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Chamonix sells its soul to the British

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
You may have spotted yesterday's Guardian is running a series of articles on Franco-British relations in conjunction with Libé, the French left wing daily.

Of interest is this article Chamonix sells its (expensive) heart to the British (link in French) which has caused quite a stir on the French Skipass.com forum. If you thought some snowheaders were tough on the recent thread about British ski instructors you should wait until you see the welcome in the valleys from disgruntled locals who feel they've been deprived of their birthright.

Google Translation to English
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I'm trying to work out whether it's funny or sad that British people going to live abroad are viewed by the locals with a similar mixture of fear/distrust and hope/interest as foreigners who come to Britain. And that's despite, or sometimes because of, the small fact that the wandering British have a few more quid to spare where they land.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Yes, Chamonix sounds like a little London now. No doubt every chalet is full of dinner party discussions about house prices, local schooling and the burglary problem.

Seriously, I think it's madness and can only diminish this outstanding place. The re-opening of the Mont Blanc tunnel was bad enough.

What's the French for gazumping?
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David Goldsmith wrote:
What's the French for gazumping?


Le gazumping. Wink
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You should see the prices just through the tunnel in Courmayeur. Shocked
But that's the Milanese not the British.
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Le practice d'anglais
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le Roast-Beefing?
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The Libération piece (in original intellible form!) is actually pretty balanced. As for the Guardian, I'm a bit surprised by some of the comments.

Davidof and I have both contributed to the discussion on the French language Skipass forum he mentions. The thread starts off with some rabid xenophobia, but on balance the score is markedly pro-English at the moment.
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Quite surprising really as Chaonix has always been fairly polygot, think about all the climbers who settled there. A few years ago my son lived there and worked with a French guy who'd gone to Chamonix to learn English. I haven't been there for a few years but at that time the locals were very anti Swedes, signs on the shops like only one swede at a time etc. Maybe it's the turn of the English.
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David Goldsmith, ref. gazumping. You can't. At least, not without forfeiting a very large deposit, often 10% of the purchase price... when you sign the pre-sale document, the seller and purchaser are bound to go through with it, following a 7 day cooling off period during which you can still change your mind. There are a few get-out clauses (seller not providing proof of ownership-type things) but otherwise you have to go ahead or pay up.

Likewise the compromis de vente (pre-sale agreement) states the sum payable if the seller backs out, often the same as for the buyer. The vendor would need a helluva better offer to back out of the deal!
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interesting discussion on that skipass thread PG...given the amount of obsession with the bad ways of the foreigners in every single country, I think I want to remain a foreigner for my entire life, just to make sure I don't become so narrow-minded myself.
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It's the concept of the foreigner that's going to be the downfall of the human race. The sooner we all realise we're all just from Earth, the more likely we are to avoid catastrophe.



Hmm, that may seem a little heavy, but I'm in the middle of some very tedious, repetitive work and my optimism is starting to flag. Sad
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Don't know where I fit in.

As a poor skier I could only afford a little mobile home (just a static caravan) in the only campsite in Chamonix. The owner has been under pressure to sell up the land. He has decided to retire after finding every house he built on the plot was snap up for 1 million Euro. So he closed down the mobile homes for good. I just had my last season there.

Although the French camp site owner made me homeless but it is the invading British and other foreign nationals pushing up the land price.

No doubt the yupies call it the market force of supply and demand. Sad to see a little international community gone for ever. Some have been there for 25 years.

What is the next traget? Boug St. Maurice? PG better get ready for the cash invasion of the British kind!

Personally I view Tarentaise to be a better place for skiing. Apart from couple of steep mountains with isolated chairlifts the advantage of Chamonix is that it is 10 miles from Italy (by Mont Blanc tunnel) and 25 miles from Switzerland (Col Du la Forclaz). If you put all the small valley resorts together under the Chamski pass the amount of piste would not even fill any one of the 3-Valle. Chamonix does have the famous Vallee Blanche and Grands Montets is a place one can claim rubbing shoulders with many national skiing teams.
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Talk about having your cake and eating it!

The Chamonix natives cash in and then moan that all their neighbours are foreigners.

I know the National Front is stronger in France, but I am assuming that all the foreigners are white people.

Maybe we should send them over all their gippoes and pikeys from Sangat and then throw in hordes of Somali refugees for good measure.
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PG wrote:
Davidof and I have both contributed to the discussion on the French language Skipass forum he mentions. The thread starts off with some rabid xenophobia, but on balance the score is markedly pro-English at the moment.


Your post impressed quite a few people and certainly helped the entente cordial. The majority of skipassers are quite young and I'm shocked by how racists some can be. As someone commented, change 'anglais' for 'arabe' and they would be at home at a Front National rallaye.

