Cultural anthropology

Cover of "Petite Anglaise"

Anthropologists have been comparing cultures since Sir Edward Taylor’s first defined it in 1897. In modern times a humorous lens has been turned onto this social science with films like: Coming to America, Green Card and Four Weddings and a Funeral. When I moved to France, I also noticed a rash of books with I suppose, Stephen Clarke’s A year in the merde being the most popular. Incidentally, the MC in that is probably one of the most unsympathetic characters I have ever read. I much prefer Catherine Sanderson’s French Kissing, but that’s probably because I gave Catherine Sanderson a bunch of unused reusable nappies and as a thank you she explained she was a writer and gave me her book. At the time in my head I was screaming like a teenage groupie: OMG, a writer, there’s a real life published writer on my couch, a writer! And not any writer, Petite Anglaise! I read her blog. OMG, OMG. But out of my mouth came the words: Oh thank you! I love reading, thanks so much. I suppose it was my English reserve that kept the groupie part of me quiet, not mention the fact that I liked (read as spend every moment I can) to write myself. Anyway I digress.

Wedding Photos

The thing is comparing cultures is inevitable. It’s one of those things we do to get our head round the place we are holidaying in, or have chosen to live. It helps us to understand who we are and to form new relationships. So, with that in mind I was really rather looking forward to attending this weekend’s wedding. All the way to Normandy the Frog and I discussed it and in the end the only thing we could find that was significantly different is that the British do a ceremony and a reception, whereas the French do a ceremony (maybe two because the legal and church do not mix) and then there is a cocktail and then the sit down meal. Both the Brits and the French do speeches, and I forgot to ask if there were fights at French weddings and admittedly there’s only ever been ONE fight at British wedding I’ve attended and it was a very long time ago. Of the two French weddings I’ve attended, the two things that have stuck in my head is that they are very long and not vegetarian friendly. So we had a good breakfast, made sure we had lunch and I slipped a Lion bar and a Twix in my handbag just in case.

The other thing is that the last two French weddings I went to were when I first arrived in France and EVERYTHING was different. This time, I’ve lived her for twelve years and I’m starting to *tut* when people cut the cheese wrong.

And then there were the bride and groom. Before we got to the church, the Frog informed me that the groom would be wearing red trousers. Why? I asked. Didn’t ask, the Frog replied. What! I said. What is wrong with the Frog? When someone goes to a lot of trouble to wear red trousers to their wedding, doesn’t the Frog’s story-o-meter boing to very interesting? Is it just me? I tried to ask the groom, but the problem with being the groom is that lots of people wanted to talk to him and I never got the full story. Anyway, the Priest mentioned that the groom didn’t want to do things traditionally, so maybe that was the answer. And although the wedding was traditional in that there was a ceremony, cocktail and sit down meal, everything in between was not. From the moment the bride and groom boogied into the tent to the opening bars of Style Council’s Shout to the top, I realised my bit of research was going to go awry.

Basically, what I realised is that there’s this framework, the Brits do this and the French do that, but then there are individuals. They may be French or English or Mauritian, but what couples do with the framework, is all up to themselves. At the end of the day this couple were shouting: Be yourselves! And that is something that I can prescribe to wholeheartedly.


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