Friday, 12 June 2015

10 reasons I will never be French


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 language

OK 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/Vous

I 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 queue

So 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 hug

The 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 giving

Two, 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 poo

Pooch 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 cheese

Don'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 meals

I 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 TV

Honestly, 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?




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Seychelles Mama

43 comments :

  1. We have been here almost eleven years! But I will always be la petite anglaise and I'm happy with that. I have more problems when I go back to see friends and family in UK as I don't seem to fit in like I used to. I'm more of a strange curiosity there than I am here in my French village! I read something recently that claimed Cheddar was originally made by Auvergne stone masons who settled in Somerset after being sent to work in Scotland. They used their Cantal making skills to make Cheddar. Who'd have thought that!

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    1. Oh yes, we are "Les Anglais" here too! And that is very interesting about Cheddar - I shall have to investigate it a bit more.

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  2. 12 years come September and we also remain 'Les Anglais', mais, mutual respect, vive la difference and that is cool with me. Interested in the Cheddar story. JT x

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    1. Sadly I have not found out any more about the Cheddar story my lovely amie anglaise :)

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  3. I'm not an expat, but thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I shan't be moving to France though for all of the above reasons.

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    1. Mind you there are plenty of good bits too :)

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  4. I have never felt Australia's English roots so keenly as when reading this. I couldn't live without cheddar cheese, fish and chips, custard powder or vegemite (a not to distant relation to marmite). I am happy to make my own self raising flour when the occasion calls.

    I am surprised at the drink options as one of my favourite drinks is Normandie cider, and I, like you, would have to go the port option when given those choices.

    As for when to use Tu or Vous, that is pretty much the only thing I remember from my short French lessons in school and I no doubt would get it wrong in real life. We were taught that Tu was familiar and Vous more formal.

    I too would be lost when it came to kisses and not being able to hug. And I will take your word that French TV would be weird.

    No doubt I would also be suggesting that little old ladies should wait their turn in the queue and picking up doggy poo!

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    1. It's amazing how strong roots go down and how hard they are to break.

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  5. I really struggle with the kisses, drives me mad, 1, 2 or 3, pause or fleeting glance in the air....grrrrrrr. i can speak some conversational French but have one phrase that I know off by heart and have to say every time, excuse the spelling 'vous parlez trop vite pour moi' living in South Africa and Dubai English is the most widely spoken language including all packaging and sign posts, it's very rare to meet someone who doesn't speak fluent English in both countries, although saying that our gardener doesn't speak a word or understand any English and in my ignorance I do not know what his first language is, maybe I'll try French.

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    1. So what would be the native language of Dubai? It must be difficult to ask some-one what language they speak if you share no common words and quite possibly not even a common alphabet.

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  6. I love this post. I am part French. My g g grandfather came from Baccarat, Meuthe et Moselle, France.

    He came to work in glassworks in Yorkshire UK. He later became the mayor of Barnsley. So I have a french heritage but I don't know much about the people really.

    Here is my post about my french ancestor if your interested. http://wp.me/p5XRN6-1Z

    Angela

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    1. Apparently I am also part French although WAY back. I have a family name in my tree of Dalby which is supposed to be because the family came from Alby in France. One day I hope to find out that this story is true.

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  7. Cheese before dessert (not pudding either!) is the only logical way to go! I'm obviously more French than you Rosie!!! French people don't know how many kisses to do either, they just do what they want but and it really doesn't bother me if there's one more or one less but I must say I don't like French TV! I'll never be French either just because I'm me, I am who I am and that doesn't include French even if my husband and kids are.

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    1. I think you are right - you cannot change who you are but you can adopt customs and pats of the culture you like ... which in our case definitely excludes French TV!

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  8. I never knew this about hugging! But tu/vous was a minefield when I lived in France - I decided it might be easier to be polite and use vous to avoid being rude, then discovered I was accidentally coming across as a bit frosty and rude by being too formal.... #allaboutfrance

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    1. Oh yes, it really is a minefield but a friend gets round it by shrugging his shoulders and saying it's all too complicated when you are a "rosbif"!

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  9. Why stop at 10...? A lovely post.

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  10. Ha! Its a big psychological topic. I've just read my first book about how to understand French people, albeit Parisienne and twenty years ago - Sarah Turnbull's "Almost French". There is a bit where she writes about interviewing Inez de la Fressange, and IF saying 'but it is easier to look good all the time'. Pffff.

