Ever wondered how many of your daily life products are actually nationally made? If you take a quick look around you’ll realise next to none actually are. Journalist Benjamin Carle decided to do an experiment of living 9 months only with French–made products. Not to manifest his extreme patriotism but as a reaction to French politics pushing citizens to buy local products instead of foreign ones. Benjamin Carle set out to discover how accessible French-products really are and how realistic it is to favour them. His documentary is set to come out this month, let’s take a sneak peak at his 9 months living exclusively in blue-white-red.
Arnaud Montebourg, minister for economic renewal, has been pushing forward the idea of favorising products Made in France. In October 2012 he posed for the magazine Le Parisien wearing a typical French shirt and a French blender. The minister thought it would be a fun way to open up this debate of local products versus foreign ones, with his strong belief that buying Made in France creates employments in the country. But how realistic is his idea of buying exclusively or most of the time local made products? We live in a fast paced world where people want easy access to products and preferably cheap products. So Benjamin Carle set out to discover all this for the rest of us, as he told the Guardian last Thursday: “Politicians say all sorts of things and expect us to go along with it. I wanted to see if it was possible and feasible to do what the minister was asking us to do. To hold him to account for his words” Only one rule: eat, dress, sleep, live exclusively Made in France.
How much did Carle have to get rid off in his apartment to do this experiment? Well, quite a lot. In fact as reported in the Guardian article, only 4,5 % of what he had in his flat were actually made in France. His made in China smartphone + television had to go, his made in Italy glasses, his made in Morocco underwear, his made in Guatemala coffee and his made in Britain David Bowie music. But this of course only a short list. Along with his coffee, his tea had to go, as well as his ready meals and any foreign food. Along with giving up foreign music, he had to give up foreign movies. Avoiding all these things on a daily basis became quite difficult for him, and of course he went to the absolute extreme, but his experiment did show that some essential products are simply not made in France at all. For example, refrigerators, it is one of the essential appliances to have in your home, but if you want one you cannot show support to French made products. Same goes with jeans, who doesn’t own jeans? Well these are not made anywhere in France either.
This experiment inspired Carle to create 4 commandments to this Made in France life, as he reported for Le Parisien:
1: Thou shalt learn to cook. As mentioned earlier, no more foreign food or ready meals (since you cannot know where every ingredient comes from), Carle had to go to the local market to buy local basic ingredients and learn to cook with them. With no refrigerator, all his products were dispersed by the window. As he says in the article for Le Parisien, he gained weight since he lived mainly from bread, wine and camenbert. The minister should be proud, this the Frenchiest of all diets.
2. Thou shalt love thy tacky side. In order to be truly Fench, Carle even changed his expressions, leaving out any anglicised expression such as: cool. He also had to get around on an orange moped, since cheaper versions of French cars were not available in France. Finally, listening exclusively to French music ended up making him quite tacky at get togethers.
3. Thou shalt take time to live. He describes the Made in France lifestyle as full time job. From cooking everything himself to getting around on his moped, everything takes time.
4. Thou shalt spend thy money differently. Most importantly, living French is much more expensive. The clothing, the furniture, speakers…all will cost more money to support local made products.
Carle’s conclusion, as reported to the Guardian: “It’s not entirely possible or even desirable to live 100% made in France, particularly in terms of new technology. But that wasn’t the point.” His experiment also led him to conclude that supporting local jobs and industries is something worth thinking about.
And Carle is probably right, but let’s not listen to ministers blindly. To live purely out of nationally made products, you need to be able to do it. As mentioned it is not the cheapest option, and what is the point in making people in your country poorer? It is okay to support your country when you can, but because you do not live exclusively in blue – white – red, does not mean your are destroying your country. Unfortunately the line between Nationalism/Patriotism and stupidity is quite thin. Which is why I think documentaries such as the one Benjamin Carle did is fun and good way to show the difficulties and absurdity of following what some politicians say word for word.
The documentary will come out on March 19 on Canal +, click here to watch an extract from the Guardian with English subtitles.