CulturalFest Preview: Explore France
Visiting the CulturalFest International Expo on February 7 is a way to travel the world in just one day - and to do it for free! The Expo features booths led by University of Washington international students from all over the world who are eager to teach others about their home communities and cultures.
As the event gets closer, we're featuring interviews with some of these students to give a sneak peek into what visitors to the Expo can see and learn. Here's an interview with booth captain Gaston Bricout (photo at right) about the France booth.
What will CulturalFest visitors be able to see/do at your booth to learn about France?
At our booth, visitors will be able to talk with French people and UW students that returned from France, to learn about our culture and our language. Visitors will also be able to learn some interesting facts, people, monuments… from France, and we will broadcast French music (in French or English, but done by French artists). And there will be French baguettes to eat!
I am not from Paris unlike some of the other volunteers you will see Friday. I come from Picardy, in the North of France, a land of agriculture (but this photo was actually taken in Ile de France). Credit: Myrabella (Wikimedia).
What do you most want people to know about France?
I love the fact that everyone in the world has the same image about France: we Froggies are gentlemen and eternal lovers (with our French kisses!), chic and trendy, we all live in Paris, we have a food so delicious that the English language has a word for it (cuisine)… but we are arrogant, communists, smelly, eating frogs and snails, always smoking, complaining or on strike, we don’t know how to learn foreign languages and we lose all the wars in which we fight! Some of these clichés (hey, a French word!) make some Frenchies sob, but the majority prefers to have a good laugh. I don’t tell the clichés I’ve cited are all false (in fact, some are true, but the French don’t want to admit them!), but they show how many people claim to know everything about France when, in reality, they don’t know anything about this huge country (the biggest in Western Europe, and one of the most populous). Unfortunately, like surely every other country here at the CulturalFest, our booth won’t be as big as we wish it could to cover the maximum of things about France. But I hope that thanks to us, visitors will be able to talk about France further than just Paris, Dior and Edith Piaf!
A traditional “bagad” in Brittany. Every region of France has its own identity and folklores. Credit: Lythos35 (Wikimedia).
If someone was going to travel to France, where would you recommend they visit?
Oh wow! How can I give you a proper answer to that question? If France stayed the most visited country in the world for more than 20 years (83 million people in 2013, way ahead of the United States (rank 2, 67 million)), it is thanks to our astounding landscapes, our historical monuments, our fascinating museums, our delicious cuisine, or simply our more than 360 varieties of cheese! Just like in the United States, if you even decide to visit only one part of France (Picardy, Normandy, Brittany, Burgundy, Alsace, Aquitaine, the French Riviera, Corsica or simply Paris), you will never have the same travel. There are so many things to see that even we French don’t know if we will have enough of a lifetime to see everything in our own country.
Paris. View of the Arc de Triomphe from the Eiffel Tower. Credit: Gérard Ducher.
For a French like me (and even worse, for a person that doesn’t come from Paris), it is always painful to make a selection in a country that huge (alright, it’s only a bit bigger than Washington and Oregon, but there is a thing to see every mile!). If you don’t have much time in front of you, you can just stay in Paris: the “City of Light” is a country alone, with its museums like the Louvre or Orsay, its monuments like Notre Dame or the Arc de Triomphe, and of course the Eiffel Tower. You can also see our numerous castles or châteaux, like the ones around Paris (Versailles, of course, but also Vaux-le-Vicomte, Chantilly, Fontainebleau, Vincennes…) or around the Loire Valley (Chambord, Chenonceau, Cheverny, Angers, Amboise, Blois…) France also has a lot of religious monuments that are more than 800 years old for some (the cathedrals of Notre Dame, Chartres, Amiens, Beauvais, Reims… or the famous Mont-Saint-Michel). From the cliffs of Brittany to the magnificence of Mont Blanc and the Alps Mountains, every part of France has breathtaking landscapes. The amateurs of wine will go in Burgundy or Aquitaine, those who need sun in the French Riviera or Corsica… there is a thing for everyone in France. You want to stay in America and not traveling that far? No problem! There are French islands in the Gulf of Mexico! (Guadeloupe, Martinique…) And Americans that want to express their patriotic feeling will obviously go to Normandy, country of the D-Day, with its beaches, its museums and, sadly, its cemeteries… This paragraph is already too long, and I missed so many things! If in France, there is a thing to see everywhere, I hope you have not been overwhelmed by this “small” selection.
The beach of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, more universally known as Utah Beach. Credit: TCY (Wikimedia).
Who are the other members of your booth and where are they from?
They come from France or are UW students that studied in France. We received a lot of help from the UW French Club, but there are also some individual French or UW returning students that came to help us.
In your experience as a student at UW, what’s the biggest difference between Seattle and your home country?
The school system, without a doubt. It may be me, but I find this year at UW to be way easier than the ones I spent in my home university (Sciences Po Paris): maybe because the way Americans teach is way different than the one in France (Americans prefer to focus on positive points, while the French system is focusing more on errors to progress: it may be difficult, but I was really ready when I came at UW). Also, a lot of other little things that may be small, but that reveal a lot: Americans are very patriotic and don’t hesitate to plant a flag or a cardboard with their political candidates, while French are way more discreet about their opinions; these a bit annoying conversions we must do all the time (miles rather than kilometers (and mph rather than km/h), inches and feet rather than meters and centimeters, ounces and gallons rather than liters, and of course, dollars rather than euros); and the fact that Seattle is huge: in Paris, we had everything in our surroundings, while here we sometimes have to travel more than 1 or 2 miles to find a certain service… and so on. What about the climate? Those who come from the South of France will tell you Seattle is cold, whereas those from the North will say it’s just fine… Again, France is so big we have all kinds of regions and people!
The Mont Blanc, highest peak in the Alps Mountains. It is 15,781 feet high, 1,000 feet more than Mount Rainier! Credit: Semnoz (Wikimedia).
Anything else you want to share?
Merci beaucoup de venir nous voir à la CulturalFest ! If you want more information about France, the French Club (http://students.washington.edu/parlons/) is an excellent first step to discover our country. You can also check the Alliance Française de Seattle (http://www.afseattle.org/) and of course go see our Consular Agency in Downtown! A vendredi !
Do you want to know why is there the Statue of Liberty in front of the Eiffel Tower on that photo? Come Friday, and we’ll tell you why! Credit: Danielsp (Wikimedia).
Thanks to Gaston and to all the students who are working hard to make this CulturalFest amazing! Learn more about the International Expo here.
CulturalFest is a two-day event which also features a at Meany Hall and a where guests can bid on local and global items to support FIUTS. Get your tickets to the performances and auction here, or in the FIUTS office in HUB 206.
Hope to see you at CulturalFest!