There’s something about the French (part 1 of 2)

Written by on February 6, 2014 in Learning to Breathe - 9 Comments

Yes, I admit it, French people don’t necessarily have the best reputation in the rest of Europe. There are certain unflattering qualities of personality attributable to the French. But I am coming at this from a completely different perspective. Having now spent quite a lot of time immersing myself in all things French in an attempt to finally bring my level of French language fluency to a significantly higher place, I can say without a doubt that I am partial to the French way (and the French people).

As you read in my December blog (well if you read it that is), I spent this past Christmas in Paris. Most of the museums were shut over this holiday period so the friend that I went with and I instead decided to focus our trip on immersing ourselves in the French culture. What this really meant is that we basically slept late, had breakfast, did a bit of walking around Paris, had lunch, did a bit more walking around Paris, and then came back to our room to change for dinner and the evening out. I am the first to admit that this was a basically night-time oriented routine — of necessary immersion into the French culture by being with the French people in their “natural” evening habitat — and that we could both allow ourselves to get away with it because we’d both been to Paris before several times and had already seen it from a more touristy point of view.

But our night-time oriented way of experiencing Paris wasn’t just about the enjoyment of the nightlife. On the contrary, during our nights out, we were able to experience the French culture and the French people in a way that we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Though both originally foreigners and immigrants at a young age, my friend and I grew up primarily in Anglo Saxon cultures. Right from our first evening out, it became clear to both my friend and I that the French people were definitely very distinct from the cultures we’d been immersed in. Everyone we spoke to had an opinion and a view on life that seemed deeper and more raw than anything we would have heard from an English person for instance. The conversations too hit on topics that one would never expect to discuss in a bar, and especially not on a first meeting. “Woah, the French are intense,” my friend said to me as we were walking home that first evening out. “I know,” I said dreamily. Intense, for me, was a good thing. The cultures I’d always felt the most kinship with were  intense too and intensity in people was something I really missed living in England.

It was easy for me to understand the premise behind the many films made with the idea of an Anglo Saxon female falling deeply for a sexy Frenchman seducer.

There was just something about the French.

Just their very essence seemed both seductive and somehow elusive at the same time. So much so was my interest in the French that Christmas that I resolved to return to Paris at a later time for an intensive French course. That time came in February when my kids were away with their dad on a skiing holiday.

In February, I decided to further my immersion into the French culture by also living with a French family for the week of my intensive French course. I also contacted all of the friends (and friends of friends) that I had in Paris so that I didn’t have to go out into the nightlife on my own. This time, I also took the time to even visit a few museums.

Ah the French… Without a doubt, the French culture is very different from the Anglo Saxon equivalent. After almost two weeks immersed with the culture, I can’t actually say that I would choose France over England. In fact, there was a certain relief in coming back to the familiarity of London. Perhaps I’ll just stay here for now. With Paris being just a three hour trip on the Eurostar, maybe that’s enough of a feeling once or twice a year. Really, the trip was easy and inexpensive enough (if booked in advance or during a Eurostar offer) that it was one I could take with as much frequency as I wanted. I intended to bring my children there too to enhance their own French education. Not to mention, there are quite a few French people living in London that I could immerse myself with as well. 😉

 

Stay tuned for next month’s review of some recent French inspirations.

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