Welcome to the Ch’tis!

Rue de la clef à Lille; Photo de Caitlin DeFazio

Rue de la clef à Lille; Photo de Caitlin DeFazio

France is a diverse country, bur oftentimes, Americans don’t realize that. When most people think of France, they only think of Paris and act like it’s the only city in France. They think the French only drink wine and only eat snails. All the French people I know are not from Paris, in fact, they come from several different regions. My goal is to eventually visit every region in France. I’ve already visited five, but I’m going to compare the Nord-Pas-de-Calais with the Midi-Pyrénées. You can first look at superficial differences like the weather. Of course it’s usually colder in the North of France ; the same difference exists in the North and South of the USA. However, several regional differences exist that aren’t so obvious to the eye. My trip to Lille was, in my opinion, the best choice I ever made. It’s not a city that many Americans think of visiting, but I’ve wanted to visit Lille since I was in 7th grade because my first French teacher was from there. After living in Toulouse, it was easy to compare the regions. After having spent a semester in Toulouse, here are the differences I noticed:

 

 

 

You can see the Flemish influence in Lille, especially in the architecture and food. The buildings are extremely ornate and colorful, and the brick buildings with gold detailing gives Lille a distinctive appearance. Lille mixes French, Flemish, Belgian, and Dutch influences that make it the perfect « link » between France and the northern countries. You can also find row homes in Lille, which aren’t as common in other French cities.Lille is definitely a city of beers, and you can find more beers than wines on their menus ! Instead of Occitan, Flemish is everywhere because of Lille’s heritage, and the Lillois are very proud of their regional culture. Unlike Toulouse, I’ve seen menus that are completely composed of regional cuisine !

La Grande Place de Lille; Photo de Caitlin DeFazio

La Grande Place de Lille; Photo de Caitlin DeFazio

L'influence flamande; Photo de Caitlin DeFazio

L’influence flamande; Photo de Caitlin DeFazio

La Vieille Bourse à Lille; Photo de Caitlin DeFazio

La Vieille Bourse à Lille; Photo de Caitlin DeFazio

The accent is also different. No, the Lillois DO NOT speak with the exaggerated, weird accent found in Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis. That’s just stereotypical. Personally, I think it is easier to understand the Northern accent. It’s clearer and people do not speak as fast as they do in the South.

 

I had already heard of many of these differences, but was fabulous to experience these differences in person. I don’t understand how some people can ignore French regional differences when regional differences exist in almost every country. I think that many Americans have « Paris syndrome » in which they completely romanticize the city and don’t think of France as a diverse country, the same way that many French are only familiar with New York.

 

-Caitlin DeFazio

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