Two Years in France: Un Bilan

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.

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  • http://www.correresmidestino.com/ Zhu

    Wow, I don’t think I accomplished that much in 6 years in Canada!

    But 5 cardes de séjour? We sure do love paperwork!

  • http://www.correresmidestino.com Zhu

    Wow, I don’t think I accomplished that much in 6 years in Canada!

    But 5 cardes de séjour? We sure do love paperwork!

  • http://www.correresmidestino.com/ Zhu

    Oops… card, cartes… it’s franglish, you know! :lol:

  • http://www.correresmidestino.com Zhu

    Oops… card, cartes… it’s franglish, you know! :lol:

  • fifi

    AAAA
    I’m french and sometimes I follow your blog, and this post is really funny.

    I’m not sure with “the French idea of focus on the family”. It’s everywhere the same, no???

    And for me: And doing the “hug” is a never-ending source of awkwardness and discomfort for the “touchaphobe” in me

    :)

  • fifi

    AAAA
    I’m french and sometimes I follow your blog, and this post is really funny.

    I’m not sure with “the French idea of focus on the family”. It’s everywhere the same, no???

    And for me: And doing the “hug” is a never-ending source of awkwardness and discomfort for the “touchaphobe” in me

    :)

  • ksam

    hey, where’d my post go? did it get eaten by a cyber-monster or was it deleted?

  • ksam

    hey, where’d my post go? did it get eaten by a cyber-monster or was it deleted?

  • http://www.ielanguages.com Jennie Wagner

    @ksam: I think it got eaten by a cyber-monster! I don’t see it! :(

  • http://www.ielanguages.com Jennie

    @ksam: I think it got eaten by a cyber-monster! I don’t see it! :(

  • http://www.crystalgoestoeurope.blogspot.com/ Crystal Gibson

    Hey there, your post is almost sentiment pour sentiment (and administratively as well) exactly what my life has been in the past 3 years…I’m not anti-french, but am just as canadian (if not more) now as the day i arrived here. It’s almost become a personal challenge and satisfaction to live the most “north american lifestyle” as possible while living in France (i have no style either by the way and i dont care!). It’s rare to find someone who has basically the same life as yours and feels the same way about it as you do…I should just change my name to Jennie lol.

    Great post..and Im happy you are enjoying the lectrice job. Sounds like it’s perfect for you.

  • http://www.crystalgoestoeurope.blogspot.com Crystal Gibson

    Hey there, your post is almost sentiment pour sentiment (and administratively as well) exactly what my life has been in the past 3 years…I’m not anti-french, but am just as canadian (if not more) now as the day i arrived here. It’s almost become a personal challenge and satisfaction to live the most “north american lifestyle” as possible while living in France (i have no style either by the way and i dont care!). It’s rare to find someone who has basically the same life as yours and feels the same way about it as you do…I should just change my name to Jennie lol.

    Great post..and Im happy you are enjoying the lectrice job. Sounds like it’s perfect for you.

  • http://theduchessofearl.blogspot.com/ Rachelle

    I’m in touch with many of those emotions…….;-)

  • http://theduchessofearl.blogspot.com/ Rachelle

    I’m in touch with many of those emotions…….;-)

  • http://emmygration.blogspot.com/ Emmy

    Hey
    My thre year anniversary was last week. I never got round to writing a post about it although i really thouht about my last three years a lot over the last week.

    Happy anniversary to you, to me. Let’s hope in a few aniversarys time we’ll be feelig more French, or at least not sticking out like sore non french thumbs. I’m sure our love affair with French paperwok will be as strong though…. :op

  • http://emmygration.blogspot.com Emmy

    Hey
    My thre year anniversary was last week. I never got round to writing a post about it although i really thouht about my last three years a lot over the last week.

    Happy anniversary to you, to me. Let’s hope in a few aniversarys time we’ll be feelig more French, or at least not sticking out like sore non french thumbs. I’m sure our love affair with French paperwok will be as strong though…. :op

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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 January 2010, I started focusing more on teaching and learning languages in general. 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 the university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling (though now my trips are usually in Australia) and being an American abroad.

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