De Carlisle à la Ville Rose

Category: La Une in English Page 3 of 17

Firearms: liberty or security?

Editors: Brendan, Emma, Nicole and Sara

Living, studying, and conducting service projects allows us, as Americans in France, to learn more about the differences between these two cultures and ways of life. While many of these differences have become somewhat normal and generally accepted for us as current residents of Toulouse, we are still taken aback when we encounter French students who are extremely curious about gun culture in the U.S. As part of a service project for our program Emma helps teach English classes at a French school. While aiding high school seniors in their preparation for the BAC exam at the end of the year, they focused on gun culture in America and how it affects our country’s politics. In several discussions with the French students, they asked her several questions regarding the topic, but the one question that stuck with Emma was: do you own a gun? Their question surprised her because they were so serious about it and they assumed that she would own one, as a 21 year old college student. This question arose from more than just a few students which led us to consider more closely the role of guns in American society vs. French society.

To understand the vast cultural differences on the societal place of guns in each country, one must understand the laws regulating firearms, starting with the United States. As most Americans would know, the right to keep and bear arms is protected by the Second Amendment of the Constitution and as a further level of protection, most state constitutions guarantee this right. Given the fact that gun ownership is so ingrained into the foundation of the United States, it is no surprise that this issue is divisive. In terms of possession and ownership of a firearm, the laws vary state by state. Generally accepted laws include the prohibition of firearm sales to convicted felons, domestic abusers, fugitives, addicts of an illegal substance, those who are deemed mentally unstable, veterans who have been dishonorably discharged, and those who have renounced U.S. citizenship. Regarding the regulation of both open and concealed carry of a firearm, laws have changed dramatically since the early 2000’s. In most states, a license is required to carry a handgun and is permitted to qualified applicants, however eleven states still allow concealed carry of a firearm without a permit. This is called “Constitutional carry”. Twenty-six states allow open-carry of handguns without a permit and four states plus Washington D.C. have banned open-carry of handguns.

As one would expect, the laws are much different in the European Union. In France specifically, a hunting license or sport-shooting license is required to purchase any firearm. These licenses are broken down into 4 categories which determine specific regulations and must be renewed repeatedly. These regulations can get complicated, but the main thing to understand is that there is no right to bear arms. The punishment for illegally having a gun is a maximum of 7 years in prison and a fine. In 2012, the French government estimated that there were at least 7.5 million guns legally in circulation. Logically, this number is a far cry from the enormous estimated 393 million legally owned arms in the United States.

The differences in gun culture between France and the United States is reflected not just in legislation and gun owner statistics, but by extension in the way their respective citizens think. Having grown up in America where guns are so easily accessible and owned by many, when an argument between two people starts to get too heated, when someone looks alone and disturbed in a public place, or when she’s alone with someone following her, Sara’s first thought is to be cautious and aware of her surroundings because those people might have guns. One day she was explaining this feeling to the mother of her French host family and she was shocked that Sara instinctively thought in this manner. They discussed how Sara’s response is totally different than the reaction of a French person. For them, the idea of an average citizen having a gun doesn’t even cross their mind as a possibility, while for an American it’s a likely and dangerous possibility that influences both our sense of security and our thought process.

However, in an interesting turn of events, Nicole was also mildly shocked to be greeted by French military police carrying what appeared to be large, semi-automatic arms stationed casually in the Toulouse Blagnac airport. For her, whenever she sees military personnel or police carrying serious firearms, she automatically assumes something is horribly wrong. Her first instinct is to get herself as far as possible from them for fear of whatever they are dealing with. In the US, normal police carry only a handgun, and in her experience, there are no military police stationed in airports unless there has been a bomb threat. However, as she spends more time in France, the phenomenon of heavily armed military police is becoming more normal and less alarming. The interesting and somewhat ironic twist to this is that while she is American and Americans in general carry more firearms, she seems to be less used to seeing men carrying large guns than her French counterparts. So while the French are equal parts fascinated and alarmed by American civilian gun laws, one could also say that she too was very surprised by guns in France.

The differences in gun rights between France and the United States provoke both cultural differences and varying points of view. Civilian carry of firearms is legal in the US and widespread, causing the French to believe in the stereotype that every American carries a gun and that every American is used to seeing guns. However, for Nicole personally, the reality is quite the opposite. Not only does she not own a gun, she is not used to seeing them, though the fear of someone carrying a firearm is always present in tense situations. In fact, she was uncomfortable to be around military police carrying semi-automatic firearms whereas the other French citizens appeared to be completely at ease. However for a French citizen, the idea of owning their own gun is outlandish and strange. We find this large cultural difference interesting, as we believe it is an accurate reflection of each country’s founding principles. In France, the people believe strongly in the government and its ability to care for them, an attitude typical of a socialist country. However in the United States, a country founded on principles of individual liberty and a mistrust of the English government, people are more likely to distrust the government and place more faith in themselves. Being able to carry your own firearm to protect yourself in the absence of government protection is one of the most direct manifestations of the powerful belief in individual liberty: taking matters into your own hands in light of a lack of confidence in the government’s ability to take care of its citizens. While the US right to carry firearms is meant to ensure individual liberty and security, for some of us it provokes a sense of insecurity around strangers. However in France, even though people do not have the liberty to carry firearms, they are free from the same sort of fear and suspicion of people in public. Who is the most free: Americans who have the legal right to carry a gun, or the French who do not fear for their life in heated situations?

