Racial Tensions in France
by David Applefield
I´m a student thinking about studying engineering in France. I hail from Texas, but I´m an Indian - as in Asian-Pacific. I hear from study abroad advisors that cities like Lille and the less prosperous provinces have a lot of racial tension. Does Paris treat foreigners, especially dark-skinned people, with different attitudes? Not being extremely fluent in French will put in me in some disadvantage, and having to deal with racial tensions is something I don´t look forward too. I know there were some problems with immigrants from Africa, but have things calmed down?
Kevin, this is a complicated issue. In general, I think you will be rather impressed with the overall integration of French cities--culturally and racially. France of course is working its way through a legacy of problems that are a result of France´s colonial history in North Africa and black Africa.
Racism rises of course at times when the economy is hurting, and we´ve seen this in France. But, by and large, French people visiting the US and UK are often more shocked by the blatant segregation of the races, entire areas of cities that are practically all white or all black. You as an Indian and as someone with credentials should not feel discriminated against in France. And, you´ll see many more mixed couples in France than you´ll see elsewhere. Admittedly, there are lots of isolated examples of racism in terms of renting apartments, buying homes, etc. But again, on the whole, I think you´ll be relatively comfortable in France. Make sure you do arrive with a student visa, and well, plenty of rupees!
It´s always fascinating how being legal and having some resources helps secure any "foreigner" of any race trying to live in a new culture.