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CULTURE

‘Not just selfies by the Eiffel Tower’ – Inside the new Paris-based US reality TV show

Real Girlfriends in Paris is the latest American television series to take a look at life in France. The Local spoke with one of the stars of the reality TV show about what she hopes other Americans in France can get out of it.

'Not just selfies by the Eiffel Tower' - Inside the new Paris-based US reality TV show
Kacey Margo, one of the stars of Real Girlfriends in Paris, in front of the Louvre. (Photo Credit: Kacey Margo)

Referred to as a mélange between Sex and the City and Emily in Paris, the new series from US TV channel Bravo, Real Girlfriends in Paris, promises to tell the honest stories (with a healthy dose of drama) of six Americans trying to build their lives in the City of Light. 

The Local spoke with Kacey Margo, one of the six Girlfriends, about what to expect from the show and why other Americans living in Paris should tune in. 

Similar to many other Americans who made their way to France via study abroad or teaching English, Kacey Margo also studied French in high school and university. She first moved for a study abroad program and then came back to teach English, with the program TAPIF.

“I wanted to stay after I really started to fit in here. I felt at home here, and I felt that I had a skill (teaching English) that was sought after.” 

Kacey has been in France for over three years now, and more recently became famous on TikTok for portraying her life as an American in France, which ended up being a gateway onto Real Girlfriends in Paris. 

Part of the reason Margo wanted to go on the show was to show an authentic version of life in Paris.

“I wanted to prove to everyone that I am not just taking pictures in front of the Eiffel tower every day or just eating cheese. I’m working and giving back to the community by teaching English.

“Being an American living in Paris is super interesting because people always assume you’re a tourist. It’s like no, I live here, I speak French, I am a permanent fixture. I am here to make a living.” 

Kacey thinks other Americans in Paris will relate to that, especially after the Netflix show Emily in Paris – a series that led many frustrated Op-Eds and Twitter threads from French people who felt their culture had been mocked. 

“Emily in Paris is fake,” Kacey said, laughing. “I hate when people assume that we don’t speak any French or that we don’t know the city. We’ve all been here for a while.”

Another experience, though a not-so positive one, that the English-teacher turned reality TV star thinks other Americans in France will relate to is visa-related.

“I think that any American in Paris’ ‘status’ is a central part of their life here,” said Margo. According to the Bravo website, this will be a central dilemma for her, as she is “determined to stay” but “unfortunately, complications with her visa could get in the way.”

While she could not go into detail about what viewers can expect for her visa situation (you’ll have to watch the show), Kacey did have some advice for other Americans who have found themselves in less-than-ideal residency situations:

“It’s like voting in the US: stay in line. Go to the préfecture, show them that you care about staying, show them that you have all the paperwork, show them you have a skill that is applicable in France. Once you have your foot in the door, don’t give up.”

Kacey wants other Americans in Paris to tune in for the show “because they will be able to see themselves in one of the six of us. You’ll see all of the problems that expats go through.”

Adding that “it’s super easy to feel alone, whether that’s because you are dealing with visa issues, marriage issues, or work issues, or any other problems expats experience, it’s so nice to see someone else in the same boat as you.”

And for Americans looking to make the move to France, Margo had some words of wisdom too, speaking frankly, she said “it’s not for everyone. If you are not prepared to go outside and live every day in French then I would not recommend it. Take the time to become fluent and adjust.”

The show premieres on Monday, September 5th at 9:15pm EST on Bravo – on TV or online – in the United States, but will also be shown from September 6th on the European paid-for streaming service, Hayu.

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CULTURE

What you need to know about the French bear festival recognised by Unesco

The Fête de l'Ours, celebrated in parts of southern France, has been added to UNESCO's world heritage list - here is what you need to know about this quirky festival involving Frenchmen in bear skins chasing young women.

What you need to know about the French bear festival recognised by Unesco

Baguettes are not the only French cultural phenomenon to have been added to the UNESCO “intangible world heritage” list this week.

The Fête de l’Ours – or the Bear Festival – which takes place in the Pyrenees, along the border with Spain, also made the cut. Stretching all the way back to the Middle Ages, the festival has some surprising components.

The tradition involves a man dressing up as a bear and chasing humans. At the end of the festival, the humans catch the man in the bear costume, and ‘skin’ him (take off his bear costume) so he can “become human again,” Patrick Luis, the organiser of the festival in Prats-de-Mollo-la-Preste, told Franceinfo.  

READ MORE: The decades-old battle between French farmers and conservationists over bears

It is a celebration of the end of winter, and while it was celebrated in all villages in the region up to the 19th century, it still occurs in three villages in the Haut Vallespir, located in the Pyrenees-Orientales département.

The application for UNESCO heritage status was made alongside Andorra, where two other Bear Festivals still happen each year. There is a slight difference though – the Andorran festivals celebrate female bears specifically.

Over the years, people living in this part of France have continued the tradition, even during times of war. The festival always takes place in February, and each year about 10,000 people participate.

Meant to symbolise the rebirth of spring, the festival has some interesting facets.

READ MORE: OPINION: 24 years after I first reported on wolves in France, they are at my door in Normandy

Robert Bosch, a specialist in the Bear Festivals, told Ouest France that the “bear man comes out of the wilderness to replenish the village.” In order to do this, the idea was that the man in bear costume would impregnate the young women of the village, and once that function has been accomplished, he is “stripped of his wild attributes and allowed to become human again.”

Requesting UNESCO status

Over ten years ago, several local elected officials in the Pyrenees came up with the idea of trying to get the festival recognised status. First, they managed to register the festivals in the Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in France, in 2014.

Eight years later, they finally achieved the crowning moment for their region – being listed in the UNESCO “intangible world heritage list.”

For the inhabitants of the three French villages, UNESCO recognising their festival has given “a boost of life” and “a boost of importance,” one village resident told Franceinfo

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