Dogs in France

Editors: Drew, Elizabeth and Maggie

One day, while out for a run, Elizabeth passed a plump beagle, trotting around all on his own. He was wearing a collar, so she knew he had a home. At first, she thought that maybe his owner was just a bit behind him since the French don’t always keep their dogs on leashes, but there was no one within sight. Fearing that the little guy was lost, Elizabeth tried to approach him to see if his tag might have a phone number to call. But upon seeing her approach, he immediately ran away down an adjacent street…

Dogs in urban versus rural areas

The nature of dog ownership in France differs from the city to the countryside. Between urban and rural settings, a dog’s breed, its function in the home, and its interactions with its owner can be completely different. In either region, French dogs seem to be extremely well-trained, but trained for different purposes. From one area of France to another, a dog will fit into daily life in dramatically different ways. In rural areas, like the town we visited in the Pyrenees, dogs often have their own responsibilities, functioning almost independently from their owners for long periods of time. They are often very large breeds with keen senses and thick fur to keep them warm. They are bred and trained to play an important role in herding and protecting other animals for their owners. The dogs can be left alone for weeks with their herd, expected to watch over the other animals while their owner is away. They are therefore often unfriendly towards outsiders, as their purpose is to defend the flock from potential threats, and even an accidental passer-by could be perceived as such.

City dogs, by contrast, are kept as company for their owners and stay in homes. From what we’ve seen, dogs in the city are typically smaller than mountain dogs. They are kept to be cute companions as opposed to having responsibility of their own, making them entirely dependent on their owners instead. The thickness of their coat is less important than it is for mountain dogs, as they are not outside for prolonged periods of time and their owners may put them in sweaters to go out anyways. On her way to the Dickinson Center, Maggie has often seen a couple carrying their Yorkie dressed up in a little raincoat. That’s an unlikely sight out in a rural area. City dogs may go for walks or runs with their owners and learn tricks, but their only real job is to love their owner.

Dogs in Toulouse

Toulouse is a city where you can meet dogs almost everywhere. Dogs of all sizes are spotted in cafés, grocery stores, restaurants, public transportation, and even when we don’t see them, we are constantly reminded of their presence through the business they leave behind. When walking through beautiful Toulouse it is dangerous to get lost looking up at the architecture or the bright blue sky for too long for risk of stepping in droppings from France’s four legged friends. For foreigners visiting France, the amount of dog poop covering the cities sidewalks is disgusting and incomprehensible. Watching dog owners in France walk through a packed little street stopping to let their dog poop in the middle of the sidewalk, then continuing on their walk is a normal sight here in France. Contrary to what one might think, there is actually a law that exists in France enforcing owners to pick up after their dogs with the threat of a 400 Euro fine if ignored. However, it does not seem like many cities in France are actively enforcing this law. By French dog owners, this law is largely ignored due to the sentiment that because the French pay taxes, it is the city’s responsibility to clean the streets, including their dogs’ waste. Because this issue is culturally rooted in France, enforcing a fine will not fix this canine problem.

Due to the more casual attitude towards dogs in France, dogs are often seen walking through the city streets and in parks without leashes. There is a French law that requires dogs to be under their owners’ close surveillance, less than 100m away, but no law that states dogs must be on a leash. This habit of trusting dogs to walk and play off-leash adds to the inclusiveness and high status of dogs in French society. Given a day to walk around any French city it is easy to recognize the special place dogs have in society in France. On an average day it would not be unusual for one to find dogs accompanying their owners carrying out their particularly “human” activities such as sitting in a café, going shopping, getting a haircut, and even taking public transportation. A large majority of shops, restaurants and cafés have no problem with bringing dogs into their establishments and will even go as far as to bring out water bowls for France’s four-legged friends. It is also not unusual for metro doors to open and to be greeted by dogs lounging on the ground or in the laps of their owners nonchalantly. In this dog-friendly society, dog owners are both permitted and encouraged to include their dogs while going about their daily lives in the city.

Comparison with dogs in the US

While there are certainly a great number of differences between the function of dogs within the French culture, the differences between how French and American cultures perceive their canine companions can be even more glaring. For example, between the two cultures, there is a large difference between the dog’s placement within the family. In the United States, the dog is a member of the family. Americans have the tendency to “baby talk” their dogs, kiss their dogs, and invite their dogs onto their furniture. Dogs, affectionately termed “fur babies,” are treated as extra children. Similarly, the French value their animals and obviously love them very much. However, there is a difference in the dog remains a dog in the eyes of the family. For instance, Elizabeth has met French families who, while they love their dogs, will only allow them in the communal part of their home, not in the bedrooms. Furthermore, the French don’t seem to have little “discussions” with their dogs, other than simple commands. The relationship between the French and their dogs resembles the master-animal relationship more than the parent-child one.

On top of this difference in family interactions, French and American dogs react much differently to outsiders as well. American dogs, since they are a large part of the family unit, are often very well socialized. When friends come to visit an American home, they often spend a good amount of time petting the dog and paying attention to him. When dogs are taken out for a walk, owners are usually bombarded with requests to pet the dog, usually from children or college students. Consequently, American dogs tend to be very outgoing and open towards strangers. Rather than shying away from a stranger’s approach, an American dog tends to welcome it, tail wagging. French dogs, however, are not given such attention. When friends come over, the dog is not the main subject of conversation and when a dog is out in public, it is often ignored by passers-by. Therefore, when a French dog is approached by a stranger, he is often much warier and withholding than an American dog, who may run to greet a stranger before a stranger runs to greet it.

There’s more on the topic of mutts. While Americans try to specify exactly what mix of breeds their dog might be, there is less of an emphasis on getting a purebred dog. On the contrary, adopting an abandoned mutt is seen as the most preferable thing to do, since these dogs are in need and, as a positive, are less likely to be inbred. In contrast, the French seem to mostly have dogs that are a specific, easily identifiable breed. This then reflects on how one looks at procuring a dog. In France, a dog is bought. One goes to a breeder or a store that has the type of dog one wants to buy it. On the other hand, Americans are more inclined to adopt. Even though they pay fees, Americans don’t truly see themselves as buying their dog because the emphasis is on rescue and providing a “forever home.”

