Thursday, 8 August 2013


I look at, and sometimes contribute to, a couple of sites which are aimed at anglophones who live in France. Some of the threads can be very interesting, and some controversial. Most of the Brit expats in France don't live like I do - they tend to live in houses not apartments and often run gites or have things like fields with horses in them, and they don't live in eastern France, largely because the weather is crap here. People mostly don't fit the UK resident's stereotyped perception of Brits in France, ie non-French-speaking and pining for Waitrose, although those people do exist. Sometimes you get really helpful information, usually to do with the nightmare that is French bureaucracy. Below is an excerpt from a comment that shocked me rather. Fyi: there are no charity shops in France. Emmaus is a charity that collects furniture, clothing and household goods, often when someone has died, and redistributes them at low cost. It is centralised, so you have to travel to them. The FN is the Front National, and I think we all know what that party are about. I'll comment further below, but would be most interested in what especially UK-based readers think.

"...yesterday I happened to be in Emmaus in Pau and saw a Roma Gypsy family begging at the gate - literally everyone looked on them with contempt - everyone watched their every move, even when a young gypsy girl pushed me and made my drink fly in the air ( she pushed into me hard) they then went to take their old threadbare buggy up towards the buggy area and replace it with a newer version - they unnerved everyone, and were thrown out several times. It's on these occasions that you sympathise with the FN - these people have no right to be in our country of residence, they have no moral values and no allegiance towards this wonderful country we live in! They contribute nothing to our social system, and do nothing but terrorise our nation! We have many friends who believe in the National Front in France - I completely understand their stance - is this a racist thing or is it based on morale values... I'll watch this thread with interest!"

Just a few remarks. Beggars, Roma or not, are a common sight in French cities, as they are in other countries. It may well be true that on the occasion described "everyone watched their every move" - how would you feel if that was done to you? I'm not clear about the law on begging in France, they may well have been behaving illegally, or not, I don't know. If they were, why did no-one call the police? In any event, if the people described were EU citizens, as is likely, they almost certainly had the right to be in France. They might even have been born here. Many Roma people work and pay tax, and more would do so if it were not for the prejudice they face, as we see here. They certainly were entitled to go to Emmaus and get a new buggy, which would have cost them a lot less than buying one in a shop. "They have no moral values"  - how does this person know that? And as for "terrorising our nation" - at first I laughed, but really, it's not funny.

It's not so much that these attitudes are present, it is that they are expressed in a fairly public forum - you have to join this site, but you are not vetted in any way, at least I wasn't - without apparent embarrassment.


Anonymous said...

I am increasingly concerned about stuff that appears on sites; whether it is this type of hateful racist muck - or whether it is the disgusting abuse put on about individuals of a sexual nature or inviting them to kill themselves - or INCITING this.

And as for Twitter - I refuse to have anything to do with it - I don't want to have people trending abuse about me and of course they would. But once the genie or demon is out of the bottle it can't be put back in.

Jane Griffiths said...

It can't. But anyone who is or has been in public life gets this stuff. I have to say that Twitter has mostly left me alone, and that I have found some interesting people and links through it: I was also recently contacted by a very old friend I'd lost touch with and was pleased to hear from. So far the worst thing I've been called on Twitter is "you sick bitch", which is WAY milder than what I used to get on this blog from the Reading boys.


Well, of course they were and remain, the pits.

The bad thing is when people use things AGAINST you that have been put on the net in whatever form and are WRONG - as if what is said is gospel. I have suffered professionally from this recently -which is why I keep clear - apart from Linkedin which I have found tremendously positive and really very useful too.

Anonymous said...

A lot of people here may think differently when we get the expected influx of Romanians next year.
I suspect that most people who condemn racism don't have to suffer the problems being encountered.
Having said that, I think 'Guess who's coming to dinner' should be compulsory viewing.

Jane Griffiths said...

I don't think this should have to be said, but clearly it does have to be. Criminal or anti-social behaviour is what it is, regardless of who commits it. There are penalties to be paid for it. As the (otherwise loathsome) Michael Moore once wrote, most crime in America is committed by stupid white men. No-one calls for them to be rounded up and sent elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

I find some of the people on these sites to be rather worrying, and quite boring. Some of the people 'surviving' France are quite entertaining in their comments, I enjoy nothing more than reading their sometimes insane stuff.

Be careful, if you upset then you could end up getting quite a bit if abuse, all under the disguise of netiquette.

Jane Griffiths said...

It's already happened! I think the problem with a lot of them is complacency. "Everyone" thinks as they do and lives as they do. And then, when someone doesn't... But they're often interesting too, and I have learned from them. The tolerance of racism was a surprise, but now I know it's there. I just find their fields with horses in a little hard to take.