Day 7 of 80 — The French

Around London in 80 days

In these uncertain times, I need a lifeline and a horizon so I have — somewhat arbitrarily I’ll admit — set a date. April 1st will be my horizon ; my lifeline will be the 80 days separating me from it.

And as I cannot go around the world right now, I give you A Mad Belgian’s “Around London in 80 Days” : eighty impressions of London, eighty stories, places, thoughts from my experience of this wonderfully mad and maddening city.

Day 7 : The French

There is no escaping the French. Not in London anyway : they are everywhere. Wherever you go, you will hear someone speak French, or at the very least speak English with a thick French accent.

In South Kensington, aka London’s “Petite France”, the city actually seems to have turned continental, with Parisian-style restaurants, French-language bookshops and French schools.

This omnipresence of my native language does not only make London feel less exotic ; it also perturbs me somewhat, as if my brain could not compute the two worlds cohabiting. Through some bizarre “mother tongue” instinct, part of my attention seems to be automatically captured by any French spoken around me, making any other conversation hard to follow.*

Besides, as a French-speaking Belgian, I don’t like being mistaken for a Frenchie — chauvinism works in mysterious ways.

But even I must admit that London wouldn’t be what it is without the French influence. It has indeed brought us some non-negligeable perks, such as a few decent bakeries, brasseries… and a lot of hospitality staff full of this charming, European je-ne-sais-quoi.

*A similar confusion occurs when I watch an English-speaking film with French subtitles or vice-versa, and somehow end up concentrating on the accuracy of the translation more than on the actual content.

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