Saturday, July 14, 2012

To be French

Today is the fête nationale, France's day of national celebration. We are happy to be celebrating, but we remain pretty British - delighted to live in France, happy with our French neighbours, friends and church - involved and contributing foreigners. We've been here seven and a half years, and we did rather think we might be fairly French by now, but a few years ago we took stock and realised that a) we were never going to be French and b) we didn't actually want to be fully French.

Here is a random, subjective list of the things I think make one French. Many of them I admire intensely, some of them I dislike, but nearly all of them are impossible to me given the British character I grew up with. Please realise that this is hardly factual - it's just the way it feels to me!

To be French I think you need to:

  • Buy food for quality rather than for economy.
  • Hold on to an ideal despite years of apparent proof to its contrary.
  • Greet anyone eating anything, anywhere, with a polite: 'Bon appetit'!
  • Be prepared to wait for hours without anything to do.
  • At best, deeply mistrust foreign cooking.
  • Prioritise meal times with the family above any other activity.
  • Accept that smoking is a valid way to keep the weight off if you are a woman.
  • Listen politely to anyone's ideas, even if you disagree with them.
  • 'Shush' your children when they talk in public.
  • Wonder if the people who complain about fois gras have actually tasted it.
  • Accept the power of the state as a given fact.
  • Greet all people politely, at all times, however rushed or stressed you are.
  • Be politely surprised and secretly horrified by the idea of eating between meals.
  • Wear clothes that make you look good, instead of whatever is fashionable/whatever you feel like.
  • Understand grammar.
  • Have a pharmacy one third-filled with products to help you loose your 'little tummy'.
  • Be confident enough of your masculinity not to have to swear, act agressively or do other macho stuff (assuming you are a man in the first place).
  • Think that urban trees look best if violently trimmed every year.
  • Wear matching underwear.
  • Accept the power of the education system to dictate your/your child's future.
  • Live with a superb health-care system (OK, I admit it, this one's easy).
  • Sit still and listen to a serious talk without expecting to be 'entertained'.
  • Wait at the garden gate to be allowed in, not at the front door.
  • Always prepare a starter.
  • Believe that Catholicism, whilst totally out-dated and disproved, is still the only way anyone should worship.
  • Think that Monica Bellucci is plump but pretty.
  • Garden by taming nature, rather than emulating it.
  • Be able to pronounce the words: 'grenouille' and 'écureuil'.
  • Be unlikely to be able to pronounce the words: 'built' and 'squirrel'.
  • Lay a table cloth on your picnic table.
  • Know what it means to have 'heavy legs', and know that the pharmacy stocks medicine for this ailment.

I hope I haven't been unfair! The list is random and totally subjective, as I said... do you want to know which two (or maybe two and a half) on that list I have actually achieved? Perhaps I'll tell you tomorrow...


Pom Pom said...

Interesting! Don't they EVER eat between meals? Does your family?
DId you find your camera?

Lakota [Faith Hope and Charity Shopping] said...

I think you raise some interesting points, nothing wrong with pointing out the differences between our respective great nations! Is the other 2/3 of the pharmacy suppository based?

Marigold Jam said...

Some of these I'd definitely agree with and would add to the list:

accept without question whatever your doctor tells you and take without question anything he prescribes (our doctor was amazed that I might not wish to take a medicine he suggested!)

Have no understanding of the words "that'll do" nor "good enough" the French ladies I came across at patchwork only did perfect work!

My French friend told me she thought we were much more tolerant of other people's ideas/religions/ways of life etc and she thought the French were arrogant and had opinions on other countries in spite of the fact that they had never been to any of them (this was her thoughts not mine when we were discussing the difference between our nationalities!)

But the most important thing is that we are so similar in the ways that matter we discovered!

Autumn Mist said...

I think this is observant and witty and it made me laugh out loud. Clearly (and thrillingly!) I will never be french!

Lululiz said...

Oh Floss, thats too funny. I think I'm turning French! Lol, not completely but some of those points listed by you do apply to me. Tehehehe, I could add a few things to that list.

Elizabethd said...

Agree with all of your list!!
Would add, 'be extremely surprised at the odd English habit of taking a mid-morning coffee'

Carole said...

I love these posts, and this one too ! I agree about everything about the food !
I might borrow this post for a future lesson... (if you allow)

Kit said...

Ooo, I loved this list! I was quite surprised by some. I love to read about the traditions in other lands. :) Kit

JuanitaTortilla said...

Did it take you a long time to come up with this list! I hope a French reader has a good sense of humour and is having a good laugh as well :)

My guesses on your 2 (or 2.5) points would be:
- Wear clothes that make you look good, instead of whatever is fashionable/whatever you feel like.
- Lay a table cloth on your picnic table.


Angela said...

My guess at your 2.5 would be
That you understand grammar
That you always greet people politely

...and that half your underwear matches!

What a wonderful list, Floss!

Lorrie said...

A fun list, Floss. Each culture has its own quirks, doesn't it?