am 05 Sep 2014


When Cécile Meier asked me to contribute to her column while she was off gallivanting around Europe, I couldn't think of anything to write.

In the weeks since, I've toyed with a few topics, even threatening to spend my 500 words writing about how annoying she is.

But then I thought, 500 isn't enough, so why bother?

Just kidding.

I can make a good start with 500 words.

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Fiance puts blog record straight

05:00am 29 Aug 2014


The Press has reluctantly given Cecile Meier leave to visit France and get married. In her absence, some of the people mentioned in her column get a right of reply. Today it's her fiance's turn.

I've been villainised in this column for almost a year. I've become known as the guy who got Cecile lost in the mountains, who made her ride narrow trails on the Port Hills by saying they were easy, and who asked her to bring him a beer while she was sworn off alcohol for a month.

Now I have a chance to clear my name and dish some dirt in return. I could tell you about the "Pensky Incident", what she does with her slippers in the morning, or what she thought a shed was. But I'm not going to.

Mostly that's because of how big-hearted I am. But also because it's not long until the wedding and she'll read this beforehand.

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Cecile is off to get married

05:00am 22 Aug 2014


I'm off to Europe to make an honest man out of my fiance Nick.

I'll be away for four weeks, leaving a huge column-shaped hole in your lives. But fear not - I've arranged an all-star team to replace me.

They have all been victims, to some extent, of my desperation for writing material. Everything anyone says to me has the potential to be used in a column. Normally, people don't get the chance to write their versions of events but I can offer a platform to these four.

The first guest writer will be none other than the future Mr Meier.

Nick claims I have exaggerated or even invented things about him. Perhaps Nick will set the record straight on topics such as his dancing or mountaineering skills. Please do not believe a word he writes.

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