French and European: An Analysis

I’ve been sitting here thinking about what might be of interest to post after a long week of writing papers. I’m really in need of another cup of coffee probably. Coffee seems on some days to be my inspiration. Yes, I do realize it’s all psychological probably, but I shall continue in this coffee dependence at least until the end of grad school. *sigh*

I digress…


This post does have a point to it as the title denotes. That of being French and European. I did a presentation on this topic in my “Civilization Française” class this week. This class is mainly meant to help us better understand and analyze the French culture from several different aspects.

Personally, being neither European nor French except by ancestry, I frankly had never even considered this topic at all. I went to go meet with the prof to find out what he was wanting me to cover exactly and had my interest peaked after talking to him. He had me borrow the French movie L’auberge espagnole. It’s not really a family friendly movie, but I did find some parts rather humorous and thought-provoking along the lines of this multiple identity question.

The main plot of the movie is that Xavier, a French student, decides to go to Spain through the Erasmus program to learn Spanish as part of a career goal. He ends up living in an apartment with 7 other students from other European countries such as Germany, Belgium, Italy, Great Britain, and so on. The comedy is often found in their trying to learn how to cope with each other as well as the language barriers. This was kind of like a small example of the intent of the European Union.

With the rise of the European Union which was actually started by the French with U.S. support during the 50’s, things have evolved quite a bit over the last 60 years or so. Essentially, the E. U. was started to mainly help France be able to have relations with Germany after the war as well as a measure to promote peace on a continent that had already been torn up by war in the first half of the 20th century.

The problem the French are facing is the loss of a nation identity or at least the fear of losing it. If you think about it, the countries who are members of the E. U are nation-states. With a couple of exceptions all of these countries even share the same currency. The E.U. has its own flag, its own Parliament, and its own currency, but as the article “Europeanization” pointed out, there does not exist a war cemetery or a cuisine that is specifically “European” neither does it have a religion or even much of a history (Borneman and Fowler 493).  The French as well as other nationalities within the E. U. cherish their history and are proud to be who they are because it is part of their identity.

So, how have the French reacted?

There is now a movement towards regionalism. The French are no longer just French, they’re also Basque, Normand, Alsatian, Breton, and so on. There’s a movement towards speaking the regional languages, eating regional foods, and following the traditions of the region. This is not such a bad thing at all since during the 19th and early 20th century this was discouraged because of a desire for the unification of France which really dates back to even just after the 1789 Revolution.

There are several different opinions on this unification of Europe. On the far right, the French political party “Le Front National” stands staunchly opposed to the E. U. because of a belief in the sovereignty of France. I can’t really blame them. Then, on the other end of French politics most parties seem to be in favor of it because of the mobility and the hope of the E.U. becoming the next super power. The E.U. is still very young, so only time will tell how it continues into the future.

So, back to the original analysis. Are the French still just French or are they European or are they both identities? Pretty much I think it’s up to the individual French person to decide. Most of the French people I meet consider themselves to be “French” and that yes, France is in Europe just as the U.S. is in North America. I’ll be curious to see how or if this changes in the next several years.

I was also trying to compare it to what it would be like if we set up something like the American Union here. I do not think I would like it too much personally for some of the same reasons that the French have used against the E.U. In addition to that, I sometimes have a hard enough time just remembering what day it is much less the possibilities of identities. I’d be Texan (sorta anyway), American, and Amero? My main identity right now is that of a tired graduate student who probably just needs to call it a night instead of fixing yet another cup of coffee…

Just thought I’d share a little of what I presented this week. It really did peak that nerdy side of me! I wonder if the prof would even let me do my final paper on a topic along these lines. Worth looking into indeed! 🙂


Borneman, John, and Nick Fowler. “Europeanization.” Annual Review of Anthropology 26.

Annual Reviews (1997): 487-   514. Print. 493

Oh, and the madeleines are still a work in progress so to speak. 🙂 


4 responses to “French and European: An Analysis

  1. Interesting post. I think the question of self and national identity has assumed grave significance in the contemporary world. Along with that the nationalistic zeal (at least in India, I know that to be the case) is also on a rise. Some sort of a conflict-like situation between the global and the local aspects of identity is being witnessed. You have concluded rightly that only time can tell what is in store for the people not just in France but elsewhere in the world.

    We live in a very interesting world. Best of luck for your term papers!

    • Yes, I’m finding that in the modern French literature I’ve been studying this semester, there is a lot of this questioning of identity and nationality. I figure this questioning will definitely continue in the future. That’s an interesting tidbit about India. Thanks for the feedback!

  2. As far as an American Union goes, I can tell you one thing pretty much for certain: We would have to give up the name “American” and come up with something else.

    • Well, from what I understand from one of my professors, some Canadians don’t seem to like that we call ourselves American since the continent of North America contains more countries then just the U.S. I think it’s rather ridiculous because I really don’t see us ever going by United Statians like some of them think we ought to.

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