The difference between the French and the English
Here is a picture of our cat and dog sleeping together. Sweet, right? Everybody say “Ahhhh”. We actually called our dog “Gracie” and speak to her in English. Even the kids, who prefer speaking French. (Getting them to talk to me in English all the time is for another post).
The cat, Caline, is French. She doesn’t give a stuff about orders or words because she’s a cat. She cares about herself first and the rest of the world tenth. Between 2 and 9 are all about her too. Now before you start thinking that I’m making a metaphor about cats and the French, don’t go too far. Just because she’s got class, looks at people disdainfully, is obsessive about cleanliness, picks at her food and scowls does not make her French.
Similarly, Gracie the dog’s instant friendliness, diplomacy, clumsiness, tendency to overeat and bad teeth don’t necessarily make her English. But you get the picture.
Anyway, in our household, French cat and English dog get on very well. They would be lost without each other and I think there’re a fitting symbol of how the French are more and more open to mixed-culture relationships (whatever the Front National – the far Right political party – might have to complain about).
The French have a saying “Vive la différence !” which literally means “Embrace our differences”, and as a left-learning country (the main Right party, the UMP, is probably on a par with the Democrats in the US) it has traditionally been open to mixed-race and mixed-culture relationships.
I’ve always felt pretty welcome, but I do remember one lunch party at my sister-in-law’s house where I knew her husband was making fun of me, but because I couldn’t understand him properly (strong accent) I literally had to sit there and take it. And as they weren’t really nasty jokes, apparently just about the English, then no one intervened. Now I give as good as I get. With fluent French comes great confidence and everybody who knows me knows that I won’t take a barbed wire joke about the English without a swift retort.
It’s true that the English are still considered good game. If you were to ask a French man in the street, he would say that the Germans are not to be trusted, the Scottish are lovely, the Irish are great fun, the Welsh they’ve never heard of, the Belgians are a bit dopy and the Americans are vulgar. The English remain “Outre-Manche” which means the other side of the Channel. And the English do nothing to help their image in France. Thousands come here to holiday and live, but barely any of them speak the language properly.
So it’s a pleasure for a Frenchman to discover an Englishman that has actually made the effort, and their whole attitude changes. I’d say that a noticeable difference between the French and the English is that the English expect the French to speak English and are surprised when they don’t. The French don’t expect the English to speak French and are astonished when they do.