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The peculiar Franco-British habits I just can’t shake

If you grow up Franco-British there are certain habits, both Gallic and "Anglo-Saxon" that you just can't shake, in fact you are quite proud of them, writes Anya Walsh.

The peculiar Franco-British habits I just can't shake
Photo: Depositphotos

Growing up both French and British can be a bit confusing.

I often think of myself like Jekyll and Hyde, with two personalities battling each other. I’ve grown to live with it and even enjoy the weird mix of cultures. Here are a few habits from each country that I am proud of.

1 – Not being able to go without a cup of tea. Ever.

 And it must always be made with milk and a few hobnobs on the side, my Britishness demands it.

2 – Not being able to live without cheese.

This is an obvious French one, but it is also the most important aspect of my life. I remember going abroad a few times and having a lump in my stomach knowing I wasn’t going to be able to eat cheese as much. That’s the sign of a real cheese addiction.


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3 – Not having to sit down to eat a proper lunch.

This is something I take more from my British side than my French. Now, I am not saying that people in the UK don’t value lunchtime or can’t sit down to a good meal. Only I feel French people will put a lot more effort into keeping their lunch break sacred and sometimes insisting on having a three course meal. With younger generations, this tradition is slowly disappearing but it still is true for many. I like it a lot, although I haven’t got so much time on my hands and will often opt for just a good sandwich and a bag of crisps.

4 –  Sitting outside a café with a coffee and a cigarette and watching (judging) the passers by.

I feel so French when I do this. I know. I am a terrible person. But it’s just so entertaining.

5 – Going mad about charity shops.

This is typically British. You never know what you might find in charity shops in the UK and it’s always a treat when I go back there to visit family. I just have to check if there is an Armani jacket for £10 lurking about in one of the many shops.

I am a bit sad that the charity shop phenomenon hasn’t really caught on in France although it is starting here and there. The Emmaus market is a good alternative. An Emmaus can be found anywhere and there is everything to buy from clothes to furniture for knock-down prices. All the money collected is given to help the homeless, so it’s worth having a look. You can often find absolute gems.

6 – Apologising for literally everything.

“Pardon Madame”, “Pardon Monsieur” I say to the passers by who look at me bizarrelly. French people often ask what I am apologising for. I just can’t help it. Saying sorry is in my British nature. 

7 – Not really minding the rain, in fact, quite enjoying it sometimes.

When the sun has been shining too bright for too long, I get hot and tired so when a rainy day comes, I open my windows wide and get really upbeat. All the French people around me call me crazy but I just say “eh, je suis British, moi!”.

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8 – Putting a bar of chocolate between a baguette and then eating it all.

Yes, this really does happen In France.

9 – No chocolate bar? No worries.

I just spread some butter on the baguette and sprinkle some cocoa powder on top. It’s the same thing. This trick was shown to me once by a French wild boar hunter I met in a café. 

10 – No minding that every floor in a house is covered in carpet.

I have talked to French people who cannot stand to walk around a house covered in carpets but I quite like the feeling.

11 – Having a good old rant with the shopkeeper/waiter/neighbour/bus driver about literally everything and anything.

There is nothing like having a good old moan with someone you meet on a day to day basis in France.

It’s a great ice-breaker and a good opportunity to make new friends, not to mention it’s a good way to relieve stress. The great thing is that it doesn’t even matter what you are ranting about so long as you RANT to your heart’s content.

12 – Treating my dog as if he's a king i.e. letting him sleep in my bed and actually cooking his meals.

When it comes to my dog, I am definitely more British than French. Perhaps in big cities such as Paris, French people also dote on their canine friends as much. But I come from the rural backwaters of France (Burgundy) where for many, dogs are either used for hunting or for guarding the house. Some can be let into the home and I do see more of my neighbours walking their animals but this still is quite rare. Often, a dog will never be let indoors and will be tied outside or left to roam free in the garden.

13 – If I’ve got a cold, forget medicine.

I’ll just take some Eau de Vie, a type of brandy, pour it on a cube of sugar and eat that. It's a typical French remedy. It burns your throat for a while but you end up feeling much better. This method is also used with children so you get used to it from an early age.

14 – Finally getting that “Christmassy” feeling around December and talking to everyone around me as if it were actually a thing.

Something I have noticed a lot of British people do and I am guilty of it too. I haven’t heard any French person talk about a “Christmassy feeling” yet.

15 – Being able to laugh at not entirely politically correct jokes.

This is very French. Again, I am a terrible person and this is also what a French person may tell you if you catch him out making one of those “bad” jokes. I think satire and dark humour is a big part of French culture and something any young French person is more or less prone to do.

Think of Charlie Hebdo magazine for example. Only in France could such a paper exist. You would probably be prosecuted anywhere else for hate speech. Even though I may sometimes be offended by what my friends are joking about or by what I read in the papers, I know there is no point in me fighting it, it’s something deeply ingrained here, so I just live with it.

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16 – Hating the wine but finishing the bottle anyway.

A true French wine lover could never bring himself to finish a bottle of wine he or she finds disgusting, life is too short to drink bad wine as they say. But this doesn’t bother the British side of me and I’ll go ahead anyway.

17 – Dunking my croissant in my morning coffee. Basic French move, bien sûr.

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