My name is Daylan Salmeron Gomez, I am an international student from a small town called San Vicente in the cantón of Turrialba in Costa Rica. I am a Junior majoring in International Economics- Multilanguage (Arabic-Chinese) combined major and a minor in Francophone Studies. In the Fall of 2019, I participated in the CIEE Rennes program where I decided that I wanted to investigate and look at to what extent French culture is divided at a political, economic and cultural level, as a cause of immigration, as well as observing if there should be a change in the modern perception of “French-ness” or what it means to be French, from the international community.
Through this project I wanted to experience French culture and society, at its most contemporary definition of it, in both, the countryside and urbanised areas. The main goal of this enrichment project is to see how French culture has changed through time as a result of immigration and the integration of new cultures within the society.
Even though I had a lot of travel itinerary planned for this project, I had to do a lot of improvisation due to the manifestations that were taking place all over the country. Thus, I ended up focusing a lot in the way Rennes assimilated immigration. During my first days in Rennes I walked around and visited local businesses ran by immigrant families, mostly from Senegal and the Middle East. I had the chance to talk with some of the owners who expressed to me that French people are have embraced foreign cuisine really well in the last years. Even though my project was highly impacted by the manifestations in France, without noticing, this enrichment project was going into a culinary route. I became more curious about how French people started to embrace foreign food and make it part of their identity.
When my train wouldn’t get cancelled due to the manifestations, I would take a trip to Paris and Nantes and just go around asking people about French identity and food. I noticed that older people would prefer French traditional food over any other, while younger people would be truly in love with a middle eastern dish called Kebab. From a superficial level, it seems that young generations are more acceptation of new things, however there was something odd. While talking to POCs (people of color ) in France, they would always bring up the topics of racism and systematic racism in France. This made me wonder if France’s embracement of foreign food wasn’t just cultural appropriation.
During my time in traveling around France I came across interested conversations about France’s acceptance of other cultures that would usually cross with the subjects of secularity and race. At the end of my program I understood that modern French cultural identity wasn’t that easy to study, due to the fact that France has become a complex country, with people from different cultures and values. It seemed to me that even though tradition is very important from the French, younger generations were becoming more accepting of other cultures and were more open to have social conversations that concerned minorities and their own identities.