Allez Les Bleus: Living In France During The World Cup
To give you a bit of context, I spend quite a bit of my time working in a small, laid back bar in the city of Lille. Before the World Cup began, we knew we would have to make some minor adjustments to the bar, if we wanted to get any business during the 2018 World Cup. We brought in a massive screen and a projector, to insure that we could live-stream each game for our clients.
Before I knew it, it was game time. It seemed that almost every bar/restaurant that I passed in the streets had also added a television, to ensure that they too would have clients during this time. Here in France, outdoor seating is quite popular at bars and restaurants, as people absolutely love sitting outside in the sunshine, on the streets. It was a bit strange to see televisions outside as well, streaming the game for the clients eating and drinking outside. As a general note, very few restaurants and bars typically have televisions, unlike in North America, where streaming sports or news seems to be the norm. I think that this lack of technology reflects a difference in the pace of culture here. People seem be a little more focused on human interaction, taking life a little more slowly, and investing themselves in the moment. This is a stark contrast from the much faster paced culture that I grew accustomed to in North America, with the crave of having information at our fingertips and the desire to be constantly connected with technology.
At my bar, we streamed each game on our big screen, playing music in the background. When it was game day for France, things were slightly different. People would show up wearing the French colours, excited and ready to cheer. During our games, we sold drinks at Happy Hour prices and had face paint to share around. People would get there early to get a good seat and everyone was excited and united together. We turned up the sound for the games quite loudly and during the opening, our clients would proudly sing the national anthem together. What a sight to see! At half time, the bar would empty, and clients would escape the very warm room (air conditioning isn't a popular thing here) as well go and smoke. (It seems that smoking is almost a fashion here, as just about everyone and their uncle seem to smoke. This is very different to North America, where the health concerns for smoking seem to be more predominant.)
During the half-time commercials, we cranked up the tunes - a special playlist with France FIFA music - including songs that were written for the World Cup in years past, as well as good ol' Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," which was the theme song last time France won the World Cup 20 years ago. They also had a special song written last time France won called, "La Copa de la Vida," which everyone seemed to love and sing. Give it a listen and see what you think.
The semi-final and final games were a little bit different than the other matches. Our bar was just packed with people, way more than for the other games. The national anthem was yelled loudly and proudly by clients at the commence of each match. There was so much anticipation in the air and each and every goal resulted in yelling, jumping up and down and screaming. There was also a TON of beer thrown throughout the the bar, loads of yelling at the refs and chanting for the players. The bar was so warm, but that did not deter the patrons in the least, from intently watching the game, celebrating every goal and being right in the moment with what was going on. This was the first time in a long time that France had reached this far in the "Coupe de Monde," so the amount of videos and photos taken during the highlight moments skyrocketed, as people wanted to record and share these big moments.
At the end of the semi and final games, the cheers rang out from everyone in the bar. After the semi-final victory, the bar emptied and there was a giant celebration in the Grand Place before what seemed like the whole world came back to the bar to grab a beer and be on their way. (In France you can walk around with beer and alcohol, we do not have the same kind of rules as North America, where the alcohol must stay at the bar.) Because of this madness, we sold our drinks on game days in plastic to go cups, so that people could take them to go and it also made clean up a whole lot easier! As the post game celebrations began, we had incredible amounts of people come to take a beer to go. It was an image that I could imagine would be similar to a Black Friday sale, where there are massive crowds of excited and crazy people everywhere. We eventually sold so much beer that our taps were too hot and created mostly foam instead of beer, so we had to shut them down and just sell beer from bottles in the fridge. Once we ran out of that, people were content to buy the stock from the storage that was not refrigerated - which is a little bit nuts. Eventually we had to say enough is enough and shut down for the evening. The night of the final, we finally closed the bar 2.5 hours after the game had finished, and at that point, people were still going nuts. By 11 pm, we had finished cleaning and I could finally head home. By then it was already dark, but people were still going wild on the streets. People were hanging out of moving cars and blaring the horns all throughout the city. The Grand Place was still full of people who were setting off flairs and fireworks, yelling and cheering. There was garbage everywhere! (On a side note, the city clean up crew was incredible - when I returned the next day there was almost no indication of the crazy mess had been there the night before.)
Heading home I hopped onto the metro, where I was greeted by more painted faces and France flags draped around their shoulders. Riding back they were still chanting, "On est champions!" Such enthusiasm, but after a crazy evening, I was SO ready for bed and very thankful when I made it home. Trying to sleep that night, I could still hear the chanting in my head, and my ears were still ringing from the intensity of all the noise. All that being said, what a unique experience to get to be a part of it all and to tuck away these memories in the back of my mind. Congratulations France! Allez Les Bleus and on est champions! (We are the champions!)