What’s it like being a Jamaican living in France?
Interviews

What’s it like being a Jamaican living in France?

Have you ever wondered what’s it like being a Jamaican living in France? On our “Jamaicans to the World” Facebook Live show, Jamaicans.com founder Xavier Murphy spoke with Edward Boucher. He is a Jamaican who has lived in France for 18 years.

Xavier: What is it like being a Jamaican in France? Hi, I am Xavier Murphy, the founder of Jamaicans.com. Today on Jamaican to the world, we talk to Edward Boucher, but in French they say ‘Boochiheh’ am I correct.

Edward: No sah (sir) you would fail, in Jamaica I was known as Boucher but in France its “Boucher” which means to butcher

Xavier: I butchered your name trying to talk in French, instead of saying “Boucher” like voucher, its “Boucher”.

Edward: Yes, “Boucher”

Xavier: Tell me which paat (part) of Jamaica yuh (you) come from Edward.

Edward: I am from Mandeville, a district called Land Settlement in Williams Field Manchester, it’s about five minutes outside of Mandeville and I grew up there. I went to Bellfield Primary School, Hope Village Basic School and Manchester High which is where I started learning French.

Xavier: Okay. How long have you been living in Paris, France?

Edward: I came to France in 2002, that’s after I finished my university degree at UWI and I have been here ever since and so it’s now eighteen years. I am becoming more French then the French one could say.

Xavier: You know the language?

Edward: Definitely, as I said I started learning French at Manchester High, My French Teacher was Mademoiselle Dyer and she really inspired a lot of students to learn French so it’s a number of her farmer students who came to France. The moment I got to UWI and the moment I get into my French class the lecturers were like which school are you from, and I was like I am from Manchester High and they were like Mademoiselle Dyer, so you have to be good. I really learned the fundamentals in Jamaica, the real grammatical rules so when I came to Franc it was not difficult I must say. It was just about four or five months to get use to the ascent and the rhythm because you know the rhythm in the classroom is way different from speaking to real people but after the first few months it was like ABC.

Xavier: I know the French are very particular in regards to their language. I visited some years ago and the experience I had was with…. we were trying to use English and people were walking by and you try to ask a question but were in English and my wife pulled up something in French from her French class and then someone paid attention so for you to get there I know it was helpful in adjusting.

Edward: Definitely and once you are a teacher I learn this over the years that when you are nervous it makes it a lot more difficult to speak French. When I came to the airport the first time even though I had studied French at the university because I majored in French. When I got to the airport and they asked me for my documents I just gave them all my documents because I was nervous but once you get over the nerves then you are able to communicate effectively. It was that time to adjust but I was quite fortunate because I came with a solid foundation.

Xavier: Good, what do you like most about living in France?

Edward: I think I would say it’s the location of France because I am a little country boy so mi nuh know no’n (I am a little country boy so I don’t know anything) coming to France I have been able to discovered so much about Europe. We are one hour from London, forty-five minutes from Brussels, we are one and a half hour from Barcelona and Germany. Being in mainland Europe where I have been able to travel a lot has been quite special and of course the fact that I am in the most beautiful city in the world.

Xavier: Let me say this the most beautiful city in the world, it’s probably the most expensive city in the world also.

Edward: It is, it is very expensive and you will find that most people opted to not live in the center of the city but on the outskirts because it tends to be quite expensive and the apartments are quite small as oppose to Jamaica you have your outdoors where you can do your barbeque and run around and play stuckie, here we don’t have any space for that so it’s quite different.

Xavier: One of the things that I find quite interesting is just how diverse Paris is, so many different people live there. What you think of the diversity when you got there.

Edward: When I got to Paris it was a Tuesday night I remember clearly because there was another Jamaican friend of mine, Jason Allen who was already here, so when I got to his apartment because he was visiting as well so we were very excited we were like we have to go visit Paris. We went out and of course we didn’t know that the trains didn’t go all night. We pretty much slept under the Eifel tower my first night in Paris because we had no bus to go home, we didn’t know how to go home so we slept under the Eiffel tower that first night but the next morning like five, six O’clock when the train started and I saw the number of black people on the train I was like am I in Paris or am I not. It’s a very, very diverse country, there’s a lot of Africans, a lot of Caribbean people from all over. It made it a lot easier to adjust, you know, because I’ve not had issues with things like racism, or discrimination or that sort of thing. So you know, diversity helps with that.

sunny morning and Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Xavier: What do you like the least about France?

Edward: I would say that even though we have an excellent transport system it tends to be quite pact in the mornings like you have people literally under your arms in the mornings going to work so I probably say that the trains, it’s really horrible. You are underground a lot of people, it’s not always clean so that’s probably my least favorite part of Paris and France.

