On our Language Diversity Day, we sat down with our French Language Assistant, Pierrick Fleuriot and asked him about the differences he had observed during his 5 months so far in Australia.
Visiting a place as a tourist doesn’t really allow to experience sociocultural differences. You need to settle and make friends and go out to discover all the charm and specificities of a country. Living in Australia is what it takes to realise it’s more than just a big island filled with kangaroos and surfers.
“Well, it’s just 16,500km away, it can’t be that different, can it?” That’s typically NOT what I was thinking before moving here. And I’m glad I wasn’t because yes, it is different. Not bad different, though. Just different, in a lot of aspects.
Where on earth is my baguette?
Don’t get me wrong, I like my family alright, but French food is what I miss the most so far.
I remember the first time I went to Coles and I headed to the cheese department, I was… (dismayed, distressed, horrified) ... disconcerted. Yeah, that’s the word. So you basically have a choice between cheddar, cheddar, something cheddar-like and wait, is that mozzarella? Fake mozzarella, my bad.
Most things, on the other hand, are products of Australia, so you don’t buy bananas from Martinique, oranges from Marocco and green beans from Kenya like it can be the case in France. Going shopping in Australia could almost be seen as environmentally friendly. Almost. My goodness, all those plastic bags are driving me crazy. In France, you had to pay for your plastic bags for years until they finally were completely prohibited in supermarkets from July 2016. Australia should do the same, if you ask me.
Other interesting point: restaurants. As Australia does not have its own gastronomy, they actually made their food culture out of a mix of all the others. Japanese, Spanish, Lebanese, Indian: restaurants serving food from all over the world flourish in the streets. Reminding us one more time how amazingly multicultural this country is. And when you love always trying new things out like I do, what more could you ask for?
No worries, mate!
Different countries, different people (thank you Captain Obvious). It is true though, French and Australians don’t think and behave the same. Of course, I don’t want to generalise: everyone is different and have their own personality. But there are recurring patterns.
By and large, Aussies are way more relaxed and easy-going than their French counterparts. I already thought the French were a bunch of ever-complaining people, but honestly, moving to Paris was the icing on the cake. So many people are stressed out, cold and distant. I stayed there for 6 months and I did like it, but I kept telling myself I would get weary of it if I stayed for too long. In France more generally, talking to someone you’ve never met before (in the supermarket or in the streets) isn’t a natural thing to do.
In Australia, pretty much whoever you meet is warm and welcoming. People love talking to each other and that feels good. I remember that woman with her little girl waiting for the crossing light to go green beside me, not far from Nossal, and starting to talk to me like we were old chums. That was so unexpected for me and I have say I didn’t really know what to say to her at first. Or the other time at the supermarket when I packed all my stuff in my reusable bags at the checkout on my own –that’s the French way, and the cashier said “Thank you so much for doing that.” And I thought “This woman just thanked me for something I just do without thinking. How cool is that?”
And tolerance. Another thing I love about this country is people’s open-mindedness. People respect you whatever you do or look like, whatever your background is. Many French can be really intolerant and judgemental, and that I don’t miss. At all.
Nossal for the win
One of my biggest cultural shocks probably being during first week of school, when I got to work with the students for the first time. Oh my God! Look how studious and well-behaved these kids are! No chit-chat, no one sighing or drawing or sleeping on their desk, respect for their teachers and homework done… Is this for real?
Yes, they’re just naturally nice pupils wanting to learn and devoting themselves to their studies. Wow, what a great school system you have there! But apparently, after discussing it with my fellow French assistants, it turns out it might just be Nossal though. But hey, that’s where I work.
I was quite surprised regarding the uniform as well. I don’t really have an opinion about it, I don’t think it’s either better or worse. It is just something else entirely, and the comparison doesn’t even seem relevant to me. I can’t imagine wearing a uniform at school, just like Australian pupils probably can’t imagine not wearing one.
And long live Australia
I could talk about the barbies everywhere, the footy, your love for Tim Tams and SUVs, the administrations open only when people are at work or people having dinner at 6 (6? Really, guys? Dinner time doesn’t start until 9pm and then finishes at 1am), but I could go on forever and you probably have better things to do!
But there’s one thing I know for sure: it’s an amazing change of scene! I do love Australia and as soon as I set foot here, I immediately felt home. I met a lot of lovely people, I am having a great time and I just wish I could stay here forever.