Enjoy English-Speaking Culture While in France

Shakespeare & Company ParisMissing out on your favorite local shows and feeling homesick? You may not realize it, but entertainment for English-speakers has become quite accessible throughout France. Indeed opportunities for keeping up-to-date with American / English-speaking culture and for meeting like-minded expats abound! Let’s take a look at some of your many options:

Radio

Thanks to the Internet, it has become quite easy to listen to your local radio shows in France. Yet, some local initiatives are noteworthy as they are a good way to combine English and French culture.

The Gascony Show

If you live in the Toulouse area and miss your local radio station, the Gascony show is for you! An English language chat show, the Gascony Show broadcasts entertainment and information of local interest on the French air waves. Its host, John Slattery, an Irish expatriate “possessing a genuine gift of the Irish charm with an inate need to converse,” discusses such topics as life in the South-West of France or understanding the French every Sunday from 5 – 7 p.m. on Radio Coteaux, 104.5FM.

Other local radios shows  include :

Riviera radio (106.5FM) gives news about Monaco and Great-Britain

Radio France Internationale is a web radio airing in English, which gives international news updates.

Bookstores

Ok, so you might not find a Barnes & Noble equivalent, but cities like Bordeaux, Lille, Toulouse, Paris, Cannes, Antibes and Nantes all have charming American/English bookstores that are happy to give you advice about the latest publications and bestsellers. In addition, they are usually well aware of English-speaking events taking place or being organized by the local expat community. It is definitely worth a detour just to make yourself known!

If your city doesn’t have an English bookstore, department stores such as Virgin Megastore or Fnac usually have a “Books in English” section with the classics and latest bestsellers.

Here are some libraries and book shops to check out:

In Paris:

The American Library in Paris has been serving the English-speaking community in Paris since 1920. It is the largest English-language lending library in Europe today. While membership is not free (individual membership ranges from 52 euros to 110 euros depending on length of time), the perks of being a member are many: You can borrow up to 20 books, 10 magazines, and 5 audio-visual items at any one time. One of the library’s most popular programs and a tradition since the 1930s is the Evenings with an Author series, supported by the Annenberg Foundation. The program has featured some of the most prominent writers of the 20th century, including David Sedaris, Diane Johnson and Tatiana de Rosnay. Visit their website to learn more about the library and the programs they offer.

WH Smith, located at 28 rue de Rivoli, is just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Tuilerie Gardens is the largest English-speaking bookstore in France. In addition to boasting two entire floors of books of all-genres on, WH Smith regularly hosts literary events, including a monthly kid’s club.

Shakespeare & Company is a gem of a bookstore. If it is bohemian charm, wall-to-wall books crammed into shelves that rise all the way to the ceiling, and a certain “delightful disorder” that only adds to the shop’s authenticity and winsome appeal, Shakespeare & Company is your treasure trove. Keeping in the tradition of the very first American lending library librarian, expatriate Sylvia Beach, owner and founder George Whitman worked tirelessly to ensure that Shakespeare and Company remained not only a venerable independent bookshop, but also a renowned Left Bank cultural institution and a home-away-from-home for many thousands of writers and visitors from around the world. Shakespeare & Company can be found tucked away just on the other side of the Seine from Notre Dameon at  rue de la Bûcherie 75005 Paris. Leaving a legacy of love for literature and for humankind, George passed away on December 14, 2011.

In Lille:

The British Library in Lille at 3 rue Jean Bart, 59000  is an independent, non-profit organization run by a team of dedicated volunteers. The library houses over 8000 books, a video and growing DVD collection, as well as a selection of up-to-date English newspapers and magazines. A wide range of reference books and documents are available for research and study in the library. In addition to their permanent literary collection, the library also hosts a number of events throughout the year, including a children’s story time every Wednesday at 2.15pm, movie screenings, conversation clubs and more.

In Toulouse:

Created in 1984, The Bookshop is located at 17 rue Lakanal 31000 Toulouse and offers literature lovers a cozy setting in which to browse through their modest but relevant selection of English-language literature.

In Montpellier:

Behind the charming green façade of Le Bookshop you will find two floors of  books written in English of all genres, including a modest selection of German and Spanish books as well. Le Bookshop also boasts a bar and English/French conversation exchanges weekly.

American Magazines

Thanks to Acclaim Subscriptions, now you can subscribe to and receive your favorite American Magazines abroad at affordable rates ! Check out their large selection of popular American magazines of all genres here.

Theater

In most French cities, local amateur troupes welcome new members and give performances at least once a year. The Popkis Theater group in Angers or Tagora in Strasbourg are two examples.

Some professional theater troupes also tour France with English plays. This is often the case during the summer festivals. The world-renowned Festival d’Avignon hosts at least half a dozen plays in English every July.

For Parisians, many options are available: The  famous Theatre des Bouffes du Nord often hosts plays in English. During the summer months, the Tower Theater , a London company, presents Shakespeare plays in the outstanding Jardin Shakespeare, an outdoor theater nestled in the Bois de Boulogne and designed especially to host Shakespeare plays.

With all these options available to you, you should have no problem feeling a little more “at home” in your new home abroad.

If you know other ways to keep in touch with english-speaking culture in France, feel free to share your tips in the comments !

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