Tell me how you eat and I’ll tell you where you come from

Editors: Alexander, Demetria, Elizabeth and Sara

Elizabeth’s first meal in France

My first introduction to French food habits was my first night in Toulouse. I didn’t get to my hosts’ house until about 9:30 at night so I wasn’t expecting anything more than a snack when I arrived, but little did I know my hosts had prepared a multi-course, hour and a half long meal for me. Before coming to France I knew that they had different eating habits than us Americans from taking a French food culture class at Dickinson. I was not prepared, however, for the structure and the style of meal I was about to receive. We sat down at the table in the little courtyard that separates the main house and what my hosts fondly refer to as the “chartreuse”, which is the house where my room is. It was a beautiful evening so although I was fatigued from my long day and a half of traveling, sitting outdoors in this beautiful courtyard soothed me in a way. I introduced myself to my host and we started chatting while her husband brought out the first course. The three of us shared sliced tomatoes with olive oil and balsamic, the flavor of which I still remember to this day. The tomatoes were so fresh, and when I asked about them my host told me she had picked them up from the market this morning. I remembered learning in class that the French often shop for their food the day they plan to prepare it to ensure its freshness and quality. Next my host brought out a cheese and ham tart that she had just pulled from the oven. I noticed how my hosts ate so that I could mimic their actions in order to show them that I could participate in this ritualistic way of eating as well. They ate very slowly, savoring each bite as if each was more incredible than the last. After the tart I assumed we would be finished and I could finally go to bed, but they had a different plan. My host disappeared into the house again and returned with a large plate of different cheeses and a basket of fresh bread. She explained to me what the different cheeses were and invited me to try as many as I liked. After we finished our cheese I discovered it was time for dessert, something I am not accustomed to eating after dinner because my parents hate sweets. Luckily for me their version of dessert is plain yogurt with a bit of sugar that you can add on top. I found this to be the perfect way to end the meal, it was sweet enough to cure the after-dinner sugar craving and light enough that I didn’t feel completely stuffed after having just consumed four courses. And finally, once the yogurts were finished and the plates and dishes were cleared, my hosts proposed a “tisane”, a medley of herbal tea leaves my host grows in her garden and dries for us to enjoy after dinner. This specific blend is meant to help digestion which was much needed after the amount of food we ate. This first meal came as quite a surprise to me but I quickly grew accustomed to the late, multi-course dinners and have truly grown to love and appreciate them.

A comparison of French and American food practices

The French have many eating habits and traditions that differ from those of Americans. In France, meals are most often shared with family. This applies even when family members’ schedules become busy. In the United States, family members commonly eat at times that are convenient for them as individuals instead of waiting for the whole family to be available at one specific time. Keeping the French tradition of eating as a family in mind, it makes sense that Elizabeth’s hosts wanted to welcome her into their home by inviting her to eat with the whole family even at a late hour, another tradition that is also very common in France. The time at which the French eat their meals, notably dinner, differs greatly from what Americans are used to. Whereas American families often eat dinner around 6pm, French families eat much later, frequently around 8pm or even 9pm. However, even though the meals may start later in France, that does not prevent them from lasting for hours at a time. A person’s participation in a meal in the United States ends after they personally have finished eating, so the meals often do not take very long. In France, dinners may go on for hours as French people discuss all types of topics, ranging from the food prepared to politics. The fact that French meals usually consist of multiple specific courses also adds to the length of the meal. In France, there is often an “aperitif” even before the dinner itself starts, which usually includes a drink and small portions of food, such as nuts, savory pastries, and spreads. During the dinner, there is often an entrée course, similar to an appetizer, and then the main course. Dessert comes after the main course, along with a spread of cheeses and bread. On the other hand, in the United States, all of the food is usually just served at once. If it happens to be a more special occasion though, there may be an appetizer course before the meal, which often includes cheese. The extensive amount of courses in a meal in France and the fact that meals often last for hours also explains the fact that most French people do not snack throughout the day.

The value of food

In France, meals are seen as an important time of the day during which families gather to eat together and the French place a lot of value and importance in the action of sharing a meal. On the other hand, in the US there is generally a very different attitude towards food. In the US people are generally more comfortable eating alone or eating while doing something else in order to save time. For example, students will often bring work to breakfast or lunch or do work in their room as they are eating dinner in order to use time efficiently. This casual attitude towards food is very different from the attitude in France, where often more time is taken to prepare meals and more time is spent at the table. Even during the week, time is generally set aside so that a meal can be prepared. This difference could be explained by the more personal and emotional relationship that people have with food in France, as it is such an important and central part of the culture. This is also seen in the idea of “terroir”. “Terroir” refers to the relationship between where the food is grown and how it tastes. In fact, this idea of “terroir” is so important that there are specific measures taken to give special protection and recognition to these areas and the products produced there. Also, during a meal in France people will often discuss the meal and the food that they are eating, as well as spend more time eating in order to appreciate the meal and the experience of sharing a meal with company. In France a meal is seen as more of a social experience, rather than in the US where is it often seen as a more flexible part of the day, where shortcuts can be taken as necessary.

The relationship to food and waste in France

It is clear from the habits of the French that food is perceived as more than just an act of consumption. It is a treat, it is pleasure, it is conversation, it is a treasured and important element of one’s life. Meals are not an afterthought, they are planned for and valued. And while the extent of these observations might come as a surprise to a French reader, that is only because we are overstating the banal. The attachment to food is at the essence of French culture in a way that is most noticeable to those who do not hold that kind of relationship to food. But what are the implications of all of this? A pleasure mentality to food, eating, preparation, and all the like influences the way we treat food beyond what goes in our body. Throwing away what we have prepared or only using two thirds of the ingredients towards the meal becomes a far bigger deal if that meal was prepared from start to finish with our own hands in our own kitchen or the taste of that tomato actually means something to our day. Finishing our plates and using our ingredients in their entirety or before they go bad thus becomes the expected. The French care about their food and wasting it does not happen lightheartedly. Meanwhile, in the United States, the entire idea of a relationship to food can seem almost amusing. Consumption is at the core of the act of eating, and thus efficiency comes into play. The ingredients must be easy to get, the preparation has to be straightforward, and eating should happen so one can get back to the important things in life. In the US, frozen or ready-made food and ingredients fill in supermarket shelves and spending too much time preparing a meal would be marking a special occasion. With this in mind, not finishing one’s plate becomes far easier. If one cares about the process and product of food prep little beyond the fulfillment of a basic need, one is bound to care little about how that food is treated at any point of the process. Thus, food waste becomes easy. Culturally, there is little stigma around food waste in the United States and that is because of the lack of a meaningful relationship to food and eating. We now see how attachment to the act of eating in France not only contributes positively to the “joie de vivre” but also strengthens French people’s bond to what they eat in a way that reduces food waste.

