Tuesday, April 02, 2013

French tolerance 1 : The traveling people

After living several years in France, I have started to accept a lot of things. I share, approve, and sometimes agree with what is happening in this country. However, there are times I got so angry and frustrated with certain situations. When discussed with some friends here, all I get as an answer was simply "c'est comme ça" (it's like that).

One day while having our weekly meeting, a coworker announced that some new neighbors just moved into our neighborhood. Looking out the window, we saw a group of camping cars squatting around office buildings. My coworkers explained to me that these are called "traveling people". Usually the government provides some lands for them to settle down but some of them prefer to move around and "invade" certain areas. It has been 3 weeks, and they are still there.

What struck me was that they use the fire hydrant for water supply. The pipe connecting to it was leaking non stop. All these are paid by, the taxes payers?

It is a choice to live in a camping car and move around. But, does it mean they don't have to respect laws compare to the ordinary citizens? I kept asking everyone why they tolerate these. If I squat there I would commit a crime of "trespassing", but these people, they could just use the private properties like their owns. "It is complicated", everyone was telling me.

Well, it is hard for me to understand too. The French complain, demonstrate, strike for many things. And for this, their lips are sealed.


  1. The thing is that often this "gens du yoyage" come from ethnical minorities (tzigane, gitans, roms : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romani_people ) that have been ostracized for centuries as thieves.

    So nowadays we fear that speaking against this people could be seen as racism or xenophobia.
    Furthermore, the society does not know how to deal with this people that cannot and would not integrate with the rest of the population.
    So sure, there are issues with them, but if someone wants to handle them then he would become responsible for coming up with a long term solution and since this is nearly impossible, everyone prefers to just look the other way and bear with them until they are off to another place.

    So to sum it up, yeah, it's complicated :)

  2. and some people are afraid of them. I remember at laval, when bullet have been shot at our school windows during summer holydays because our school asked the police to make them go away

  3. Hi Sylvain,
    Yes Fabien remembered the shot as well.

    After more than a month they are still there. It is weird to see their kids running around and laundry in the office area.