‘So British’. A French view of life in England.

Well, our French friends have been and gone.   It was a busy week full of discovery for us all.  Despite the almost unrelievedly awful weather,  Yorkshire’s sights, both rural and urban, gave a good account of themselves.  But here are one or two of the more unexpected discoveries our friends made.

Harvest Festival.  Saturday evening found us in church for a very special concert by the St. Paulinus Singers, a Ripon Chamber choir.  As we entered, our friends were struck by the celebratory pile of pumpkins, cabbages, carrots and Autumn fruits assembled for harvest-time celebrations in church.  They’d never heard of  such a thing.  Oh, and the concert began dead on time too.  Another first for them.

Harvest Festival

Charity shops.  The French have little other than away-from-town-centre large warehouses given over to the sale of donated goods and run by Emmaus.  The often carefully dressed shops we’re so accustomed to on the British high street are unknown to them.

St. Michael’s Hospice shop, Ripon

Closed for business: open for business.  As we know, shops here tend to be open through the day.  But what a surprise for our French friends to see them closing for the day at 5.30 p.m. rather than around 7.00 p.m! To find supermarkets open in some cases 24/7 was even more astonishing.

Closed at the moment

Houses without shutters.  Evenings walking round town fascinated them.  Instead of shutters there were curtains, which might or might not be drawn.  How exciting to have glimpses of another set of lives!  This is denied to them in France as shutters are usually firmly closed there as night falls.

A night-time window

Buttered bread.  As born-and-bred Ariègeoises, our guests were unused to the idea of having butter AND cheese or ham or whatever on their bread.  They rather felt it was gilding the lily.  But they weren’t keen on the fact that bread is not produced routinely at the average British dinner table.  It’s odd,  we too have come to expect bread as part of a meal in France, but never in the UK

Milky coffee and tea.  The default position for both in France is black (strong coffee, weak tea)

At the butcher’s. Of course our guests wanted to cook a slap-up meal for us.  We all struggled a bit with this one, as French and English butchers cut their beasts up in different ways.  As a recently-lapsed vegetarian, I’m re-learning slowly all I ever thought I knew, and starting at page 1 in French butcher’s shops.

A Friesian: until recently, these were the cows I most frequently saw in England

Author: margaret21

I'm retired and living in North Yorkshire, where I walk as often as I can, write, volunteer, and travel as often as I can.

2 thoughts on “‘So British’. A French view of life in England.”

  1. Ah yes, the uncurtained windows. The Germans are similar to the British in this regard. This makes for pleasant walks through the city at night. Plenty of new ideas for interior decoration. Then again, living right in the city, I have at times wished that my neighbors would close their curtains at critical points. I’ve got nothing against young women parading around their apartments naked, mind you, but when retired people … (you get the idea.)


    1. Buit if the cold increases apace as it is at the moment, I think we’ll be closing curtains to muffle ourselves up good and soon. So you’re safe from those shameless pensioners!


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