February 14, 2015

6 Reasons I Will Never Be French

No matter how hard I try, I will never be French. Here's why.

eiffel tower

I really wanted to be French. Since I was about 10 years old, everything in me wished that I could speak accent-less French, I could strut around with that maroon French passport, I could be full after tiny portions at gourmet cafés, and I could do all of that in a dress and heels, even in the middle of winter. I know it's impossible to become 100% of another nationality, but I always thought maybe I could fake it to the finish line.

But it will never happen, and here's why.

1. My ridiculous accent. 


what up

I can't shake it. I'm not even trying to anymore. This is my voice, and I can't make my American linguistics slide and swirl like the French do. I've resorted to simply tossing out words and phrases as best I can, even if that means repeating myself two - okay, maybe five - times. At least it has helped me to be much more empathetic with my French university students as we all attempt to sound more like each other.

2. I hate French cheese and foie gras.


french cheese

I'm a lover of practically every cheese - outside of France. It looks bad, smells terrible, and tastes worse: the end. I also can't get over the fact that foie gras looks and smells exactly like the canned cat food I used to feed Bandit and Dusty (may the best cats ever rest in peace). I refrained from testing those Friskies flavors, and I'll continue to step away from the foie.

3. Sneakers are still my best friends.


train tracks

I've grown up a smidge, and have added boots, flats, and some heels to my closet. But anytime I'm ready for a real adventure or a tourist walk-a-thon, I retreat to my Nike's. Always, always, always. They're tried and true, and my feet don't lie. I love my Nike shoes so much that I've bought the same model six times! The fun I have is directly proportionate to how comfortable I am.

4. I am way too excited about life.


jumping in a field

French people are a bit pessimistic and not prone to outbursts of enthusiasm. I have never had any interest in self-destructing my personality to better blend in with the crowd. My first year in Europe, a lot of Europeans and expats told me I would stop being so energetic after a while - that the culture would wear me down. Well, I'm proud to say: it hasn't. Last spring, my coworker called me a "wrecking ball of sunshine." Aside from the Miley Cyrus reference, this was, indeed, a compliment. Or it means I will hit you if you don't smile and laugh with me. #sorrynotsorry

5. I pray for smokers.


I don't know what sad high percentage of Europeans smoke, but it's a huge problem for a society that supposedly has access to the information superhighway of the internet. Adults smoke around children (parenting at its finest), teenagers smoke in public any chance they get, and every doorway is a haze of people answering whatever need is fulfilled by setting nicotine on fire and filling their lungs and the sky with the smoke. I will never think it's okay or normal, and, yes, I'm praying for you to someday be free.

6. I'm American.


Obviously. But being a non-EU citizen means a lot more than just a passport that says USA and a driver's license that says California. It means we have to get visas to live here, work visas to get jobs here, and somehow have housing, banking, insurance, and a number of other normal things taken care of by other people. In order to get dual citizenship and have French or EU passports, we basically have to prove every minute of our lives in France from day one. We've looked at the lists of necessary documents, and we don't have them - we will probably never have them. The hints that we could apply for French nationality after five years of residency were true, but were never fully explained to us. Now, four years down the road, we didn't save things we should have and we can't prove nearly an entire year. Even if we could submit a dossier (filled with hundreds of worth of translations), it would take about two years to process, and after this period, it would be very possible for the dossier to be rejected. It would also be very probable that we would end up really broke.

*     *     *     *     *

gazebo bench

This is the reality. Since moving abroad in 2011, our "American-ness" has been partially forfeited. We have seen how the Old World lives, and we love it. We go back to America after large chunks of months have passed, and we are always having strange moments of shock when something has changed. We do still love so many things about the USA, but it's not really "home" to us anymore.

Something inside of me cringes when I think about actually moving our lives back to America permanently. I'd just end up being that annoying person who only talks about when we lived in Europe, how wonderful it was, and how we wish we could go back someday. Then I'd convince them to buy my book of blogs to get me to shut up about it.

Now we're stuck in this weird place where we will never quite fit back into American culture, but we will also never be able to truly be a part of the European scene, either. This is what I think being an expat really boils down to: borrowing another culture while letting go of your own.

The ultimate question is: at what ratio will we borrow and let go?

eiffel tower wedding

If we could live in Europe forever, we would do it. We may still end up being able to pull it off somehow. But as it stands today, we will take it one year at a time, hope for the best, and keep investing memories into this book of blogs.
 

16 comments:

  1. I hate to tell you, but you have never tasted REAL foie gras if you've only had it in tins and it smells like pet food! You have to try some from a traiteur.
    The reason there are so many smokers in France still is that they are not breastfed enough! No one will ever admit it in France but it's true ...
    My daughter, brought up in France by an Australian mother and French father, and highly excitable, has moved to New York where she's allowed to express enthusiasm as much as she likes, so she tell me.
    I hope you eventually find a place that feels like home. I love living in France and wouldn't live anywhere else - except maybe Italy!

