The crowd at BLVD on the Lower East Side for the November French Tuesday party. The monthly events at different locations bring together young French professionals and their American counterparts.
Vive la différence, French and Francophiles meet Tuesdays
By Camille Le Gall
Its Tuesday night and young chic French people are drinking champagne, dancing wildly and showing off. But we are not in Paris we are in New York City.
Tuesdays have become one of the hottest tickets in town, drawing hundreds of young New Yorkers - Americans as well as French and others who call New York home - to parties held twice a month in Manhattan. I love the friendly atmosphere. And I like to hear people speaking French, Spanish or Italian. It makes me escape from my Anglo-Saxon world, said Artaud Charles, an American originally from Haiti who is in his thirties.
On this November night, the place chosen was BLVD club on the Lower East Side.
The venues change each time - parties have been held before at Lotus, Marquee, Battery Gardens in Lower Manhattan and P.M. - but theyre all stylish and in the most fashionable districts of Manhattan. Choosing the places is crucial, said Pierre Battu, co-organizer of French Tuesdays. That is why we have someone who looks for hot new places, he said.
Tuesdays have become the biggest after work party in New York claims Battu. Between 600 and 800 people dress up on these Tuesday nights to taste a French atmosphere around wine, music and a little je-ne-sais-quoi that makes the party different from any other in the Big Apple. I love the music; French but also Latino and African. And people are very well dressed: You dont see that often in New York, said Angeles Valenzuela, 35, from Argentina, who is a publicist for a French jewelry brand.
But not anyone can come. You must be on French Tuesdays mailing list to get an invitation and the only way to get on the list is to be recommended by two members. You can show up the night of the party and offer to pay $20 to get in, but there are no guarantees: entrance is at the discretion of the person at the door.
You dont need to speak French. Theres plenty of English spoken too. Many who come out are in their early 30s. The man/woman ratio is very good said Kris Karson, a 31-year-old American who works for a consulting company.
It is the second time that Karson has come. He likes the slightly different flavor of French Tuesdays. Even though he doesnt truly understand French culture, the man is here to have fun and to meet some interesting people.
Unlike other New York parties, the dress code is strict. Business chic, Battu explains. Men must wear jackets and sneakers are not allowed. We believe that when you go out, you have to put in an effort he said.
Vincent Treussier, 31, a financial analyst, says he wished he could have worn jeans. But Eric Brun, 46, president of the American subsidiary of a French company, said, I think it is good. Otherwise, you can get any kind of people.
Brun also likes that the parties begin right after work at 7.30 p.m. and end by 1 a.m. At least, you can go to bed not too late, he said.
Melanie Santizo, 27, from Guatemala, adds she has gotten used to going out early in the week, even though she wouldnt normally go out on a Tuesday.
Battu and his friend Gilles Amsallem came up with the idea of French Tuesdays in March 2002 when French bashing in the United States was at its peak. The war in Iraq had just started and France had clearly opposed it.
About 50 people came to that first party. It was supposed to be temporary, but then it spread, Battu said. Weve had a lot of success, without any organized publicity campaign.
The original idea was to encourage French people and Americans to socialize. Brun tries to summarize the Franco-American relationship in one sentence: Its a mix. Americans find us arrogant, but we fascinate them. Shalini, a New Yorker who comes to French Tuesdays to find new clubs, not for the company says: Even though they can, French people dont want to speak English.
Three young Frenchmen in their twenties, who refused to give their names in fear of not being invited back, are nevertheless critical of the concept of French Tuesdays. One mocked old people [who] pretend theyre young and young people [who] pretend theyre old. Apparently, it is chic to criticize French Tuesdays, but still go. Though, they acknowledge that in their first days in New York, such parties helped them to feel more confident.
Amir Bagheri, a 21-year-old Frenchman doing an internship at a bank in the city, says he finds French Tuesdays too elitist. Those guys are swollen headed because theyre in New York. They think they are the masters of the world. And instead of trying to meet other people, they take the easy way sticking with French people only. But he understands why coming to French Tuesdays can be fun for Americans. For them, its interesting. The place is fine, the music is good and people are nice to look.
The next rendezvous should take place at AER (409 W. 13th St.) on Dec. 7. The party is free for the registered members, $20 for the others. For more info, check www.frenchtuesdays.com.