It’s not exactly surprising but always kind of jarring to see how deeply U.S. culture has seeped into France. It’s impossible to get a table at any McDonald’s in the city, they’re that popular. When R and I were having to go to McDo to use the free wifi, it would take us at least half an hour to get through the line and buy a coffee to justify our use of a table. R and I were hanging out with a girl named Anne from Marseilles a few days ago, and she told us when she went to New York for the first time she ate at McDonald’s because it was something she recognized from home. I’m not sure how I feel about McDonald’s being a universal symbol of comfort.
Because the U.S. is such a large country with massive music and movie industries it’s hard to escape American pop culture here. It’s funny that what I would consider distinctly American culture has infiltrated the rest of the world and fused with it – I mean that French pop culture is not only French music and movies, but a mixture of French and American. It’s no problem finding a movie theater playing new releases in the version originale (V.O. as opposed to V.F.) with French subtitles.
R and I were at a club one night when “Pretty Fly for a White Guy” started playing. I turned to the French guy next to me and said (in French), “Hey this song was so popular when I was 13 years old.” He gave me a strange look and said, “Yeah, me too.” I should have figured, considering that a French ministry of culture was created to protect French music, arts and media. French radio stations are required to play a minimum of 60 percent French music to counteract the heavy American influence.
There are a lot of words in the English language that are French in origin – rendezvous, risqué, imbecile, for example. Likewise, there are a lot of English words that have been adopted by the French – just a bit more recently in history. Today in class, my professor asked a student to forward him an email: “Est-ce que tu peux me forwarder l’email?” In another class, my professor was trying to describe someone mugging for the camera, acting “trés star.” In a pub one night I pointed to a French guy’s eyebrow piercing and asked what to call it in French. His answer? “Un piercing!” And of course, there’s the ever popular, “C’est cool!”
As much English as there is here, sometimes translations just don’t work out as they should. In Nantes, Christina and I spotted a boy wearing a mock FBI-logo shirt that said: “FBI: First Bureau Illegal.” We stared at him for a while, wondering if he knew that the words on his shirt have no meaning in French or in English…and then we stumbled upon these…stare, squint your eyes, scratch your head – no matter how long you look, they’re not going to start making sense :
It’s just funny to me, seeing things here that I would normally think of as “so American” taking on French personality. But anywhere you go people are going to try and imitate what is exotic to them. I guess I just need a few more months out of the U.S. under my belt before I can really appreciate the allure of McDo.
** Who else finds this ridiculous?
*** Due to the fact that I’m hopping a plane to Munich tomorrow morning (visiting the Jorgensons of Tacoma!), I’ll be out until Monday or so.