French Culture; What is it? What do we get from it?

French Culture: Édith Piaf

Édith Piaf
Photo credit: Wikipedia

French Culture is the country as a whole; it’s what makes France, French.

It’s what makes us love and hate the place and the people all at the same time. We really do have a special relationship with our nearest neighbour across ‘La Manche’ (English Channel).

It’s a way of life, it’s exciting, it’s chic, it’s flamboyant, it’s the countryside, the sea, the mountains, smell of fresh coffee, the food the wine, the cheese, Édith Piaf, Cabrel, Pagnol, Monet, the Opera, the village fête.  It’s also annoying and frustrating at times especially having to deal with official paperwork!  There are many stories that could come out of that!  BUT it ……

It is simply France!

At the heart of our existence here, it’s what we take years to be a part of; – sort of outsiders on the inside.

Getting involved in the local community, studying the culture, drifting through it at times to keep us sane and thoroughly immersing ourselves in it will make our lives living the dream a lot more enjoyable and easier.

In order to appreciate both the bluntness and the subtleties of the culture one needs a certain level of French. On the other hand to speak the language one has to understand the culture. That is the enigma! The more one learns about it the more one realises the French language is not just a matter of knowing words nor how to put them together but it’s a way of thinking, of feeling, something really intangible to this Brit for instance. It’s something I’m sure I will never fully understand. I guess that’s part of the joy of being here – a living daily adventure.

Watch TV

French TV - WikipediaA friend and colleague once told me when I first arrived to teach at the International School of Paris, to watch French TV – it would help me learn the language.

I can’t say I really enjoy the TV here but at that time (late ’80’s) I duly watched every evening. At first I could only watch French shows and films. The dubbed ones were too difficult – you know we actually do lip read to a degree. I had to see the beginning of a film to have any chance in understanding what was going on.

A “De-clic” Moment

As I was making dinner one evening, a couple of years into my life in Paris, I was running a little late and only heard the start of the movie. I had one of those ‘de-clic’ moments. The ones where your realise something – I could understand the film even though I hadn’t seen the start.

I suppose there are many milestones on our journey into the language and culture. That was one for me.

Other moments were:

  • Suddenly understanding what is being said around a dinner table without thinking you’re watching tennis. A similar case would be participating in a team sport. It’s definitely an education with a very different vocabulary from that we learn in school!
  • Taking a phone call without a thought.
  • Reading without translating: I remember trying to translate every word in the order they were written just to get a sense of the text. Suddenly one day on the metro going to work I realised I was just reading. I even tried to go back and do my normal translating trick and couldn’t.

And the ultimate so I am told –

dreaming in French!

So what is my point?

In a nutshell…

Immerse yourselves as much as possible but be patient – it doesn’t come over-night. In fact it takes a life-time!

Read books, newspapers, listen to music, watch DVD’s, join a club. Do anything and everything.

Just appreciate being there with an open mind, a fresh mind. It can take years so sit back and enjoy the journey!

And as for me I adore the place!

Over the course of the next week or so I’ll try to compile a list of books, DVDs and Albums.

Leave a comment to let me know what you think should be included.

Here’s to you and your adventure!

Don’t forget to leave a comment

– tell me what you think should be included in the list of French music, DVDs and books!

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