How is the concept of personal space different between France and the United States?

Editors: Bevin, Lara, Melody and Paul

@ Fennel Hudson

One of the most confusing aspects of French culture, in our opinion, is the perception of personal space. Melody’s first memorable experience with personal space in France was the first time that she met the grandmother of her home stay hosts. On her way through Jardin des Plantes, Melody had, by coincidence, ran into her hosts, who were hosting their grandmother for the weekend. Melody was hurriedly introduced to her and, in honoring French custom, the grandmother went in for the “bise”, one kiss for each cheek. Forgetting the seemingly space-invading custom, Melody awkwardly responded late and, when the grandmother went to her left, Melody went to her right resulting in almost kissing the grandmother on the mouth. This apparently was not enough embarrassment, since the grandmother then turned to the right and Melody consequently turned to her left, which resulted in another almost-mouth kiss. Quelle horreur! Experiences such as this one are not an uncommon phenomenon for foreigners in France, as the concept of personal space varies widely between cultures. What makes up personal space in France? How is it interpreted differently in French contexts and practiced in daily life? While these questions are seemingly complex, exploring them with our intimate observations of French culture allows for a more structured analysis of the definition of personal space with the context of France.

You’re never fully dressed without a smile… unless in France!

When walking down the street in America it is normal to smile at the person who passes by you. However, in France this is rare. If you practice your American smile in France it will either not be reciprocated or met with confusion. You may think that this is because the French are rude. Yet, this behavior is essentially due to a cultural difference in the perception of personal space between France and the United States, which translates in the way French people build their relationships. Americans are usually very open from the beginning and it is normal for them to share personal information even if they are meeting someone for the first time. This practice takes a longer time with the French. Indeed, if they decide to share personal information with you at all, it may not occur until after multiple meetings. While this may be shocking to people from the United States it is completely normal in France. The French value their relationships and carefully choose the information they share with others.

@ Blonde paresseuse

Paradoxically enough, as we’ve seen in the introduction, it is not uncommon in France to “faire la bise” to greet people you just met, whereas it is perceived as very personal contact in the United States because of the physical proximity that this gesture implies. This is another proof that the two cultures do not share the same perception of personal space and privacy.

There’s no place like home…

The way in which the French treat their private spaces demonstrates another cultural difference from typical Americans. Walking around Toulouse, you can often see groups of young people dining together, sitting by the river and generally enjoying the city. While this isn’t shockingly abnormal, the frequency at which young Americans habitually choose to have an outdoor get together is far less frequent. Living in Toulouse has felt reminiscent of the U.S. in the late 20th century in terms of how and where people tend to congregate. Americans crave innovation, and the creation and popularization of the Internet and cell phones has diminished the need for young Americans to leave their personal spaces to socialize. Your friends, and virtually anyone who has a social media account, can be reached, or monitored, with a few clicks, scrolls, and taps. The French aren’t technology adverse, of course. They too enjoy the accessibility of the Internet and social media by the same means. But they continue the tradition of staying out to see those inside and outside of their social circles. Almost any day of the week, one can see young people hanging out by La Garonne, the river that runs through the city of Toulouse. A few times friends we’ve wanted to see were already there, hanging out with friends of their own.


This cultural difference has affected how both cultures use their private spaces, most specifically their homes. The most typical way young Americans hang out is by having an activity at home. We have coined the term “pregame”, in reference to drinking with friends in one’s home before actually going out, or “Netflix and Chill” to mean watching a movie with a love interest at home instead of forking over the money to go to the movies. The comfort of being in our own homes, and bringing others into it, has begun to replace the typical shopping-mall hang out on a Friday evening one would do to see if their crush would stop by with his or her friends. The French enjoy sleepovers and lazy hangouts too, but tend to be more selective with who they let into their homes and how frequently.

In a physical way of demonstrating this preference to privacy, French homes, apartment buildings, schools and offices have shutters over each window and even over some doors. It isn’t unusual to see these closed during the night, hot days, or when people are not at home. Shutters have become ingrained into the French culture, as traditional and for practical use. There are many kinds of shutters; however, the most popular are wooden or electric shutters. Shutters can help retain heat during the winter, prevent the sunlight from heating the house in summer and add an extra layer of security to any building. One can observe simply by walking down a typical Toulouse street that most houses also have a gate, a wall, or tell hedges surrounding the house to block the view from the street. This adds another layer of security as well as personal privacy, which the French cherish. The French regard the home as an intimate, personal space which only close friends or family usually have the invitation to see inside. They layout of a typical home can be used to describe the population in general; reserved and quiet on the outside but charming on the inside.

How can we interpret the different approaches to the notion of personal space in France and the United States?

