Our French Life

English Bashing By Brits In France

Whoah there sister! This one’s going to be a bit controversial fun wouldn’t you say?! This is a touchy subject in this ‘ere household. So I thought what better way, than to put out the embers, than to hit ‘publish’. I’m joking of course this is going to set it alight like billyo – best the neighbours close their shutters. Are your strapped in? Yes, so let me begin.

Firstly, I think a bit of background information might be somewhat helpful in explaining why this is a thorny issue in the The Normandy Life household. I am English and Mr Normandy is Scottish. Now, the romantics amongst you, would not have failed to notice that our combination makes us a complete union. A perfect union some might say. Ok let’s ignore Northern Ireland for a minute. The union of the Union Jack (whilst at sea)/ Union Flag. Best put that in quick before someone points out “it’s only the Union Jack whilst at sea” although I had heard the opposite recently. If anyone wants to comment on the definitive answer to this, then please feel free to put so in the comments below.

By the way, who ever designed the Union Jack needs a shout out. It is a classic. As flags go, it ain’t half bad. So what with my bringing the George Cross and Mr Normandy bringing the Saltire – we really are the epitome of being British. Our kids can really call themselves British rather than English or Scottish.

The Welsh are a principality so are not included in the ‘Union’ Flag

However, not so for their parents. This is where the union gets somewhat shaky especially here in France. Take me for instant. I am not particularly nationalistic. Okay on St George’s Day, whilst working at an Irish bank and being a token Brit along with another, we used to purposely celebrate St George’s Day. But that was just a bit of high jinks. I mean St Patrick’s Day is a big deal in Ireland and the UK , especially London. It is even more of a big deal when you 1) work in London and 2) work for an Irish Bank.

So yes, we used to put a little St George’s cross on the desk and prance around doing so mock Morris Dancing, even though we had never done anything of the type. If truth be told, when I see people doing this it’s a little bit cringey.

No. Just No.

For many years, St George’s Day was a non event. It went by with not so much as a bit of bunting flying outside a pub. But as time has gone by, people are more nationalistic, some English people are very into St George’s day. A certain electorate.

I have to say I cannot stand the flag of St George. It is incredibly dull and not only that it symbolises, for me, the EDL (English Defence League), National Front or any other right wing football thug connotations. It is not a cool flag. It has been hijacked by these organisations for many years and flying it would just make me feel like some right wing fascist. Whereas all the other flags in the union do not have these connotations.

Although even the Union Jack now has been hijacked by Tory Brexiteers. For years it has been a cool flag. Slapped on cushions, rugs, t-shirts – you name it. It was a cool flag. Can we have it back please? I like the union flag.

Hijacked by Tory Brexiteers

I also like the Welsh flag. Yarp the Welsh thought let’s slap a dragon on ours that’ll look cool and it does. Although they can’t be included in the union flag as they are not a Kingdom. Wales is a principality.

The Welsh Flag

I also like the Scottish flag. A simple design in much the same way as the George Cross but so much more pleasing to the eye. Which brings me to my next point. Mr Normandy.

Mr Normandy is Scottish. Most Scots are fiercely proud to be Scottish as are the Welsh and those from Northern Ireland. Mr Normandy was born in Manchester and later moved down to London in his early teens. He, therefore, has a watered down Manchester accent as opposed to a strong Scottish accent. So, to a Brit, it is not immediate obvious that he is Scottish. Unless they have failed to notice the T-shirts emblazed with ‘Scotland’ and anything else Scottish he can get his hands on.

Did you know Mr Normandy is Scottish? I had forgotten.

To a Frenchie, his accent makes not difference. He tells them he is Scottish and they accept this. If he tells a Brit he’s Scottish, sans clothes emblazed with it, they will often say “but you haven’t got an accent?”. Which then starts a whole conversation as to what it means to be Scottish, English etc. For avoidance of doubt, it’s your parents nationality, not where you were born.

So why the bashing? Well, and I have friends here who are Welsh, Scottish and Irish and I have absolutely no problem (and why would I?) with them being proud of their heritage. I am slightly disadvantaged (for the reasons above) as I am not overly proud (fist pumping) that I am English, however, nor am I ashamed of it.

I am British but within that I am English. My ancestors, on my father’s side, hail from Yorkshire and on my mother’s side hail from London. Let’s not talk about them having a flat in Notting Hill worth a massive fortune now. Her family fled to the UK from…France no less as they were Huguenots (Michaux) and landed in London in approx 1700. So that’s why I find the French language so easy. I jest.

The Huguenots – a word I am not pronouncing anytime soon.

