Friday, 24 July 2009

Witty bits from what I learned in the UK (10) [Vorbe de duh din ce am învăţat în UK]

One of the most surprising things that ‘struck’ me in the UK was to witness how many French people live there. Every 15-20 minutes I could hear people speak French on the busy streets of London.

I liked that because, everywhere the Lord may bless me to go, I try my best to practice also my French, which needs considerably more improvement than my English ...and let this not be understood as a claim that I would speak + write faultless English.

Of course, I was expecting to hear people speaking Polish around me, other Eastern-European languages, as well as Arabic or Hindi/Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, Sinhala – no that I could tell the difference between these :-) – but not so much French as I did hear!

Then, I would learn that if all the French people living in London were gathered in one city, it would be among the first most populous 12 urban centres of France. There are at least as many (if not even more!) French people living in London than in Le Havre or Reims (a ranking by population of France’s cities – here).

According to a NYTimes article from 2008, there are 180,000 French residents in London, not mere tourists as I imagined or like the one I talked to on Oxford Street. And – possibly to my friend’s dismay :-) – I must state that most of these French people seemed to enjoy being in the UK.

They were economic immigrants who – unlike the Huguenots some hundred years ago, fleeing Catholic persecution in France – came to the UK for one main reason: to be able to work more, therefore earn more!

I guess they were the ones to whom Nicolas Sarkozy promised the chance to work more, which the French system didn’t allow… and his reforms of the working hours are still far from being accomplished two years after he took office.

Two of these French people working in a French-style bakery, and in a 4-star hotel restaurant can be seen in these pictures, which I took during their working hours. They had both arrived to Brighton, by no means because of the French Protestant Church there, but for better paid jobs.

At least from what polite answers they could give in a few minutes of chatting with a curious blogger like I am – and some people know that I do like to chat with strangers, and I especially liked it with the purpose of blogging about the UK, and exchanging views about this country with fellow foreigners :-) –, they gave me the impression of being quite happy with their decision to work in the UK.

None had clear plans about how much they would stay in this country, but they said that working in the UK helps them save some money, Brighton offers a fascinating multicultural experience (unlike many dull provincial cities in their home country), and the girl also gave me a secondary reason for being in the UK.

It’s a reason that many Britons – who generally speak no foreign language, while some foreign students end up speaking a more comprehensible & grammatically correct language than the average Brit – could take into consideration. Well, this French girl said to me that she took a job here in order to improve her English!

I hope I’m not offending anyone, but I find it hard to imagine a Brit going to Greece, Spain, Portugal, let alone France… in order to learn that country’s language :-( With the exception of my atypical British friend, it’s harder and harder to see a British youngster going abroad these days for anything else than booze, promiscuous sex, wild partying…

[For all the episodes of this series, and all the posts on this blog go to/Pentru toate episoadele din această serie şi toate postările de pe acest blog mergi la: Contents/Cuprins]


Gregor said...

'And – possibly to my friend’s dismay :-) – I must state that most of these French people seemed to enjoy being in the UK.'

Au Contraire mon ami. I only make the point that the French relationship between the state and the population seems to me to be a better model of liberty than the American model, which the British media treats as a blueprint for a utopian society.

One of my objections to this is that it is based on the neo-liberal Hayekian view of economics and politics, which is the mirror image of Marxism. Whilst it inverts the Marxian view of ownership, it still thinks that an economic system can change people's hearts and souls, when in fact it is only God who can do that.

Subsequently, I do not think it would be desirable or remotely possible to 'Francify' British culture, though they do demonstrate some trends which could also be seen from Britain's own history.

I had heard before that there are large numbers of French immigrants to London, and I am not surprised, because there are short-term benefits of working in a country with a liberalised economy. Yet, as you yourself say:

'None had clear plans about how much they would stay in this country'

Even the Poles are flocking back to their own country in the recession.

I would add that I have never been in France, so aside from looking at quantifiable statistics, there is no way for me to know what it is like to live in, though I have seen statistics stating that Brits are surprisingly open to other cultures than the French are.

Of course, French multiculturalism has not always been so successful. Yet I feel (though I may be wrong about this) that the Roman Catholic Church is on the verge of implosion. Once our Edinburgh community was visited by a French pilgrim who said that his entire congregation became Orthodox. As King David articulated it we search for God as in a desert. Yet they see their corrupt 'infallible' leaders and the devil persuades them to turn from Christ, yet they feel their distant roots to the true faith as it was in pre-Medieval France. St Martin is one of my faourite Saints for his humility.

I hope that things are well with yourself an Georgina. I attended my first Orthodox funeral yesterday. It was very touching; an old lady I used to visit.

MunteanUK said...

Only three little notes, my friend:

1) Of course you could never 'Francify' the British culture... and, if I were to add a mean remark, you don't need the French to spoilt Britishness.

Political correctness, along with this dreadful aggressive atheism, hedonism, consumerist work very well at destroying British values.


2) It was 'profitable' to work in the UK for several months (years) when the pound was strong, and the economy booming.

Some wise French - and having tough stomachs, able to cope with Brit food :-) - took this opportunity, as well as Poles, Lithuanians, Czechs & Slovaks etc.

For many, it's high time they went back, not necessarily because things spectacularly improved in their own countries, but because the UK's economy is getting worse.

Moreover, although I liked the sense of 'freedom' that Britain gave me, I guess that little by little, people will start not feeling so much at ease with so many CCTVs, stupid politically correct rules, anti-terror + anti-pig flue hysteria...


3) Indeed, there are entire communities + monasteies int the Catholic world that came back 'Home', within the Orthodox Church.

Addinionally, Russian + Romanian Orthodox diaspora in France are far stronger than in the UK, and little by little they have a positive influence on those who really look for the true meaning of life.

I wish I could say the same about the Greek diaspora in the UK. Of course that - thanks to people like Fr Raphael in Edinburgh or to the Greek Orthodox Community in Brighton - Greek Orthodoxy is alive in the UK.

Sadly - I wish I'm wrong in my assumption - many Greeks in the UK seemed to me 'secularised' & indifferent to the core message of Orthodoxy. Church life is part of Greek identity, yet I doubt that many people still truly 'live by their faith'.

Obviously, I came across some wonderful exceptions in Brighton & Edinburgh, but generally, many people are not living up to what Christ wanted us to be...

...and it would be hypocritucal to blame others. I guess teh problem starts with each of us. I so much wish I'd live my faith to the full, in every circumstance of life.

I wish I prayed more & 'thought, analysed, judged' less, I wish I read less & went more often to Church, I wish I fought my sins & shortcomings with more determination!

Both you and I are bloggers and keen observers of the world we live in... if only we could analyse at least as attentively our own souls as we analyse the outer world!

Anonymous said...

very interesting...
I heard these days that more and more Britons buy houses in France because they are much cheaper than in UK...