Two nations with a shared history – sometimes of confrontation and war, more recently as allies – but often eyeing one another with a degree of suspicion and mutual incomprehension. A relationship not helped by what seems to be a particular difficulty in mastering each other’s language, especially the spoken word.
For almost 30 years, though, a local society, with the support of the Alliance Française de Londres, has been doing what it can to break down some of these barriers. Founded in 1989, on the initiative of a Belgian married to an Englishman, Les Amitiés Françaises now has around 100 members with an interest in all things French. Les Amitiés organises a monthly programme of evening talks in French, held at the Baptist Church hall in Godalming. French art is always a popular topic, as are talks giving an insight into French history, but it is not all high culture. Members of Les Amitiés have also had the opportunity to learn more, for example, about the very different approach to ethnic minorities which is taken across the Channel and about the rise to power of President Macron. Its members are a mixture of native English and native French speakers who have a chance to practise chatting in French over tea or coffee before each meeting.
Of course, no society with a focus on France can ignore the French love of food and drink. So each year Les Amitiés celebrates the Fête des Rois (Epiphany) with a dinner including the traditional galette des rois, with the person finding the hidden fève (token) being crowned king or queen. And each July Bastille Day is celebrated with a festive evening which, given good weather, continues under the stars.
Les Amitiés is always welcoming new members and visitors to its meetings, so if you have a reasonable knowledge of French and an interest in French lifestyle and culture, why not give it a try?