Previously, we’ve written about the Concours de belote, a competition with dodgy prizes that makes almost no sense and whose (many) participants are almost exclusively French. It’s hard to think of a closer parallel within the expat community than the pub quiz, a competition also involving dodgy prizes and many participants – in this instance almost exclusively British – that makes almost no sense, at least to the locals.
Today, as part of our new mission to improve mutual understanding between locals and expats, we feature a post by Thomas Morttête, political correspondent, chief sports reporter, features editor and publisher’s son-in-law of our local newspaper and online partner ‘Le Quotidien de Faire-Le-Dodo (87)’.
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Mes amis, what exactly goes on at a ‘pub quiz’? We have all seen the posters advertising these events in the windows of the British bars – the Surrender Monkey and the Jolly Archer, par exemple. Now, after several weeks of undercover research, I can reveal the secrets of this popular but peculiarly British pastime.
To produce this feature I went undercover as a guest of M Deadhead at several of these events. It was kind of him to allow me to join his team, because I was afraid I wouldn’t know any of the answers. He explained that this did not matter in the slightest, because it wasn’t unusual for there to be whole teams of people who knew nothing whatsoever.
Except that things weren’t what they used to be. They seemed quite certain of this. And wanted everyone else to know.
The pub quiz is a team game, This is because it is a social occasion at least as much as it is a competition. This social aspect could explain why such prodigious quantities of alcohol are consumed. Although that could be just because the participants are British.
All this is difficult for us to understand. Imagine goiing to the belote just to get drunk and proclaim one’s ignorance in a loud voice, without even trying to win. C’est bizarre, n’est ce pas?
Each team has to have a name and it is apparently part of the British culture that this name should have some kind of joke in it. A British joke. M Deadhead did try to explain some of them to me, but hélas, in a family newspaper I cannot tell you why one team called themselves ‘Chucking Feats’. But it has nothing to do with winning the Olympic javelin gold medal.
The format of the quizzes varies a little from one to another, but in general there are at least three rounds of questions. As I had feared, these were a complete mystery to me, as they would be to any Frenchman, What do we know of the ‘Eastenders’ or the ‘cricket’?
One round of questions always has to be about music, for example identifying singers or groups from hearing a snatch of a tune. Again, this is almost impossible for French people because there is nothing by Johnny Hallyday.
It is also difficult for British people under the age of fifty, however, because there is nothing more recent than the Spice Girls.
At some point – usually in the middle of proceedings – there is a break to eat. Bien sûr, this sounds very civilised, but the reality is that it would be very unsuitable for we French, because the food is the typical English cuisine, like ‘curry and rice’ or ‘lasagne and chips’. Sometimes there is also a dessert, again typically British, like ‘spotted dick and custard‘ or ‘sticky toffee pudding’. But not a crème brûlee to be had. And pas de fromage.
The prizes also prove that these pub quizzes are social events rather than competitions. Don’t expect anything valuable or useful like foie gras or un tête de porc, as there would be at the Super Loto. No: instead, there are things like potted plants and socket sets. Even for the winners there is nothing more than a couple of bottles of the kind of wine that we might use for cooking.
So, we may be reassured that there is nothing to fear from these expat gatherings. They are not plotting against us and we are not missing out on anything that would be remotely of interest to anybody raised in our noble French culture.
And at least they help to get rid of some of that awful wine.