“You’re turning French,” said a visiting British friend. It had begun innocently enough, with me saying that British people have gone prosecco mad and that fizzy wine should be kept for special occasions – now my national identity was coming into question. True, in the past I couldn’t give a flying cork when you drank any kind of alcohol but since living in France I have adopted a much harder – French-influenced – line on the business of boozing. Alarming enough, but were there other ways in which I was picking up gallic customs and habits? I’m afraid the answer is a resounding, “Baaah, ouais.” Read on to discover further signs of contamination.
Symptoms of Frenchness
1. Using “Madame” or “Monsieur” as a form of address no longer makes you feel like a butler.
2. When you go back home, you think people are rude because they don’t say “Hello” as often as French people say “Bonjour”.
3. And you automatically go to faire la bise with friends and family outside of France but stop yourself because you don’t want to seem pretentious. (In fact, you’ve forgotten how to greet fellow Anglophones. Is it a hug? One kiss? Punch on the arm and a “Heyyy”?)
4. You start sentences with, “Baaah….” like an adorable French sheep.
5. You navigate the yoghurt aisles in the supermarket with ease because you know the differences between petit suisse (tiny and delish), fromage frais (diet food), yaourt nature (slimy), yaourt brassé (NORMAL) and yaourt fouetté (wtf?).
6. Plain yoghurt with sugar sprinkled on top is no longer weird and just full on yum-arama.
7. “Je ne sais pas” is beginner-speak; for the rest of us it’s “chais pas”.
8. “Oh la la” stopped being hilarious a long time ago and may well have made its way into your vocabulary as an entirely reasonable response to mildly surprising news.
9. You have opinions about French sports teams. For example, you see someone in a PSG shirt and automatically assume that they are an idiot.
10. AZERTY keyboards are now navigable without much effort, even though going back to QWERTY – no shift key for numbers! – is like taking a little finger holiday.
11. You know those maps of the French cheeses that you get on tea towels for the elderly? With your cheese knowledge, you could probably draw one, were it a challenge in a particularly odd French Saturday-night game show.
12. Talking of cheese, meals now seem incomplete without it.
13. Your bread repertoire has expanded beyond the baguette but, more importantly, your boulanger(ère) recognises you and doesn’t treat you like a tourist.
14. If you live in a city with arrondissements, you are able to establish actual geographical locations when people say things like, “I live in the 9th”. Extra points if you can make subtle judgments about their income, social class and political leanings based on this number too.
15. And you certainly know your département number well enough to be able to spot an out-of-area license plate in your town. (“2B! They must’ve driven over on the ferry.”)
16. It’s likely that you have a strong opinion on la priorité à droite – probably that it’s so very stupid.
17. Your alcohol drinking is a lot more organised. Nowadays you think that people who drink champagne at any other time than with l’apéro or le dessert are unspeakable monsters.
18. You may not be a wine expert but you know the basic regions/grape types and aren’t going to bring shame upon your house by pairing poisson au beurre blanc with a hefty bordeaux.
19. Obviously you’re not becoming more negative but the phrases, “C’est comme ça,” “Tant pis,” and “C’est la vie” spring to your lips rather more easily than their English equivalents.
20. You understand all the swear words, even if you’re not ready to use them yet. Being able to swear like a French person signals complete assimilation and requires you to surrender your native passport at the nearest embassy.
Have you recently become aware of being more French? Do your friends and family back in the old country point and laugh at your beret? Perhaps you’ve lived in France for 50 years without picking up any French traits at all? (If so, how did you do it? Is your house covered in tin foil to keep out seeping Frenchness?) Tell us in the comments! And please share if you’ve enjoyed 🙂