When it comes to the French, everyone’s got an opinion. Rude, sexy, arrogant, romantic, everyone seems to think they know what French people are like. One stereotype that continually persists, is whether the French like speaking English or not.
Many say they hate having to speak in English and I have mixed feelings as to whether I think this is true.
When I used to live in France, I remember going out with my French friend Pauline and her Finnish friend Netta. Pauline and Netta had been au pair’s together in England and Netta had decided to come and visit her. We were in Dunkerque, a small town in Northern France, and decided to head out to a local cafe for some drinks. Continue reading
For an Australian moving to France, the transition can be pretty seamless (besides the language of course). The French and Aussies measure in the same way for example (metric system all the way for both countries), we write out dates with the date first and then the month and I have no living memory of having ever used Fahrenheit (seriously my American friends, it’s time to let it go!).
But the one thing that can throw me, is when people ask me about ‘next year.’ Continue reading
A lot of people will tell you that one of the advantages of learning French for an English speaker is that we have a lot of similar words. It’s true that a lot of English words have French origin like fiancé and words we can’t be bothered finding a translation for (e.g. crepe, baguette, beret)
The problem is we often completely fuck up or change the original pronunciation.
So when I was in the Alsace region and was explaining in to my friend Pierre all the French words in English, I mentioned lingerie. If I try to explain how I said it phonetically I suppose it was something like ‘lawn: jerr: ray’ and he had no idea what I was talking about. Continue reading
I recently wrote about the things I don’t miss about France, but it also got me thinking that there are things that I definitely do miss about the place! Such as…
I don’t understand why French people have such a bad reputation for being rude. I’ve always found them just like everyone else in the world, some are friendly and others… well you’ll probably never get along with! I think the French, especially those who don’t live in big cities, are very welcoming to people who make a tiny effort to speak French.
They don’t appear annoyed if you can’t understand them or are struggling with French and will gladly bail you out when they see you’re struggling. Over my time in France I met some very important people who will be friends for life. From my host mum, my French colleagues and French friends who always helped me with my French and got me through the hard times. It’s a shame we’re now very far away from each other!
Being a native English-speaker is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing when you want to work overseas for a while (teaching English anyone?), it’s a blessing when you go to foreign countries and the default language is English if you can’t speak Greek for example. The curse part of it comes when you want to learn a foreign language and every time you open your mouth in that foreign language – the foreigner speaks back to you in English.
This is a constant source of frustration for a lot of English speakers and it doesn’t matter where they go – France, Spain, Germany people will automatically speak back to you in English because they want to practice their English.
I am a self-confessed French nerd. ‘Francophile’ as my French nerd friends and I like to call each other (a mix of the French word for ‘French native speaker’ and ‘pedophile’ :)) but there are some things I can’t say I miss about living there. There are plenty of things I do miss – mainly the amazing friendships I made but I if I went back to live there I know I would dread…
- French Administration
They have a reputation for it, and they deserve it. The French bureaucracy is a nightmare, I did manage to find some coping strategies to deal with the shitload of paper that came my way. Then there were the constant mistakes by the people working for social security and health benefits. Sending a letter telling you they needed something from you, then it was just ‘a mistake’, forgetting to mention an important piece of paper to begin with etc etc
When I got back to Australia I had to order a new license, I went onto VicRoad’s website and quickly found the correct link. I filled in a quick online form, paid the $20 fee online and voila! Done. My license should arrive within 10 working days (which it did). I remember smiling at that moment thinking ‘can’t say I miss French administration!’
My friend Jennie at ielanguages shared a fascinating article about the lack of “vous” on the internet and the increased appearance of “tu”, even when two people who don’t know each other are communicating.
My own experience with being ‘tued’ and ‘voued’ on social media came from one of my students who added me on Facebook. She sent me a few emails from time to time and she always addressed me with ‘vous’, although I knew I would always address her with ‘tu’ since I was her teacher and she was my student.
However the very day that I stopped being her teacher, she sent me an email and addressed me with ‘tu’. Now as an English speaker, I really didn’t give a shit whether she used tu or vous with me, but it was interesting to see once this idea of a social barrier in her head came down she felt free to talk to me like the young adult I am. Even though we had been more friends than student and teacher for a while, it wasn’t until I had that title of ‘teacher’ taken off that she felt she had the right to use ‘tu’.