Interview with Florent: French Culture and Politics

I met Florent (left) in New Zealand when we were roommates working for the same youth hostel. We spent a lot of time together exploring Wellington and learning about one another’s home countries. Florent is a dear friend and he has agreed to share some of his favorite French foods, wines, and destinations. He also gives us insight into the current French political climate and the recent election.

1. Where are you from?

I’m from France, La Rochelle exactly.

2. What would you like the world to know about La Rochelle?

La Rochelle is near Bordeaux, two hours in car. I was born here and this is an historic town  with stone buildings like Bordeaux, Paris, or Lyon. This is a lovely little city with a port (two huge towers) and a lot of nautical activities. You have choices about bars and clubs – the Rochelais (population of La Rochelle) like to party and share with people!

We have some famous events like red bull cliff diving or the Francofolies (music festival). You can walk around the center of La Rochelle like a park – it is green and peaceful. I could talk about La Rochelle for hours, and I encourage people to come and discover this attractive city.

3. What do you enjoy about Bordeaux?

It is such a beautiful town, old and modern. The world knows this city for the wine, but the food is awesome and you have a lot of activities, like the biggest street of shops in Europe, many green parks, bars, and restaurants. Furthermore, Bordeaux isn’t far away from the sea and mountains.

4. Where are you currently living?

I’m living on an island – in French you say “L’île de ré,” and in English it’s the Island of Ré (ugly, yes I know). This place is peaceful and very beautiful. I have the sea just at the back of the garden, [which] is around the house of my parents. I’ve grown up here, and after one year on holiday around the world (New Zealand, the U.S.), I’m here now again.

5. What do you do for work?

Okay, this is complicated. I’m going to explain this. I did some studies in advertising, communication, graphics, and events, but I didn’t find work because it is really difficult to find in this sector in France.

Actually I save money on the island because during the season of summer (6 months), it’s easier to find a job in a lot of sectors – I work in a restaurant as a waiter and cook sometimes.

6. What regions of France tend to support Macron and which regions support Le Pen?

I will try to say things simply, even if it is more complicated. I can say that the south and west of France supported Macron, and the north and east supported Le Pen. Of course, some regions of the north and the east have voted for Macron, and the same for Le Pen in the south and in the west.

7. Many news organizations attribute Le Pen’s rise in popularity to the recent string of horrific terror attacks in France. Do you agree with this view?

I don’t understand this behavior, and I can’t understand how you can support this kind of person just because you’re scared about your security in France. Marine Le Pen is an asshole like [Donald Trump], she’s fake, fascist, and racist. A lot of words can define her. She has just one quality, she’s really strong in front of the media and cameras. She works her image well, and simple-minded people don’t see this. Okay, we’ve [had] a lot of attacks in France, but how many attacks have been stopped by the secret services? Much more than one might think!

8. What are your reasons for supporting Emmanuel Macron?

First, Macron wasn’t my favorite at the beginning – it was Benoit Hamon, because his program was in favor to the young active people like me, and he had some ecological ideas and a lot of good qualities as a human. Macron is a capitalist, but let us see [how he does as president].
I have supported Macron because he’s not the worst – between him and Marine Le Pen, the choice was made.

9. Do you sense that other French people in your generation have similar political views?

I don’t know, I think that ideas are different around me. Some people and friends (I don’t know if we’re friends now) have supported Le Pen, and I’m deeply disappointed about that, but everyone has the right to have his or her opinion. I just can’t understand this choice. You know in France, when you want to speak about politics, sometimes you get angry with your interlocutors, this is still taboo here. Less than in the past, but still a bit.

10. Why do you feel that it was important for France to vote against the ideology of the French National Front?

This is not important, but vital. I don’t want to return to the past with Hitler, Stalin, or Kim Jong-un, you know? This ideology is not for France; moreover, this model is not made for any country.

11. What makes you optimistic about the future of France after this election?

I don’t know if we can talk about optimism now, it’s too early. We’ll see when the president is actually doing his job.

12. Are there any political issues that you are most concerned about?

I don’t have any political issues that I want to detail – there are many things to talk about, but in my point of view, all of these are connected. Politics work if all ideas are connected.

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13. Okay, enough with the politics. Where would you recommend a traveler to visit for their first time to France?

In my opinion, as a traveler, you should go to the south of France (Nice, Cannes, Montpellier) or the southwest (Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Biarritz, Arcachon, Bayonne) – but you have choices, all the regions have a great feature!

14. What are some delicious French delicacies that most people are not familiar with?

You have choucroute from Alsace, cassoulet from Toulouse, blanquette de veau, poulet basquez, bouillabaisse from Marseille, pot-au-feu, etc.

15. What is your favorite wine?

My favorite wine is Bordeaux Saint-Émilion.

16. Where do you plan on traveling next?

I would like to do a road trip in Europe, but first I will go to Rio in Brazil. And if I can, Miami and the Bahamas – then to visit you at your new home [in Rhode Island] for sure.