Ah, the French… funny creatures! Living abroad also means becoming, in spite of yourself, an ambassador for French culture in your host country. When you confront your native culture with the eyes of foreigners, you realize with amusement that the things we take for granted are perceived as oddities by non-French people. In the course of my life abroad over the last few years, I’ve had to explain all the things mentioned in this article to a foreigner at least once, after being asked to explain these so-French things.

Dubbing and film titles

Foreigners from countries where everything is shown on TV and in the cinema in its original version with subtitles find dubbing a laughing matter! Of course, some cinemas in France and some TV channels broadcast in V.O., but this is far from the majority. Dubbing is an integral part of French TV and film culture. My surprise when I started watching films and series in V.O. and discovered the real voices of actors I’d seen in films since childhood Bruce Willis, Robin Williams, and Peter Falk in Colombo!.

This video can explain it more:

I’ve found that the same shock applies to foreigners discovering their first dubbed film. In the same category, it makes English speakers laugh a lot that some countries, including France, change film titles, very often too much longer than the original title, and even more often still in English, but with simpler words. My favorites? The Hangover becomes Very Bad Trip, as good as it gets becomes for better or worse, or Junior becomes a cop in kindergarten.


But how can the French work if they’re on vacation all the time? Our 5-week minimum vacation entitlement is the stuff of dreams for many foreigners, especially when you explain that some companies offer much more than 5 weeks… My answer is always that social benefits are very strong in France, and also that it has been proven that the French are among the most productive workers in Europe, despite all their vacations. It would seem that always having a vacation on the horizon helps you stay more productive… I vote for it!

Fake English words

This paragraph is mainly for those who live in English-speaking countries. The idea is that the French use a lot of what we call in this book Fake English words, i.e. English words that are not used at all in the right way in French, or even simply don’t exist in English. Choose from: un parking, un tennis man, faire un footing, un French only the French describe themselves as French, so British this expression can be found everywhere in French magazines and TV shows, whereas it’s not used in the UK. Using Fake English words is so French!

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