Someone asked me the other day if there were any major cultural differences between expats and the French and actually when I think about it – there are.
One of the biggest things I’ve found is that French people are very private – far more so than us British, American or Australian expats in the villages around where I live. When we meet other expats we happily introduce ourselves, give our names, our backgrounds, invite people into our homes and invite them to look at what we’ve done to the house. Likewise when we go to other expats homes we’re quite comfortable asking to see what work they’ve done and they’re happy to oblige.
The French people we meet however rarely introduce themselves by their first name, its always Monsieur this or Madame that. The man who used to live opposite kept his sheep in our garden for two years before he was happy telling us his first name! It’s not being stand-offish, it’s just how they are – very private and quite formal.
French people never ever ask you how much you earn and if you were to ask them what sort of money the job they do pays – they’d consider that very rude indeed. They do though, think its okay to ask how much the mad English people paid for the run down money pit and when you tell them they will quite comfortably inform you that they wouldn’t have paid even half of that amount!
When French friends or neighbours come in for drinks I always ask them if they want to see what we’ve been doing with all the concrete blocks, sand, wood and bags of cement they see being unloaded off the Big Mat delivery lorry. Without fail they always say “non non non” as if I’ve asked them if they want to put their feet in a bowl of boiling water! All our English, American and Australian guests on the other hand, love to see what we’ve done to the house It’s needed massive renovation and we’re only too happy to show them the fruits of our blood, sweat and tears. The French think it’s intruding and even though you know they’re dying to see what the bonkers English couple have done to the wreck that no one else would touch with a barge pole – none of them have yet taken a look.A bientôt Janine