Les français aussi ont un accent.

I wanted to read Les français aussi ont un accent by Jean-Benoît Nadeau, the same author of 60 Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong, because I thought I would enjoy a Quebecker’s take on expat life in France. This book is in French, which is half of the reason why I wanted to read it, but I found myself more and more homesick with each chapter. Nadeau’s frustrations with France are the same as mine – being corrected for using the “wrong” word or accent in French (European snobs want you to believe that Quebecois French is not proper French just as American English is not proper English), all the ridiculous paperwork needed just to do the simplest things, and even the showerheads that are not attached to the wall (douches-téléphones-sans-fixation-au-mur), for example. Quebec and the US are very different in many ways, but they are both in North America and that culture is what I miss.

En plus, the fact that a native speaker of French has the same problems with France that I do makes me realize that I was partly wrong about culture shock. Before I moved here, I always thought not being able to speak French well would be my biggest obstacle. It was hard in the beginning, but now that I can understand 99% of what people say and can carry on conversations easily, I’m realizing that it has little to do with the language. It’s simply the little things that are different that you never anticipated would be different. Why would stores, banks and the post office close for lunch? Why is absolutely nothing open on Sundays? Why does the whole country shut down for 6 weeks during the summer? Why can’t I choose my own PIN number?  Why can’t I find cheddar cheese? An why oh why is the showerhead not attached to the wall???

I had heard about culture shock being worse for those who move to countries where the same language is spoken (i.e. Americans who move to the UK) because you just expect everything to be the same as well. But I guess I never thought about someone from Quebec adjusting to life in France. Quebec may speak French, but it is not France. It is North America. So even though we’re separated by a native language, I feel much closer to les québécois than I ever will to les français.

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  • carrie

    you are so funny. I have a running list myself, many of the same things as you, the most important one, of course, being the cheddar. I found a “mimolette hollandaise” at my local Ed here in Paris, that looks, acts, and tastes like a cheddar. I don’t want to get your hopes up, but so far, we’ve made burgers and tuna melts with it and it was pretty passable. Have you tried it?

  • carrie

    you are so funny. I have a running list myself, many of the same things as you, the most important one, of course, being the cheddar. I found a “mimolette hollandaise” at my local Ed here in Paris, that looks, acts, and tastes like a cheddar. I don’t want to get your hopes up, but so far, we’ve made burgers and tuna melts with it and it was pretty passable. Have you tried it?

  • http://www.correresmidestino.com/ Zhu

    French can be extremely picky with their language, granted. I found it really annoying when my husband tried to speak French in Paris when we visited my parents. He would ask for “un pain au chocolat” and people would make him repeat three times, even though his accent is perfectly understandable.

    On the other hand, don’t get me started with Quebec French. I have an argument per day with Quebecers here :lol:

    French do find their accent cute. But honestly, Quebecers are very critical or Parisian French as well on the other side of the Atalantic. What do you say when a Quebecer is 100% sure that there is such as word as “canceler”, “scheduler”, “checker” etc. and then accuse you to use anglicism, like parking?

    Zhus last blog post..Only In France…

  • http://www.correresmidestino.com Zhu

    French can be extremely picky with their language, granted. I found it really annoying when my husband tried to speak French in Paris when we visited my parents. He would ask for “un pain au chocolat” and people would make him repeat three times, even though his accent is perfectly understandable.

    On the other hand, don’t get me started with Quebec French. I have an argument per day with Quebecers here :lol:

    French do find their accent cute. But honestly, Quebecers are very critical or Parisian French as well on the other side of the Atalantic. What do you say when a Quebecer is 100% sure that there is such as word as “canceler”, “scheduler”, “checker” etc. and then accuse you to use anglicism, like parking?

    Zhus last blog post..Only In France…

  • http://maladroite.wordpress.com/ maladroite

    I just got back from my conversation class, where we talked about Sarkozy trying to push for businesses being open on Sundays. I definitely see the points of both sides, though I think I’ve (finally) decided that I side with the businesses (mostly) being closed on Sundays side, if only because it forces people to relax and interact with family and friends, along with curbing consumerism a tiny bit. But I have a totally different POV regarding businesses being closed during lunch, and often Monday mornings!
    I’ve been lucky to have had shower heads with wall hooks in both of my apartments so far :) I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would want to hold up a shower head! At least put up a hook so that you can put it on the wall if you want!

    maladroites last blog post..76 More Days Until Bye Bye Bushie!

  • http://maladroite.wordpress.com maladroite

    I just got back from my conversation class, where we talked about Sarkozy trying to push for businesses being open on Sundays. I definitely see the points of both sides, though I think I’ve (finally) decided that I side with the businesses (mostly) being closed on Sundays side, if only because it forces people to relax and interact with family and friends, along with curbing consumerism a tiny bit. But I have a totally different POV regarding businesses being closed during lunch, and often Monday mornings!
    I’ve been lucky to have had shower heads with wall hooks in both of my apartments so far :) I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would want to hold up a shower head! At least put up a hook so that you can put it on the wall if you want!

    maladroites last blog post..76 More Days Until Bye Bye Bushie!

