Sunday, 8 February 2009

On Being Australian in France

There are many British ex-pats living in France, and it is quite a common thing in the UK to hear that "the French don't like us" and that they "hate us buying all their old houses".

This contrasts with our experience of being in France, and it is an especially sharp contrast with being in Preuilly sur Claise. Because we are English speakers we are always identified first as being English, and yet people have been almost 100% unfailingly polite (there is only one circumstance we can think of where we overheard a comment that was unflattering). It isn't that everybody is gushy-gushy welcoming to us, but they always take an interest in what we are doing. It is difficult for them especially if they have the misfortune to try speaking to me because my control of their language isn't spectacular, but even in that situation we just shrug to each other and agree to speak again later.

Yesterday we passed a milestone:
at 09.16GMT our visitor numbers passed our postcode
When people find out we are Australians, however, they are really excited that we have chosen their country and their village to come and live in*. We are "the Australians" and are known as such - interestingly, because we have met another Australian who lives not 5km away, and yet no-one has mentioned him to us!

We have met many of the members of the Town Council, and most of them have some sort of (usually quite tenuous) link to Australia; a neice in Melbourne, or a farmer who once sold some cattle to an Australian farm, but they always greet us if they see us on the street or in a shop or restaurant. This can make life a little frustrating for any guests we may have with us because progress can be rather slow, but it is nice to think that we are noticed. They all seem to know about this blog, even if they haven't actually read it.

A storm approaching le Grand Pressigny
Being "the Australians" did lead to an amusing incident; we were having a drink at l'Image one day and Christophe told us that the Real Estate agent next door popped into the bar one day, and announced that he was there to collect "the Australians" to show them a house. Naturally, Christophe told him we lived around the corner. It transpires that not only were the "English" people staying there actually Australians, but they were looking at buying a house, and according to Christophe were fans of this blog. (If you're out there, let us know!)

I have posted some random photos that I like, for no other reason than the fact I like them


*This contrasts to the attitude in London. Whereas in London we get asked "why on earth would you want to come and live here?" In Preuilly it is almost "why wouldn't you want to come and live here?".


Craig McGinty said...

I do think the 'whinging poms' who come out with the 'French don't like us line' are often the ones who have made little effort to be part of the local community or improve their language skills ;-)

And the only time they'd call on the local council is when they have a complaint, while their absence when volunteers are required for village fund raisers is often noted.

As you know, look to be part of the local community and the warmth and friendship you receive in return is ten-fold.

Simon said...

Craig - I find the people who come out with "The French don't like us" tend to be the people who have never been there.

There are quite a few English people in Preuilly, but they don't seem to have formed a community of their own. (In fact, when we were looking at houses to buy, we congratulated ourselves on finding a village that no other English person had found... We know other English people in Preuilly who have made similar comments.)

I agree with the comment about joining in - the English people who join the local archeological society and go to the town dinners seem to have a whale of a time!

We attended the 8 May service last year, and favorable comments filtered down to us, so yes, joining in is appreciated and noticed, and it had never occurred to us NOT to join in.

Anonymous said...

As an American, I've always been treated with respect. That's OUTSIDE of Paris, here in the country. People are so curious and have much the same attitude as the folks in Preuilly.

Betty Carlson said...

Hi -- Thanks for your recent comment on my blog. I don't know if you are a follower of Ken and Walt's blog, but I am a former resident of the Loire valley area. I have been to Le Grand Pressigny! We used to live in Montbazon. I hope we can keep in bloggy touch...

Anonymous said...

Basically, the French are not racists they are xenophobes, which means they hate everything that looks or sounds foreign. "Qu'est-ce que ces sales étrangers viennent faire chez nous!", they would say. That could also apply to people from one province to another! And North vs. South! Of course, there are exceptions, fortunately!

william said...

hy im french from preuilly( sorry for my english), basically if the peopole doesnt like english, parisians ,germans... that they make the price of the immobilier stronger. and peoples coming seem 'poch' and asually you (i)can t whait to people an adaptation.
when i m going in the bar' l'esperance or l'image i talk often with people's comming from différente contry and i spend a while to talk with them in english, but not often in french...

Simon said...

Hi William.

Welcome to the blog! The reason you speak to them in English is that your English is better than their French and you are being polite! We try really hard to speak French to French people, but if they can speak English they often change first so they can practice their English.

Our house was empty for 10 years before we bought it, and we paid what a French person would have paid rather than what an English person would have paid. I think the difference is that mainly due to circumstance we will just about be able to afford to repair it!!

Ken Broadhurst said...

In Saint-Aignan we find that local people are very curious to know why in the world we would want to come live here when French people always talk about how great it would be to live in America (especially California). It always gives us plenty to talk to people about.

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