How far have you assimilated into French culture?

Oliver Gee
Oliver Gee - [email protected] • 23 Sep, 2016 Updated Fri 23 Sep 2016 15:40 CEST
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Becoming truly assimilated into the French culture means that you not only have to ditch your own culture from back home, but you also have to adopt the French way of life, and that's no easy task. Which stage are you at?


Presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy is demanding immigrants assimilate into the French culture.
“If you want to become French, you speak French, you live like the French and you don't try and change a way of life that has been ours for so many years.”
Here, we take a fairly light-hearted look at what we consider to be the three levels of assimilation in France. What stage are you at?
Stage 1
You still shake hands with people when you meet them (let's face it, the whole cheek-kissing thing is strange and embarrassing). 
You're glad to find your favourite cheddar cheese in the local French supermarket, where you'll grab the cheapest wine on offer that says either "Chardonnay" or "Sauvignon Blanc" on the bottle.
Sure, you've learned a bit of basic French, but still prefer to speak English with French people (even when they're struggling).
You've got a great network of expat pals who lend an empathetic ear when you discuss the nightmare administration issues you've dealt with. 
When someone says "fancy a drink?" you say "which pub?" 
When you go the pub, you walk passed the sun drenched terrace and go and drink at the bar standing up. 
When you go home you bring back food and drink.
You still wear your flip flops in the summer around Paris.
You are absolutely baffled by the strikes and street protests and think everyone should be grateful get on with their jobs.
You constantly compare things to life back home, whether it's the amount of smoking, the way they drive or what they wear. In fact  that's all you talk about.
Photo: Flickr/TheeErin
Stage 2
Your French is pretty good and enjoy testing it out on locals but when it gets complicated you don't hesitate to bust out the old "parlez vous anglais".
When someone asks you what your favourite cheese is, you say the words "Comté, but I do a love a strong cheddar."
You now prefer to "faire le bise" when meeting someone of the opposite sex, and you'll even do it with other expats because that doesn't feel so strange anymore. 
You don't talk about having a drink, you have an "apero".
Getting drunk is starting to feel uncool.
You still love a Starbucks, but you never walk anywhere with it anymore. 
When you're out with your Anglo friends, your group is the loudest in the room, you start to get a little self-conscious knowing the locals on neighbouring tables will be irritated. You are sensitive to their ear ache.
You're now more comfortable driving as close to the car in front as possible. And you've used your horn to encourage the bin collectors to do their job a little quicker.
You'll say bonjour in the lift at work to those who share your office building and then bonne journée seconds later, but you would still love to talk about the weather with them.
You've grown tired of comparing France to back home, as France is starting to feel like home.
Photo: AFP
Stage 3
You wouldn't dream of buying cheese unless it's from your local fromagerie, where you know the staff by name and where you have over a dozen favourite fromages. You know longer hold your nose when the Pont l'Eveque comes out.
If you're a man, you've acquired half a dozen male French friends whose cheeks you will kiss to say hello and goodbye. 
When you head home, you find yourself telling family and friends how disgusting their food is, not to mention the ridiculousness of their healthcare system and work/life balance. And you insisted on kissing them twice. 
You despair at the lack of French spoken in the country of your birth.
You yawn when people talk about the administration headaches, because you've been there and done that, and you already have your files ready with all important documents and their photocopies. 
You speak French with your remaining expat friends, and find yourself using French words when speaking English with those back home. No, this isn't arrogance, this is assimilation. 
You feel mortified when a friend visits from back home and speaks too loudly in a restaurant or on public transport. You might even tell them to quieten down. 
You know the words to the Marseillaise and only the tune to the Star Spangled Banner. God Save the Queen makes you twitch.
You own several Breton sailor T-shirts, numerous foulards, and cheer for France at the World Cup. You often support strike action and have probably marched in a demonstration once or twice. Your first boy is called Kevin but your second is Jean-Luc.
Your car is covered in dents. 
You demand that foreigners assimilate into French culture like you did.
Sarkozy would be proud of you. Feel free to apply for a French passport.
Photo: jan lewandowski/Flickr



Oliver Gee 2016/09/23 15:40

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