France : As Scrumptious as a Fresh Baguette
By Ai Tanaka, Trainee in Paris
Paris has long been the global center of arts and culture and it still attracts more tourists than any other city in the world. Even if you have never visited this glamorous city, it is probably not difficult for you to conjure up pictures of famous tourists sites such as the Eiffel Tower, the Montmartre hill, and the Seine River.
The Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day
View from the office
Sharing borders with a number of other countries, France is rich in cultural diversity. Alsace, for instance, is strongly influenced by German culture while Bretagne follows Celtic customs, and Basque is reminiscent of Spain. Paris in particular embodies the ideal of harmonious cultural diversity, something that helps make it such an attractive city.
The large number of historical buildings and structures in the city - which make visitors feel like the whole place is a huge museum - is another of the characteristic charms of Paris. From the window of the Sumi Agro France office, a 15-minute walk from the Arc de Triomphe, I can enjoy a fantastic view of classical buildings and the Bois de Boulogne.The fact that many of the buildings in Paris are several hundred years old - and people actually live in them - is an enviable one. That being said, however, living in such time-honored residences means that leaky pipes and various breakdowns are part of everyday life. One of the elevators in our office, in fact, has been out of order for over six months!
Bistro on the Boulevard Saint-Germain
Culinary culture is definitely another jewel in the crown of Paris. Delicious palate-pleasing dishes are easy to find, and not just at high-end, Michelin-starred restaurants, but also at small bistros tucked away in the back streets. Bakeries, called "boulangeries," are everywhere; so ubiquitious, in fact, that it's almost as if there is a law that says there must be one every 100 meters on every street. Each bakery puts in a special effort to make superb baguettes, which are a staple of French cuisine. Every year, a baguette competition is held in Paris, with the winning bread delivered to the Elysee Palace, the official residence of the French president, every day for the next year.
In Paris, you can enjoy lots of different types of food, partly because there are so many immigrants from various countries. The popularity of Japanese food has been growing in recent years and Japanese restaurants can be found everywhere in town. (Although it seems the majority of them are operated by Chinese people.) You can easily get sushi at local supermarkets or by ordering home delivery. "Maki" (sushi rolls), "sake" and the names of few other Japanese food items have become part of the French vocabulary.
SAF Christmas party
Citizens of Paris - young and old, women and men alike - also love to talk and express their opinions. It is extremely difficult to win an argument with these people, who have apparently been trained in the art of competitive debate since childhood. But at the same time being a good listener is not particularly valued either. I have also heard that a low, husky voice is preferred when speaking, because the allure of the world's most attractive language (French!) will diminish if not spoken in a low voice.
As well being talkative and even argumentative, French people are cheerful and friendly, presumably because of their Latin background. I also continue to be impressed by their open-minded attitude and curiosity about other cultures.
Following the rise in popularity of Japanese food, Japanese pop culture has been drawing a lot of attention recently. This year's Japan Expo, an annual Japan-themed event held in Paris, attracted more than 180,000 visitors. I also often spot people reading Japanese manga on the Paris subway.
Sales promotion panel
Last but not least, let me explain the business of Sumi Agro France. Bio-based products are in widespread use here in France too and synthetic pheromones* are particularly popular due to their eco-friendliness. Our pheromone product for apple production has proved to be a great success and been used in many orchards. We are now working on the development of synthetic pheromones for wine grapes to be used in that most French of products, high-end wine.
I am in charge of sales of pesticides to Sumi Agro firms in Eastern Europe and the CIS. As regulatory requirements in the EU have become increasingly stringent, I sometimes face difficulties in my work. Still, I enjoy my stimulating and fulfilling professional life here, which gives me to opportunity to work closely with colleagues across all over Europe and I feel very fortunate to be engaged in a business that contributes to the further development of a mature food culture in this fascinating country, France.