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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We've (meaning I) have fallen in love with a little house on a canal in the Poitou-Charentes region. My husband, an atheist man of serious Jewish decent from New York, is concerned about religion in France. To be specific, we're talking about the type of religious enthusiasm that happens in the USA where there is insistence of having prayer in schools, teaching creationism, bombing abortion clinics, celebrating religious holidays using state monies, etc. Does this happen in small town France? My husband is a pessimistic-pragmatist and is proactively worrying about this before we even set foot there. So.... experiences? Opinions? Suggestions?
:confused:
 

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France is a religious country in a 'not going to church' kind of way. Certainly there are problems here and they can be categorized as religious in nature but I personally think that it is a more cultural thing than that. The major problems seem to be with the Arab population but not all Arabs. Only integrists - those folks who do not dress or act in the French manner. Those who also do not eat French foods. My impression is that integrists of any stripe - jews, moslems, protestants, etc. will run into the same problems. France is a country that glories in its culture - its French culture and anything different is frowned upon.

But France is a Roman Catholic country at the end of the day. The year is calculated around Saints days and school holidays are calculated around them as well. For example, the upcoming school holiday is called the All Saints holiday because it takes in All Saints Day - november 1st. So using religious language in common speech is normal, natural and French.

It is the way it is!

MS
 

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France is a secular country, it is illegal to have any type of prayers in public schools. We still hold on to most catholic holidays but we are not religious, most churches are closing, parishes are now sharing priests as they are not sufficients number of people going to church or men going into priestwood.

I would not worry about religion in a small town. Boredom , lack of real peers to relate to and speak with would worry me a whole lot more than religious people.

Less and less people are going to church. My family is pretty typical: my grandparents would go to church every sinday, my parents got us baptized and sent us to church until the confirmation and then the only time we went to church was for weddings or funerals, then my brother and sisters did not baptized their kids and did not raise them in any religion, none are married in church none go to church. They have moslem and jewish friends , the moslems and jews who now have a majority of sephardin are more religious than most catholics. The preotestant are mre religious than the catholics. but the country does stil have catholic holidaysl ike Pentecote, 15 of August., Toussaint, jour des morts ,christmas etc..my mother will call me fon my saint´s day to wish me "bonne fete" because it is in the calender but it is now a cultural thing rather than a religious one.
 

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I echo Citali, having lived in the uk, it is a a far more religious country. Having been baptised I didn't set foot again in church and in school there is no such thing as RE. The separation of the state and the church is a fundamental of the French republic.
My worry about a small village is 'la mentalite', not accepting newness or newbies, glass half -empty..but then it's my own preconceived view as I've never lived in one. See, I'm no better...
 

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I agree with the posts here. I've lived in 2 small villages in France - Normandie and the South - Pyrénées Orientales.

In both cases there is a an external layer of "religion" - baptisms, deaths, first communion etc. Yes, there is a religious content, but it's much more social and family traditions. I can't remember ever having a serious religious argument with any French person. The one time in France that I did have a serious discussion on religion it was with 2 Dutch people, so that doesn't really count.

In the USA I've always been surprised by the religious fervour and the consequent social / political implications of which church one goes to. It's not relevant to France today.

FWIW I've met several French people who have asked if being "Protestant" (ie non Roman Catholic) is still being Christian! You can also have some interesting "non emotional / non religious" discussions about the necessity to put "Roman" in front of "Catholic" in France. Many Churches, including the Churches of Russian, Greek Orthodox and even the Church of England claim to be catholic. Sorry, Bev, it is a diversion, but interesting.

DejW
 

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To be specific, we're talking about the type of religious enthusiasm that happens in the USA where there is insistence of having prayer in schools, teaching creationism, bombing abortion clinics, celebrating religious holidays using state monies, etc. Does this happen in small town France?
Short answer: no it doesn't happen (not at that scale)

50 years ago a huge number of French people were believers. Now more than 40% of the French declare themselves not religious. But you'll be able to find a very small number of fanatic religious, though.
 

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Basically I agree with just about all the posts on this subject so far. (Being back here in the US, I'm ru,nning several hours behind.)