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    1. Hi Rosemary! I have actually tasted the real foie gras from the traiteur, and I still don't like it - but that's okay, more for you! :) That's so interesting to know about the relation between smoking and breastfeeding - have there been studies explained? I wonder if one of the reasons the mothers don't breastfeed as much is because they want to start smoking again soon after having their baby? I had 2 French friends who smoke have kids last year, and they were right back at it as soon as the baby came. I'm glad to hear your daughter is enjoying NY and having a great time! We do love living in France, it just seems like it's never going to be a permanent reality for us, and I have had to accept that. Thanks for reading!

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  2. I love #4. And it is one of the many reasons why I love YOU!

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  3. Hi Christy,

    Just discovered your blog through the All About France link-up. I've been here for three years (also American) and can really relate to just about everything you said -- especially the sneaker wearing part and hating foie gras. ;-) Anyway, hope life is treating you well. Just wanted to connect and say hi!

    Diane

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    1. Hi Diane! Love your blog so much! Yes, once we've lived in sneakers, can we ever really forget how great our feet felt? :) Thanks for stopping by and commenting! See you on the blog!

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  4. I hear you with #1! It's just never going to happen for me either! But then we must discuss #2 - there is no cheese on France that you like?! Growing up, I only ate cheese in limited ways - on grilled cheese sandwiches, on pizza, on a burger - but the thought of eating it alone or in big quantities did not appeal at all to me. So I've come a long way, but I can say I LOVE (most of) the cheese in France! Maybe if you tried a mild one, like a fresh chèvre?

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    1. Hey Sara! We will just keep sounding so "charmant," as the nice people tell me. :) I like raclette cheese...and that's really it! I can eat cheddar, colby jack, gouda, provolone, swiss, mozzarella, and others totally plain and tons of it. Maybe if French cheese wasn't called "cheese," I could wrap my head around the taste better? :) I've tried and tried to enjoy the chevres, camemberts, bries, roqueforts (that was obviously not going to work out), and I can't even remember the others right now - but while I can smile and stomach them through a party, I don't ever buy them to eat in my own home! It's okay, though, as we've found tons of other fun foods to love here! :)

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  5. Hi Christy, thanks for joining in my blog hop #AllAboutFrance, so happy to have found a new blog to read! I like your post, it's very honest, but I agree with soem of the other commenters that you need to try a really good foie gras (NEVER out of a tin) and keep on with the cheese. How can you not like French cheese?!!!! I love it all I think! But I didn't like either foie gras or stinky cheese when I first arrived in France 17 years ago. (And believe it or not there are slightly less smokers now than then too!!) Hope to see you agian next time, on 5th March.

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    1. Hi Phoebe!
      Thanks for creating such a fun link-up! Ha, it's okay for the foie gras and cheese; my French friends have all tried to bring me around to it with very nice versions of everything, and I still just don't have the taste buds for it! Happy to hear that the smoking is declining - maybe due to my prayers? ;) Yes, I'll be on your next link-up in March for sure! Thanks for reading, Phoebe!

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  6. You've nailed it with number one! I speak English with nearly no accent (it's not my native language), but I can't make my mouth pronounced sounds the way French people do! (especially all e related sounds, ugh). And I'm on your team with foie gras - it's kind of not the taste I like much.

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    1. Hi Elena!
      Thankfully, there's so many other wonderful French foods, that we can skip the foie gras parts, right? Yes, I tell my French university students that our language difficulties are literally physiological because of the way our mouths were taught to speak and pronounce. It reminds me a lot of when I tried to learn gymnastics - at age 22! My body just wouldn't work like that. At least we are strong enough to have our own musical version of French? :) Let's keep working on it! Thanks for reading! :)

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  7. This is hilarious, aside from the fact that we are European and I actually never wear sneakers, I almost agree!!! Except my husband loves cheese and I don't and that is probably the one thing that singles me out most as a foreigner, the fact that I don't like cheese - always met with a look of utter horror! Have started following your blog, do come over and start following mine too. Susan

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  8. I am sure I would like Foie Gras but I just cannot bear the idea of eating something that was produced in what I believe is an inhumane way - as for French cheese - MOST are wonderful, a few are just too strong for me. I have lived in France now for nearly 8 years but am still very much English. Our boys were 4 and 5 when they came over and I would say that the younger one is more French than English. It'll be interesting to see which way they turn as they grow to adulthood. #AllAboutFrance

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  9. Thank you for stopping by. small world I was married in the chapel at Concordia at UCI. go figure-how did you end up in France-you are living my dream. I love foie gras and cheese-that is hilarious. You raise interesting points-I am Canadian dual now but will always be Canadian. The smoking addiction is annoying.

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    1. Hi Esme! That's amazing you know where Concordia is and everything! Yes, the smoking situation is intense, but here's to hoping it keeps getting better and better! Thanks for your feedback, it's so fun to meet other bloggers!

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