Family Is Family

Family is family
 

France is still all about family. It is comforting in a way, to know that the traditions, the house filled to the brim with many generations of the same blood, the Sunday roast at Papy and Mamie’s house, have not gone fully extinct.

The definition of family may have modernized a bit, even in France, but the joys and the struggles remain the same. Grandparents live in another time still, overwhelmed with the new technologies. They long for the times when the kids’ faces were buried in books, pastry dough or arts and crafts, not cell phones and tablets.

There's still that kooky character, the loose canon of the bunch, who for better or for worse, makes every family gathering unforgettable.

Parents are still nagging, siblings are annoying. You’re convinced one of the bunch is everyone’s favorite, and it ain’t you.

Still and always. Family is an endless source of inspiration. Many stories remain to be told.

France is all about family as we said, and a prolific producer of family comedies. You have “Meet the Parents”, we have:

 

La Famille Bélier (2014)

A girl, the only hearing member of her deaf family, discovers she has a gift for singing.

Qu’est-Ce Qu’on A Fait Au Bon Dieu / Serial (Bad) Weddings (2014)

A traditional, Catholic couple is challenged in their faith and openness when their four daughters marry men of different origins and religions.

Les Tuche / The Tuche Family (2011)

A working-class, provincial family moves to swanky Monaco after winning 100 million euros at the lottery, and struggles to be accepted while staying true to themselves.

And last but not least,

La Ch’tite Famille / Family Is Family (2018)

Another gem gifted to us by director and actor Dany Boon. A hot Parisian architect claims to be an orphan because he is too ashamed to admit that he hails from working-class scrap metal merchants, from Northern France no less.

This may not mean much to many of you but to a French person, it is the regional culture clash at its best. Many French movies take place in Paris and invite us into the impossibly cool Parisian lifestyle. And while we too love the City of Lights, its spirit and its possibilities,

Paris is not France and France is not Paris.

Dany Boon himself comes from the North of France where the Ch’tis reign, and gathered around him a cast of other Ch’tis. While his character is shamefully concealing his origins, this hilarious movie truly is a demonstration of his pride in his origins.

What on earth is a Ch'ti?

 
Ch’ti or Chtimi designates the inhabitant of extreme Northern France as well as parts of Belgium, traditionally coal-mining regions that may now be economically affected.

Les Ch’tis have their own language and expressions, and a very strong accent tending to add -ch where there should be -s.

To be completely frank, I don’t understand much when they speak.

But they are known to be the warmest, most welcoming people in France; and that says a lot when you’re up against the mythical provencal / Southern French hospitality.

I know Boon’s perspective all too well. I too hail from an “undistinguished” region of France.

Beautiful, “sunny” (not really) Burgundy. We are neither in the North nor in the South of France. We are actually nestled in the Eastern plains. Yes there is such a thing, a concept lost on most people including other French folks and especially Parisians. We are a wine country and incredibly attached to our land. Burgundy was once a land filled with splendor, over which dukes richer and stronger than the King of France reigned.

But we do eat snails and all of the animals, our cheeses are the smelliest ever, and our elders still roll their -r ’s.

Everything about Burgundy is deemed uncool, if that's how coolness is determined now.

For many years, people would label me a Parisian. I would gleefully giggle, flattered, my ego stricken. Oh stop. Please stop.

But I have since decided to sing a different tune...

 

Burgundians are a warm, epicurean, and yes uncouth, bunch. We make wine, this beautiful nectar (you’re welcome), some of the best wines in the world too.

We love to eat and be merry.

We take naps in the field while chewing on a blade of grass.

We harvest fruit from the tree and make pies with them. And with the leftover fruit, we may or may not distill liquor in our garage/barn/basement using an illegal still.

We know all the lyrics to very dirty, drinking songs.

We’re not ones for rules but tradition is our God.

We welcome everyone. We pull a chair at our table and pour them a glass.

In the end the truth is this: France is an assembly of regions, and not one is the same as the other. It is what makes our small nation so diverse in landscapes, foods, and culture.

I call on all Basques, Ch'tis, Bretons, Bourguignons, Savoyards, Occitans, Alsaciens, Corses, Auvergnats... to maintain and celebrate your regional differences. Be proud - I know some of you already are - and keep your loved ones close, shiny bits, warts, smelly cheeses and all.

Because Family Is Family.

 

Words: Cécile Charlot.