@ Liz Provasi

For an American, having space and privacy is integral to the American identity as a freedom that is underlined in the Constitution. Big houses and personal space for cars or objects are looked upon as favorable and having space for one’s body is seen as the norm. In contrast, the French standard of personal space reveals a seemingly subtle paradox: while houses and personal life are seen as extremely private aspects, the space invading “bise” is seen as not just a formality but an accepted necessity. In the French context, personal space is translated into the physical space, the house and home, while that of bodies or literal “personal space” is seen as not as important. The American mindset focuses much more on the spatial arrangement of the personal as important: having space for the body is the most important whereas the space of house and home is seen as a less private, bordering on a public display. For Americans in France, it can be very confusing to read the signs of personal space, especially with the “bise”. One of the greatest misunderstandings between French and Americans stems from this difference in interpretation, as the need for personal space pervades our lives in ways that sometimes we don’t stop to think about. With increasing globalization and mobilization of world citizens, it is imperative to keep an open mind within different cultures as well as be aware of how you take up space, whether personal or physical. Space as a cultural aspect can be intimidating but also enlightening.

The Franglais Phenomenon

Editors : Isabel, Julianna and Sophia 

On the day Isabel arrived in Toulouse, her host family’s daughter eagerly asked if Isabel had ever heard the word “lull”. After some confusion, Isabel realized that this was not a French word, but rather the English text-shortcut ‘LOL’ pronounced in a French accent. This experience proved to be the first of many encounters with anglicisms in the langue française courante. A homeowner uses “scotch” to tape a “poster” on the wall, a parent “fait du shopping” every “week-end”, and a lycéen finds everything “cool” and even “likes” certain “Facebook” posts. So far one of the most surprising realizations from Toulouse is that French conversations contain quite a bit of English!

Globalization and the rise of linguistic borrowing

The use of anglicisms is so prevalent in French that it made us wonder, why are there so many English words? The use of foreign words is not particularly shocking on its own; after all, lexicons are flexible and the rise of intercultural contact in this era of globalization has left almost no language untouched. We have noticed plenty of examples of other non-English foreign words in French too, such as tsunami (Japanese), hijab (Arabic) and yoga (Hindi). Yet many of these terms differ from the English words in that they’re rather limited – they tend to refer to specific events or practices from the culture of origin. The words borrowed from the English language describe more universal phenomena (le business, le babysitting) and are more frequently turned directly into French verbs  (customiser, uploader), both of which indicate that English has more influence on French than other foreign languages. Given that the majority of these anglicisms come from sports, fashion, entertainment and online/social media vocabulary, it appears that the dominant English-speaking internet and entertainment culture is responsible for these additions to the French language.

Dire, ne pas dire

The prevalence of anglicisms in daily language has caught the attention of the French, too. In France, language is more than a means of communication; it is a matter of national heritage and culture. L’Académie française, a council of 40 writers and artists devoted to the protection of the French language and its integrity, takes a hardline stance against the use of anglicisms. This can be seen in the Académie’s website, which includes a section of anglicisms to be avoided in favor of their authentic French equivalents. The site warns against use of the words “networking”, “hotline” and “brainstorming”, suggesting instead “travail en réseau”, “numéro d’urgence”, et “remue-méninges” as proper French alternatives. The desire to safeguard the French language from English influence is also evident in the backlash to a 2013 proposition allowing French universities to teach a small number of courses in English. Although the bill passed, its critics called it a betrayal of national heritage and L’Académie Française went so far as to deem the proposal “linguistic treason.”

While certain sections of French society may regard the use of English words as a threat to national culture, the very need of L’Académie Française to dissuade French speakers from adopting anglicisms illustrates that not all French speakers share this attitude. Here lies a national quandary: though the French are fiercely proud of their language and seek to protect its evolution from foreign influence, many speakers are also eager to adopt English terms, phrases, and culture into their speech and way of life. For example, Isabel’s host sister has asked for American music recommendations that she can share with her friends. Additionally, nearly half of the movies shown at the local theaters in the last month have been American productions, some of which are shown with the original English soundtrack and French subtitles. Furthermore, many Dickinson students have been approached for babysitting jobs by parents seeking an English-speaking caretaker to improve their child’s acquisition of the language. These examples clearly demonstrate that English is popular and its status will not soon subside.

Should the French be worried about the increased use of anglicisms?

From an American point of view, the French perception of this issue a bit difficult to understand. News articles with dramatic titles such as “La langue française en danger?” (Le Monde), “Il y a une soumission française à l’anglais” (Le Figaro) and “Faut-il bannir les anglicismes?” (Europe1) reflect fears that do not exist to the same degree in the United States, a country with no official national language. Perhaps these seemingly alarmist French perspectives can be linked to the language’s apparent decline within the international sphere. For example, the percentage of French articles used in the European Commission decreased by 29 percentage points between 1997 and 2009; in contrast, English articles made up 72% of European Commission documents in 2006. Instances like these seem to beg the question as to whether the French language is losing prominence in favor of English and what should be done about it.

Ultimately, is this blending of languages and cultures a positive result of globalization and exchange, or a harmful threat to French identity and culture? Clearly, there are a multiplicity of different responses to this question among French citizens, and to give a single, sweeping answer fails to acknowledge the diversity of opinions among the French regarding their own language. In our increasingly globalized world, and throughout the remainder of our time as students here in Toulouse, it will be interesting to see in what ways the French reconcile these seemingly opposing interests: the desire to maintain linguistic heritage and tradition on one side, and the desire to participate in a system of global interchange increasingly dominated by the English language.

Discovering the Spirit of Strikes

Editors: Phoebe, Isabelle, Katherine, Ryan A., James.

The University Strikes

It has been almost two months since those of us studying at the University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès have had class. When we arrived in January, some of the professors and students had already been striking for several weeks because they were against fusing with other universities in Toulouse and the system of applying and being accepted into college, similar to what we have in the US, which President Macron wants to introduce as one of his goals relating to “education reform.”

A phenomenon that exists in French universities that we don’t have in the US is the one called Assemblées Générales (or AG for short) which allow a small percentage of the student population of a school to decide what is going to happen for the entire university. This is a time where students can decide the actions that are going to be taken during the period of strikes, which became a period of full blockage in our case at UT2J. Everyone comes together in a large lecture hall where they can speak of their opinions in front of everyone who presented themselves at the time of the AG. These AG’s are meant to be a time where people can inform themselves and hear the opinions of others. Strike culture is very strong in France, but somehow it seems as though this culture is much stronger on our campus. We talk a lot about how this type of blockage could never happen in an American university.

