Monday, November 02, 2009

Life in France - how do you define integration?

There have been some spikey "letters to the editor" in The Connexion recently about people buying & selling British food in France.

It (falsely) leads you to believe that there are only two types of expats living over here.  Those who don't want anything to do with Great Britain or the Brits in France and those who are happy importing their sausages, watching Sky and going to the golf club for a Sunday roast.

People get incredibly indignant over even the smallest issues and it got me thinking about our life out here.

On one hand I earn my living in euros and pay way too much to the state by way of TVA, tax and cotisations.  Our kids go to local school and most of our friends here are French.  On Friday night we had a dinner party where we didn't speak a word of English, all produce was bought at the local market and we discussed everything from Sarkozy/De Villepin/Chirac to how this year's PTA aren't as active as last year's.

On the other hand I spent Saturday watching English sport on the BBC and tonight we have (English) friends coming round to watch a Prison Break triple header on dvd.  We also take the girls to McDonalds once a month and I'd have no hesitation at all in going to the British food stall in Cognac market if I fancied a pork pie or a Curly Wurly.

It seems wrong to me to judge others by how they wish to lead their lives.  Life in France isn't better or worse than in the UK it's just different.

I do feel that those who don't attempt to learn the language or integrate are missing out on huge tracts of life over here....I also think that it's rude to live in a country and to make no attempt at communicating  in the national language. 

However, if someone wants to operate (or shop at) a stall selling produce from the UK then best of British to them - particularly if they could get hold of those little licorice sweeties I had as a child!


Chris Stead said...

When I think back to my childhood and the food we had to eat and contrast it with the vast array of marvellous ingredients and meals available from indian and thai and chinese and polish and korean african and every other type of restaurants, it seems clear that food is a marvellous advert for the benefits of migration on a country.

There are mamy Brits living and working in France now and let's hope France will not lose it's own identity with this influx but will take the best that the English have to offer and fuse it with the marvellous ingredients that the French have to offer to produce somethign amazing.

It would also be lovely to go to a French golf club and be able to get a proper pint of beer with my croque monsieur and cafe creme.

Bob Toovey said...

There are too many Brits who bring England with them and keep it for far to long. Either they eventually mix in or return home!

I have French friends, get on well with the local shop owners and have parties with mixed company - French and Engish and sometimes Portuguese!

If you move to another country you should at least try to be part of the local scene.

Hélène said...

I do feel that those who don't attempt to learn the language or integrate are missing out on huge tracts of life over here....

"attempt" is infinitely too weak a word.
Most, if not all, foreigners who live in a different country attempt to learn the language.
"Attempt" is irrelevant.
What matters is if a person actually (=fluently) speaks the language of the country he or she is living in - if that is not the case they need to GTFO.
Simple as that.

This the most elementary as well as the most crucial part of integration.
Now, if a person is not willing and/or unable to fulfill the requirements of integration they should be made to leave.

Having said that, I would like to clearly differentiate between "integration" and "assimilation".
The latter is not necessarily a must in the way that integration is and is up to the individual him- or herself.

P.S.: All this food talk made me hungry!