Welcome to The Bicultural Podcast.
- Morgane’s story about being bicultural
- Communication differences between British and French audiences
- Advice for French expats living in the UK
Janina Neumann (00:31):
Hi Morgane, how are you?
Morgane Le Cleuyou (00:33):
I’m good. Hello, Janina. How are you?
Janina Neumann (00:36):
I’m very well, thank you. Really great to have you on, and I’m really interested to hear more about your bicultural perspective.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (00:43):
Thank you. Thank you for inviting me on your podcast.
Janina Neumann (00:46):
So tell us a little bit more about yourself.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (00:53):
I am French and I arrived in the UK 14 years ago now. I initially came to do an internship, to complete my diploma. I was, at the time, studying a bachelor in international trade, and I spent five months in the UK, and that was it. I never went back. Since then, I’ve worked in international trade as an export assistant, and then as a translator. I worked as a translator for about nine years, 10 years.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (01:36):
A few years ago, I changed career to become a therapist, and I’ve been working as a therapist for the last two years. I work in London, mostly with French people, so French expats or other French UK residents, who, like me, arrived and just settled here, mostly bicultural families, as well. So one of the parents is English and the other one would be French, and their children attend the French schools.
Janina Neumann (02:12):
Wow. We’re going to have lots of talk about. Just, if you’d like to introduce yourself in French, we’d love to hear you introducing yourself in French.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (02:23):
Yes, of course.
“Donc, je m’appelle Morgane. J’habite à Londres Royaume-Uni depuis 14 ans maintenant. Je suis donc arrivé en vue de faire mon stage de fin d’études à l’époque j’étais en école de commerce et je termine et qu’on appelait à l’époque la licence on appelle aujourd’hui le bachelier. Je me suis tellement plus à Londres que je suis jamais parti et j’ai travaillé pendant plusieurs années dans les dans différents domaines import-export donc vers la traduction et depuis 2 ans maintenant je travaille en tant que thérapeute principalement auprès des familles françaises qui sont installés à Londres. Voilà.”
Back to you to you, Janina.
Janina Neumann (03:17):
That sounded wonderful. Brilliant.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (03:21):
Janina Neumann (03:21):
So when did you become bicultural?
Morgane Le Cleuyou (03:26):
I think it was probably about two years in, when I had my second job in a company where I was the only French person. Also, at the time I moved in a place where my flatmates, none of my flatmates was French. When I first arrived, I needed French friends and to find the French community here because I didn’t know anyone, and then after a while I moved away from that and I really wanted to dive in the English culture, the English way of life. I think, yeah, that’s probably about two years after I arrived, that I really investigated more and started to become a bit bicultural.
Janina Neumann (04:22):
That sounds really interesting.
So did you notice any distinct differences between British and French people when you first arrived?
Morgane Le Cleuyou (04:32):
The first thing that I really noticed is just how friendly people were here. Obviously, I grew up in Paris area, and I did my studies in Paris. It’s a big city, it’s a big town, and people are very stressed, and they’re always running to place. A bit like London, but there was something about people, they were smiley, they were much more chatty, and there was something about …
Morgane Le Cleuyou (05:11):
I don’t know, I remember one day and that really sort of symbolised everything for me, is I was in the tube, I was on my way back home after an evening out with friends, and the tube wasn’t really … it wasn’t really busy. There were people but not too many, and there was one lady who was crying, a young lady, probably about my age, and she was crying. No one knew what was going on, and I didn’t think much of it and carried on. I can’t remember what I was doing, if I was reading or listening to music. After a while, I saw someone coming over to her and handing her a tissue and then walking back to their seat and seating down. I was left absolutely gobsmacked. This would have never, ever happened in France. I mean, in my experience. Maybe it does, but I looked at them and I was like, Oh, my God, English people are so kind.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (06:19):
I don’t know, it just sort of represented for me the interaction that people had in the tube and how accessible and approachable they were, or they are, compared to French people in the French tube, for example. It’s very much, in France, about minding their own business. Well, it was. I left 14 years ago. Then I sort of relaxed and started to talk to people and to smile to people much more, as well. So perhaps that’s when I really became bicultural.
Janina Neumann (06:52):
That’s a really interesting story.
So do you think it’s because the British have a different way of engaging with strangers? Is it more acceptable here than it is in France?