France calls itself a secular country and they do extremely well at keeping most kinds of religious mention out of public matters. The religious-ness you find in France is more a matter of cultural manifestations and habits. It is not at all like the weird extremist Christianity [email protected] you find in pockets in the US.

However, there is some remaining bias against Muslims (due to their external differences, mostly dress) and to a lesser extent toward Jews. This "hostility" is usually only expressed in terms of anonymous vandalism - usually to a graveyard identified as being Muslim or Jewish - and even that seems to be occuring less and less.

As someone has already said, the bigger concern in small town France would be the acceptance of "newcomers" - and to a large extent, that's up to the newcomers themselves to influence.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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It seems to me that every effort is made to separate church from state. Even if you send your child to a private Catholic school, there are no crosses on the walls of the classroom. Teachers are not allowed by law to wear religious articles in classrooms. For example a cross necklace and I have even met a priest or two at a Scout function where they attended a meal and were not dressed as priests but as all the other folks.

I mentioned to my wife about two weeks back that the few friends I have here, I don't even know what religions they are...Not that it matters. France is hugely different than the USA in this regard. If you're moving into a very small town, I would be very concerned about local stores and availability. For example, the bakery...Is there more than one? Do they only open for a few hours per day or the whole day? Sunday hours? How are their products and are they made on site?

Everyplace you live, no matter what the population of the town is, there are those who will dislike you or like you or love you. What is most important is that you are happy in your home at the end of the day. If you're happy, warm and comfortable in your nest, everything else seems to fall into place. Best of luck and warm regards!
 

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I was shocked when I went to school in Germany, England and the US (the US school was private) that we had assemblies and had prayers at school. When I go married at city hall in the US I was also shocked they still used the God etc..mention in the spill. This said there is discrimination against jews and moslems in France. There is a pretty strong antisemistism there wether it is admitted or not. I had a boyfriend from Tunisia who was jewish and there was discrimnation against him no question about it. It all depends on the village where you will settle but is your husband is not religious , religion and wether he is jewish or not will not come up. If you meet people who do not associate with you because you are jewish they are probably not worth associating with anyways.
Some not all villages are very closed to anything different wether it is religion , culture or skin color so your husband is right to worry about it , it really depends on the village so investigate and spend time there before buying, rent rent and rent so you can get out if it is not to your liking.
I was raised in Paris and was shipped abroad and to my grand-parents as my parents were musicians and I can tell you there are many cute villages in France where I would not dream of living and I am French and was raised catholic but everyone is different. I would be leary of the narrow mindness and the chauvinism of some place a lot more than their religious biais.
 

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In the UK, whether we like it or not, there is an Established Church ( Church of England in England and Wales, Church of Scotland in Scotland). The Church is part of the government. For this reason you can get married in church in the UK, but not in France.

DejW

I was shocked when I went to school in Germany, England and the US (the US school was private) that we had assemblies and had prayers at school. When I go married at city hall in the US I was also shocked they still used the God etc..mention in the spill. This said there is discrimination against jews and moslems in France. There is a pretty strong antisemistism there wether it is admitted or not. I had a boyfriend from Tunisia who was jewish and there was discrimnation against him no question about it. It all depends on the village where you will settle but is your husband is not religious , religion and wether he is jewish or not will not come up. If you meet people who do not associate with you because you are jewish they are probably not worth associating with anyways.
Some not all villages are very closed to anything different wether it is religion , culture or skin color so your husband is right to worry about it , it really depends on the village so investigate and spend time there before buying, rent rent and rent so you can get out if it is not to your liking.
I was raised in Paris and was shipped abroad and to my grand-parents as my parents were musicians and I can tell you there are many cute villages in France where I would not dream of living and I am French and was raised catholic but everyone is different. I would be leary of the narrow mindness and the chauvinism of some place a lot more than their religious biais.
 

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Believe me , I know that but having being raised in a country where religion never enters the public area it was shocking and intrusive.
In the US there is separation of State and church in theory but people always have to bring God into the mix.
Going to school in Germany you had to report your religion and you would attend religious education either Catholic or Protestant, that was in the Palatinat. I do not know what they did about the Jewish kids as we did not have any in my class but the friend I lived with reported being without any religion and I did the same thing as I figured it was not any business of the State to know so we had some free time while the other kids had to take religious education.
 

