We have all heard the tale of the Englishman in New York, but our relationship with our channel cousins is one of equally profound debate. Budding Francophile Lorna Flint has taken time out of her year abroad to investigate the biggest cultural clashes between us and the sophisticated Montpellians.
Being only an hour and a half away by ferry, France can’t be that different from Britain right? FAUX! The more time I spend trailing through Google for cultural explanations and getting a “quoi” kind of look whenever I ask a question, or try to speak the lingo, the more I realise that France is just not like England. Forget the vocabulary book, here I summarise why Montpellier is in no way just Leeds in the sun.
Blowing Raspberries: When asked a question that we just don’t know the answer to… English: “erm, dunno… not sure really” French: “ahh mehh ehh, *biggest-raspberry-you-have-ever-heard*”.
Les Swear words: These are not used in their normal context; rather in France, “putain” is used as a verbal means of punctuation. A mere breathing space. Firstly, reeling in horror every time I even heard “putain”… now “putain”, I don’t even “putain” know if “putain” even has a “putain” meaning…
Emergency Cigarette Breaks: Feeling immensely relieved to hear that the marathon lectures had a half-way break, I innocently anticipated the relief of a toilet break. Fighting my way through the clouds of smoke outside the lecture hall on my way to the toilet, I was told that my “toilet break” must only last around two cigarettes. Alors, apparently we use les cigarettes as a time frame here.
Gym Extremities: After going to several different classes at the gym, I realised that the crazy woman stood in front of me really wasn’t that insane to roar and scream and shout (and probably shout “putain”) every time we did something remotely tasking. It’s…normal. I have never ever heard anyone scream out in Legs, Bums and Tums at the Edge. I also went to a class where the instructor continued to push himself so hard that he vomited in front of the whole class, barely missing the die-hards at the front.
Natural Beauties: On a much more positive note: I know that Leeds has plenty to offer in terms of natural and wondrous sights but a rainy day climbing Ingleborough, getting excited every time you see a sheep doesn’t really compare to jumping from gorges on a hot and sunny day, or climbing peaks with a panorama view of the South of France, n’est pas?
Photo: Rosanna Pound-Woods