Parlez-vous Anglais?

France December 2011, Post 1: Being an Anglophone Sucks in France

Courtney and I just made a very silly mistake. I am in her room, finishing up an assignment before joining her at the bar. She is at the bar, with her keys. Here I sit in her room with her laptop, iPhone, our passports… and no way to lock the door. Looks like it’s going to be a wine-drinking alone kind of night. That’s okay. I have been thinking that I need to get my blog on.  I can save some Euros while doing some poli-sci readings. Maybe it’s a sign.

Being an English-speaker in Rennes, I may as well wear a T-shirt with this on it.

Something has really stuck out to be in the last week since I have been in Rennes. I didn’t notice it in Toulouse because I was with my French friends, so my English-ness was a bit more appreciated. Also, I never really had to talk to people.

Upon getting to Rennes, however, I was finally hit with what Courtney warned me of many times. “Don’t speak English too loud, Emily… they really don’t like it.” I thought it was kind of a joke. I mean, how can someone actually ANGRY at me for speaking my mother tongue, or having a hard time speaking theirs? I don’t really understand where this anger comes from, but I know now that it really does exist. For the past 5 days I have been yelled at in the street, both during the day and especially at night. People at the grocery store have rolled their eyes and waitresses have literally burst out laughing. Keep in mind, when I speak to French people, I speak in French. I only speak English to Courtney.

After getting called a “stupid American” over and over last night, I was kind of fed up when I woke up this morning. We went for dinner last night, and although I ordered in French, the waitress burst out laughing. Not laughing with me… laughing at me. I didn’t understand. Obviously when I speak French I have an Anglo accent, but at least I am trying! At the bar, the table beside us ridiculed us, called us Americans, not realizing that we could all understand them.

Being from a multi-cultural country, I guess I am just used to hearing people speak in their own languages while walking down the street, grocery shopping etc. This is just another one of my Canadian pride moments. We are so accepting in our society. As Canadians, not only are we used to the diversity of languages that makes our culture so unique, but we are open to it. Of course there is racism, and we are not perfect. But I didn’t realize how bad it can be to have someone mock you just for talking to your friend. I have never felt that speaking English would hinder me, but it has made it a lot harder to get pleasant service this week.

Don’t get me wrong- I love France, and two of my best friends in the world are French. I have also met a lot of people here who are willing to talk English, and are interested about why I am here. I just tell people I am Quebecoise- something I didn’t think would be beneficial in France, but is much better than just being Canadian, trust me!

Lucky for me, I can still have a great time, despite people yelling at me in valley-girl accents. So stay tuned for much more exciting posts about parties, leather boots, wine, and my bread consumption.

-30-

One thought on “Parlez-vous Anglais?

  1. The people of Brittany have a unique history. “Bretons” are a people with their own language and culture, who were themselves subjugated by the French. So, they don’t like foreigners. Your friends should have warned you about this.

    But what you experienced (that kind of racism) is unique to France. You really have to see it to believe it.

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