Working Class Hero Is Something To Be

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When I Look At The World

When I Look At The World

Rock’n’roll stars, rap artists, rednecks, tycoons, politicians, lobbyists, aliens… North America has it all. But there’s one category that have never traveled across the ocean from its beloved old continent : the nobility.

To be rich in North America, you either have to be : a) incredibly smart (cf. Bill Gates) b) incredibly stupid (cf. Paris Hilton). To be rich in France you can try the two methods above but frankly, few people will bother. Money, you have it or you don’t. And most of time, if you do, you inherited it.

Snapshot. It’s 4:00 in front of a private school. A group of middle age women, dressed in navy blue and bottle green from head to toes : padded headbands, plaid skirts, tweed jackets and deck shoes. And the infamous Bordeaux coat. No point in being flashy, right ? Money talks for itself. They are Bon Chic Bon Genre (B.C.B.G. for short) : elegant and well mannered. They live in Neuilly, Auteuil and Passy and hang out there, between Churches (a member of the family have to be in the Roman Catholic priesthood) , scouting for the kids, interminable tennis games played in indoor court downtown Paris and military parades. The husband works in finance or for the government – where else ? The whole family has been attending elite school since Napoléon.

They get impatient. It’s already 4:01 and if the kids don’t come out now, they will be late for the little trip they take every weekend. The whole family will travel to the château, the castle – has been in the family for a very long time. They don’t go there for fun. Mostly because the cousins are here, themselves coming from Normandy. They pretty much have to get out of the city for weekends, what would the kids do otherwise ? Play with the neighborhood kids ? They are Arabic for God’s sake ! Talking about God, they have to go to Church early this Sunday anyway. The Father announced a very moving preach last Sunday, against homosexuals who abort all the time, desecrating cemeteries. They don’t understand everything because the Mass is in Latin, but that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Yep. In France, there sill are counts (cf. the Count of Paris, Louis XVI’s direct descendant), barons (cf. Ernest-Antoine Seillière de Laborde, the head of the MEDEF – “Movement of the French Enterprises”, the largest union of employers in France), viscounts… a bunch of titles that don’t seem to mean much. France is now a Republic, isn’t it ? Well, yes, but a lot of people are still living in enclaves – like Neuilly Sur Seine.

French social classes are well-defined : working class, middle class and upper class. After the French revolution, the bourgeoisie (traditionally, upper-class merchants whose power comes from employment and wealth) and the aristocracy merged. They were old enemies but needed to survive under the new Republic. Big fortunes were made during France’s glory days, and they stayed within the family : private mansions, lands and a name, often with a “de”, the particle usually belonging to a noble family. It opens door, mostly golden ones. Family background, education, manners, money. You don’t get it : you’re born with it. They even have an association : the “Association for the mutual assistance of French nobility” !

The North American dream goes like that : start at the rung of the ladder, add a lot of work, a stroke of luck, life tragedies and hardship and you could make it to the top. On paper, everybody gets a chance… even though deep down people know the American Dream is in a bad way. It’s worth having a go. Anyway.

In case you’re wondering, I’m a no-one. I do have a very long name but it’s only because my parents have been happily living in sin for over 25 years now, so I ended up with both names. I’m not even a bourgeois. I’m afraid I’m just a basic working class/ artists/ loving family brat. Sorry.

I’m glad I’m in North America. I feel like I escaped the fetter of tradition. I feel like the world is mine. I feel like it doesn’t matter where I’m from. I feel like I can make it if I want to.

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

15 Comments

  1. Interesting Zhu..and you’re not a no-one. Me, yes..you, no.

    Where did you get those cute smilies????? I have some but mine are lame.

  2. This was an excellent post – it summed up so well what it took me several years to realize. When I first got here, I couldn’t understand why none of the young people had ambition, and why their parents weren’t pushing them to do more, do better. What happened to “Be all you can be?” – oh wait, that’s an American phrase.

    I finally realized that, like you said, there was still a class system here and that people tended to stay in it. If your parents were farmers, you were a farmer. If you parents worked in a factory, you worked in a factory. What surprised me the most is the parents’ attitudes about all this, ie. “it was good enough for me, so it’s good enough for you too”. I guess that’s the one thing I’ve never gotten used to – that most parents don’t seem to want their kids to do better than they did, that they just want them to have the same as they had.

    And I guess it makes me sad to think that considering MOH is a farmer and I’m a foreigner – what are our (future) children going to end up to be? I’ll have to send them to the US for them to get anywhere in life, but then they’ll be far away!

    Thanks, this made for some excellent reading while drinking my morning tea!

  3. Hi Zhu, I’m finally leaving a comment, but it doesn’t mean it’s the first time coming 😉

    I’ve heard a lot about that kind of thing in France, since my husband’s sister in law is french 😀 But I also like more to be in a country where that doesn’t matter and you can be yourself and you have to work hard to get what you want, it’s much more fun this way 🙂

  4. Hi Zhu:

    I think that “nobility” is now replaced by “celebrity” here. There is nothing remotely blue-blooded about those in society that we like putting on a pedastal.

