Scathing and hilarious insights into being French with Singer & Vocal Coach
By Niall Mackay
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In Episode 4 of A Vietnam Podcast I talk with AnneSophie Hoffman, a French/Canadian Singer, Vocal Coach, and Director who has sung in front of audiences world-wide.
AnneSophie moved from France to Montreal at the young age of 17 to study music for just one year, which turned into a lot longer. Unexpectedly, half of her life has been spent in Canada, before moving to Vietnam two and a half years ago with her husband. She is French by birth, Canadian by naturalisation, and French-Canadian by mindset with an understanding of all three cultures.
“I think I am different. I am French, but not that French,” says AnneSophie.
French people often self-deprecate, and deprecate each other. Sometimes this depending on where they are from. It is fascinating to learn about where that comes from and how it actualizes. While this is not surprising to most people, as the stereotype of French people goes, is the stereotype really true?
There are varied nuances in the French culture and how people interact with each other, such as going to a party in France you don’t want to go to while at the same time being effusive to the host when you arrive, “I think we are a bit hypocritical” AnneSophie adds.
In Quebec, people are much more honest and direct, less sarcastic and ironic. Compare this to Paris where you are expected to accept bitchiness and being made fun of “as a joke”. This led to AnneSophie being bullied in school as a teenager and herself hitting back with irony and sarcasm, which she could see was hurtful to people. This type of behavior was not tolerated in Quebec and she believes she became a better person for it.
Similarly in Scotland, making fun of people is a social norm that can be considered as a sign of friendship even though the recipient may find it hurtful. At the same time there is a fine line between being funny with your friends, and bullying.
AnneSophie wanted to be the next Celine Dion, recording an album and touring the U.S. at 22. She feels that the birth of TV talent shows like Star Academy and The Voice were detrimental to her career, as she didn’t want to get involved in that side of the industry which became so dominant. She felt that this sudden, and often short, limelight that would be shone on you, and the need to share a vulnerable side of you to get recognised was not worth it.
Part of this is the sometimes brutal social media landscape, especially when you open yourself to both positive and negative reactions, which is especially challenging and frightening to someone who has been bullied.
As performers, we rail against being taken advantage of for our “art”; classic example being offered “free exposure” in return for your talent, whether you are a dancer, singer, comedian, photographer or podcaster. This happened to me recently when I was approached about speaking about Podcast Production, shocked, someone said “You mean we have to pay you? I think it’s a good marketing opportunity as a free event to sell your service.” While maybe well meaning, many people don’t realise your time has value.
Thus, we finish with the same questions as every episode of the podcast around the cultural differences between France, Canada and Vietnam, including cars and durian and what advice Anne Sophie would give to herself before she came to Vietnam.
This is an entertaining and enlightening episode into French culture, giving you insights that you may not have been aware of before.
You can listen to this episode wherever you get podcasts from. Click the links below for Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.