That said, my missus was shocked by the tone of the Guardian articles - she thought they would have been better in the Daily Mail.
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davidof, The 'simple' racism of the vocal minority, often through the combination of sheer ignorance and a misguided instinct for self-preservation, is bad I agree. But the knowing, selective, sometimes cleverly disguised racism of certain elements of the media and other interest groups is what frightens me. The former without the latter is virtually toothless, disorganised. But together... And what's going on at the Guardian?!
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PG, I envy you your French - OK I know your out there, but even so.

Fascinating thread, thanks for sharing. I am rather inclined to agree with Cedric's opening comment.

Not that I have had any problem as an imigrant of 40 years (and a few days) ago.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
In today's Expatica, comments by Theodore Zeldin on the subject of the not so entente cordiale...
Quote:
Absolutely," he says. "What the British people who go to France are seeking is a resurrection of an old pastoral idea of what the English countryside used to be a 100 years ago."
When they travel across the Channel, they take their own food with them, their habits and do not integrate into the local population, the historian says.

(I have Zeldin's book "The French". An excellent insight into the country and its people by this historian and fellow of St Anthony's College Oxford.)
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PG wrote:
In today's Expatica, comments by Theodore Zeldin on the subject of the not so entente cordiale...
Quote:
Absolutely," he says. "What the British people who go to France are seeking is a resurrection of an old pastoral idea of what the English countryside used to be a 100 years ago."
When they travel across the Channel, they take their own food with them, their habits and do not integrate into the local population, the historian says.




He makes a sweeping generalisation there (as well as interchanging British and English as though they were one and the same). In fact I'll go further, it's not unlike the intolerant bigots in this country who accuse migrants Britain of not integrating into British culture. In fact you just have to add the phrase "these English immigrants should speak French at home" add a bit of padding around it and you've got an article for Le Courrier Quotidien.
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skanky, agree totally. Unfortunately it seems to be human nature to emphasise our differences versus other people rather than similarities. In fact, the more alike you are to another person, the more you're likely to exaggerate or look for any differences.

Certainly the case with my fiancee and her twin sister - they hate it when people treat them as twins rather than separate individuals!!
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my 2cents worth. Went to Courmayeur in Feb, thought we'd try out Chamonix for a day.

I was put off ever going again by the British yobs that we had the misfortune of bumping into wherever we went. The worst experience was while I was ordering some food in my school boy french. We were then told by the waitress (in the broadest Essex accent) that "we don;t speak flippin French ere, only English!" - well the menu was in French?!?!?

I know it wasn't a long stay ~8 hours, but i wouldn't go again, so many other places to visit rather than risk a ruined holiday!. Everywhere we went all we could hear were loud ignorant British people, there was no charm, no French or Italian accents in the air, unfriendly British people on the lifts. And that's a shame as we went to Le Tour, and it was a great days boarding. I would also love to go down the Grande Motetes.

When i mentioned to a friend that we were going to Val D'Isere a month later he said, "oh well expect exactly the same as you found in Chamonix". Well i am pleased to say we didn't, there was a really good mix of european culture not the drunken yobish behaviour found in Chamonix!

By the way, Courmayeur is a fantastic little town!!
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Dan, you might want to try out Argenitere.

Went there in January. Based there for a week - though only skied the resort for one day, because of conditions at the time.

Very friendly locals. Small, though - quietish in the evening (good for me Smile )
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Lager, masopa, I would hesitate before accusing Zeldin of stereotyping! The article goes on to say:
Quote:
"It shows that it is possible to eliminate prejudices between nations ... I think a new kind of policy is necessary (to bridge the gap between Britain and France) and efforts should be devoted to carry it out. "I am talking about having a much wider interaction between the two populations ... to find ways to dispel stereotypes and establish friendships or at least acquaintanceships."

We're not talking about a Peter Mayle-level study here. Philosopher, historian, there's a lot to Zeldin. "An Intimate History of Humanity" is a fascinating read, as well as "The French".... I don't think the author should be pigeonholed on the strength of one quote taken out of context from an allegedly accurately reported interview in an online magazine... otherwise you're guilty of one of sweeping generalisation's closest etymological relatives... jumping to conclusions!
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Are there places to stay in the "satellite" areas - the places the buses drop off at then? I assumed these were all local houses etc, not hotels/chalets? If you can stay away from the centre of Chamonix i may consider it (definately Argenitere), but is there much to do out away from the centre of town at night? are there warm friendly bars out there??
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skanky wrote:
You should see the prices just through the tunnel in Courmayeur. Shocked
But that's the Milanese not the British.



Yes, People coming to Milan to work and then looking somewhere else to build/buy their houses have caused an increase in houses prices nearly everywhere (in my village too!!!!), not to mention in second houses prices. And don't forget, Milanese are in Cham too!
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Yosso from skipass spotted this advert in the local Chamonix paper, Le Daub:

Wanted
Young girl from a good family. Virgin if possible. Must have own white horse. Required to kick the English out of Argentiere.

