Chez Les Ch’tis
Pronunciation (Shay – Lay – Shtee)
The first time I heard the word Ch’ti was when I received my letter about where I had been placed in France for my year abroad. I was told I would be going to “Le Nord” the north of France, the home of “Les Ch’tis”. I went on a search to learn about this place I would be moving to. I found the movie “Bienvenue Chez les Ch’tis” a French comedy poking fun at the people and land of the Northern France. I watched the movie and saw the people of the North portrayed with ridiculous accents that were impossible to understand, bizarre eating habits, crazy mannerisms, and rain, rain, and more rain.
When I arrived in Lille, the capitol of Nord-Pas-de-Calais, to no surprise it was raining. ‘Raining ropes’ as they say in French, I was very thankful for my raincoat. I tried to understand all the people speaking to me in their ‘accent Ch’ti’ and well, seeing as I barely understood French as it was, I was already terrified. One of the specialties of this region is Maroilles cheese. While the locals love this cheese, it has an extremely pungent smell. While staying at my host families I would go to the dining room for breakfast and find my host dad eating Maroilles on a piece of toast with butter and dipping it in his coffee. In school at lunchtime they put out little plates of Maroilles, each plate had to be covered with saran wrap because of the horrible stench. Ick.
Before I knew it, I was picking up the accent and expressions of the north. I found myself craving Maroilles to go with my coffee. I caught myself admiring the beautiful and intense grey sky. Not long after, someone from another region of France commented on my funny Ch’ti accent. I came to love the Ch’ti accent and how expressive and free it allows you to be, everyone spoke with exuberance and a liveliness that made you feel cheery. I completely fell in love with the life of a Ch’ti, and all the beauty of Lille.
I put my Ch’ti heart and soul into my “Chez Les Ch’tis” painting my favorite buildings and showcasing some of my favorite cheeses. I painted the buildings of the Lille Chamber of Commerce which was always the designated meeting place for my friends and me. The grey building with the stained glass windows is the cathedral of Lille. We would often picnic underneath the cathedral and play card games, exchange stories, and eat cheese and baguette. Also featured is the bar where many exchange students would gather, this is why I named it ‘Etrangers’ in the painting, which is the French term for exchange students.
The flower box on the building in front of the cathedral is a small version of a sculpture of huge polka dot tulips outside of the Lille Flandres train station. The time on the clock corresponds to the day that I received the letter telling me I would be living in Nord-Pas-De-Calais. There are several other small hidden details regarding my life as a Ch’ti and relating to Lille. When you look at this painting I hope you can feel a tug on your heart from all of the emotion and memories painted into this scene.
Chez Les Ch’tis
5ft by 3ft
Acrylic on canvas