  • http://emmygration.blogspot.com/ Emmy

    this sounds like an interesting book to read, although I can imagine not a healthy book to read if the reader is thinking of packing up and quitting her french life…so, i’ll be avoiding it every other week if I buy it.

    Emmys last blog post..bus STOP

  • http://emmygration.blogspot.com Emmy

    this sounds like an interesting book to read, although I can imagine not a healthy book to read if the reader is thinking of packing up and quitting her french life…so, i’ll be avoiding it every other week if I buy it.

    Emmys last blog post..bus STOP

  • Mom

    When I was in my early 20s I worked at a store in the only mall in a nearby large city. The store was not open on Sundays for the first year it was in business. Many businesses were closed on Sundays. During the week many closed by six P.M. Now that we are accustomed to all the conveniences we would find it difficult to return to the ways of the “olden” days.

  • Mom

    When I was in my early 20s I worked at a store in the only mall in a nearby large city. The store was not open on Sundays for the first year it was in business. Many businesses were closed on Sundays. During the week many closed by six P.M. Now that we are accustomed to all the conveniences we would find it difficult to return to the ways of the “olden” days.

  • Bandini

    First time poster but regular lurker of your blog.

    concerning our ‘french’ speaking cousins from the Americas let me just copy and paste the lyrics of a popular song of one of Quebec favourite band
    ————————————————–

    Je suis un Québécois de souche
    Ma loi 101 faut pas qu’tu y touches
    C’est pas que j’sais pas ben parler
    Mais chu un colon anglicisé…

    A’ shop les boys m’ont dit:
    L’foreman veut qu’tu déloades la van
    Avant d’puncher à fin d’ton shift
    J’vas dans l’shed du shipping chercher l’packing slip du gars
    Ya callé son helper qui dormait su’a switch

    Je suis un Québécois de souche
    Je chante du Marjo sous la douche
    C’est pas que j’sais pas ben parler
    Mais chu un colon anglicisé…

    L’garage m’a towé pu d’shock pu d’breaks mon muffler est fucké
    Une main su’ll dash j’ai ouvert le hood
    C’est l’gaskett qu’yest jammé
    Changé é ‘spar-plugs la strap de fan pis é ‘gallipers
    A’ec mes beaux mags mon char est noeu bumper à bumper

    Je suis un Québécois de souche
    J’tripe ben gros sur Fabienne Larouche
    C’est pas que j’sais pas ben parler
    Mais chu un colon anglicisé…

    ‘Sitôt parké dans l’driveway
    J’vas su’ll sundeck starté l’charcoal
    C’est moé qu’y est l’cook qui check les chops ou ben les steaks
    Une fois cleané j’me pitche su’l lazy-boy a’ec ma darling
    On r’garde les sitcoms pis les talks shows des States
    (Pis les talks-shows des States)

    Je suis un Québécois de souche
    J’ai une fleur de lys tatouée sa bouche
    C’est pas que j’sais pas ben parler
    Mais chu un colon anglicisé
    Un colon anglicisé
    An englished colon…
    Cha Cha Cha!

    you can see them here :
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfFsB62U05A

    Bon je vais pas niaisier avec le puck plus longtemps
    alors bonne continuation !

  • Bandini

    First time poster but regular lurker of your blog.

    concerning our ‘french’ speaking cousins from the Americas let me just copy and paste the lyrics of a popular song of one of Quebec favourite band
    ————————————————–

    Je suis un Québécois de souche
    Ma loi 101 faut pas qu’tu y touches
    C’est pas que j’sais pas ben parler
    Mais chu un colon anglicisé…

    A’ shop les boys m’ont dit:
    L’foreman veut qu’tu déloades la van
    Avant d’puncher à fin d’ton shift
    J’vas dans l’shed du shipping chercher l’packing slip du gars
    Ya callé son helper qui dormait su’a switch

    Je suis un Québécois de souche
    Je chante du Marjo sous la douche
    C’est pas que j’sais pas ben parler
    Mais chu un colon anglicisé…

    L’garage m’a towé pu d’shock pu d’breaks mon muffler est fucké
    Une main su’ll dash j’ai ouvert le hood
    C’est l’gaskett qu’yest jammé
    Changé é ‘spar-plugs la strap de fan pis é ‘gallipers
    A’ec mes beaux mags mon char est noeu bumper à bumper

    Je suis un Québécois de souche
    J’tripe ben gros sur Fabienne Larouche
    C’est pas que j’sais pas ben parler
    Mais chu un colon anglicisé…

