Wednesday, 17 August 2005

The new invaders

So England is not what it used to be – possibly because, as the old joke goes, the Continent is not “isolated” any more.

France is changing too.

Now that they’ve lost their huge Empire, the Brits have undertaken to colonize huge swathes of the French countryside. They buy dilapidated farmhouses and try to recreate a corner of Britain in the middle of the Dordogne or Normandy. There are areas where ninety per cent of the population is English. Local mayors have to hire interpreters to communicate with townsfolk. Local grocers stock traditional English foodstuff – things like Marmite, Bird’s Custard, Heinz baked beans – as well as French products because the new inhabitants wish to “feel at home”.

The British have always settled down abroad (they invaded Tuscany years ago), but the sort of people who moved countries then were doing so because they wanted a different way of life: they loved the climate, the food, the lifestyle of their countries of choice. Nowadays, it’s different: egged on by endless TV programmes promising a better life somewhere else, people who have only been abroad maybe once in their life, and that on package tours; who cannot speak a word of French and have no intention of learning; who don’t really “like” the French, their culture or their food, up sticks and move to towns and villages, which soon lose their charm and their character.

It’s a preposterous and sad situation. Those people very often have to go back to the UK, their tail between their legs, because they haven’t been able to find work and can’t adjust to a different way of life. Even the ones who manage to stay – what’s going to happen when they get older? Will they want to end their lives in a foreign country, away from their extended family? What about their children? Will they want to remain in France or will they feel resentful towards their parents for uprooting them from their homeland when there was no need?


I think they deserve to be slapped for not doing their homework, for thinking they can just move in and not try to fit in.

I also want to slap my partner, who edits guidebooks with titles like Working and Living in France and therefore encourages more and more Brits to act like colonizers. And myself for checking the French in those same books.

11 comments:

  1. LOL and so true!
    I want to slap all those people Brits who have now taken over most of Brittany, parts of Cote d'Azur, Loire region etc. I thankfully do not feel that in Paris.

    xoxo

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  2. it's the arrogance of these people who move to another country without making effort to learn the language and then have the cheek to whinge about how it's hard to get anything done

    and funnily enough, some of these emigrants are the self same people who moan about immigration to the UK

    that said, a disturbing number of french people seem to be thrilled to make a nice killing on their lovely old houses, so they can bank some cash for their own retirement and then build themselves a hideous bungalow

    slapping them too, if that's ok

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  3. N, I don't think it's too bad on the Côte d'Azur yet: there aren't so many old houses to be bought there, and, anyway very wealthy jet-setters (not lower-middle-class Brits) are already in situ. It's worse in the "France profonde".

    Yes, UC, you're absolutely right. Re. your last point: the French owners of those wrecks do not have the money to pay for extensive repairs; the Brits do because of the inflated and disproportionate price of property in the UK. You sell your suburban semi here and you can buy a huge farm with lots of land in a French village. Also, the French owners want running hot/cold water and all mod cons. Who can blame them? They don't realize what they're doing, of course.

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  4. This reminds me of a fabulous DVD I just watched, starring John Thaw and Lindsey Duncan. It's called a Year in Provence, and it is exactly that-a couple from London move to Provence, buying a small estate and learning to settle into their new digs. It is fabulous, momentous, touching, not saccarine-you need to see it.
    Feeling generous, so particular slapping in this post!
    Carole

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  5. Hi, Carole! I saw A Year in Provence when it was first shown on TV (quite a few years ago). It's an adaptation of Peter Mayle's book and it does describe that exact situation. In fact, Peter Mayle is the one who started it all. He is widely blamed for the whole sorry thing. He made an absolute fortune with that book and then went to live somewhere else because he couldn't bear all those Brits that followed him to Provence.

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  6. J - I know from people, friends and my visits there that some parts in the Var have been infiltrated by the Brits (bet you it must be since they heard that dishy Depp lives there with his gorgeous wife Vanessa ;D)

    I heard the same about Mayle! B£$%%%%% - he probably bought an island somewhere with the fortune - to get away from the Brits. SLAP slappity slap!

    Oh as you may know the Dordogne are is FULL of Brits.

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  7. Well, at least I ejoyed the DVD (ah yess-the world is all about me!). I live in Eastern Canada, and we actually get a lot of celebrities here, because they can live anonimously, plus there are many places they can dock their boats(seriously). Mick Jagger has been spotted at the Irving, and Ethan Hawke regularly visits the Superstore to get groceries. We are a well kept secret. Or we were, till I starting chatting on this blog-
    I bet I can expect a collosal slap in the near future!
    Carole

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  8. Mick and Ethan? Carole - quick - please write a book soon - just don't mention the real location! ;)

    BTW isn't Donald Sutherland from somewhere in Eastern Canada too? I adore him and his son.

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  9. The one thing I can't agree with you about, N, is Vanessa Paradis: I really really dislike her little underfed face a lot. She became famous long after I left France, so I haven't seen her in anything.

    If I remember correctly, Donald Sutherland is from Nova Scotia. I had a big crush on him 25 years ago, after spending nine hours sitting behind him in the theatre (last performance of the RSC's production of Nicholas Nickleby; Meryl Streep was also in the audience that day) - not right behind him otherwise I wouldn't have been able to see anything (he's so tall), but just one seat to the side. For nine hours, I watched the show and his left profile. He turned around a few times and I wanted to say, "Hey, do you know who you are?!" (Apparently a fan said that once to a Hollywood star, LOL!) I can tell you he had incredibly soft skin, well, it "looked" incredibly soft.

    Sonny is not a patch on Daddy, im my opinion.

    Carole, I think you're safe for the moment, but it's only a question of time before Mick Jagger and Ethan Hawke discover my stupendous blog. LOL! And when they do.... slap! London is also a place where stars feel at ease because they know they won't be pestered. It's not cool to cry out, "Hey, do you know who you are?!" Not long ago, in the theatre again, I saw Lauren Bacall: absolutely no one approached her.

    I had a better seat than she did. :-)

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  10. LOL....

    Life is full of irony, is it not J?
    Not to mention confusion as well.

    What a truer and bigger than life post. I think the entire world has been invaded, but that is just my warp take on life.

    Be well.

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  11. B, you don't have a warped take on life: you seem to me to be an eternal optimist.

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