There exists a famous movie in France called Bienvenue Chez Les Chti’s. It recounts the story of a man who must move for work to the province of Nord-Pas-de-Calais as punishment. The movie contains the line
Un étranger qui vient dans le Nord pleure deux fois, quand il arrive et quand il repart.
Which translates in English to be
A foreigner who comes in the North cries two times, when he arrives and when he leaves.
It’s not for the weather. No, this can be the greatest fear for a frenchman of the south to come to the north. It’s not for the beaches (although they do exist and I hear they can be very nice) or the scenic drives.
It’s for the people. It’s for les Chti’s, a colloquial name given to the people that inhabit this region due to their different accent. These people are accommodating, generous, happy and help others out when in need.
Kévin, my Couchsurfing host during my stay in Lille, was the embodiment of a chti. Lille is the capital of Nord-Pas-de-Calais, but Kévin actually came from a tiny country town nearby and so grew up with strong family values. He doesn’t like the city life and only came to Lille to work but he returns to his hometown almost every weekend.
He is, in all my time in Couchsurfing, one of the kindest and most gentle people I have met, and he made me feel right at home. He likes rugby and despises the popularity of the weak football players. He has great knowledge of the local beers and told me which ones to try and which ones to avoid. It’s fair to say that we got along great.
It should now be evident that the most important thing for me during my travels are the people that I meet. This is the definitive component of my experience during a stay somewhere.
It was sad to leave his place so soon but I know that we will see each other again. He’s already thrown up the possibility of taking me back to his hometown later in the year. There I can meet the real Chti’s.
It’s the weather and the boring stereotypes that make people cry when they come. It’s the kindness and hospitality of the Chti’s like Kévin that make them cry when they must leave.