• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

The expat who became a famous face in France

Dan MacGuill · 3 Dec 2013, 16:13

Published: 03 Dec 2013 16:13 GMT+01:00

Unless you live in France, and own a TV, you may not have heard of Darren Tulett. The Englishman, however, is something of a celebrity on this side of the Channel.

For years now Tulett has been the face of English football on French TV, after presenting several primetime football shows on Canal Plus, most notably "Match of ze Day", the French version of the famous BBC highlights programme Match of the Day.

Since February, Tulett has been the host of the sports show "Lunchtime," broadcast on Al Jazeera subsidiary BeInSport.

Nobody, least of all “Darren from England” as he’s simply known in France, could have predicted his stratospheric rise from being turned down by McDonald's to the "cheeky Englishman" welcomed into millions of living rooms across France.

The Local caught up with Tulett, and asked him how it all happened.

How did you first end up in France?

I was out one night, celebrating exam results with friends in Manchester, where I was a student, and my best friend Nick at some point said: “Let’s go to Paris together, and have a bit of fun.”

I spoke to him the next day, and he said, “So, are you still on for it?” I had absolutely no memory of the conversation, but took his word for it. A few months later we took the train and the boat over to Paris, and 25 years later we’re still here.

What was your plan?

Honestly, we just intended to get any kind of work we could, live here for a few months, have a laugh, go home to England and have a few stories to tell.

I did a few different jobs, and at one point even got turned down by McDonald’s, but ended up blagging my way into a job as an English teacher with Berlitz.

About six years later, I had started settling down with a French girl, and she asked me: “Are you going to be an English teacher for the rest of your life?”

So we headed back to Brighton, where she worked and I signed on for the dole while applying for jobs as a journalist. Eventually I somehow got a gig writing about football for Bloomberg News in London.

I was starting to get nostalgic for Paris at this point, so in 1996, I persuaded them to transfer me to France to cover the World Cup, 18 months later.

Would you ever consider coming back to England?

I really wouldn’t. I’ve been in France for half my life now, and I love the experience of being a foreigner. I like the duality of being able to understand the French a bit, getting their crap jokes and cultural references, and feeding off that with my own crap jokes and cultural references.

The only thing that could possibly tempt me back would be if [Match of the Day host] Gary Lineker called me up and begged me to take his job. But that’s not going to happen.

And I’ve had offers, here and there, from outside France. But nothing to get excited about. If I went back to England now, I’d just be another Englishman. Whereas here I’ve got a niche, I’ve got a one-man market as the cheeky Englishman talking about French football on TV.

I thought the French and the English hated each other

We’re supposed to, there is that idea, but in reality we feed off each other. The French have a saying “Qui aime bien châtie bien”, meaning "tough love" and it's this approach between the two countries that works well.

Being English has always been a huge advantage for me. I can get away with saying certain things in a certain way, and mucking around with my colleagues.


Darren Tulett, trusted enough to introduce the French to legendary English band Madness.

What’s your greatest French sporting memory?

Well, being present in the Stade de France for the 1998 World Cup final was a very special thing. I remember screaming “Yes!” when France’s first goal went in, much to the shock of the other foreign journalists in the stand.

Then this summer, I got invited to play on a “France 98” team at a testimonial for Steve Savidan [a French international forced to retire with a heart condition.]

So 15 years after reporting from the stands at the World Cup Final, there I am taking to the pitch, in a French jersey, with former players Lilian Thuram, Robert Pires, Sylvian Wiltord. It was a pretty amazing moment, and a very special privilege.

What’s it like being the most famous Englishman in France?

Story continues below…

Well first of all, it takes a long, long time to get used to being noticed on the street. It starts off with people pointing at you on the Metro, then they ask for an autograph, and then people want to take pictures with you.

Now they’re stopping me on the street and asking me to just say something into their camera – they pass you over to their relatives on the phone. It’s really strange!

I remember once, a few years ago I went to see Marseille play, and before the match went for a drink in the pub and found myself surrounded by 80 boozed-up Marseille supporters.

Out of nowhere they started shouting my name– “Darr-en, Darr-en” – like a football chant. And then before I knew it I was off my feet being carried around the bar on my back by them, like I was crowd-surfing at a rock concert.

You said you’re in a “market of one” as the cheeky Englishman on French TV. Are you an exception?

Not at all. There are plenty of expats and English speakers doing basically the same thing I’m doing, in workplaces all over France. We’ve got something different to add – a different voice, a different way of thinking – and we’re bringing that to all sorts of different companies.

