After almost 6 years in Australia and getting ready for my trip to France, I thought it was time to write a little article about the differences between France and Australia that have often struck me, Australia versus France. Between a country with a population of 66 million and a continent of 24 million people which is 14 times the size of France, there are so many differences that can sometimes surprise, entertain or invite us to question. But also differences that can often put us in quite sarcastic even comical situations … Back to my archives … The travels of a little Frenchie to the heart of Australia.
This article is not intended to value or devalue a culture. But rather to understand our differences that can make each of us grow. For my part I do my little cultural cuisine, a fusion of the two cultures that pushes me to take the best ingredients of each country. With any type of cuisine, everyone has their preferences, their flavours and for some these may seem a little too spicy, for others a bit bitter or even bland.
Let’s try to look at these differences that make up this “je ne sais quoi” …
The pessimistic optimist VS the optimistic optimist
I was just arriving at the airport and I was already impressed by how easy the Aussies communicate. Here people talk to you as if they knew you; in the street, in a bar, in a shop … you’re called “darling” or “love”. Maybe it sounds normal to you but in France, if you address a stranger as “darling” or “love” it can cause you problems. In France, to say YOU, we use two different pronouns: TU which is intimate and means that you already know well the person and VOUS who is more formal and respectful for use at work (your boss), older people and people you’ve just met. However, if you are a tourist we will excuse you if you get mixed up with the use of “tu“ or “vous“, a little misplaced TU will make us genuinely smile.
The use of the superlative in many sentences and the recurring use of adjectives such as “amazing”, “fantastic”, “wonderful” … can surprise the French who will just say “pas mal” (not too bad), “assez bien” (pretty good), “peut-être” or “à voir” or “pourquoi pas” (maybe, let’s see or why not instead of “sure”).
Indeed in France, a lot of compliments can be confusing and does not look genuine in the eyes of the French who will look at you suspiciously. When in Australia, Aussies are the optimistic optimists, in France we like to play the pessimistic optimist.
English VS French
When I was learning English, I had to understand very quickly how to communicate. In fact, I find that English is pragmatic and goes straight to the point when in French we like to speak in metaphors, and use various adjectives to express the same thing. The French like nuance and can seem “fastidious” in the choice of these words.
It is interesting to note that English and French share 3,000 words but beware of their use because often the meaning may be different, there are many “false friends”.
I actually remember telling my former Australian boss, I was then marketing manager, that it is important to seduce customers. My boss looked at me suspiciously, thinking that I was talking to him openly about flirting with sexual games … whereas it was only a question of finding the words to please the customers.
We will of course remember Emmanuel Macron’s latest arrival, which will compliment Malcolm Turnbull’s “delicious” wife. What can I say, the French remain gourmets!
“No worries” attitude VS “La confrontation”
Something that it’s certainly pretty difficult for people living with the French is our unconditional love for debating, confronting, challenging ideas, looking at every religious, sociological, psychological, economic, political and philosophical angle. Australians may believe that we love fighting or that we can be trouble makers when in fact we just love exchanging ideas for the pleasure of it and winning a debate.
It’s certainly one of the reasons we do love protesting and are pretty good with strikes. By being confronted and by being able to say no, we have the feeling of being able to fight for our freedom. It also gives us the opportunity to see things and think differently to move on in life.
I notice in Australia people do prefer to find a compromise and avoid conflict. The Aussies do prefer to play the “no worries” attitude when in France we will always include a “but” in a sentence.
Wow and please do not be offended if we interrupt people during a conversation, it is a very popular activity in France. This can often be misinterpreted but for us French it is a way of making the conversation alive even if it may appear too passionate or can be seen by others, as a dispute.
Read soon the second part about relationships, school, taboos and more.