Ever since venturing off to northwest France to work as an English language assistant for my gap year, I have wanted to be French.
From their raucous and convivial family celebrations (with at least five courses!) to their beautifully rolled r, I’ve grown to love everything about our Gallic neighbours.
Here’s a little insight into how I became interested in all things French …
An Education (French-style)
My (French-style) gap yah and year abroad
After spending my gap year working as an assistante in a school near Nantes, I went to study French and Spanish at Cambridge University and started to read Flaubert, Zola and Maupassant.
An interest in French cinema also followed, where I watched films by Truffaut, Kechiche and Canadian director Xavier Dolan. I loved Jacques Demy’s Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, with its poignant storyline and stylish cinematography in pastel colours.
I crossed the Channel again for my year abroad, spending most of it in Vendée before working in Paris in the summer.
During my year abroad, whilst flicking through Spotify’s insanely vast music catalogue, I fell in love with Jacques Brel (yes, I know he was Belgian!) and also discovered the singer Stromae, thought by some to be Brel’s contemporary equivalent.
I came back from France with an enduring respect for teachers everywhere, a passion for Zola and, to the disappointment of some family and friends, a new-found taste for rabbit. Reader, it was chouette.
Falling for Flaubert
To take a slight detour back to Flaubert, my fascination with all things French whilst still living in Britain – for now – makes me think of Emma Bovary, the unfulfilled and incorrigibly romantic heroine of his novel Madame Bovary.
Trapped in provincial Normandy as she dreams of living in Paris, Emma traces her imaginary itinerary of the City of Light with impatient fingers on a map: ‘du bout de son doigt, sur la carte, elle faisait des courses dans la capitale.’
At one stage in the novel, it is even mentioned that the quixotic Emma wishes both to end her life and to live in the French capital: ‘elle souhaitait à la fois mourir et habiter Paris’.
Although, luckily, I’m not entirely like Emma, my love for France from afar sometimes seems to parallel her wish to leave her sleepy Normandy village for the bright lights of Paris.
What I did next ….
I’ve now finished university and sadly can no longer get away with the excuse that visiting France counts as work. Quel dommage 😦
Until letting you know about my next French sojourn, I’ll be posting regular updates about anything and everything related to French and francophone culture.
À bientôt, mes chéris!