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Believe me , I know that but having being raised in a country where religion never enters the public area it was shocking and intrusive.
In the US there is separation of State and church in theory but people always have to bring God into the mix.
Going to school in Germany you had to report your religion and you would attend religious education either Catholic or Protestant, that was in the Palatinat. I do not know what they did about the Jewish kids as we did not have any in my class but the friend I lived with reported being without any religion and I did the same thing as I figured it was not any business of the State to know so we had some free time while the other kids had to take religious education.
What I suspect you are failing to realize is that the United States was founded on the basis of religious freedoms. That is why the pilgrims settled there in the first place. As a very proud American, I am proud to say that our currency has "In God We Trust", when you are taking an oath, it generally ends in "So help me God". Our Pledge of Allegiance includes "One nation under God" and I can go on and on. We do have separation of Church and State and people are free to practice or not practice their faith as they see fit. For those who reside there and disagree with the above, they can either accept it or simply find another place to live! Religion is or is not part of your fiber. No one should demand what, if any relationship you should or should not have with God. Just because you live in a nation that has laws prohibiting Church and State, such as France, America and many, many others does not mean that the "fire you feel in your heart or gut" forbids you from carrying on your personal relationship with God, should you choose. Warm regards!
 

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I do not fail to realize what the States are like I lived there for 30 years. I now live in Mexico where there is also separation of Church and State and where when you get married at city hall , the word God does not enter the contract.
The US does have seperation of church and state up to a point but really they are a christian country where some christians are some of the most obnoxious I have met and really try to intrude in your life.
I lived in the US for 30 years and in the south for a few years so I know what good christian can be like and I can see why some Americans who are not Christian or Catholic get a little nervous about going to a small village in a country where the majority is catholic.
As my US boss who was an Iraqui Jew used to say: " beware of good Christians"..
 

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I've spend quite a lot of time in N York, but that is not small town US. From my very limited experience outside of NY I have to agree with you Citali! Very sad, but true.

DejW

I do not fail to realize what the States are like I lived there for 30 years. I now live in Mexico where there is also separation of Church and State and where when you get married at city hall , the word God does not enter the contract.
The US does have seperation of church and state up to a point but really they are a christian country where some christians are some of the most obnoxious I have met and really try to intrude in your life.
I lived in the US for 30 years and in the south for a few years so I know what good christian can be like and I can see why some Americans who are not Christian or Catholic get a little nervous about going to a small village in a country where the majority is catholic.
As my US boss who was an Iraqui Jew used to say: " beware of good Christians"..
 

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I am sorry but as a native New Yorker who also lived down South, I strongly disagree with this. You are stereotyping and as I am a native, I truly take personal offense to this horrible stereotype!
 

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Easy, Koppazee - I'm from the US and can say that I fully understand the points of view that others from elsewhere have expressed. (Experienced something like that myself when I lived in Chicago.)

The attitudes toward religion are very different in different countries, and there is no denying how them seem to a newcomer from some place with very different attitudes toward religion. For France, the issues of the headscarf and the "burqa" (actually the niqab, I think it's called) reflect the same sort of differences in underlying assumptions. I've heard many Americans go on about the religious rights aspects of wearing headscarves and/or niqabs, while the French see it as an assimilation issue, or a women's rights issue (in precisely the opposite sense that my American friends understood it) or violating the "don't ask, don't tell" aspect to the French notion of secularity.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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I think the isue about the burqa and the headscarf are different.
The headscarf is not allowed in public schools as no one is allowed to display any religious symbol for the sake of peace,,,.
My sister lives in an area where there are quite a few kids from North Africa some moslems some jewish. Gangs of kids coming from the next school or neighborhood would come over to beat up on jewish kids as they could pick them for the head skulls and there would be revenge by their friends and I am sure this happened in a lot of schools so all religious symbols were disallowed, including the headcarf hence the controversy.
. I am not aware of any non moslem having some strong feelings towards the headscarves otherwise. The area is mostly middle class and the headscarves are worn and I have not heard anyone having problems with them (outside of the public schools)
There is no law banning the scarf in public areas.

We also had problems in public swimming pools with moslem women wearing clothes in the pool..