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    1. I will NEVER look good all the time - I work on a smallholding LOL

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  11. Ha Ha love it! All of the above applies to me - except that I like Pastis!
    Great article.

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    1. I dislike the taste of anything like aniseed or licorice but I do like the smell.

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  12. Loved reading your insight on this! The cutting of the queue frustrates me too, and I can imagine that being English, this must really get you going! Once I was in London trying to get back to Paris when the Eurostar stopped running. I was so thankful to be in England trying to get to France and not the other way around because there were orderly lines forming at St. Pancras. I don't even want to imagine the chaos going down in Gare du Nord!

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    1. Queuing is right. End of. No argument. It's what we do - LOL

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  13. I wrote a post about this, too! We all end up morphing into basically the French-er version of our original nationality! http://www.whatupswags.com/2015/02/6-reasons-i-will-never-be-french.html

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    1. Yes, I think you are right - a French-er version of where we came from. I like that.

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  14. As Purfylle stated, I too felt my American English roots reading your post. I stand in line, pick up dog poo, love Cheddar cheese (no serious Mac n' cheese can be made with anything else) and I'm definelty a hugger! Enjoyed the post.

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  15. As an American who has lived in the UK and spent time in France, I really enjoyed this post. I prefer hugging, too, but like kissing as well ~ learned it first from the Spaniards. Actually dislike shaking hands . . . totally at home with bowing in Japan . . . make that a happily MIXED-UP American!

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    1. How wonderful is our world of greetings! How did anyone come up with any of them when with wild animals it's al about sniffing. Glad we lost that one LOL.

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  16. Fun to read. I'm not an expat, but would love to have the experience to determine if I could ever be truly French. I hear you about cheddar cheese -- one of my faves. And pastis? I tried it for the first time in Marseille in December. It was OK, but not sure if I could get used to it regularly -- wine or kir are the best options!

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    1. Definitely agree with your wine or Kir choices!

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  17. Haha great post - I lived in French speaking part of Brussels for 8 years and it is interesting how we become so attached to our cultural differences and how annoying when the rest of the world doesn't follow them, I mean c'mon queuing and picking up dog poo it just has to happen otherwise life is a terrible mess!!!
    Thanks for the great read!
    Wren x

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  18. Well said. There is no hope for me as I live part-time in France and then return to England to reinforce my Englishness! I don't really mind the majority of the French ways - although I do of course think Cheddar cheese is the best in the world, and I have learned to jump queues without shame - but I am driven to distraction my dog poo on the streets . On French TVs side, their weather forecasts are far superior to the dumbed down 'Sally says Take your brolly' forecasts that we now have on BBC!!

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    1. I'll have to watch a French weather forecast as I usually watch the BBC which I consider the best in the world. (Other stations are bad though!)

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  19. Loved your list. I have the same but in reverse. The UK has been part of my life for more years than I care to think about but there are still some things I just do not and will never get. Sometimes it is good to keep a bit of yourself separate from where you live!

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    1. I don't think you'd be true to yourself if you lost all your roots ... but it will be very different for the boys and I am looking forward to seeing how English/French they become.

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  20. Great list!!! We have only been in Seychelles for three years but like you, even if we spent the rest of our days here we would never ever truly be Seychellois!! I also wonder what my sons will consider themselves to be. They were born here so why should they consider themselves to be English, but their passports say that they are!
    The thing is, even if we wanted to be Seychellois we would never be considered anything other than expats by "real" locals!
    Thanks so much for joining in with #myexpatfamily lovely to have you :)

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    1. So true - I have no idea about the boys either. They still consider themselves English (they were both born there) but they speak fluent French with no hint of an accent so no-one would know otherwise on meeting them. Only time will tell which culture they lean towards as they grow up.

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  21. I am the same way with the German du/Sie.. it's a little difficult! I hope I get to be fluent one day though..
    #MyExpatFamily

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    1. I remember Du/Sie from school but it did seem slightly less difficult than the French Tu/Vous ... or maybe my younger brain was just better able to assimilate it back then.

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  22. Great post! I can relate to a lot of those things, living here in China, The language, the TV, the greetings, the food....whilst I love embracing all the cultural quirks, you can't take the Aussie out of the girl. And besides, I will always be the crazy blonde foreigner around these parts! Ha ha Cheers, Nicole

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