Xavier: When someone discovers that you are Jamaican, you must have had one of these experience when someone discovers that you are Jamaican and then something else happens after, tell me one of those experiences.

Edward: I think the most striking one was when I was in the north of France in Lille there was this guy walking with his guitar and for some reason, he started talking to me and, you know, I just thought he was probably drunk or something but then he was like where are you from and I am like I am from Jamaica and he is like you are from Jamaica and he went on his knees and he started to raise his hands to the sky and like he was praying and worshiping me and I was like oh my God and then he went on to say how he loved the Reggae music and Bob Marley and all those things so he was starting to tell me about some songs that to be honest I didn’t know about so he knew more about the culture, more Bob Marley songs than I did so that was quite interesting.

Xavier: That’s very fascinating and it sounds like I have seen this before where some people know so much about our culture and our music than we do know sometimes. They know the latest and they know what is going on because they just love Reggae and they love the culture.

Edward: Definitely and you would be surprised on how much they actually research because we are in Jamaica we are just use to it but these people will actually research the life style, I met someone who told me that he went to Jamaica to live with the maroons just to be able to sing French Reggae. You meet a number of interesting people.

Xavier: I know you are involved in promoting the Jamaican culture, I believe you are a part of the… I may have had it wrong but the Jamaica Association that was there, you are involved in that at some point and tell me a little bit about that and tell me a little bit about what you are doing to promote the Jamaican culture right there in Paris, St France.

Edward: When I came to Paris there was what we called an Annual Jamaican Picnic which was the gathering of Jamaicans every year. I thought that we needed a little bit more of an organization and something more official, a voice for the Jamaicans who are here so I created the Association of Jamaicans Nationals in France in 2017 and I led that organization for two and a half years, three years and as I said it was really to federate the community and to promote the culture to a certain extent. To promote French in Jamaica as well and to try to do outreach to Jamaica. I gave up the presidency last year and I have since created a company which is called Jamfet. Fet in French means to celebrate so it’s actually celebrating Jamaica and Jamaican culture and the objective unlike the other association which was geared towards Jamaicans, Jamfet is promoting brand Jamaica to non-Jamaicans, so we are bringing a little bit more than the music and the sport because a lot of French people will tell you that they know Usain Bolt, they know Bob Marley, they know Vybz Kartel, Spice etc. but they don’t know the food and they don’t know that we have the theater and cinema. What Jamfet is doing, its creating, its actually promoting brand Jamaica in that we are promoting the food through events like Jamaican Brunch which our next brunch is on the third and fourth of October and already on Facebook we have over one thousand people who are going or who are interested. It shows you that we are reaching beyond the Jamaican community. Next year we are looking at hosting the first Jamaican filmed festival in France so that the people will discover…..that France will discover the Jamaican cinema.

Last year Jamfet hosted what we called Grand market in English but we played on that so we called it Jam market in French and so it was a commercial expo of brand Jamaica so we had for example Victoria Mutual who came, Thai Jewel by Julianna Products who came with their Ackee and Callaloo, we had Jamaicans who were inspired from the UK who also came over to give us a bit of strength and encouragement and we had music,entertainment. It has given the French to discover more of Jamaican culture through an expo. There are a number of thing we are looking at which is a bit different but I am passionate about Jamaica even after I gavve up the association I keep telling people that I could not keep still because my love and my passion for Jamaica it was like Jerimiah, I would have to cry out, my bones would cry out if I had kept still. Xavier my objective what I am doing from each of these events is I am putting away a little coco aside in the basket so what I hope to do in two-years time is to open a Jamaican warehouse here in Paris where we can get Jamaican products here, our Grace the Lasco, the Thai Jewels into France and also the more food the more brands that we get the more people are going to be interested. We like the food so maybe we can go there for holidays and so then we are going to bring on the tourist industry.

Xavier: I can see the passion and hear it in your voice that you are Mr. walking Jamaica right there in Paris.

Edward: Definitely, one of the good things is that I am a teacher so I have a lot of holidays to exploit all my ideas. I also have a team of young Jamaicans who are supportive and who are there with me every step of the way and many more great things coming and Xavier the objective is 2024 because we have the Olympic games in Paris in 2024 so we want to be that reference so that when the athletes come when the government come when the sponsors get to France and they think Jamaican Olympics, Jam Fet should be on everybody’s lips.

Xavier: Good, you are getting me excited that I should be there. I missed out on the world cup, it sounds like I should be there in 2024 so I am going make sure to put that on the calendar. Folks. You need to look out for Jam fet because if you are going there look out for Jam fet. My next question is this one… is there a food in France apart from the French bread, we all know about the French bread and the croissant. Is there a food in France that you would say you absolutely just love it, something that is native to France and you just love it and you say to someone, you have to try this food? What would that be.