The burqa is a very different issue. First of all it is a security issue in a country always watching out for terrirists, secondly it is an integration issue .(Officialy the integration is the main problem)

I know that the burqa was not worn when I was younger. Some of my nephews have moslem friends from school who led a secular life growing up , now they are marrying young women some of them recent converts who insist on wearing the burqa, gloves and so on.. for the secular French it is a worrisome trend.

They may be right and they may not but it is how they feel.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I am sorry but as a native New Yorker who also lived down South, I strongly disagree with this. You are stereotyping and as I am a native, I truly take personal offense to this horrible stereotype!
Koppazee,
I started this thread. My husband is also a native New Yorker. He has had a completely different experience than you. Your experience is true for *you*. Please understand that others' experiences are just as valid. I grew up culturally Christian, though not religiously Christian. I didn't understand that until I lived in a non-Christian country. My children aren't Christian or white. They live a different experience. I hope you can get to that point where your understanding of the world is based on your cultural bias and experiences only. If you grew up Jewish in America you would have some very different stories to tell. It doesn't invalidate your feelings/experiences. Just means you were among the majority and wouldn't have seen the social biases. It doesn't make you bad or wrong. Just that you had a more positive time than someone with a different history.

Rachael
 

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Forget the PC comments, your husband is right to be concerned. Not about the religion per say but many small villages are very closed to strangers including to the French from other parts. Each village or community is different so you need to check it out.
If you can live without socializing much then you will be ok but if you think you can make friends in a small village then be concerned. Check out how many other expats there are, check out if the village has people coming from other parts of France ,do not move in blindly because you fell in love with a place.
My mother retired in a small village in the Loire Valley where she was born, a Palestinian family came to open a grocery store: Tthey wanted to raise their kids outside of Paris. They were very nice people, you could not get nicer, always participated in every neighborhood association donating and fixing food for their neighbors for free.
They left after two years as no one was going to their store that was a great store and cheaper than the other stores no one was socializing with them and they had 2 kids going to the local school.
My mother made friends with a young musician from the Ivory coast for two years no one spoke to him, she invited him to her house and introduced him to her friends and family and it took her several years of hard work to get him more or less accepted.
He is now married to a local doctor and has a life but a tough time finding work as he is not French and you need to be French to work at the conservatory. The options for classical musicians are very tiny and being black and a resident alien hurts him., Again this man has an incredible personality, participate in the community, comes from an upper classs family and is well educated speaks French and several other languages and so on..
If you are young , have kids going to school trying you to the community you have more chances of being accepted through hte kids but if you want to retire and have no friends in the community , beware.

You maybe lucky and meet some nice people but the odds are against you unless you really need to do your homework before moving there .
 

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Koppazee,
I started this thread. My husband is also a native New Yorker. He has had a completely different experience than you. Your experience is true for *you*. Please understand that others' experiences are just as valid. I grew up culturally Christian, though not religiously Christian. I didn't understand that until I lived in a non-Christian country. My children aren't Christian or white. They live a different experience. I hope you can get to that point where your understanding of the world is based on your cultural bias and experiences only. If you grew up Jewish in America you would have some very different stories to tell. It doesn't invalidate your feelings/experiences. Just means you were among the majority and wouldn't have seen the social biases. It doesn't make you bad or wrong. Just that you had a more positive time than someone with a different history.

Rachael
I must say that this thread has really hit a sore note to me. For the record, it is really bad form to comment about a member when you have little or no information about their background.

For the record, my grandfather and his brother were Jewish. They left Romania and settled down in the Carolina's before Prohibition. They worked very, very hard, learned the English language and from the stories my sister and I were told dealt with huge anti semitism. They spent years building a successful business and sold their business and moved up East. Due to the anti semitism, my grandfathers brother changed the family name to an Anglo name to avoid issues in the Eastern part of the US. My grandfather kept the birth surname and both my father, myself and sister (and my mother due to marriage) kept the Jewish surname. I was raised as a Jew, lived several bouts of discrimination myself so please don't tell me or someone that I have not endured this. For the record, I legally changed my name to the same Anglo surname taken by my grandfathers brother and in my mid 20s became Roman Catholic. I will not comment further. I will simply say that I have walked on both sides of this experience.
 
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