I can’t explain my country.

As a foreigner here in France, I am constantly asked to explain how life is in the United States. Do you have this in America? Is it legal to do that? What do Americans think about this?

Just as most Americans have no idea how small European nations are, most Europeans have no idea how large the United States is (17 times larger than France). And therefore, they have little understanding that I cannot speak for all Americans, nor do I even know what life is like in other parts of the country. I try to explain democrats vs. republicans… liberals vs. conservatives… that in fact, the country is divided into two. I try to explain the different regions, with their own accents, histories and cultures: New England, the Deep South, the Midwest, etc. I try to explain that each state can make their own laws regarding various issues ranging from speed limits to marriage.

Yet my students were still amazed that I had never been to Washington, D.C. They assume the government has centralized everything – as all roads lead to Paris in France. They couldn’t believe the drinking age was 21, yet joining the military was possible at 18. Getting a driver’s license couldn’t possibly be that cheap (more than 1,000 € here), nor could university be that expensive (I don’t even want to tell you how cheap it is here because you will cry).

Even David is still fascinated by these differences. Last month he heard about a woman in Virginia who was sent to jail for throwing a party for her 16 year-old son and his friends. Her crime was supplying them with beer. She is now serving a 27 month sentence, reduced from eight years. We watched The Untouchables recently and he constantly wondered why in the world Prohibition ever happened. To the average Frenchman who drinks wine every single day, banning alcohol for (what seems like) no reason is beyond ridiculous. And the fact that dry counties still exist throughout the Bible Belt is just too much to take in.

Equally ridiculous are the censorship laws regarding nudity. Remember Janet Jackson and the Superbowl? Scenes like that can be viewed at virtually any time of the day on French television. Skin care products frequently feature topless women and a lot of French women (of any age) sunbathe topless. Even the former franc notes featured a topless Marianne!

Spiegel reported last week that a German children’s book would not be published in the United States because of nudity. Take a look at the offending illustration. Did you spot the “nudity”???

I get tired of trying to explain how religious and conservative the U.S. government still is and that is the reason for these ridiculous laws. Europeans still don’t believe that there is a “Separation of Church & State” when In God We Trust is written all over the money. Or that alcohol could be classified as a drug, just like heroine or cocaine. Or that a cartoon drawing of an art gallery could be considered as nudity. But why would they when I can’t even convince them that France is smaller than the state of Texas?

Le Tour de France

Le Tour de France is in Haute-Savoie today! Unfortunately, it’s not coming to Annecy, but the route is northeast of here. The cyclists just went through Bonneville and they will end in Le Grand Bornand, a popular ski destination. Today is also la fête nationale (NOT independence day, even though many Anglophones call it that). […]

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Bad news but in a nice way

After sending countless e-mails to the rectorat of Grenoble, I finally sent a few to people who work specifically for Haute-Savoie. I was told I haven’t been renewed and all the posts are already taken, which I assumed would happen. But at least they were nice about it: Mademoiselle,Tous les postes sont pourvus pour le […]

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Two weeks later

What have I been able to accomplish in the past two weeks? You would think quite a lot since I have no real job and plenty of free time. But that really doesn’t matter when you have to wait and wait and wait for things to be done by the French bureaucracy. Still no new […]

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Thiou River

I took a little stroll along the Thiou river yesterday. It’s the shortest river in France at 3.5 km long. It connects the lake in Annecy (cleanest lake in Europe) to the Fier river, and is also featured in every touristic photo ever taken in Annecy because it makes up the cute little canals in […]

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Les Nouveaux Assistants

I still read the forums at assistantsinfrance.com everyday, seeing if I can answer any questions about the program. Recently I discovered the Facebook group too (when did Facebook get so annoyingly popular??) so now I’m spending even more time not doing the things I should be doing, a.k.a improving my French. But if I can […]

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Les argots

More and more, I’m starting to believe that there is a secret society that banishes authors from teaching real French in any books. French has such an astounding number of slang words and expressions, as well as a spoken form that is sometimes nearly unrecognizable from the written form, that I truly believe this entire […]

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Just another day in France

Happy 4th of July! The Fourth of July at NPR

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Les Soldes

The semi-annual sales are taking place right now in France. The government allows stores to have sales twice a year, once in January and once in July. I didn’t feel like shopping much in January when I had the worst flu of my life, so I decided to take advantage of the second round of […]

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July 1, 1867

Happy Canada Day! Canada Day Quiz from CBC News

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Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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