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Avoid in youself what you think wrong in your neighbour.




: : European club
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CULTURE PROJECT WITH FRENCH 2005/06



1. PURPOSE OF EMAIL EXCHANGE



This project was aimed at exchanging information with French peers about their school and daily life, with focus on cultural aspects. As at the beginning of New Year people make resolutions, read horoscopes to find out what might happen to them in the coming year, we thought it would be a good idea to knock off this school year with a new topic of our project: SUPERSTITIONS AND BELIEF IN ASTROLOGY to find the answer to the commonly asked question: Are some nations more superstitious than others?

2. FRENCH KEYPALS AND THEIR HOMETOWN



They represent a secondary school with more practical approach than ours. Their curriculum requires involvement in some programs within optional subjects such as the house of Europe, the festival of the European cinema, school exchanges with foreign partners. They chose the last one and joined our project. French students get grades for accomplishing the project, take an oral exam at the end of it and get a European section “notion”mentioned on their diploma. During the European week, they built a house of Europe which was decorated with various articles form the European press in 2005. The voluntary students participated in the quiz about Europe.

They come from Pontivy a small town (15,000 inhabitants) in Brittany, the western and Celtic part of France. This area is famous for its festival of bagpipes, traditional dances, concerts and crepes (a kind of Pancake but much lighter). The surroundings of Pontivy are really green, sometimes wild and quiet. Most of the people are attracted by the coast. It takes an hour to get to the sea. Another attraction is a castle and mediaeval street
  
The young people unfortunately are forced to be mobile and go away to other parts of Brittany to continue their studies and to find a job because there is no university, only vocational schools and a hospital where many future nurses attend medical courses.

3. INTRODUCTION TO THE PROJECT



Are we more superstitious than others?

It cannot be explained why people believe in magic, witchcraft and astrology. However, whether we wish it or not, superstitions are widespread all over the world. Many cultures have similar beliefs for example in the magic power of lucky objects such as horse shoes, elephants with trunk up or a four-leaf clover. So, some persons carry lucky stones or favourite mascots and have a collection of talismans. A lot of superstitious people touch wood to chase away evil spirits or cross fingers before important events. Nevertheless, there are beliefs specific for a particular country. In Poland, when we see a chimney-sweep in the street we think that he will bring us good luck. Quite the contrary, when we meet a nun, we ll have bad luck. Isn t it funny? Some superstitions are absurd. I ve read that tying red and white flowers together as a bunch brings bad luck but these colours are our national symbol and we often give bouquets of red and white carnations or roses during official ceremonies. I haven t been also aware that having lilacs in the house brings bad luck. I sometimes picked them in the garden and put into a vase in my room. They smell so nice. Other superstitions have a different connotation in various countries. For instance, it s believed in Ireland that when a hem of sb s skirt comes down, you will be lucky. However, I would feel awkward in such a situation trying to change the skirt or if impossible do it up quickly. Superstitions can also sound strange to some nations. The Irish believe that finding an egg laid in the hay brings good luck but Polish peasants are rather angry when a hen lays eggs somewhere outside the assigned place.

Superstitions are not only common in everyday life, they also accompany our festivities like wedding or New Year s Eve celebrations. When you go to a party on New Year s Eve, you should wear something red. You ought to put 3 pieces of paper with wishes written on them into your shoes. At least one of them must come true. According to a different belief, you are also expected to put a banknote into a shoe and dance all night to bring you wealth next year. Wedding superstitions also bring colours to our life: organizing a “maiden party” and getting lots of presents from friends with one special gift– suspender(garter) – which is believed to bring happiness to a bride. The day before the wedding a bride should put shoes on the window sill – it will guarantee nice weather. It turns out that these wedding shoes should have a proper look – with covered toes to keep up happiness and covered heel to prevent money run out. I ve always thought that such shoes simply look more elegant to match a long evening dress. Another superstition says that a bride is supposed to wear something old, something borrowed from someone and something in a blue colour for good luck.

1. What are the most popular superstitions in their country?
2. Which superstition or belief do they find the funniest?
3. Which superstitions presented by foreigners do they find strange or very interesting?
4. Do they like reading horoscopes? If so, how do they treat them: seriously or with a grain of salt (for fun only)?
5. Have they ever been to a fortune teller? If not, would they go if they faced a difficult situation?
6. Does a person s fate depend on stars or everyone is an architect of own fortune?


4. SOME OPINIONS



How strongly are you influenced by superstitions?

I m not superstitious , I treat all these beliefs with a grain of salt but one of them seems to be convincing to me. Whenever I forget something and go over the doorstep to get back home to take this thing, I usually find it unlucky to settle any matter in a bank, shop or office on that day. It s unbelievable but true. It also sometimes works when the right palm is itching, I will greet a guest on that day. In case of the left palm, I ll get money. It s also nice! Mirona

“It is surprising that the more technologically advanced the world is, the more superstitious we are”