The Rail Strikes

As we are writing this blog post, we are currently on a bus en route to Paris rather than on a train because of the SNCF strikes. At the beginning of the semester, it was planned to go to Paris April 14th by train, but a month ago a schedule for the strikes was published. Between April and June there will be between two and four days a week of SNCF strikes. That’s why we are traveling by bus today, April 13th. Our situation isn’t too exceptional. Many people in France are affected by these strikes.

The SNCF strikes are mainly a result of proposed changes by President Macron. Historically speaking, the SNCF workers have received a lot of benefits and vacation days because their work was very difficult and physical. Today, the nature of this work has changed a lot due to technology. Macron would like to put in place economic reforms that include the reduction of benefits and vacation days, as well as a later retirement age. As one can see, the SNCF workers are very angry with these potential changes. At least for us these strikes mean that we have an extra day in Paris!

The Strikes Don’t Prevent Us From Cultivating Our Minds

To argue that a 9-hour bus ride from Toulouse to Paris is enjoyable would be difficult. That being said, the Jean Jaures students having had no class for six weeks on end, we are excited to resume our studies in the country’s capital. In particular our visit to the national assembly will hopefully shed light on governmental processes and policies that have led to this period of strike both for the universities and public transportation. This is a rare opportunity seldom offered to Parisians, even more so French citizens, and we hope to take full advantage of visit. In fact, the majority of events scheduled for our time in Paris are off the beaten path and are specific to our group. Sunday morning, we will visit the Centre Pompidou before its opening and follow a guided tour that will shed light on some of the world’s foremost pieces of modern and contemporary art. Having already conducted a project on modern and contemporary art earlier in the semester, this will be a perfect opportunity to continue our studies. Our foray into the arts, however, does not stop with our visit to the Centre Pompidou. Tuesday evening, we will be transported to 18th century French theater by Marivaux’s The Game of Love and Chance at the Porte Saint-Martin Theater. Marivaux’s romantic comedy, using stock characters from the Commedia dell’arte will improve our comprehension of not only the French language, but of French humor as well. At the very least, our time in Paris will allow us to better learn another city of France and help complete our integration into French language and culture.

University Culture

Editors: Devin, Colby, Hallie, Winnie.

The bureaucracy at the university

In Devin and Colby’s experiences, bureaucracy is an important part of the French university system. Colby said that when you need the signature of one single person, the one office has its opening hours at the most common times for classes and they take a very long lunch break, so it’s hard to find the person one needs. Nothing is online and there are random times when some secretarial offices are closed. The situation is the same for Devin in terms of the libraries. The city’s libraries are connected, but the system to check the availability of the novels does not say specifically if the novel is available in a particular library. So, even if the system says that a novel is available, it might be necessary to visit another library in the city in the search for it. In the experience of both of them, the reaction from the French is the same: Devin’s hosts thought her reaction was funny. For Colby, the common reaction he received is that “it’s the French way.”

Autonomy in the work

Besides the fact that the French university is very different in comparison to the United States in the way it functions, there are also differences inside the classroom. An example is the French presentation, or the “exposé.” When Devin knew that her class was assigned with an oral presentation, she was not worried because she already did oral presentations in the United States. However, when she started working on the project with her group, she saw that the presentation here is in fact an oral presentation of a “dissertation.” She was confused about why French students only present a dissertation. This type of work has a lot of rules so it is understandable why the French professors prefer this format, but there is no freedom to explain the subject. In the U.S., when a student presents a report, he does not memorize the presentation and thus seems relaxed. Rachael noticed in her classes in Toulouse that “it’s normal to keep your notes with you” during the presentation, and that “all students read full sentences directly from their notes.” Devin and Rachael thus observed that all the students who presented did not look at their audience.

Another main difference is the question of the student’s responsibility. Although the teachers criticize them in front of the whole class, the role of the teacher is different in comparison to that of the American professor. It can be said that it is completely the students’ responsibility to understand the topics, and the teachers are only present to give the instructions. French universities create very independent students who know well how to do research and how to find the informations relevant to their work.

Student choices and lifestyles

The choices in the student’s life are the important things that we have noticed, for choices shape their lives at university, among their teachers, in Toulouse, among their friends, and in all aspects of their lives. After spending time in France, we found things that interest us because they differ from those in the United States.

Devin goes through H & M, a shop known and frequented by young people and students. Although this shop also exists in the United States, the difference is evident by the dress style of the customers in it.

Fashion is something that many people make use of to express themselves and to create an identity. This feeling also applies to French students. Devin suggests that student fashion can be expressed with the word “comfort.” This idea is understandable because as a student, we really focus on studying during school hours. However, according to her observations in France, she finds that all do not dress in the same way. Being an American student, she was interested to observe how other students dress. At her French university, students dress in complete sets of clothes even as early as 8:30. Devin found that for her, it was odd that no one would dress in leggings or sweatpants, which are clothes often seen in the United States in the world of American students. The clothes change the atmosphere of the school, and at the same time, they are a means by which students can show their individuality.

Another way of projecting this individuality is in their choice of schooling. It is the student himself who chooses his quest for knowledge. Hallie attended courses at the University of Toulouse in which she found that the relationship between the professors and their students seems less close.

Although her teacher guides the students, they are not friends with one another and therefore the link is rather professional. One of her teachers emphasized the importance of choice that these students have, saying, “If you’re in this room, you’re here to learn. You have the choice. You can still stay in bed. But you chose to learn.” This connection produces a dynamic in which students are neither pampered nor patronized. In addition, parents do not pay tuition fees. That is to say, students are the only bosses of this burden or gift that is schooling. In short, the small amounts of exams administered give students the responsibility for understanding the subject, without the professors’ use of a note of participation or attendance. Therefore, it is the decision of the French student to continue the knowledge, and between the professors and the students, there is a mutual respect.

