Where Am I Again?

(Montpellier's Best American) The American is a sandwich with hamburger meat, fries, katsup, and mustard in a baguette, but let's be honest, I’m Montpellier's Best American!

Over 4,000 miles away, across a mountain range and an ocean, I didn’t expect to find many semblances of home here in France. However, the similarities are numerous.

Let’s start with media. Most of the movies in the major movie theaters are American. For example, right now The Agent (Matt Damon and Emily Blunt), Hell Driver (Nicolas Cage), Black Swan (Natalie Portman) and Rango (Johnny Depp), are showing in Version Français at Gaumont, a large theater chain. Even when animated movies are dubbed, the American actor’s name is still on all the posters. Movies on TV are mostly American as well. Tonight is American Gangster, but we have also watched I Am Legend, My Best Friend’s Wedding, and Austin Powers.

French commercials have nothing on Isaiah Mustafa or the Most Interesting Man Alive, but there are some that are the same, exactly the same as in America. For example, the Gillette commercial where they ambush people while they’re shaving is practically identical, but with French people.

TV also has strong American influences. So far, I’ve seen Friends, White Collar (FBI: Duo Très Special), and NCIS on the state channels. There’s also a French version of Bravo’s Top Chef that plays on M6. In the US, I love cooking competition shows, and this is perfect for me! It’s also really easy to find people who love shows like How I Met Your Mother, The Big Theory, or Desperate Housewives. Other than the reality contest shows, like Top Chef, I haven’t really found any good French series.

While the fact that the technology brands are the same isn’t surprising at all, little things like the popularity of Angry Birds or the verb “googler” for to google something (I’ve actually only heard that one in my internship, so I’m not quite sure how wide-spread it is) were kind of unexpected.

I have alluded to this cultural connection many times, but I will say it again. Music is heavily imported from America. It’s hard not to hear artists such as Ke$ha or Bruno Mars in public spaces. My host dad, Claude, said that American (Springsteen, Hendrix, etc) and British (Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc) helped him learn English, and his English is really good.

In terms of American influence on fashion, it’s somewhat humorous. In the US, it seems to be somewhat à la mode to slap the fleur de lis on everything. Here, it’s “New York”, or building silhouettes. There are also a lot of guys who wear letterman jackets. Yup, just like in high school, but these are for guys even at the university. I didn’t personally see this, but an ultimate fail in this department is a jacket one of my friends saw. It had a basketball on the sleeve and “football” in Varsity lettering splashed across the chest. College apparel and baseball caps can also be seen on younger guys, but if you ask them where “UCLA” is, or what sport the “Twins” play (and I have asked about that one), chances are they don’t know.

Lastly, there are some words that have been adopted into French and some and phrases that translate very nicely. For example, stop signs say “STOP” because it’s more efficient than “ARRETE.” You can also use that orally. Sweatshirt is sweatshirt. There are more. In terms of phrases, here are just a couple: touche du bois is used the same way as knock on wood. Jamais deux sans trois means the same thing as bad things come in threes. Avoir un pouce vert is to have a green thumb.

So there it is, an entire ocean away, there are still some little touches of home.

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