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Sorry we fail your French test

New generation British expats on watching Sky, eating Sunday roasts and integration

S. RUSHTON’S letter about expats not doing enough to integrate and complaining too much (Connexion October) was condescending and self-congratulatory.

I too cringe when I hear expat establishments in the Dordogne boasting “the best Sunday roast in the county.”

I too am a French language and culture fanatic and have only a vague idea of who is who in the UK and do not care as long as they make sensible decisions concerning the pound. I buy French produce to support the economy.

However we are not extremists who want to rid France of the non-integrated. Take French cinema: some films are terrific but others are just navel-gazing nonsense.

As for food, the average worker’s lunch has reduced to 31 minutes, with fast-food being much sought after, and French farmers are the world’s biggest users of pesticides and insecticides.

When I was on the committees of a French circle and a twinning association in the UK it was obvious that French expats spent much time seeking a genuine baguette or saucisse or a morsel of Cantal - and their friends brought supplies. Many had French television.

To cling to just one community is likely to render you uncultivated and intolerant. If you exclude all that is not French how can you compare and evaluate? The French seem keen to mix with expats.

HOW I envy the self-satisfied Rushtons and their total grasp of French. Like most expats we came to share the country and all it has to offer with its citizens. We have never been disappointed. We have French friends but also some of other nationalities.

Why immerse oneself in one way of national life to the exclusion of all other when there is much to be gained from variety?

We have lived here for seven years and struggle to master the language despite two classes a week, but then we are past our sell-by date. However, if the national language spoken here was English it would not be half as much fun.

We have an excellent shop for British food and many regulars are French. While the majority of food consumed in our house is French, I am afraid I prefer English pork sausages. Your preference for French ones is not because they are better but because it is your personal taste.
Sainte Thècle, Montesquieu

There appears to be a small number of Brits who resent the intrusion of recent arrivals as not up to the required standard.
Watching British TV and occasionally eating English food does not, however put them in the same bracket as those existing in a totally British environment on the Costas. Most Britons start here with school French and have to progress slowly.

Those I know all love France, its food, wine, lifestyle and culture and few do not make some effort to speak French and integrate. They should not be looked down upon if they never reach your linguistic standards or if they wish to still meet fellow Brits or eat British food from time to time - I imagine young French professionals in London do much the same.

You say it is human nature to moan. It is also human nature to cling to a little for comfort to one’s national identity and culture, while also embracing the culture of others.
Boutenac, Aude

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