February 4, 2014, by Guest blog
Adjusting to France’s overwhelming conviction that theirs in the best country in the world
Post written by Georgie Suttie.
I am now well into my 2nd term in Metz, and really enjoying myself. I will really miss France when I leave; the amazing baguettes, the cheese, the cheap wine, and the relaxed way of life here. I have settled into a daily routine, and this city now feels very much like home. I have learnt to love many aspects of the French culture but there are certain parts of French life which have been difficult to adjust to.
A key cultural value prized by the French and the one which has presented the biggest cultural challenge for me is the idea that the French are the best. They consider their language, history, people and customs the best in the world, and as a result tend to think of other cultures as less important or relevant. Many of my students at the ‘lycée’ where I work took great pride in telling me how British food is disgusting, people in London are rude and our music’s got nothing on theirs.
Being a foreigner, and particularly an English speaker, can be surprisingly difficult in France. Whereas in Spain and other countries I’ve visited, being English was an advantage and considered something exotic and exciting to natives, in France I have begun to feel slight embarrassment in admitting that I am in fact ‘anglaise.’ A sense that I’m not quite as good as the French, and almost considered a foe rather than a friend thanks to a long history of tension between the Brits and the French, was certainly felt on more than one occasion.
However, I believe it is this enormous sense of national pride and patriotism which is a huge part of what makes France great, and what makes it successful. The French government ensure the French language is always dominant in politics and official events, the French film industry is one of the largest in the world, and French music is flourishing – although in other countries British and American music is foremost in the charts, French artists like Stromae are the real stars of French modern culture. And the abundance of French flags on every street is certainly commendable.
It may be a challenge adjusting to France’s overwhelming conviction that theirs is the best country in the world, I have to say that I admire their dedication to their country. They are fiercely proud of where they come from, and we could all learn something from them. Where some countries’ cultures are becoming more and more influenced, and even dominated by English-speaking cultures, it is reassuring to know that France will never lose its heritage, its language or its French-ness.
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