    ‘Sitôt parké dans l’driveway
    J’vas su’ll sundeck starté l’charcoal
    C’est moé qu’y est l’cook qui check les chops ou ben les steaks
    Une fois cleané j’me pitche su’l lazy-boy a’ec ma darling
    On r’garde les sitcoms pis les talks shows des States
    (Pis les talks-shows des States)

    Je suis un Québécois de souche
    J’ai une fleur de lys tatouée sa bouche
    C’est pas que j’sais pas ben parler
    Mais chu un colon anglicisé
    Un colon anglicisé
    An englished colon…
    Cha Cha Cha!

    you can see them here :
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfFsB62U05A

    Bon je vais pas niaisier avec le puck plus longtemps
    alors bonne continuation !

  • http://noemagosa.wordpress.com/ Noelia

    I have read many books by expats going to another country, and find it always interesting because they have a look at the cultures that I miss. I have a hard time identifying myself as ‘French’ or ‘Canadian’ or ‘Argentinian’, or even ‘European’ rather than ‘American’… In all the countries I’ve visited or lived in I’ve felt I didn’t totally belong to the culture. Some say that makes me a true citizen of the world. All I know is that every country has good and bad things that could be changed, but if they were, it would make them less… different.

    There is no heaven on earth.

    Noelias last blog post..The Interpreter

  • http://noemagosa.wordpress.com Noelia

    I have read many books by expats going to another country, and find it always interesting because they have a look at the cultures that I miss. I have a hard time identifying myself as ‘French’ or ‘Canadian’ or ‘Argentinian’, or even ‘European’ rather than ‘American’… In all the countries I’ve visited or lived in I’ve felt I didn’t totally belong to the culture. Some say that makes me a true citizen of the world. All I know is that every country has good and bad things that could be changed, but if they were, it would make them less… different.

    There is no heaven on earth.

    Noelias last blog post..The Interpreter

  • http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pagina_principale Guillaume

    Salut Jenny,

    Mais ca me parait évident ! Comment faire pour se rincer le derrière plein de savon si la douche est accrochée au mur ?
    En bon français exilé à Montréal, j’ai changé ma pomme de douche assez rapidement,crois moi !

    Ciao et merci pour ton blog !

    G

  • http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pagina_principale Guillaume

    Salut Jenny,

    Mais ca me parait évident ! Comment faire pour se rincer le derrière plein de savon si la douche est accrochée au mur ?
    En bon français exilé à Montréal, j’ai changé ma pomme de douche assez rapidement,crois moi !

    Ciao et merci pour ton blog !

    G

  • Jonas

    I just discovered this excellent and entertaining blog and already bookmarked it. Please keep blogging!!

    ‘m currently reading this book and enjoy it a lot, as my perspective is the opposite – I’m a European living in Québec. I absolutely love Québec, though I have to say that some of the things you mention here are just as common the other way around.

    The paperwork and the bureacracy in Québec is mad, I never believed so simple things could be made so difficult. Why can you only take out the garbage two days a week? Why do you leave it in the street? Why do you have to visit both the Canadian authorities and the Québec authorities for all paper work? Why do Canadians protest against “Buy American” while being strongly in favour of “Employ Canadian”?

    Quand à la langue, les québécois ne se lassent jamais d’insister qu’on ne trouve le français correct qu’au Québec. Un accent européen ici, c’est vraiment un peu suspect bien qu’ils m’acceptent en apprenant que je ne suis pas de la France – mais ensuite, ils essaient dix fois plus zélé de me convaincre que le français que je devrais utiliser, c’est la langue parlée ici. En d’autres mots, ces attitudes ne me semblent ni français ni québecois – mais très très francophones :-)

  • Jonas

    I just discovered this excellent and entertaining blog and already bookmarked it. Please keep blogging!!

    ‘m currently reading this book and enjoy it a lot, as my perspective is the opposite – I’m a European living in Québec. I absolutely love Québec, though I have to say that some of the things you mention here are just as common the other way around.

    The paperwork and the bureacracy in Québec is mad, I never believed so simple things could be made so difficult. Why can you only take out the garbage two days a week? Why do you leave it in the street? Why do you have to visit both the Canadian authorities and the Québec authorities for all paper work? Why do Canadians protest against “Buy American” while being strongly in favour of “Employ Canadian”?

    Quand à la langue, les québécois ne se lassent jamais d’insister qu’on ne trouve le français correct qu’au Québec. Un accent européen ici, c’est vraiment un peu suspect bien qu’ils m’acceptent en apprenant que je ne suis pas de la France – mais ensuite, ils essaient dix fois plus zélé de me convaincre que le français que je devrais utiliser, c’est la langue parlée ici. En d’autres mots, ces attitudes ne me semblent ni français ni québecois – mais très très francophones :-)

Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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