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.