I love the comments that Distant Francophile readers share – they always get me thinking.
A comment earlier this week had Scott and I discussing how generic cultures can become.
Australian culture is a great example.
Post white settlement, the Aussie culture was driven by the British Empire, prior to being deeply and positively influenced by decades of European and Asian immigration. More recently, we’ve adopted and blended aspects of American society and culture into the mix.
All of this has given Australian culture a rich and interesting depth. But it has also made our culture somewhat difficult to clearly define – people from other countries could be forgiven for confusing our culture as either British or American or Mediterranean or Asian depending on which aspect they encounter.
While we are in France, the French most often assume we are either American (mostly) or English (sometimes).
None of that is particularly shocking when you add a common language to the whole ‘generic culture’ position.
Eventually though, and unsurprisingly, our conversation moved to French culture.
My first thought was that France has a clearly defined culture – and that is pretty true when it comes to things like food and history and language.
The rituals around French food are renowned the world over and the French have been steadfast in maintaining their language.
But French culture is often framed in stereotypes that potentially do not reflect life in France today. I argue against these stereotypes regularly while we travel – you see them being broken every day of the week (and don’t ever tell me that French women don’t exercise – you see both French women and men running all over the place).
And France has also experienced a long history of immigration and Scott and I had to wonder about the impact that has had on French culture.
In the end we concluded that, despite our love of all things French, we don’t have enough information to actually reach a conclusion (time for a study tour perhaps???).
Whilst French culture is potentially less generic and somewhat easier to define than Australian culture, you have to take care to avoid stereotypes and to consider the impact that long held commitment of the French to ‘Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité’ has had on the French way of life.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on French culture and the way it has evolved over time. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
And until next time – au revoir.