I remember making a conscious decision years ago, to use my Englishness as an asset in France. Once you get past the hurdle of mastering the language, being a foreigner can be a major help to you.

So if you’re in France, and you know you like it here, but you’re stuck in a bit of rut with your career – keep pushing on, be yourself and use that to your advantage.

And don’t be afraid to invent your CV – they’ll never be able to check out the stuff you say you’ve done back home, trust me.

Have you had an interesting career in France? Want to share your experience with The Local's readers? Email news@thelocal.fr

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'War crimes committed in Aleppo': French UN envoy
A tractor clears rubble after a government strike on rebel areas of Aleppo. Photo: Thaer Mohammed/ AFP

France's envoy to the United Nations has called for an urgent Security Council meet on the war crimes he asserts are being committed in Aleppo.

'Curse of Phantom' strikes as Paris theatre burns
Anthony Crivello and Elizabeth Loyacano in the New York production of Phantom of the Opera. Photo: Really Useful Group

The curse of Phantom of the Opera has struck with a fire at a Paris theatre threatening the musical's French debut.

Two teenage girls held in France over 'terror plot'
The girls came from the same part of Nice, near Route de Turin, as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who carried out the nice attacks. Photo: Jesmar/Wikimedia Commons

Two teenage girls from Nice are being held on suspicion of planning a jihadi attack.

Focus
French fighter jet deal: India 'a school of patience'
Rafale jets at an assembly hanger in Merignac, southwestern France. Photo: Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP

The less-than-supersonic sale of French Rafale fighter jets to India has highlighted the obstacles facing foreign arms firms seeking to do business with the world's biggest weapons importer.

Hollande vows to 'completely dismantle' Calais Jungle
French President Francois Hollande visiting a refugee centre in Tours. Photo: Guillaume Souvant/AFP

President Francois Hollande has bowed to right-wing pressure and stepped up pledge to combat illegal migration.

First driverless minibus goes on trial in Paris
Gilbert Gagnaire, Director General of Easy Mile, poses in front of his driverless EZ10 minibus. Photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP

The French capital's transport authority will carry out its first test of a driverless minibus on Saturday.

Feature
Room for improvement: Paris's matchbox apartments
Receptionist Ivan Lopez in his tiny "chambre de bonne". Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

Thousands of Parisians round off a hard day's work with a trudge up six flights of stairs to a tiny, stuffy room they resignedly call home.

Former president Chirac still in hospital but wife home
Bernadette Chirac executes a deal at the French Stock Exchange on September 12. Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP

Former French president Jacques Chirac remains in hospital in Paris but his wife Bernadette has now been discharged.

Pope holds multi-faith meeting with Nice victims
Pope Francis kisses a baby on arrival at his weekly audience in St Peter's Square. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/ AFP

Pope Francis will on Saturday hold a multi-faith meeting of grieving relatives and survivors of an attack in France in July when a jihadist ploughed his truck into a crowd in Nice.

Cameron school pal appointed UK ambassador to France
Ed Llewellyn has spent time in the European Commission. Photo: Gov.uk

Ed Llewellyn attended the Eton College at the same time as former PM David Cameron, and then served as his chief of staff throughout his eleven years as Conservative leader.

Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
France's Marion Cotillard rebuffs rumours of fling with Brad Pitt
National
Eight arrested over links to Nice truck attacker
Features
Why everyone should party in a French chateau at least once
Travel
The Frenchman who hated 'Nazi-Zealand' after four-day hitch-hike fail
Culture
What's on: Ten exciting events across France in September
The 45-million year old underground shells that flavour Champagne
Features
French job speak: All the terms you need to know
'Resilient' Paris now a more appealing city than New York
National
France says it's OK to warn drivers about speed cameras
Meet Honorine, 113, the oldest person in France
Education
Grenoble named France's best city to be a student
Society
New Metro map reveals cheapest pints of beer in Paris
Business & Money
How reliant is the French economy on Paris?
Society
Here's why Parisians want to move to Bordeaux
And the 'best place to spend a weekend in Europe' is… Lyon
Analysis & Opinion
'Muslims in France must be considered ordinary citizens'
Armed guards to ride French trains from October
National
France among Europe's priciest for train travel
National
Paris set to make river bank car-free for six-month trial
Society
Bordeaux hospital ranked as best in France
National
France rolls out 'world's first' driverless buses
Society
15 things a Frenchwoman can do to feel more British
Culture
Every fact you need to know about France's 'départements'
2,727
jobs available