England and France are just 21 miles (35kms) apart at their closest and the 2 countries have a history has been intertwined for many years. Parts of France and England were ruled by the same monarchs for much of The Middle Ages and Calais only reverted back to France from British rules in 1558. However now, France and England are culturally very different.
In August we shall have been in France for 8 years. However I could live here for 108 years and I know I would never be "French". No, I spent too long in England before arriving here and many English traits are just too engrained to be lost in favour of French ones. I have recently finished a book called "Watching the English" by Kate Fox and she has brilliantly notes what it is to be English with all our oddities and thus explaining why foreigners are often confused by our ways, ways that I find hard to change.
10 reasons I will never be French
1. French languageOK so I can understand French better that I did when we arrived. I can get by talking and I can read it somewhat more but I will never speak it fluently with all the nuances and slang etc of a native speaker. Nope, I still think in English, structure my sentences in an English way and get hopelessly lost when the conversation speeds up too much!
2. Tu/VousI know this is technically language but it goes so much deeper than that - an exact understanding of when you use tu and when to use vous. For non French speakers both words mean "you" but when you use them depends who you are talking to .... and I don't always get it. The French even have verbs to cover the subject meaning you can use the verb tutoyer to indicate to someone that it is OK to use the tu form with them or vouvoyer if you accidentally said tu when you should have said vous. Here's how the Los Angeles Times sorted out this whole Tu/Vous thing! Confused - I know I am!
3. I queueSo many French do queue quite happily but also a large chunk of them have absolutely no qualms about jumping the line. Imagine if you will, standing in line in the bank and an elderly lady and her companion enter. A brief perusal of the queue was followed by a defiant walk to the front without any obvious understanding that she was doing something we Brits just wouldn't do! So true to my roots, I pointed out the error of her ways (using vous of course) and she did end up waiting her turn - but she was very surprised that I had pointed out her queue jumping to her.
4. I hugThe French kiss (see below) but they do NOT hug. A child may give you a "câlin" but no adult will. Even when a good friend was really upset hugging was off limits and I found that so hard. To me hugging conveys so much and would have helped relieve her angst yet if I had hugged her I would no doubt only have added to it.
5. I do not get how many kisses (if any) I should be givingTwo, three, four - do I kiss only when I say hello? Some people give kisses when they say goodbye too, even if they have only popped in to buy some eggs when others only kiss hello in this case. And why do some only ever give a hand shake. Is there a secret sign I should know that tells me to kiss or hand shake? And boys kissing boys. That feels so wrong for me.
6. I clear up dog pooPooch does a poop, I pull out a poo bag and scoop the poop. Many French think I'm daft. Oh and they even think that if you tread in dog poo with your left foot then you'll be due some good luck!
7. I dislike pastis... and whiskey and port so when I am invited for an apéro and those are the choices I am stuck. I can manage a port but to me that is an after dinner drink not an apéro and certainly not something I would drink in the middle of the day which I have had to when there alternatives were whiskey and pastis. Luckily I do like wine and Kir so all is not lost but the pastis dislike is another nail in my "Never being French" coffin.
8. I miss Cheddar cheeseDon't get me wrong, I love French cheese (so long as it isn't TOO smelly) but I also could never live without Cheddar. Nothing but Cheddar works in a cheese sauce and Cheddar on crackers with pickle is just divine. It's not just cheese I miss from time to time - there's fish and chips, Marmite, Birds Custard powder and decent self raising flour ...
9. French mealsI love food and I love French food but I also love English food. Where are the Yorkshire puddings, hearty stews and dumplings, spotted dick and Victoria sponges? And the cheese course. BEFORE pudding? (Actually I do quite like that as it means I may not have quite so much room for dessert ..... which I suppose should be a good thing.)
10. I don't get French TVHonestly, I have tried but French news just isn't a patch on the BBC, I find dubbed programmes so difficult to understand and French quizzes are just loud and incomprehensible. Oh and they still have Benny Hill programmes turning up from time to time. With that and dubbed Midsomer Murder and Downton Abbey I do think they may view the English as a sex mad, murdering race of lords and servants!
So no - I am most definitely always going to be English. We will have to wait and see whether the boys grow up to be more English or French but at least they should never be confused about the tu/vous thing.
Are you an expat? Do you feel more in tune with your country of birth or your new home country?