Insignia from the French Foreign Legion's
5ème RMP

Where’s the Tiki in France?

Insignia from the French Foreign Legion's 5ème RMP
Insignia from the French Foreign Legion’s
5ème RMP

A thought crossed my mind today… in the past few years, most of the countries of western Europe have seen a tiki bar or two open: Italy, the Netherlands, Greece, Portugal, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland each have at least one, Germany has a half-dozen of them, the UK has a bunch, and Spain of course has more than their fair share. But as far as I can tell, France comes up with a great big goose egg. I once found a family pizza place that had tiki masks in relief in the cement outside the building, but that’s been it so far. Of course, France has its stamp all over Polynesia — Tahiti and the other islands of French Polynesia in particular, where French is the official language.

Why is this so? Is there Polynesian Pop in France and I’m just missing it? Do rum-based drinks hold little interest in wine-lovin’ France? Are the French just so over the whole Polynesian Pop thing, preferring their tiki a bit more legit?

On a related but different note: on Tiki Central, tikipedia recently posted a picture of a lovely insignia (slightly different from the one pictured here) for the 5ème Regiment Mixte du Pacifique, a division of the French Foreign Legion that was deployed to French Polynesia from 1963 until the unit was disbanded in 2000.

12 thoughts on “Where’s the Tiki in France?

  1. to answer you, I’ll quote Mr Victor Bergeron himself : “We’ve been asked to build restaurant in Italy, France, Switzerland and many other countries, but we haven’t done it because I don’t think they’d like our food and what we’re doing”.

    Maybe he’s true, but you don’t know how much I’m missing a tiki bar in Paris.
    There is several tahitian restaurants in France, as there’s a lot of Tahitian living in the metropole, but no real tiki bar. I think french likes too much their wine, and beer.
    Strange thing also is that we have lots of rum through french colonies (guadeloupe and Martinique mostly…), and lots of Liquor comes from France, so a tiki bar would not have been hard to do.

    If you need a tiki bar to come to France, just come to my home tiki bar, and I’ll mix you a french drink !

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  2. When I make it to France someday, I’ll make your home bar my first stop. Well, maybe my second stop, after a visit to a cheese shop.

    Good point about the French access to rum. Oh well, more for you!

    Let me know if you want your home bar added to Critiki. You could be the tiki ambassador for France!

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  3. Abosolutely right ! There is a disastrous lack of Tiki interest in France. It’s like if people don’t even know about Polynesia or don’t care!
    Maybe in the heydays of Tiki, when the Americans started to fly to Hawaii so easily, the French couldn’t afford to go to Tahiti, which is very far from France. So it never really took off here… Being french myself, I also believe that most of us French are too boring to enjoy kitch things, and we’re so busy trying to be cool that we forget about having fun…
    A tous les Français Tikiphiles, unissons nous et répandons le message !
    Le seul endroit Tiki que je connaisse c’est le village de vacances Kon Tiki à St Tropez.
    Et encore, reste à vérifier si l’esprit correspond à la déco… Mahalo !

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  4. Bonjour Mesdames Et Messieurs,
    I have been researching tiki in Sweden which led me to talk with a bartender from Tahonga, the only pre-revival polynesian places in Sweden. There was a Tahonga in Malmoe in the eighties and a Tahonga in Stockholm in the seventies. These places were hotel bars, and the guy who came up with the concept was the hotel owner Charles de Marie. The bartender, Donna, says that Charles had a place in Paris called Tahonga, before he started the Stockholm version. That would be before 72-73. So here is a bone for some urban archeologist out there: Tahonga, Paris! Report back to Tiki Central.

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  5. I was in the 5e RMP from late 1965 to early 1967 and although you’re right about its beginning in 1963, I believe it was disbanded long before 2000. In fact a friend of mine from Arue Camp outside Papeete, told me that it was disbanded not very long after we left. The 5e Regiment Mixte du Pacifique consisted of enlisted Legionnaires of all nationalities mixed with young French recruits (it was the draft) like me from the Engineer Corps. The main reason it was disbanded is that the Regiment wasn’t as cohesive as the French military was pretending.

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