Edward: Probably the Belgians won’t be happy if I claim this one for France but they will probably be what we call moules frites, moules frites is mussels and fries, I like that and I also like something that they call Gillette des rois, which my doctor should not be hearing this because it’s a sweet cake and we eat this and every January. It’s a sort of French cake that you have a little jewel in or some little prize and if you win the prize you get the crown to wear, it’s really nice.

Xavier: Staying on the topic of food what Jamaican Food do you miss the most?

Edward: The good thing is that as I said we are doing brunch and things like that so I had to take the train to Brussels to go get Ackee recently because we don’t have Ackee here so if I had to say that food that I miss the most it would be ackee and otaheite apple. Went to Jamaica and my heart was set on eating some otaheite apple and they were like oh the season is finished etc. so if anyone is watching and wants to send me some care package with some otaheite apples, I am a taker. On the point of food I have to say, this is probably embarrassing but after eighteen years in France I still have not tried snails and I still have not tried frog legs.

Xavier: I have tried snails in Europe but it was just a one off and I will try just about anything but the one thing you won’t get me to try is the frog legs.

Edward: some people say it’s like chicken legs but I need some more time.

Xavier: But you have been there almost twenty years and you have not tried it yet so I don’t think they are going to convince you.

Edward: Probably not. I have been here for almost twenty years and I am not convince yet.

Xavier: There are attractions there I know the biggest one is the Eiffel tower, what is the other thing you would say to someone if you were to visit your city, it could be something simple, it could be anywhere other than just go and visit the Eiffel tower go and see this.

Edward: I would say my favorite place in Paris is the Sacre-Coeur and the Sacre-Coeur is a secret heart in English. It’s actually a church and it sits a top of a hill and there is an absolutely magnificent view of Paris on that hill so if you are in Paris I would recommend to everyone to go to the Sacre-Coeur and guess what it’s free. You will have the best view of paris if it’s a nice day and there is not much pollution so you will see all of Paris in its splendor so that is probably my favorite attraction here

Xavier: what do you miss apart from the Otaheite Apple, what do you miss the most about Jamaica.

Edward: I think I would say Sundays and going to church, going to a nice church in Jamaica because I grew up in a Christian home my father was a pastor so I think I miss that fellowship on a Sunday when church finish and everybody talking about two three hours just about anything and dressing up because you know here even when you go to church it’s all jeans and things. I like and I miss that feeling of the church sisters in their nice hat. It’s probably not a popular thing to miss but that’s what I miss the most.

Xavier: I thought that was my last question but I thought about digging in a little bit more in terms of popular terms and popular things that are there. What are some of the popular terms that you hear people use? I know it’s kinda stereo typical but we would say ‘irie’ or whatever and since you know French, what are some of the popular catch phrases that people use ones that you kinda like.

Edward: When I went to school they told us that the French said “ohh lala’ a lot but living here I realized that they say allah laa wu lu lu lu and they would say things like ‘abuh’ which is really and what would be like ‘quah’ and of course they would say things that don’t make sense like bumba hmm hmm which is just hesitation it doesn’t have any meaning

Xavier: You look like you are fully integrated and its… I am not trying to dig in to your business but I know women love to hear ….

Edward: Yes man when I came to Jamaica the last time I got numbers all over.

Xavier: Saying you are from France, you are from France….Well Edward I appreciate you spending some time with us and can see that you are very passionate about Jamaica. I see your flags in the background. I know you are waving them all the time and all the things you are doing there. In closing any advice have for Jamaicans that are thinking of coming to live in France.

Edward: I think not to make the same mistake that I have probably made because I think that for a long time I have been coming to see what was here and to benefit from what was here and it took me sixteen years to actually launch out there and to actually make things happened so I think it would be to come with a plan if it is to open a patty shop just come with a plan to do something and not just to receive something because after you have learned the language and after you have found your love after you have started your family and your apartment or whatever then what so that would be my encouragement to people out there. And it doesn’t have to be something big because now COVID is redefining everything so now if you can do online classes teaching English you can maybe earn some extra money from that or develop some skill to create your own wealth, that’s what I would encourage the young people who are coming to do.

Xavier: Well Edward again thank you for spending some time with us, great advice and I see you are passionate, blessings to you and your family and all the best and we will make sure that someone hear, if you see him, the man wants his otaheite apple, please send it to him Edward thank you again

Edward: Thank you very much …my pleasure, au revoir.

Photo Source: DepositPhotos

About the author

Xavier Murphy