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Yesterday, I went to the Alliance Française. An old travel habit: it sometimes allows you to meet interesting people and get an idea of the expatriates’ vision of the country. I arrive in the middle of the afternoon. Outside, armed men are watching. It’s quite general here and I don’t really pay much attention to it anymore. The atmosphere is good and they offer me a tea that I refuse: I have already drunk 3 in one hour. I must say that I stopped by to see one of the members of the Lahore Biker community. He has a car showroom in the city centre. As he was away, I took the opportunity to eat in the small restaurant next to his shop, the Pakistanis who sat at the same table as me, and with whom I talked during the meal, categorically refused to let me pay. I am the guest in their country, and that is normal according to them. And there’s no point in trying to pay discreetly without their agreement, as I experienced a few days ago with the Dutch: the restaurant owner replies that you are the guest and that he cannot accept your payment…
The Alliance Française guards informed me that the director was on leave in France but nevertheless offered to let me in. I’m going through the security SAS. The premises are pleasant. They are shared by the Alliance Francaise and the German Cultural Centre. I see a small garden with tables and chairs where they serve refreshments. A young woman, of Pakistani origin but speaking perfect French, welcomes me…… standing in the hallway. The welcome is polite but cold. I go out again two minutes later, a little upset. Outside the guards are offering me tea again. I realize that this SAS is actually a teleportation machine. For a moment I found France and its welcome. Culture shock is brutal.
I admit to doing a little bit of bad spirit in this post. But it is true that I have been greeted more often than not coldly than warmly by the various consular and expatriate authorities during my travels. Certainly, they have other things to do….but, but, but, but, but. Having grown up abroad, I can testify that there was a time when a passing Frenchman found a much warmer welcome than today by the French community living in the country.