France Uncensored

It’s early December. Signs of Christmas are popping up all over Provence. Twinkling lights are strung up over medieval streets. Glimmering stars dangle from streetlights. Trees stand dressed in a colorful array of shiny baubles.

We’re driving back from school as the winter sun begins its late-afternoon descent and the streetlights begin to spark alight. The car radio plays softly in the background as my children tell me about their day at school.

“Mommy!” My youngest exclaims. “It’s a Christmas song. Turn up the volume!” It’s the first Christmas song to play over the radio, and my kids are ecstatic. I dutifully turn up the volume as my kids bob along to Sia’s “Santa’s Coming for Us.” Big smiles are plastered across their faces as the spirit of the season fills my car.

The song ends just as I enter a challenging curve on the narrow road with dwindling light and heavy oncoming traffic. My focus on the road, I’m slow to register what’s next on the radio.

B**ch better have my money.” Rihanna blares through the speakers. “Pay me what you owe me!”


Past the tricky part of my commute home, I quickly switch off the radio.

Awkward silence.

I’m in the local homegoods store and I need a new lamp. As I’m deciding between two options, I’m suddenly cognizant of the music playing over the store’s sound system. “F**k you very, very much,” an upbeat Lily Allen sings.

I decide to go with the silver lamp and take my purchase to the register. The clerk is gently weaving to the beat of the music, humming along. She rings up the purchase. “C’est €42.95,” she tells me. “F**k you very, very much,” Lily croons.

I pay the clerk and collect my purchase. “Merci. Au revoir et bonne journée,” she says. “F**k you very, very much!” Lily calls out as I exit the store.

Later, over coffee with friends, I find out that the French retail sector appears to be especially fond of the Lily Allen song.

“Oh, yes!” says a friend. “I was at the supermarket picking out vegetables when that song came on. It’s really quite catchy, isn’t it?”

“I was at the toy store with my kids when it came on,” says another friend.

“I was getting a haircut when I noticed it playing,” says another.

Ahhh, French radio, where there is no “radio edit” and music comes in all its f**king uncensored glory.

I hop in my car to head back home. An aggressive driver cuts me off in a roundabout. “F**k you very, very much,” I sing softly to myself.

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A native of Chicago, Emily is a professional writer and communications specialist living in Provence. An avid traveler, she has explored 30 countries on six continents. She holds a degree in English from the University of Illinois. Emily, her husband, and their four children moved to the lavender fields, vineyards, and olive groves of Provence in 2017.

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