So I am quietly content with my nationality. I know exactly where I come from and who I am. I was an ancestry nerd for a short period. Now, obviously the English have a reputation amongst the other smaller nations, as being tyrants. As does the ‘British’ (yes that does include you lot! Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish) Empire to the rest of the world. The British Empire that has probably created the vast majority of the world’s problems. Proud of inventing Slavery? Nope? But was it only the ‘English’ no it was the ‘British’. The historical hating the English has been going on for centuries and it hasn’t stopped in 2020.

What has become very apparent living here in France, is that these smaller nations love to tell the French that they are no way, in any shape or form, English. Because in France, the French either didn’t do geography at school, where they learnt that 4 nations make up the United Kingdom and that just because you speak English does not make you English. Or they just couldn’t give a toss. You speak English therefore you are English. I think the latter.

They refer to everyone as “les anglais”. They really don’t care. Even if you’re Australian/American anyone speaking English = les anglais. This is not changing anytime soon. And maybe this is the very reason these nations want to educate the French in this manner. As quite clearly, you want to point out that you are not English if, indeed, you are Australian (it’s miles away from England for goodness sake!), American and… go on then.. Scottish. It’s a fact. I get this.

But I don’t think they really have all this history of intense hate for the English in the same way as the Scots, Irish etc would like to think they have.

They have come to learn this from the Scots, Irish etc that the English are unsavory and no we are absolutely not English. And this is my gripe. It is the way in which you tell people you are Scottish. I have had this argument with Mr Normandy many a time. He says “what, I’m not allowed to say I’m Scottish?”. Of course not. But it is the manner in which this is done. As is the case by the Welsh and Irish here. It’s not “oh, I’m not English I’m Scottish”. It’s more a “oh gawd no! I’m not English! Not that shower, oh no no no! Don’t call me English! We are different!”. Not only that, this has been said when I’m standing right there. In my view, it’s a personal slight on me. How could you not take that personally?!

The clear message here is that the English are wankers and I am not. Fine. You want to express it like this. That’s your prerogative. But for some Scots, (Mr Normandy), Welsh, Northern Irish and Irish (again lump you in) England was their home, their livelihood, where relationships were formed. And some have very much enjoyed being in, arguably the greatest city in the world, London. Which happens to be in England. England has been good to many Brits. Just saying.

Well I want to express my view, that this is English Bashing! I’m fairly confident the English are not doing this to the Scottish. “Oh yes I am English, can you imagine if I were Scottish? Oh god no, no I’m not a haggis loving tartan wearing skin flint. I’m English! I am superior to the Scots!” .

And these small nations always say “oh I’m treated so much better when I say I’m Scottish, Welsh”. Well how were you treated before this came into the conversation? I’d love to know. Were you trying to exchange something and it wasn’t going well and then suddenly you said “Oh I’m Scottish” and all of a sudden you got an immediate refund? I don’t think so. As I haven’t had any problems being the wanker English person that I am. I can count on one hand the amount of Frenchies that have been horrible to me. And they are assuming I’m English as I speak French with an English accent.

Personally, I think it means more to the person saying it than it does to the Frenchie. A mild interest rather than a “Oh fantastic! For a while there I thought I was talking to an English person and I would have definitely talked to you differently!”

Sorry to disappoint you all but I genuinely don’t believe you are seen anymore favourably or unfavourably, as it is very low on the French radar. They like you because they like you as a person and the way you are interacting with them, nothing to do with your nationality.

Edit – Mr Normandy has interjected here with a real life story. He said that someone within the village was complaining about the English. He then said “hang on I’m Scottish” to which the mood changed and then was asked if he knew the other Scottish living in and around the village etc. So here is his example. Or maybe they felt embarrassed that they hadn’t thought about slagging off a race of people in front of a foreigner. Did he say ” hey not all English are like this, my wife’s English”. No. He just wanted to let them know he was not English. If they were slagging off Scottish people I feel I would have said, as I would say for any race, not everyone is like this.

Would you say with such disdain “Oh gawd I’m not Australian, American” and pull a face? No you wouldn’t. So maybe spare a thought for your English friends living in France. There is enough nationalism and hatred in the world. We are all trying to live a foreign life and a little kindness from our fellow Brits would be nice.

I get the whole Scottish/France history of hating the English but does it need to be encouraged if it hasn’t even crossed their mind?

Perhaps you are encouraging or fuelling an already dislike for the ‘English’. The British I know here, are ordinarily, nothing of the type. They are very tolerant people.

Be proud. Say you’re Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish and, once again, gonna lump the Irish in here. Shout it from the rooftops, wear your tartan, shamrock sweater by all means. Fill your boots. A lot of people are more nationalistic than they would have been in their home country when they move abroad. There is nothing wrong with that.

My point is that do you have to do it at the expense of the English people living here? Do you have to say you are not English in the manner in which you are saying it?

And sometimes when your English wife is standing right next to you!

I would love to hear your comments and I will equally strap in!

You have been reading Our Normandy Life!

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