Changing Attitudes for Preserving the Environment

Editors: Okung, Lina, Nadia, Isy, Allie.

Each day, the global population creates more and more pollution that destroys our environment, and Toulouse is no different. Its constant population growth over the past 30 years has led to an increase in car usage- roughly 50% of Toulousains use a personal car as their primary form of transportation. Though in some cities, fewer people are smoking, the practice remains very common in Toulouse, and cigarette butts are left in streets, parks, and the river. Also, Toulousains do not clean up after their dogs, instead leaving the messes in the middle of public sidewalks. There are many steps that Toulousains can take to help the environment- and beautify their city in the process.

Daily habbits to help decrease pollution

With all these problems, there are solutions that exist currently to ameliorate the situation. First, in Toulouse we do not see as many cars as in other large cities, but the metro is used a lot. “After having visited Toulouse’s downtown, it is clear why the metro is so popular – there is no room for cars nor the need for this type of transportation” (Allie). Most of the time, the metro is faster than the cars. By avoiding traffic jams, the only things that affect the metro are blockages and construction. With this time gained also comes protection of the environment. When the trains arrive at stations like “Jean Jaurès, the only station where the two lines of the metro cross…they are way too many people” (Allie), thus there are fewer people in cars. Because of this, there is less pollution from cars in the air and in the environment. Even though the metros cause some pollution, it is much less than that which all the cars would create if the metros did not exist.

Another solution that exists is the prohibition of many types of plastic bags in France. In many grocery stores in French, the cashiers do not give out plastic bags for bagging food. In fact, if you do not bring your own bag, you can buy a reusable bag at the cash register for a few euros. A student, Isy, notes that “Normally these bags are made with paper, they do not exist in many groceries or stores that give people free plastic bags. There are types of plastic bags still exist in France which have not been banned and such bags can be used for fruits and vegetables. These bags must meet the minimum standard of being a biosourced material and must compostable. With this change, France has gotten rid of millions of plastic bags that could potentially pollute the enviroment.

A diet that’s more restpectful to the environment?

Evidently, the French have a delicate and appreciative relationship with food that reveals their ideas in relation to the manner in which consumption affects health. There are not many vegetarians in France, but the number has been increasing. However, in France, the economy and the government take care of the agriculture industry as it is an integral part of French history and culture. On the other hand, in the U.S., it is true that there is a significant amount of intensive animal farming, as well as many factories who mistreat animals. Furthermore, American brands also tend to use a significant amount of preservatives. In France, these practices are less common, so people have little reason to motivate themselves to quit eating meat.

“The way that the French view meat consumption is more humane and healthy,” a student, Lina Miller says, “I think this method of viewing meat consumption is tied to the way the French perceive health to be connected with what we eat.” Another student, Isy, gives another example of this French concept, noting that “Non-pasteurized milk is banned in the U.S., but in France, raw milk is not banned and is very common in domestic life. The different tastes of these two types of milk are noticeable and they affect the taste of other foods and drinks.”

The aspect in which the French choose what is important to concentrate on, suggests that the things we put in our bodies have a direct effect on our lives. Meat and raw milk are not considered as bad things for health, but however, the French do not consume as many preservatives. In these specificities, we note that the French take care of what they consume.

The paradox of cigarette and cannabis use

The French have an individual relationship, and also a social relationship regarding the use of cigarettes. Compared to the United States, one observes that there are many more smokers in France and you can see a culture that is more tolerant of smokers. As Nadia observed, “…In the United States, there is a sort of prejudice against people who smoke, especially close to children. But here, in Toulouse, there is not this same mentality. I have made some French friends and they told me that they smoke for its social aspects. Often, when a friend leaves to smoke a cigarette, the others leave with them to continue the conversation. » As Nadia remarked well, it is clear to see there is a more social aspect than one that is more attentive to the environment and health. In the United States, people think more about the negative consequences of smoking and that the social aspect is not a reason that is more imprtant than health considerations.

But concerning other drugs like cannabis, the beliefs of each country are the inverse. As Allie noted, « in the United States, it seems like smoking cannabis is a pass-time that is very popular…the American public is becoming increasingly comfortable with the legalisation of cannabis, not only for medical reasons, but also for recreation. » Her host observes that there is not at all the same mentality in France as many French people believe that cannabis is more dangerous than cigarettes due to its psychological impacts.

This reversal of attitudes concerning the effects of drugs shows that the Americans and the French think of the environment in completely different ways and especially that the social environment of each country influences individual actions and as a result, the way of thinking about public consumption.

La Une’s New Year’s Resolutions: Of Culinary Habits and Health

Editors: Maia, Rachael, Nina, Ayanna, Ryan M.

Gastronomic Habits in France

Drinking and culinary culture in France is different than in the United States. For example, it’s strange to drink a lot of water here. With a meal, French people prefer to drink things other than water. Additionally, here in France you can drink alcohol with your lunch in the same way you drink soda or water in the United States. You can drink a beer, a glass of wine, or a hard cider with a mid-day meal at most restaurants and cafes in Toulouse, which represents a departure from American culture. We had expected that food and food culture in France would be like what we had seen in representations of France. These representations could have been incorrect, glorified, or incomplete. Our expectations of the food didn’t take into account that France is diverse, as Ryan observed: “Despite the cliches, my experience at this (ramen) restaurant, on the other hand, represented a departure from the traditional notion of French culinary culture.” We can drink a coffee and buy a pastry while paying much less than we would in the United States, but we can’t drink as much water as an American who is familiar with hydration. In conclusion, we are discovering good things and less healthy things related to culinary culture that add up to immersive cultural discovery in France.

Health Culture

One of the most significant differences between American and French culture is the culture surrounding meals.  In the US, most meals are very large.  An American breakfast, for example, is far bigger than the typical French breakfast.  In the morning, Americans often eat two or three eggs, hash browns or home fries, toast, and bacon.  Lunch and dinner are of a similar size as well.

