Monday, 12 April 2010

Through French eyes

We had a lovely dinner on Saturday with some charming French people resident in London, one couple for ten years and one couple newly arrived. It's always interesting to see your own country through the eyes of others. Here's the list of things I learnt (there may have been some other, out-and-out negative, observations but perhaps our company was too polite to share them):

- London is the sixth biggest French city in the world

- London's traditional 'high class, family' butchers supply better and cheaper meat than they were used to buying in Paris

- The British acceptance of the expression of religious difference inside the workplace was surprising: in France you leave all that at the door, secularism prevailing when on neutral territory. For instance, if you worked in a shop selling fashion, you wouldn't be allowed to wear a headscarf

- A French translation of something written in English uses 30% more words. This was ascribed to English having a larger vocabulary making context less important in determining meaning

- Schools in France don't teach sport for the most part (I did know this). Clubs, often subsidised by municipalities, take on this job

- The lycées overseas, including the ones in London, are run by the French foreign ministry rather than the education ministry. They're considered part of the international promotion of French culture and language

- A culture of targets and appraisals supported by incentives and bonuses is second nature in the UK but very much the exception in France

- It came as a surprise that 'Angleterre' contained so many nationalities (the idea of a multi-national Britain is not that well-known in France)

- Britain seems a lot less centralised than France with respect to the headquarters of major firms. More are to be found outside the capital than in France, where Paris dominates absolutely, Lyons coming a distant second and no other city being placed except for Toulouse and its aerospace industry

- Education is a nightmare in London: finding a good school is difficult, kowtowing to the Church in order to get into a good Catholic primary school is bizarre

- The Millennium stadium in Cardiff is the best

Talking of which, I'm off to Wales for a couple of days to experience some more exoticism. Back on Wednesday.


worm said...

Got worried that you were off to experience some 'eroticism' in wales, but a re-read set my mind at ease.

I know loads of french people in London. They're everywhere if you know where to look

Gaw said...

Yes, over the last few years they've been overflowing from their traditional habitat around the lycée in South Ken. Many have now even reached the wilds of Islington.

dearieme said...

Wot abaht the British Sense of Humour? From the Indy:-

A 66-year-old man pleaded guilty today to having sex with a horse and a donkey. Joseph Squires appeared at Leicester Crown Court charged with buggery of a donkey between February 2 and February 5, 1999, and buggery of a horse between March 15 and 18, 2004.
Defence counsel Amar Mehta....
said: "The defendant does not have a stable address".

worm said...

None of the frogs I know would be posh enough to live anywhere near south ken! They all live in hackney and listen to techno.

Sean said...

Gorsedd of the Bards, hey Garth? I dont think the secular French would like it, but whatever turns you on.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Hurrah, vive La Difference, vive la Angleterre! (Though having to kowtow to the Church in order to get a decent education, in the 21st Century, does, however, as you intimate, rather take the gloss off it.)

Recusant said...

Gadjo, it's still slightly better than having to kowtow to the state and then being told that you are selfish and manipulative for having the audacity to try and get the best education for your child. You don't actually have to send your child to a church school and the only hypocrisy involved is that of the parents doing the fake kowtow.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Recusant, I take your point, and I guess atheists should try harder to establish schools that teach their children better. But I don't remember my parents having to kowtow to anybody when I was school-going age - where is the state (as opposed to church) aspect of which you speak? (By the way, I'm a Christian myself and would do a wholly sincere kowtow if I had kids, though as a libertarian I'd prefer school and religion to be kept largely separate.)

Recusant said...

The kowtow to the state is that you will not, automatically, get your first choice of school. The rules inherent in deciding who gets into which school could almost be designed to encourage the 'gaming of the system' that then takes place, particularly by the sort of middle-class parents who might falsely kowtow to a church as well.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Well, of course, it'll never be possible for all parents to automatically get their first choice of school. I know little about this, not having children and not living in the country, but I imagine 'gaming of the system' is not a bad way to describe this rather sordid process - even in my innocent day, parents who made a bloody nuisance of themselves seemed better able to get their sprog transferred between schools.