December 14, 2009


Yes, it is winter. Yes, it is very cold at the moment in Paris. The topic of conversation chez les Joly this weekend was, however, beach umbrellas. When I heard, "and he had the audacity to come down to the beach with a beach umbrella!" I sat down at the table grinning, knowing that I was going to get a good helping of French-ness in one conversation. I asked to recommencer - to start again, because I wanted to hear the whole thing.

Apparently, someone the Joly family is very close to appeared on the beach in St. Aygulf with an umbrella this summer. The horror. I sat in my chair smiling with amusement, straining to figure out what could be horrible about it. So, I flat out asked. "Ouh la la, Emilie!" they responded in surprise.

Didn't I see that: an umbrella at the beach is plouc? (middle-low class). Isn't it clear to me by now that the French are not practical people (they are aesthetic and philosophical people); therefore, the practical in France are the most plouc of all. (They slipped in that it is different in my country, because my people value pragmatism, which made me feel a great deal better).

They went on with their tale: and sometimes people will even bring a glacière (cooler) to the beach with them! This was said with eyebrows raised very high. (Again came my request to explain the problem with a cooler at the beach). "Il faut pas bouffer à la plage!" (You mustn't eat on the beach!) "On mange pas en public." (We do not eat in public). This one is a rule to take seriously in France. Eating in public spaces that are not designated for this activity = high doses of shame.

They brought up the subject of folding chairs on the beach. As you can imagine, also a no-no.

Xavier specified: This sort of person (the one who has an umbrella, a folding chair and a cooler at the beach) "veut reproduire sa maison partout. Le syndrome du campeur" (...wants to reproduce his house everywhere he goes. It is the camper syndrome).

The traditional, well-educated French person: "vient le matin, il nage et il s'en va. Et puis, il revient le soir" (comes to the beach in the morning, he swims and then he leaves. Then, he comes back again in the evening).

I am so plouc.


Jill said...

Me too! You've seen the umbrellas, coolers, and folding chairs we bring to the beach when we go. They did say it was different in this country though. Right? All that pragmatism.

Rebekah V. said...

pass me a cold one and call me plouc. Who wants to go to the beach and not picnic? My american eyebrows are raised unimaginably high.

Xavier said...

Jill, don't get me wrong, I truly enjoyed having some shade and drinking cold water at the beach at last!

This is all about a cultural context more than anything else otherwise, why would I enjoyed the US so much? To the point of moving back to NY :-)

See you soon Madame le Chef (yes, I watch you on TV!)

Brad said...

Je suis bien plouc aussi. I enjoyed this post very much.

Adam said...

I think you are confusing the 'French' with 'Parisian snobs'!

Gaby Munoz said...

Oh my, the French would get quite a shock if they ever went to the Peruvian beaches where the families bring not just a cooler, but pots filled with the most impractical beach food I've ever seen (such as rice casseroles, stews. etc.). This was truly wonderful to read.

Maria Petrova said...

Em.... this is AMAZING.

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