Morgane Le Cleuyou (07:04):
Definitely, and I could notice that and compare, because a few months or perhaps a year after this event, the tube event, I went back to France. So my parents live in Paris area, so for me, it’s quite easy. I just get on the Eurostar, and when I make it to Gare du Nord, I just have to jump into the RER B. Now the RER B in France is the one that goes to Charles de Gaulle airport, but there’s a fork. So this RER B goes either to the airport, either in a different direction.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (07:50):
It’s getting much, much better now, but back then, the indications were not clear and a lot of tourists would get on the train, not realise that they were on the wrong one. So when it was time to change, they wouldn’t, and they would go in the different direction, then have to come back, change again, to go to the airport. One Friday evening, I was going to Paris via Eurostar, getting on that train, and when we arrived at the station where people would have to change to go to the airport, I could see in the … next to me, there were two tourists, and I could see the label on their luggage, and I could guess that they were going to Charles de Gaulle.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (08:38):
When we arrived at that station where they were supposed to change, no one said anything. I could see everyone looking at them and no one actually standing up and going to tell them. Perhaps they didn’t speak English, they didn’t know how to interact. But I guess in this situation, you don’t actually need to share the language to let people know that they should get out, or the lines … there were posters with the lines, so you could show them that it was not the right train.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (09:12):
Eventually, I realised no one was going to react, so I did. I went and I told them what to do, how to change, where to go, be mindful of the final destination of the train. They didn’t speak much English, but they spoke enough English that I could explain them and they could understand, so that was all good. Then I went back and sat, and people had not even acknowledged anything. Not that I was after an applause or anything, that that was not the point, but that really struck me because in the UK, they can go and give a tissue to someone crying. But in France, they can’t tell someone that they get on the wrong train. That did not quite compute in my mind.
Janina Neumann (10:10):
So do you think there’s a real stark difference in how people communicate with strangers and how people would actually give you feedback when they get to know you in France?
Morgane Le Cleuyou (10:23):
French people are, well, used to be, really bad at foreign languages. So they would go abroad, expecting people at their destination to make an effort to understand and help them. However, when you go to France as a foreigner, and you don’t really speak French, they would look at you in despise, like how dare you come to my country and not even speak my language. A lot of them would not help you because your French not good enough, and that’s on you, because if you come to France, the least you could do speak French.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (11:02):
Well, no. That doesn’t quite work like that. If you’re a tourist, you don’t need to speak perfect French to come and spend a few days to visit us. But now I feel like the newest generation are a bit different. I find them much more open, and obviously they speak better English. They would kind of welcome people now, welcome them and see it as an opportunity of practice their English. So I honestly think that France is changing.
Janina Neumann (11:40):
So what advantages has biculturalism given you?
Morgane Le Cleuyou (11:46):
Well, obviously, being bicultural definitely helps me help my clients better, especially the ones who have been here for a very long time. Had I been a therapist who just arrived in London, I’m not sure I would have the same level of understanding of what it is to be bicultural in this town. For the French people who’ve lived here a long time and who come for help to me, I can really relate.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (12:23):
I’ve had the same challenges that they’ve had. I’ve come to the same understanding that they did. And just like if they were to go to an English therapist, they would miss out on their French roots and influence, as a newbie French therapist here just arrived from France, it would be difficult for me as well to fully understand their experience. It is actually quite an exercise.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (13:00):
When French expats come to see me and they’ve just arrived, usually the typical … the most common being a company sending someone from France here and this man, most of the time it’s a man but not always, but for this one, we’ll say it’s a man, comes and the family follows, and one of the member of the family needs to come to see me. I can feel just how French they are because they’ve just arrived. They haven’t yet soaked in the culture. They haven’t yet got used to the way of living, their habits.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (13:53):
It’s funny because it reminds me of when I arrived 14 years ago. It reminds me of so many people that I’ve met up to now, and it’s always more or less the same kind of patterns, and comments, and feedbacks. Being bicultural in this kind of situation really helps because then I can bring in more nuances, and bring in the British side of thing, and help them understand better. So sometimes I feel very much like I’m the link between those newly French expats and the land that’s welcoming them, and I’m sort of facilitating the understanding, and short-cutting maybe all of the things that I’ve learned on my own.
Janina Neumann (14:53):
That sounds really interesting.
So for some of our listeners who might feel like they’re having some barriers, are there some of the things that you could share with us, how they might be feeling, and when is the right time to come to you to have a chat?