Among Americans, there seems to exist a common perception that French food is healthier than American food, or that the French lifestyle is typically healthier than the American lifestyle. Although it is possible that the typical French lifestyle is healthier, it is not because of diet specifically. French food uses a lot of fat – butter and animal fat dominate most dishes, so the notion that American food is more unhealthy than French food is not quite accurate. Another interesting aspect of food culture in both countries is that in restaurants in the United States, meals are served with large glasses of water, but in France, the water glasses are tiny by comparison. It is understood that staying hydrated is good for health, so if French cuisine were healthier than American cuisine, it seems as if the French would drink more water too.

Why does this perception exist? While the stereotypic american life is defined by excess, the life of a french person is defined by activity and moderation. Despite the fact that fat is so important in French cooking, meal sizes are much smaller. In addition, the lifestyle in France is typically more active than the lifestyle in the US. In France, cities and towns are very walkable, but in America, by contrast, a car is a necessity to get around in most places.

While traffic poses a challenge to happiness and places pressure on mental health, sports promote mental clarity. Those who play sports can improve their talents while improving their mental health. In exercising the body, the thoughts fixate on movement and one can no longer focus on the follies of the outside world.

In a basketball practice at Jean Jaures, there are many players seeking the mental and physical health that sports can offer. In order to explain why there are so many players in a single practice, one might consider the possibility that there are not many opportunities to play sports at a fair price.

Although there are not as many opportunities to engage in organised sports as in the United States, there remain many people who exercise through their daily habits. So it is possible that the French find mental and physical health outside of sports. Even though there are many athletes in one practice, there are many more people who exercise in the streets.

The Countryside: On Preserving a Slow-Paced Lifestyle

Editors: Jules, Patrick and Hazel.

The Perception of Country Life by Students Living in The City

It is easy to be swept up in the rapid pace of the big cities in France, but to find a little calm, one can escape to the countryside. There, the style of life is more serene, the people more casual, the streets lined with historical buildings. It is easy for us, the students who live in Toulouse, to forget that all of France doesn’t have the same “Toulousaine” culture of commercialisation and rapidity, where one can find distractions day and night. Similar to the American campuses that have all the amenities necessary for the amusement and learning of the students, the city has a similar environment. Dickinsonians profit greatly from the clean air of the countryside and from the discovery of other ways of life.


Nearby to Toulouse are located the Pyrenees. Just an hour and a half to the east, they are a part of a grand landscape of Southern France. In the Pyrenees, life is very different than life in Toulouse. When Jules went to the Pyrenees, she found that the scene was completely stunning. The lake water was clear and turquoise, and little trouts sparkled in the sunlight. Beech trees surrounded the lake, the leaves just starting to change color. She saw troupes of goats and sheep and herds of cows. She described the hike to be bucolic.

The French have a true appreciation for nature, and it shows in all facets of their life. In the mountains, we saw a life connected to the Earth. Every house was constructed with local stone and almost every one had a small farm or “jardin” to raise vegetables or livestock. The inhabitants have to respect the environment because they can see how they depend on it. It is very simple, but different from the United States when we frequently swap a respect for the environment for convenience. More and more, we see that the French have an intrinsic respect for nature, as it is such a natural element in their lives.

Frequently foreigners think that the French live a slower and more decadent life, one that is tied to vacation and eating. Yet we believe that this is just an appreciation for health and nature, rather than a desire to not work.


The presence of religion in French society is quite varied and it manifests itself in different ways for each individual. We got the chance to observe religion in the different environments of France. Jules went to the south of Toulouse to a village called Tarascon-sur-Ariege and found that it is not refined like the small tourist towns of Carcassonne or Albi. It is on the border between France and Spain. On Sundays, only one restaurant in the downtown area is open and during the night Jules saw just one bar open. She found that the city stresses the importance of religion: there were some monuments and buildings devoted to images of God. Actually, there was a type of patrimony program in the first church. The church itself was full of golden statues, elaborate stained glass windows and masterpieces depicting dramatic scenes. At the same time, there was a sense of disrepair within.

An attraction close to Toulouse is the trail of St-Jacques-de-Compostelle. It is a well known pilgrimage which is rooted in the traditions of Southern France. The pilgrims come there for the historical experience, to participate in the tradition or for the religious aspect.

Whatever be their motivation, all the pilgrims seem to share a common aspect which is that they like hiking. And many of them had come to see the reliques and go to mass in the Cathedrals. Pilgrimages are not easy; the pilgrims recount their difficulties in going up and down so frequently, their luck to have found a masseuse in a lodge, the blisters that hurt their feet, and the joy of something as simple as being offered a coffee by former pilgrims along the trail.

During a dinner with the pilgrims, an American student felt the conviviality between the pilgrims to have met people who share a similar way of life with them (during their pilgrimages) and to exchange experiences.

Actually, the ways in which the French show their religion is not black and white. Julien wrote about the complexity of the French religious identity: “Not all French speak about religion in the same way and they don’t express their religious identity (if they have one) in the same way. On paper, “la laïcité” has the goal of guaranteeing republican equality in the government and in society. However, in the discourse that we see today it is clear to me that there is still a debate over the concept of laïcité on paper and of its practice in French society. I find that even if we don’t have the French concept of laïcité in the US, there is a true similarity in the complexity of the subject in the two countries.

Interdependence Between the City and The Countryside

The differences between the countryside and the city in France are similar in the U.S. The towns (particularly those that lack big attractions) are a little more isolated, a little less on-demand. It was lovely to visit the French towns that are not strongly commercial, but at the same time the presence of advertisements indicates that tourism is important for their economies. It seems that the exchange of culture and people between the two types of communities is essential for the health of both. The question of gentrification versus the preservation of history is present everywhere, from the neighborhoods of Toulouse to the countryside.

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