Very Happy
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davidof, which thread is this in?
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Virgin!!!! Ha . . . in Chamonix? Yeah right!
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PG wrote:
davidof, which thread is this in?


The link you posted above:

http://www.skipass.com/ubbvf/Forum25/HTML/002909.html

Happy
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For some reason I'd got stuck on page 1, didn't realise the thread had progressed since then! Duh
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well 'progressed' is not necessarily the term I would use!
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davidof, Just caught up.... at least the debate seems to be a little more tongue in cheek now. On balance I find the French more 'reasonable' than the British equivalent, less insular (which stands to reason, of course!)
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With the help of Google and my ancient Froglais dictionary I've managed to work my way to the end of the above link and I've every sympathy with the contributors. Those of us who have or want to move to a different culture and are willing to embrace, understand and accept the changes that this will bring to our lives are welcomed; But we are far outnumbered by those think with their back bottoms and talk with their wallets . . . I'm far too often shamed by their gross xenophobia and crass attitudes.
I once thought that this was the sole possession of my compatriots but it's now becoming a shared characteristic of so many English second home owners. It’s not integration and it’s certainly not emigration . . . it’s colonisation; and they’re creating ‘anglais’ ghettos that insult the very culture that they pretend to be joining.
Do I need to elaborate? That’s down to you guys – I’ve a feeling that most of the contributors here understand the nature of intercultural symbiosis and respect the countries we visit and value the societies we interact with . . . BUT . . .

What do we do about those who don’t?

It’s all very well to sit here and whinge (from both sides of the Channel), can any of us suggest a solution to a very real problem?

I’ve some ideas but I’d rather hear from the rest of you first. . . .

Moi? Un wuss?
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Masque, do you think the problem begins at school or do the xenophobic tabloid press (and as PG pointed out, last week's Guardian to some extent) share some blame?

Maybe politicians who pander to base instincts have a responsibility too? Personally I feel that I've grown more 'anti-immigrant' largely to the general influence of politicians and press. It is very easy to pick up a paper and criticise Chinese cockle pickers or Ukrainian gang masters but is this just an isolated problem?

Well done for following the skipass thread to the end. There is a minority of people in the Savoie who feel very threatened at the moment, it is not just the 'loadsamoney' English but the fact that the French economy has some structural problems and has difficulty creating jobs for a lot of people, particularly the young and old. Without jobs they can't continue to live in such a beautiful region.
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The British stepping up their purchases of property in the Chamonix area (D.N.A. article, 25.04.04, translated from French)

(Bit superficial, some inaccuracies, but interesting from the point of view of knowing how this situation is being reported in the French press.....PG)

The British presence in the Alps has been growing at a steady ready over the past four years. In Chamonix, property purchases are accelerating, while young English girls move to the area to cook and clean for the Anglophone tourists.

The Haute-Savoie regional council registers 10,000 permanent residents in the Chamonix valley. “Amongst them, 2,000 foreign residents, including 1,080 British” says Michel Charlet, mayor of Chamonix.

”Some have moved here for business reasons. Others, such as airline pilots and air hostesses, with Geneva Airport just an hour away, prefer to live here rather than in the suburbs of London. They do all they can to integrate, with somewhere between 200 and 250 British children at their desks alongside the locals”, points out Bernard Prudhomme, director of the tourist office.

Philippe Chevallier, who has been employed in the property sector for 25 years, detailed the usual circumstances: “In terms of purchasing power, the British benefit from a favourable taxation system, and are able to borrow over terms of up to 30 or 40 years. Many sell their British properties, take on a mortgage, and are able to offer large sums for local properties. The majority of purchasers are from the London area. It’s not rare to see them turn up with anything up to 800,000 € to spend.

The "Chalet girls".....
A British lady, founder of one of the first Anglophone estate agencies in the town, offers typical all-in holiday stays in chalet accommodation where each person has a private room, but all eat together. Previously these properties were holiday residences, and unoccupied for much of the time. Today the shutters remain open.

However Roger Rollier, chairman of the regional association of hoteliers, denounces the employment practices used as barely legal. Young British “chalet girls" live in, cook, and clean the accommodation of skiers from all over Europe. They usually receive a free season lift pass, and have the morning to go skiing before they start work.

Some have no experience at all before they arrive. “Before I came”, says Fionna L., “I had never skied, never visited a ski resort, I’d never even done any cooking!”
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Quote:

“Before I came”, says Fionna L., “I had never skied, never visited a ski resort, I’d never even done any cooking!”


but she must have had some prior experience... snowHead
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Going by this Expatica article they certainly have plenty of experiences..... Very Happy
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