Where I live in the north of France the people are known for their sense of humour.
If you want to know what traits the people of the north have then I’d recommend you watch Bienvenue Chez les Ch’tis, a Dany Boon film. It’s very funny, wonderfully acted and although tongue in cheek it does reflect the understated and warm sense of humour that people here have.
Take for instance my neighbour J-C. Ever since we got here he has taken us under his wing. He has a penchant for beer, wine, whisky, Ricard – well any sort of alcohol really. He’s a keen pigeon fancier. He has hundreds of animals. And helps everyone. The other villagers say of him “il est par tout” – he is everywhere. It’s true, wherever you go, he seems to pop up out of nowhere!
Anyway, taking us under his wing means he turns up at various times and settles in for a beer or glass of wine (even at 8.00 in the morning) and gives us the gossip and the benefit of his wisdom. I think he likes to help us as we’re the only Brits in the village and he identifies with us being outsiders!
He told me that he has lived here for more than thirty years, since he married a lady from this village. He himself came from a village 5 km away but is considered by true locals (those born here) to be a newcomer! His belle maman who is in her eighties has never been further than 30 kms from this village according to J-C… She does not see why it would be necessary. Everything she has ever wanted is here – her family, her home, her friends.
J-C attempts to teach us the local dialect and customs and tells us who everyone is and their stories but sometimes I think he makes things up. I’m just never quite sure.
Take the time we talked about things to do here. He told me there are some good horse riding trails, but I don’t have a horse. No problem says J-C, just ask Thierry the farmer on the corner – he has lots and he’ll lend you one! Just tell him you want to borrow his “bidet”. Well I know and you know what a bidet is and it’s a French word already so I take such advice with a pinch of salt. However, it turns out that “bidet” actually is local dialect (Ch’ti) for horse!
There are other things he tells me though that I’m still not sure about. Crow Paté for instance. Really? Paté from crow’s livers?! That another neighbour grew cannabis in his garden and the cows got in and ate it and were skipping round the village. He told me another neighbour is certifiably insane (he is not – J-C just doesn’t like him) and various other tales of the same nature. He also advises that I must never queue like an Englishman, I should push in whenever I can if I am to be French!A bientôt Janine