Being French in Japan

5:55 AM Béné (ベネ) 1 Comments

Being French in Japan is facing a lot of stereotypes. Since I set foot in Fukuoka, my life has completely changed. Unlike in Tokyo or Kyoto, there are very few French tourists and even fewer French residents. In Fukuoka, Korean, Taiwanese and other people from countries of Southeast Asia are the most frequent so it makes being French even more exotic and unexpected.

Béné no Fukuoka ! - a French in Japan

In Japan, western people are often (always ?)  mistaken for an American citizen. Moreover, in tourist areas it is not unusual to be speaking to you in English, a horrifying thing for anyone speaking / learning Japanese (let us use your language !). In those moments, I used to lie and answer in Japanese , I'm sorry , I don't speak English. I deliberately use the past because in Fukuoka, I was never spoken in English. It must be said that here few things are adapted to English speakers here. For exemple, only few bus lines are transcribed in alphabet. I wonder how not-speaking people do ?

The French in Japan are really popular. When you are asked dochira kara desu ka ?  ( where are you from ?), people are not really interested, convinced that the answer will America. But when the word France is pronounced, the attitude changes immediately, yeyes became to sparkle and we are immediately placed on another level, like on a mini pedestal. I remember an episode in Hiroshima where it happened exactly like that : visiting the city for two days, my mom and I went to eat okonomiyaki in a restaurant close to our hotel. The staff was super cold until we were asked the famous question. From the time the staff knew that we were French, we have become the center of all attentions.

Le kiri est populaire au Japon
French cheese is popular too

This is not specific to Japanese people I think but it didn't happen once that, when I said my nationality, I am not asked to say something in French. It's quite embarrassing especially as I never know what to say. I usually introduce myself : name, age and hometown. But words are not important: I could say anything, my partner would have said sugooooooi (amazing) anyway. When my colleagues have heard me say Nous prenons le metro (we are taking the subway), they were amazed, saying that it's so French !!.
After hving scream of joy for good ten minutes, we go to the number two phase teach me a few words of French.
Teaching something to someone who hasn't a real interest in French language, will forget what you saif after 5 minutes and asked that only by politeness is not my cup of tea. But I always try to do it with a smile even though sometimes I am hving fun  by teaching words like unconstitutionally (one of the longest French word), saying Yes it is a very common word, it is essential to learn it.

Apprendre le français aux japonais, Fukuoka
French lesson at my school.

The furansu ningyo (フランス人形, French doll) refers to these porcelain dolls with curly hair and elegant dresses. A French girl will always look like this kind of doll. Moreover, whatever she wears she will always oshare (おしゃれ, elegant ). Although she would be wearing an old trainning suit, she will wear it with elegance and style. In my case, I have long wavy light brown hair, a very white skin and very long eyelashes so that the French doll nickname fits me very well according to most of Japanese people. I must admit that I like it.

Who ever it is, a French will always face meet someone who have something to say about France : my real estate agent told to me about his French studies at university (I do not remember anything, pronunciation was so difficult), one of my teacher told me about his honeymoon in France, a lday who was selling bento in front of my school told me that her son was an exchange student in France at that time. Cherry on the cake, the president of the school I graduated (Yutaka Aso, the brotehr of the former Prime Minister please) even told me that he is the only one of its family to have French blood ! Indeed, he had a serious road accident in France and had a blood transfusion in my country.

Tenjin Parco, Fukuoka France ? Parco Tenjin - Fukuoka

As I said upper the French people in Fukuoka are quite rare. So naturally I am often asked why I chose Fukuoka instead of Tokyo or Kyoto (you can learn everything about this choice by reading this blog post). Then I am told about how far is France and am thanked with a big smile for choosing Fukuoka.I am the one who should be thankful !

Paris, this so romantic city where everyone wear great fashion and has a Vuitton bag, daily diet based on bread, France is only Paris, Mont Saint- Michel and Provence, going to the market with a wicker basket and so on. You (like me) will not escape to the clichés that the Japanese have on France and its citizen. And oh my god they are many! At first I used to tell the truth very bluntly but now I'm more likely to grind smoothly and let them imagine. After all, dreaming is not that bad...

The French in Fukuoka are real lucky because the city is nice and full of warm and lovely people. Hopefully, through this blog, I will make you want to explore in my little part of southern Japan.
I am curious about the other country people hve to face with. I am lookning forward your comments ! 

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