I love and appreciate the differences between cultures. And as we moved from the UK to France, the differences between the French and English are fun to explore.
Recently I had been thinking about the difference in perspective when it comes to animals. Prime example…
When the English hear we have a pet duck the general response is ‘Awwwww’, ‘How cute’, ‘Adorable’, ‘What fun’. Put in your own adjective to demonstrate a lovely feeling.
When the French realise we have a pet duck, after a quizzical look (could be our French), we get a look of dawning comprehension. And the response ‘Ah, you are raising it to eat’, with a satisfied nod.
And it isn’t just ducks. Dogs garner a different perspective, too. Now I am going to stereotype a bit here. The French certainly like to purchase pure breed dogs. And are very willing to pay a lot of money for them. There is a certain expectation that you will own a type or breed. Every time we meet someone new whilst walking our dogs, we are always asked ‘What breed are they?’
The English love to rescue dogs. (My personal preference, but then I haven’t been fully Frenchified yet.) There is a lot of expectation in the UK that you should go to a shelter and find your dog there. This is not to say those in the UK don’t still buy pure breed dogs, but there is a much bigger feeling of accepted alternatives. (And it is not to say the French don’t adopt from shelters, it’s just less common in comparison.)
What about cats? I would hazard the thought that both cultures love (and loathe) cats equally. The French (stereotyping again) are a bit more pragmatic. At least here in the country. Cats are certainly taken in for their mousing and other rodent killing capabilities. The reality of country living, especially if you manage a vegetable garden or have ducks and/or chickens is that you will have to deal with mice and rats. Cats provide a solution.
Besides being a solution here in France, people are also passionate about them as pets. Possibly more so than dogs. And by passionate, being a big more demonstrative or noticeable. Dogs are sort of taken as a given as a pet, or guard dog, here. So those that love cats are a little more out there with their feelings on the subject.
If you own a dog and your neighbour has cats, the conversation will come up on whether their cats are safe around your dog. And signs on doors is not uncommon about keeping doors closed as they have cats.
Most villages in France have their own cat society. There are quite a few feral cats in France, and there is definitely a movement here to manage them. But it isn’t about trying to amend their feralness (is that a word?) and make them house cats. Adult cat adoption is not really a thing here. Rather it is about making sure they are neutered and vaccinated. Our own village has a small group that feed and look after our feral community.
So lets talk English. Not a huge difference, except maybe in the feral cat concept. But, I might conjecture that I have come across more ‘cat crazy’ people in the UK. I certainly know of more people who own multiple cats in the UK than in France. One or two at most seems to be the norm here. We sometimes get that quizzical French look when we say we have 3 cats.
And one animal area they are very similar is the welfare and care of donkeys. Here in France donkeys were (and sometimes still are) used as work animals in agriculture. But most now have been found retirement homes. Or maybe that should read ‘fields’? Walk around our village and you will certainly visit a number of donkeys en-route.
I love and appreciate that I live in both worlds. And the very real difference in perspectives of the French and English. I don’t have to agree with them all, but I do appreciate them.
If you would like to read more about French culture or life in France:
French or Foe – understanding French culture (a book review)
And do check out our Fab Findings from France Facebook Group – where we look at all sorts of findings about France each week.