    Meanwhile, how are things in your new home? I miss you on blogspot, but will make a trip to your new neighbourhood just to visit and say hi!

  5. Lori : the key to fun smiley is on your blog 💡 😉

    samantha : first, thanks for visiting ! I’m originally from Brittany as well (Nantes) 😉

    Your comment totally sums up my opinion, and the feeling of freedom I had when I first came to North America. Strange isn’t it ?! This is a side of France I had never thought much of before moving to Canada. The famous status quo… Weird also considering how much French like to challenge the governement !

    Aiglee : I like Canada for this exact reason. I like being free to be whatever I want to be… call me a dreamer !

    Barb: yes, you’re right, to a certain extend celebrities are the new nobility here ! 😆

    I like the new home, it’s very flexible and a ot of fun. Blogspot was good for a start but I really like blogging apparently ! 😆

    Max: I love your tag, I’ll do it for sure ! Probably in a couple of days 😉

    Webmiztris : for me it depends on the day and on the hour 😯

  6. Remember that most of the millionaires in North America do not have college educations. They earned their millions, and with hard work – and insight as to what will make those millions. It’s a quality very few people possess.

    But who needs millions to be happy? Not me. 🙂

    An, I’ll acknowledge your smiley collection. 🙂

  7. **I’m afraid I’m just a basic working class/ artists/ loving family brat. Sorry

    there’s absolutely NO need to be sorry abt being who u r Zhu. U r u, and I love the person that u r. Free and happy just the way u r. 🙂

    Besides who needs MONEY to be happy? Happiness comes from within. So whether u make it or not (according to society’s measurements), wut matters is that u made it the way YOU wanted it to be. HUGGGGGGGGGGZ!

    Keshi.

  8. Great post! Those same women are over here in Spain too, and their kids walk around with their noses in the air just like their parents do. In fact, if they forget and look down, they get a good slap from their loving mums, in order to correct such an ignoble posture. 😉 But lots of people here make it just by working hard. Young people try hard to get ahead, taking lots of extra courses, studying English, studying abroad, in the hopes of getting a good job later. Unfortunately, most end up in jobs that pay very little, 1000 euros or less, and usually the jobs they end up in have nothing to do with what they studied. Anyway, I hope you do succeed in whatever you do, wherever you do it.

  9. Hello Zhu!

    I am back, as promised.
    I agree with you: Paris Hilton ignores the meaning of intelligence, and as such she doesn’t make use of it.

    This is an excellent description of the Bourgeoisie, and Aristocracy (they are now cousins, you know? lol)! Here, in Portugal, we also have them: their nasal tone of voice, their irritating pseudo-existence (yes, they sit in church every Sunday, but during the rest of the week they flaunt their ignorance, pettiness, jealousy, envy, bigotry, futility, instability, classlessness and lack of style…to name a few of their great “qualities”)!

    Oh my Lord…my mother’s family name has a “de” lol lol! I shall not label myself in here lol…

    The bottom line is: one can be said to have money, manners and a title; however if one has all the great “qualities” I mentioned above, one’s title, money and manners are useless.

    Cheers

  10. Hello Zhu!
    Thanks for your work, very good and very nice. Have a good day.

    Olá Zhu!
    Obrigado pelo teu trabalho, muito bom e muito bonito.
    Tem um bom dia.

  11. Ghosty : I certainly don’t need to be rich to be happy ! But it’s nice to see people who actually work for their money… instead of inhering it !

    Keshi : I don’t care about money much, as long as I can survive with whatever I have. 😉

    Theresa : I would thik you guys have the same women in Spain, I think they are all over in Europe ! I agree, you can also be fine by working hard, but it proved to be quite difficult in France right now. I see my friends with 6-7 years of uni. behind them getting entry level positions paid under 1 000 EUR/ mth… it hurts.

    Max: in Portugal as well !? Okay, there are definitely everywhere !

    It’s okay to have a “de” in your name… to be honest it doesn’t mean much anymore, unless you insists on it so much it becomes suspect ! 🙄 😆

    David : obrigada ! 😉

  12. LOL LOL no, I can assure you that I don’t insist on it lol…it is just a name!

    You speak Portuguese? Well, I tried to visit David’s website, but I was unable (something wrong with his page) *shrugging*!

    Later

  13. A classmate recently asked me how I liked Europe so far. I said I was loving every bit of what I had seen. She then asked if I would like to settle here.

    Well life in France seems peaceful, easier and less competitive than life back home, but my answer was no, I would like to return back to my country. (had the question been posed 5 years back, perhaps I would not have an answer.)

    She was a bit surprised by my answer and asked why not. Well I didn’t get an opportunity to answer it then. When I read your article, i knew i cudnt have answered it better myself. There is little economic opportunity in France, and most of it is related to your lineage. A decade earlier, the same used to be the case with India. However, things have changed, and the opportunity available to you in India now is much more a function of your qualification than your last name.

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