Firstly, I d like to raise the issue of various beliefs and superstitions which are widespread in many countries. In most cultures it is believed that particular events, rituals and objects bring good or bad luck. In Poland people are superstitious about the number 13 (specially Friday 13th), black cats crossing their path or spilling salt on the floor. The Polish and also English believe that the broken mirror brings a misfortune for as many years as there are pieces of its cracked glass. Also going over the doorstep to get back home when we forget to take something and walking under a ladder is regarded as leading to a bad luck. However, there are various situations which bring good luck e.g.: finding eggs laid in the hay, picking up a coin (its head up), and saying “break a leg” or giving a person a “kick" before an exam. What s more, people think that if they see a small spider, they ll get a letter or if they see a chimney-sweep they should catch a button to be lucky Next, I think it s worth presenting our attitude to horoscopes. People believe that the positions of the stars and movements of the planets at the certain time, for example a day of a person s birth, have a deep influence on a human being. That s way almost everybody knows their own sign of Zodiac and even the signs of their friends or partners. Besides, they remember characterization which goes with particular signs; for example, if you were born under Capricorn, you are ambitious, patient and kind but a little bit too shy. People just simply look for good news in horoscopes although they know it s naive. Finally, I ll try show the connection between technological progress and belief in astrology, horoscopes and superstitions. Technology makes human s life more obvious and clear because everything is based on facts and reasons. However, people in power have to take into account various factors and circumstances before making a proper decision. That s why they are full of doubts and hesitations, need somebody s hint. Unless they get a helping hand from their advisor, they consult astrologers. Some emperors, rulers, presidents of the countries have their own guru or fortune- teller. Even businessmen seek an astrologer s suggestion before investing money in a risky venture or on the stock exchange. So, we cannot predict everything, the life is a chain of coincidences. That s why astrology becomes increasingly popular. As for ordinary people, belief in horoscopes makes them feel more self-confident and secure, gives them hope and offers the illusion that they can control their life not only at the present moment but also in the future. Summing up, belief in hocus-pocus may seem ridiculous, but it isn t utter nonsense. Although we live in a technologically-advanced world, we are still superstitious.

Written by Magdalena Surdej

6. SUMMARY - THINGS WE SHARE AND DIFFER

Commons and differences between students from Poland and France:

During this year while I was exchanging mails with a student from France I learned some interesting things abut young French. We have a lot in common but there are some differences between us. First of all, in France there is a different school system. Their lessons which usually start at 8 .00 and finish not earlier than at 4.30 (with two hours of break for lunch) last 55 minutes each. French students have three periods in their school year, and after each they have their grades put up. The results are sent to parents. As for breaks and holidays, pupils in France have one free week around All Saints Day. What is more, they don t have to go to school for two weeks during Christmas. They can also rest for two weeks in winter and spring. Their summer holidays last, like in Poland, about two months. However, they start school year in late August but finish in early July. French go to school when they are 6. Then they start their learning in primary school, and end it at the age of 11. After that they attend a junior high school. After four years they take an exam and get a grade which is a summing up of grades from two last years of junior high school and this exam. The result which they obtain has little influence on their future school career. Similarly to Poland young French can carry on their studying in comprehensive school, or in technical school, they can also choose vocational school. After two first options, pupils can take a Matriculation (A-level ) exam which is simultaneously a key to university. French don t care so much as Poles about tradition. Besides, they differently celebrate such holidays as Christmas or Easter. Of course they know basic customs connected with those days, but they are mostly atheists so they don t attend services in church. They decorate a Christmas tree but for them it is rather a thing under which the presents are left by Santa Claus, not a symbol as for the Polish. They also have a custom of exchanging wishes during the Christmas Eve but they don t share a holy wafer with one another. They obviously spend this time together but it s rather a time free of work than celebration of Jesus birth. But especially young French spend a New Year Eve in the same way as Poles. They mostly spend this evening with their friends at parties or in some public places where people celebrate New Year together.

Also when it comes to entertainment, we have a lot in common. Young French spend their leisure time mostly out. They meet their friends, and spend time on chatting and laughing. They also have similar hobbies. Some of them like to spend time at home on reading a good book, but most of them practise a sport, visit their friends. Also like in Poland going to the cinema is a popular way of spending free time. They also enjoy sitting in front of TV or computer screen.

Young people from France also have a similar opinion about the future of Europe. They also notice the problem of pollution and connected with it dangers for Europeans.
Also in their opinions humans life will become unhealthier. Unfortunately, our French penpalls expect some kind of revolution which might even change into nuclear war, or predict some natural disaster like striking of huge meteor or sun explosion.

Compiled by Katarzyna Rogóż

SPOTTING THE DIFFERENCES:



-smaller town (about 15 000 inhabitants), but famous for festival of crepes and a castle -we can admire their town because of beautiful landscapes and leisure complex -they start school earlier than we because even at the age of two – three years. -Lessons are longer because they last 55 minutes. -usually they have eight lessons a day in two blocks of four-hours each with two-hour break for lunch -we envy them optional subjects for example: Chinese, Latin, festival of European films and European studies -they have to take seven subjects for their A-level exam, which is called baccalaureate- maths is obligatory -it s surprising that Wednesday is free, they have maximum four hours -they take part in many projects within optional subjects although they get similar certificates of secondary education (GCSE) and (A-level final exams) as we obtain -they arrange a festival of European films and European Week -they don t celebrate Christmas in the same way as we because they usually have a small supper/meal and after that they go to the Midnight Mass -the most amazing thing about their superstitions was that they treat a black cat crossing the street as bringing good luck.

My own opinion: they are very sociable people and they don t feel family as important thing as we. Besides, they aren t as unfriendly as some people think. What is more, their local cuisine isn t as popular among them as it could seem. They like eating a typical kind of food like Polish people. They love comfortable things and stylish clothes.

Ola Z. 4

 

 

 





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