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 caf├ęs, 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.