It’s pretty hard to get away from the French in Shanghaiquips Sarah O’Meara in the Daily Telegraph as she goes exploring for the French influence in Asia.
Their architecture remains some of the best in the city, as do their restaurants. And they sip imported wine at pavement cafes with such casual confidence (and regularity) it suggests continued preeminence in China.
“No. We did the suffragettes, native Americans, the Holocaust and the Arab-Israeli conflict,” I explain.
“What happened in Asia?”
He looks despairing. He was raised in Australia, where they give children a more rounded sense of what the Europeans were doing in the 20th century, when they weren’t fighting for freedom on home turf.
But the French in Shanghai are now guests, and any air of security comes from finding one another within China rather than a sense of dominance.
For modern Europeans who live in Asia, the challenge is to find our home in the present, and definitely not dwell on the past. And for nationalities such as French, this becomes less and less easy.
In days gone by, children across south-east Asia were taught French. Now, the second national language of their adopted home has moved to English.
But the French speak English about as well as the English speak French.