Morgane Le Cleuyou (15:11):
Well, you arrive in a country that doesn’t necessarily share the same codes of communication, and so you are naturally going to respond the way you’ve been conditioned by the country that you come from. You are used to a certain kind of response to that, but you are faced with people who have their own codes, and it’s very much the same, even if you speak English. You speak English, but with your French approach, and the person in front of you might be speaking English with an English approach.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (15:51):
Or in the expat community, and especially in London, which is so multicultural, it might be that for both of you this is not your first language, and also the code of the communication is not the same. So you might be at a loss because when you try to express yourself in a certain way, it’s not received the way you would expect it to be. If you’d been in France, you would more or less know how the person in front of you would understand you because you share the same code of communication, but here it’s different.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (16:37):
If I take an example, when I worked as an export assistant, my boss was English and was probably in his late sixties. He was very well-composed, very well-mannered, very well-spoken. I arrived and I was 24, just fresh out of school, thought that I knew it all, and I was French. I was actually hired because they wanted me to look after the French market. So it was fine. I could communicate with my clients because we were on the same sort of wavelength.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (17:22):
But when it came to communicating with my boss, I was at a loss. I was coming from a very direct approach, not necessarily confrontational because it was my boss, but very much used to things being said out loud, not necessarily reading in between lines, and he was coming to me with his own ways of communicating, which was very different to mine. My English was good enough for me to understand him, but the way we both communicated was making it quite hard because we were not communicating at the same level. I needed direct and clear direction. He could not give me that. So it was easier for me to talk with my clients than it was for me with my boss.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (18:19):
I think, when you arrive here as an expat, you need to be really mindful that even if your English level is good enough, people will not interact and communicate with you the way French people would do in France, and I think that’s where the shock most of the time is, is that we’re not ready for this cultural difference. We think that because we know the language, we’ll be fine, but it’s much more subtle than that and it requires a lot of attention and dedication to really understand how things work here so you can fit in, if that makes sense.
Janina Neumann (19:05):
Yeah, it definitely makes sense, and I can definitely relate to that as well. You mentioned that one of the ways you started exploring the British culture a little bit more is to have more British friends.
Are there any other tips that you could give about how to explore the British culture a little bit more?
Morgane Le Cleuyou (19:28):
So, get interested in history, in the history of England. Go out, visit the countryside. Do not necessarily stay in London because London is so multicultural that I think it’s quite easy to take something for an English thing, when actually, no, it’s just a result of the melting pot in London. Get a National Trust pass or an English Heritage, and go and visit those sites because, can’t make it more English than that.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (20:10):
Get yourself interested in what really makes England alive, like Wimbledon, or football, or rugby, and try to go out and try to join people when there is such big gathering, because this is truly English. This is where you will meet people, and you can exchange with them, and you can make friends. Yes, just don’t stay within your community. Try to get out. Try to follow English traditions, and just try to see what makes England, England, and give it a chance. Get interested in it and take part in it.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (21:02):
You could also, I don’t know, I have friends who joined the Women’s Institute, for example, and they said that it was a great help to understand England better and to also make friends that they would not necessarily have met if it wasn’t for this kind of organisation.
Janina Neumann (21:26):
Those are really powerful tips. Thank you for sharing them with us.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (21:30):
You’re very welcome. And one last thing that I do is, when I do go away on holidays in the UK, I make sure that I either find a B&B or a cottage that is not managed by a company, but by private landlord or owners, because they’re always so open to tell you a bit more about their area and themselves. I went on holiday to the Peak District last year and I stayed on a farm. I got the opportunity to speak to the farmers, and they gave me so many great tips on the area. I would have never found them by myself. They also told us about their family history, and I would not have had this chance or opportunity, had I stayed in a big chain.
Janina Neumann (22:31):
That’s a great tip, and yes, interacting with the actual business owners always makes experiences so much better. So that’s a great tip, Morgane, thank you.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (22:41):
You’re very welcome, and I think if you do go for this kind of business owner, they’re really down to earth, and they have this desire to make your stay the nicest possible one, and to also share so much about what they know and where they live. It’s very valuable and it’s very enjoyable to be with people who are so committed to the land they live on.
Janina Neumann (23:16):
That’s really beautiful. Thank you.
So if people really enjoyed listening to you, would you like to tell us about how you can help people, but also, when is the best time to chat to you and talk about how they can develop themselves?
Morgane Le Cleuyou (23:36):
Yes, of course. So if people feel like they need a little bit of help, be it to fit in better in the UK if they are expats, or perhaps British expat who are in France and find it a bit hard, that could happen to you, they can find me on my website at younitytherapies.com. They can contact me and we can have an initial discussion to get to know each other a bit better, and so I can understand really where they’re coming from and why they feel like I could be of help. Then we can decide together about how we can move forward.
Janina Neumann (24:24):
Fantastic. Thank you so much, Morgane, for today. I learned a lot and it’s been a pleasure to have you on my podcast.
Morgane Le Cleuyou (24:32):
Thank you very much for inviting me, Janina. You were a great host.
Janina Neumann (24:38):
Thank you very much.
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