Who is Benjamin Carle?
You could describe him as France’s biggest economic patriot. The man made huge personal sacrifices to do his bit to save the struggling French economy.
How did he do that?
By ridding his life of anything and everything that wasn’t Made in France, from the furniture in his flat, to the clothes in his drawers and the food in his cupboards – which even meant giving up HP sauce.
Is he a raving looney or a raving patriot?
Neither, actually. Carle is a journalist and the 10 month ban on anything foreign was part of a serious experiment that was prompted by a government minister’s plea and will be featured in a documentary soon to be aired on the Canal Plus TV channel.
Tell me more
Carle came up with the idea of going 100 percent French during the 2012 presidential election when Minister for Industrial Renewal Arnaud Montebourg donned a traditional Breton sailor's shirt for a magazine photo shoot, to plead with the country to support the economy by buying Made in France goods. No doubt Monetbourg would have been happy if he had bought an accordion or the odd Lacoste polo shirt, but Carle wanted to take it further.
"There had been all this talk about always buying Made in France products and I wanted to know if it was really possible," Carle told The Local on Friday.
He took his idea to bosses at Canal Plus TV station, who agreed to make it into a documentary. He then set to work trying to become 100 percent French. It started with him ridding his apartment of anything that wasn’t Made In France, which as you can imagine, left his flat almost empty. He also learnt that France don’t make refrigerators so he had to chill his food by keeping it on the window ledge.
He then chucked out half of his wardrobe and most of the contents of his food cupboards, including scotch whisky and HP sauce. Thankfully his girlfriend and cat were both French so survived the cull.
Any foreign made films or music were also expelled, which meant his treasured David Bowie CDs also bit the dust.
He also limited himself to a budget of €1,800 a month to undertake his study.
He took it seriously then?
Indeed. We'll leave it to him to explain.
"This wasn't about showing whether Made in France products were better. It was about thinking and finding out where everything we consume actually comes from. It's complicated these days because each country's economy is so open and products come from all over the world," Carle tells The Local.
He also stressed the importance about thinking about jobs when chosing to buy a product.
"Before I just to buy a tooth brush because it was blue, but then I found a "Made in France" one I realised it was made in a factory that employed 30 people."
And how successful was he?
Well he didn’t do badly. At the end of the documentary Carle is “audited” by an independent expert who declares him 96.9% French. That’s probably even more French than famous countrymen like Marcel Marceau and Charles de Gaulle. And for his pains Carle was honoured by a visit from Montebourg himself who presented him with a medal, although we are not sure where it was made.
So what happens now?
Well, Carle says he will go on trying to support French industry. He says he will continue to buy Made in France clothes and Made in France fresh products and he has also learnt it's not right to eat strawberries all year round.
But David Bowie is back on his play list.