My two year anniversary in France was this past Friday, September 26. I realize I have done a lot / accomplished a lot / suffered through a lot over the past 24 months in France:
- obtained 5 Carte de Séjours from my best friends at the Préfecture
- exchanged American driver’s license for French one and bought a car
- moved 3 times to other suburbs around Annecy, but never to Annecy proper
- finished 14 months of being forced to teach British English as an assistant
- received my American Master’s degree in Linguistics & Teaching ESL
- got PACSed to my adorable Frenchman and adopted a cat together
- survived 10 months of unemployment/boredom
- found a job post-assistantship that I adore
Of course there are some things I haven’t been able to accomplish, like teaching that Americans don’t, in fact, ever say “I speak American” unless they’re being overly patriotic. But I suppose my largest “failure” as I see it, is not adjusting to French culture more. I am just as American as the day I arrived… and considering how un-American I thought I was when I actually lived in the US, it’s a bit of a conundrum.
Do I have many French friends? No. Do I speak French all day? Nope. Do I watch French TV? Oh god no. I do read French newspapers and watch French news shows – but the TV shows I watch are American dubbed into French. Most of the food I eat is not very French. I do not dress like the French because I have no fashion sense. My hair doesn’t even look French because I’m too lazy to get it cut more than twice a year. I will never drive like the French because I want to stay alive. I will always think having 2 hours for lunch is a complete waste of time. And doing the bises is a never-ending source of awkwardness and discomfort for the germaphobe in me.
I agree with the government on health care access and lots of vacation time, but I do not agree with the French idea of focus on the family. I never want to have kids, and so I get really annoyed when people mention that David’s younger sister already has a baby and we don’t. Well, so what? I guess the baby thing is universal though – I’m sure I would get that in the US too – but I just feel that it’s more of a personal attack in France since there are so many government-sponsored benefits for having kids and it’s kind of just expected of couples here.
But you see, every time I disagree with something that is “French” I feel as though I will never fit in here or that the French will hate me because of it. I will always be the strange American girl who thinks sea food for Christmas dinner is disgusting. The rebel who doesn’t want to have kids, but rather cats and dogs. The weirdo who never, ever drinks alcohol, not even wine! ::gasp::
There are a lot of things I love about France; and a few things I hate, which I won’t get into now… But overall, I am much happier here than I was in the US, and not just because of David and my job. I used to say that I was almost ashamed to be American, but I suppose the truth is that I was ashamed of the conservative government that limited human rights, denied science, ignored the rest of the world and favored the rich. I am proud to be American, though I may not say it out loud, because it will always be a part of who I am. But I am also proud to be (hopefully one day) French, even if I don’t feel very French right now.