I have just returned from an amazing couple of weeks in the south west of France. We stayed in The Perigord Noir, a region within the Dordogne. It is an incredibly beautiful part of the country and still considered to be rural France even though tourism is alive and well. It is green, full of picturesque views, farmland, vineyards and the most lovely people. To top all of that off, the valley where we stayed is known as the Cradle of Civilisation: humans have been living on and off there for the last million years (with mammoths). Modern man, known as Cro Magnum man, showed up there 45,000 years ago and got through the last European ice age. How cool is that!
There are just so many things to love about France!!
Each trip to France I come away more in love with the country and the people. There is something so unique about the French spirit. These people have a real sense of certainty about who they are and their love of tradition is admirable. I think this is what has made their culture so great. Even the smallest village is sophisticated in its presentation and the care and love is so evident. They just tend to do things properly in France!
Being a passionate foodie, my number one love of France is their great appreciation of everything food. How it’s produced, how it’s cooked, how it’s presented and most importantly – how it is eaten.
A French study conducted in 2010 showed that the average French person spends 2 hours and 22 minutes per day eating. Three meals a day is still a philosophy that is closely adhered to and snacking isn’t really a part of their food culture. Food is about connection, not only to the produce itself but to each other. Families and colleagues will sit together and eat a meal and there is much less “ducking out to get a sandwich” or popping into the “drive thru” to eat in your car than in other western countries. Food is an opportunity to be together, talk, share ideas and most importantly stop: to stop moving and be present. I wonder if that is a part of the reason that the French don’t have the same obesity issues as other countries?
My second great love of France is their unapologetic nature.
Coming from a country where we are falling over ourselves to blend in, bend the rules and katow to someone else’s rules, I find the unapologetic nature of the French refreshing. If I asked a French person whether they spoke English (because I only have 17 words of French and most of them are food-related) and they did not, they didn’t apologise for that – they just said no. Initially I was a bit taken aback but after I thought about it, I was so appreciative of the example being set for me. We often apologise too much for just being us, but not the French.
In the restaurants, the food for the children is pretty much the same as the adult food. It is what it is and I am guessing that the French kids just eat it. The waitstaff in the restaurant don’t offer 15 other options, they just stand there and wait for the order and then take it to the kitchen. There is no apologising if the child can’t find something they want, they just learn to be adaptable – a great soft skill for any child to pick up.
Lastly – and maybe controversially – the French don’t like full face coverings and they passed a law in 2011 banning a full face-covering niqab along with other garments and headwear. Whether or not I agree or disagree with their decision around that, the French people spoke about wanting to protect the republican values of France as well as promote the gender equality which is weaved into their culture. The French believe in assimilation and if people choose to come there, they expect their values to be upheld. If you don’t like that, don’t come.
This view does seem very hard-line, yet I can also see why French culture has not been diluted, like other European countries such as the UK. They simply do not apologise for being French and stand firmly in their identity.
The third thing I love about the France is the language.
I don’t know if it’s the musical nature of the language or because it just sounds so damn sexy, but it is truly magical. You could call me every name under the sun in French and I would still smile sweetly and say “Sure, take me to bed”. It just works for me!
French is known as a “Romance Language” which means that it descended primarily from Vulgar Latin, and it evolved out of the Gallo Romance spoken in the North of France.
It is the main (or second) language of 55 countries and is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. French has been far less butchered than the English language mainly due to the French Academy (the Académie Française), whose task is to act as guardian of the French language. The Academy has often resisted changes to the French language, insisting that existing and traditional forms of the language were, by virtue of their existence “correct French” (there is the no apology thing again).
Hearing the French language each day certainly made my heart sing. Even hearing a French person speak English with a French accent felt and sounded so exotic to me. It is truly a beautiful language and I thoroughly enjoyed picking more of it up. I am sure I would have sounded like “Kath and Kim Do France” though!!
So after this trip my love affair with France has continued to blossom. Like every country I visit, there is always something to learn and admire from each place. For me, France just has more than most.
Au Revoir 🙂