It's time for this week's So Your Character is ... Post! This is a weekly segment where I interview lovely volunteers from around the world to give you a firsthand account of being a citizen of their respective country or having a disability. I'm hoping to encourage international diversity, break stereotypes, and give writers a crash course on how to write a character from these different places on our planet. If you haven't checked out last week's So Your Character Has OCD ... be sure to hop on over there and give it a read!
I had the opportunity to actually go to France on a mission trip for eight days. It was an amazing experience and my first trip to Europe (I plan to have many more!). I really enjoyed the French culture I experienced both in the countryside and in Paris. I also have French blood, so some of my family come from France. I've always felt a special connection to the country since I was a little girl and I'm so happy to learn even more about it from Fraise and Victoire!
(None of the Images are Mine)
Hi, I'm Fraise. I'm 19 years old and a psychology student. In my free time, I enjoy music, especially singing, watching Doctor Who or writing. I currently live in Germany, but as I am French and have family in France, I have spent (and still do spend) a lot of time there.
My name is Victoire. I am a sixteen-year-old teenager living in Nice, in the South of France. I still live with my parents and my sweet cat. I go to high school. What is a good point, but also an inconvenience (because I never have enough time) is that I enjoy doing a huuuge amount of things : reading, writing, taking photographs, doing art, dancing… And a lot of subjects interest me : Music, Fashion, Literature, History, Design… and much more ! I plan on being a journalist, to talk about Art, because I think this subject is the one that groups best all my hobbies.
What do you feel is unique to your country? Landmarks? Celebrations?
Fraise: Most celebrations in France are the same as in most western countries, like Christmas or Easter. On the 6th of January (Epiphany), french people eat the “galette des rois”, which translates as cake of the kings. It's a round cake with almonds, and hidden inside it is a little figurine. The person who get's that figurine in their part is the “king” for the evening and gets to wear a crown.
The national holiday is the 14th of July, where we commemorate the Storming of the Bastille as the beginning of the French revolution. There are big fireworks everywhere in the country and a huge parade on the Champs Elysées in Paris.
The most known city of course is Paris, with the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Montmartre, the Champs Elysées and any many more. Other big cities are Marseille, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Lyon, Lille, … But France has many other landmarks. There are antique sites in the south, for example the Nimes amphitheatre, the Pont du Gard or the roman theatre in Orange. We have many stunning medieval towns or sites, like Carcassonne or the abbey Mont Saint Michel in Brittanny. The Loire castles are all very famous, as is the Palace of Versailles.
Victoire: Most of the celebrations in France are religious (Christmas, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost…).
We only have three specific ones:
- On the 14th of July, we have a holiday to celebrate the storming of the Bastille (fortress) that occurred in 1789, during the French Revolution.
- The 11th of November corresponds to the armistice that marked the end of the First World War that took place from 1914 to 1918.
- Finally, the 8th of May symbolizes the end of the Second World War, when the Allies won (1939-1945).
Tell me about your country's environment. What are some of your favorite places?
Fraise: There are so many beautiful natural sites to see in France! There is the French riviera in the south, with Cannes, St Tropez and all the beaches at the Mediterranean sea. The Provence region with the lavender fields is very famous. There is the Atlantic coast with many great and well known surf spots like Hossegor or Europe's biggest sand dune, the Dune du Pyla.
Further in the north, you can find Cliffs like in Etretat. The Bordeau wine region is beautiful. The Ardèche or Dordogne rivers are good for Canoeing. The French Alps or the Pyrénees are great for skiing and have splendid landscapes, too. The Mont Blanc in the french Alps is the highest mountain in Europe. The Massif Central is an old volcano range and amazing for hiking. I could go on and on like that, France has so many stunning places! Get a first glimpse here.
Victoire: My country’s weather and temperature is quite varied, depending on the regions. In the North, in the cities of Paris, Lille, etc., the weather’s quite bad and very cold. Whereas in the South, cities like mine are mostly know for their sunny weather and their hot temperatures. But it happens sometimes that Northern cities have a better weather than in the South. It’s quite random.
We also have a lot of different landscapes: we have the mountains, the sea, very urbanized and historical cities… That’s what makes, I guess, France’s diversity. Some of my favorite places are the French Riviera (where I live), the Alps (mountains), Paris amazing monuments and lovely districts (Le Marais, Montmartre…), Saint-Tropez, the Dune du Pylat in Arcachon…
Fraise: Food is very important for French people! You all know the cliché of the French person with their baguette. Well, bread is never missing on a French table, that's for sure. A French meal includes a starter, often a salad or a soup, then the main dish, and after that a dairy product (often cheese, France has many famous cheeses: Conté, Camenbert, St Néctaire, Brie, Bleu,... many of those are regional.).
|French Bakery I went to in France|
Victoire: France has a lot of traditional dishes : the gratin dauphinois (gratin with potatoes and milk), oysters (that I think are absolutely disgusting - anyway), the pot-au-feu (a meat broth with vegetables)… France is mostly known for its delicious croissants, pain au chocolat and the famous French Baguette.
In my city, people often eat socca, a traditional dish that looks like a mix between a crêpe and an omelet, made of chickpeas (delicious but fattening).
I love those dishes, but I don’t eat them really often, ‘cause theses times I’ve been more in a healthy-vegan-hypocaloric kind of mood, eating seeds, vegetables, and organic stuff like that…
Fraise: People in the south have a different accent and pronounce things a bit differently, but they don't use different words. There are a few regional languages like the Langue d'Oc, but they are almost never used in normal, every day life.
Victoire: We’ve got a lot of weird slangs in my country. For example, saying « avoir le bras long » means « to have influence ». But it literally means « to have the long arm ». See ? It’s really strange and has to sense. In the same kind, to tell someone he’s annoying us, we say « tu me cours sur le haricot », which actually means « you’re running on my bean ! ».
