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French and Russian undergraduate student, trying my hand at the real world.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Franco-British relations

Hello chaps,

I write this post in a state of mild outrage for reasons that will become apparent. So I lived in St Petersburg, as many of you already know, for a total of four months. St Petersburg is in Russia. In Russia, people have guns. More guns than they do in France or the UK, anyway - not saying everyone does. There is a higher rate of alcoholism and drug addiction in Russia than in France.

WHY THEN, after four months of living in Russia and nothing of note happening to me, except the time a prostitute in a dodgy area of town chased me home shouting "Ну, девушка, что такой будет?!" after I made the rookie error of looking at her for split second too long. WHY THEN, does it take 3 weeks of living in France, in one of the most bourgeois cities in the country, for my bus pass to get stolen by some druggie with tattoos on his face, in broad daylight?

Someone, please explain. I would be delighted to find out more. Really.

So I have now got that out of my system and have resolved to speak Russian for the rest of the day to teach France a lesson for not being in Russia. Russian is so much easier to shout at people in - "убирайся!" (literally - clean yourself out or get out) is far less rude, yet far more aggressive sounding than "casse-toi, connard" (beat it, scum), as it can be said at a much louder volume and is far more succinct. That said, there is a rather pleasing hissing note with the French, but I still prefer the Russian. This is also due to the cultural point I made in an earlier post about angry Russian women - who know how to get things done, and quickly.

I want to talk now about my relationships with French people, which have been rather positive, despite the events of today.

Firstly, they are largely very welcoming and accommodating. I have been invited out for dinner with my lovely French flatmates - who have met me only twice (as I like to eat a little earlier than them so we don't often cross paths in our shared kitchen). They are very happy to receive my somewhat pidgin French and offer advice about vocabulary.

Secondly, I want to comment on the fact that I have had any number of anti-English jibes made about me.
Example 1: When standing on an opposite side of a room with a noticeable gap between the French and me.
Mec 1, "C'est la manche! Elle est retournee a l'Angleterre!" (Guy 1: It's the Channel! She's gone back to England)

Example 2: Mec 2: "Est-il vrai que ton sang est constitué pour la plupart du thé "; "Is it true that your blood is comprised mainly of tea?"
I laughed rather audibly at the last one, as the gentleman in question has only ever seen me making or drinking tea. I replied with "We English are as full of tea as you French are full of croissants".

I wonder though, about the profundity of such sentiments. I was sharing in some harmless banter about national stereotypes with my friend, but I wonder about how far these extend as a joke. I have a friend who is half French and he finds any comments about the fact he is half French, and the mildly xenophobic nuances associated with such, immensely tiresome. I can certainly take a joke, but I wonder how long it will be until I smile with the same forced good humour and resignation as my friend.

Another thing I am enjoying immensely about being an Erasmus student is the fact that the majority of my friends here are not English, nor are they French. The girls I spend the most time with are German, Czech, Italian and Greek, and I also spend time with Dutch, Canadian and Australian people. With my non-native Anglophone friends, the language we all share to the highest proficiency is actually French - so it is an ideal situation for all of us! I am learning a lot about European cultures out here - not just the French - and it is for that reason that I feel very lucky to be out here.

For any English people reading this - PLEASE don't vote "No" in the EU Referendum next year! It is a fool's mission! I'd definitely vote "no" in a joining the Euro referendum though - I'm haemorrhaging money I don't have out here. Someone please open a Столовая!

1 comment:

  1. I love how your blog post itself is a mix of english, french and russian. Makes for such interesting reading, e.g " Russian is so much easier to shout at people in - "<\insert pronunciation here>\""