Finally, saying to someone he « sings like a saucepan », « Tu chantes comme une casserole » in French, means he sings poorly. What a saucepan has to do with the way someone sings ? I absolutely don’t know. But these are some of the many slangs French people say in their daily life.
I also know that in the Southwest, people are used to say « chocolatine » instead of « pain au chocolat », which is a much-discussed topic, cause people are unable to reach agreement on what is the good designation. It’s very funny!
Fraise: School and work start between eight and nine. There is always a lunch break between 12 and 2, no exceptions made (I told you, food is important). School ends between 4 and 5, later if you are in middle or high school. Most schools (especially primary schools) are closed on Wednesdays, or at least for the Wednesday afternoon. It's not uncommon in High schools or universities to have classes on Saturdays. Most families have dinner around 7:30/8 in the evening.
Victoire: My regular day is quite boring, because I spend most of my time at school.
French people are known to enjoy life at its fullest. They like drinking coffee, having free time, taking care of themselves… So I think on a regular day-without mentioning work-a random French person likes to wander in her city, seeing friends, eating at the restaurant, doing sports (many people like to go for a run in beautiful parcs or on the seaside-many also attend to gym classes or things like that)… Yet the French aren’t as fond of sports as the Americans. In France, students finish school around five in the afternoon. They don’t have as much time as the Americans to practice sports. Sports aren't very cultural in France.
How does your country compare to others, especially the States since my audience is primarily American? Environmentally? Politically? Culturally?
Victoire: Politically, France counts 11 political parties, whereas in the USA, they’ve only got two. That’s the only thing I know. Anyway I am only 16 years old, so I am not very into politics. I think French are more self-contained than Americans, because they absolutely want to keep their « chic », whereas American seem to be way more simple and without restraint, which often seems to lead them to do crazy stupid things… But maybe that’s just a stereotype.
France is very close to Italy in terms of style. Italians are known for their good taste in fashion, their appearance, their chic… and so are French! At least, that’s what people are used to say. France is, to me, kind of the « center of the world », mostly because of its capital, Paris, which concentrates a lot of things :
- History: Paris is a very historical city, and the political power is leading the country from there since the 6th century. This city went through the whole History, experienced the wars, and survived everything she endured until today.
- Culture: It contains the most beautiful museums, a large amount of monuments, and it represents the French culture.
- International events: For example, the Fashion Week takes place there every year.
Briefly describe three historical events of your country’s you feel are important.
- The French revolution in 1789. It abolished the absolute monarchy and installed a republic. It lead to a rise of democracy in the whole of Europe and the world, but also to a lot of wars, and a lot of bloodshed inside the country.
- World War I
- World War II (during which France was half occupied by the Germans)
- August, 26th 1789, Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen : It’s a text written at the end of the French Revolution that stipulates the rights and the obligations of the French citizen.
- April, 21st 1944 : Women finally got the right to vote.
- September, 18th 1981, Abolition of the death penalty.
Fraise: I've heard saying that French people never wash themselves and are always smoking? I honestly have no idea where this comes from. Also that they are always rude, which I don't agree with either. Then there is that stereotype that French people are bad with languages, and, well, there might be some truth in that.
Victoire: I am really tired of people saying French are moody, not nice, not warm, always complaining and never smiling. Okay, it may be a bit true. But things have changed a lot: people are getting more and more pleasant, hospitable, and they’re not as disagreeable as they used to be. STOP THINKING PEOPLE ALWAYS STAY THE SAME. When we complain, we have our reasons. That’s it.
Moreover, I think this kind of nonchalant and cold French attitude is more of a style. That’s the kind of image of the French girl with her French Baguette and her big sunglasses, not caring of what and who surrounds her, acting like a selfish person, taking life as it comes. Well, that also is a BIG STEREOTYPE ;) But a true one !
I’d say "Brice de Nice." It’s a French and very (very very) stupid movie with a really famous french actor named Jean Dujardin. It’s the story of a dumb French surfer living in Nice (my city). I feel really insulted because I think if they chose this city in particular to film such a stupid movie staging a stupid character, it’s for a reason (I am just kidding. I actually don’t care at all, but I had no other film that delivers a bad image of France in mind).
Fraise: French movies! Try the Intouchables or the fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulin. And as a book, try Little Nicholas (but it doesn't portray modern day France).
Victoire: Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen. It’s the story of a man coming to Paris for holidays, and meeting artists that make him travel back to the 1920’s. I think it is a lovely image of France’s history. And I really like this movie, you should see it if you haven’t.
Fraise: The Three Musketeers, Asterix, and I love the Jules Verne books, even if the characters aren't all French.
- I am currently reading Momo des Halles, it’s a French book by Philippe Hayat. The main character is a young boy, which is left to his own because his parents are held by the german militia (it’s during the second world war). Momo is so touching. The kind of fictive character you’d die to meet in real life.
- Riad, in L’Arabe du Futur. It’s a comic that I like a lot. A biography, actually. The main character, Riad (the author) lives between France, Syria, and Libya. And he was born in France.
- Jean Valjean in Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. One of the most famous books in France, written in 1862.
Thank you, Fraise and Victoire, for this very informative post! I hope everyone enjoyed reading it. Come back next week for So Your Character Has Autism ...!
Are you interested in participating in this project? Slots for Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, New Zealand, the Philippines, Liberia, Algeria, Thailand, Peru, China, Slovakia, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Finland, Wales, and France have been filled, but if you are from any other country, shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)gmail(dot)com.
Do you have any French characters? Did this inspire you to write a French character or set a book in France? Are from this or been to this country and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for Fraise and Victoire? Be sure to thank them!
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