Why do I live in France?

It’s no secret that I am often homesick for North American culture (and especially the food.) I could move back to the US and get a teaching job or apply to do my PhD in Canada, but I choose to stay in France. David is, of course, the major reason why, but there are are other reasons why I am happy to live here. I have been feeling rather good these past few days about living in France and what the future holds for us, even if I don’t know what I’ll be doing or where we’ll be living. So whenever I get upset about France or miss the US too much, I need to remind myself of all the things I do like about France.

Why I choose France over the US, besides mon amour:

1. Health care: I pay an extra 28 € a month in addition to what’s taken out of my paycheck for free prescriptions, free contacts, the majority (always more than 70%) of the payments made to doctors reimbursed back into my account as well as the peace of mind knowing that if I’m hospitalized for any reason, the bill won’t be outrageous and I won’t lose my job. And back in the country where I’m a citizen, worked for 8 years, and still pay taxes even though I no longer live there? I have absolutely no health care at all.

2. Long paid vacations: I work two 12 week semesters the entire year and still get paid for all 12 months. David gets 5 weeks of vacation + 4 weeks of personal days each year. If you move, or have surgery, or get married, or have a baby (men too), you’re entitled to extra days off.

3. Healthier way of life: In addition to the great health care and long vacations, the food is healthier and being active with sports or exercising is encouraged everywhere. It’s true that the French smoke and drink too much and eat a bit too much red meat, but they still live longer than Americans because they are healthier and are just as productive even with the long vacations. Health care + vacations = productive workers

4. Nation-wide smoking ban in public places: The stench of cigarette smoke makes me want to physically hurt smokers, so it’s a good thing they have to stay outside. Health takes priority over tradition.

5. Public transportation: If I don’t feel like driving to work, I can hop on a bus. If I don’t feel like driving to the airport, I can take a bus or a train. If I don’t feel like driving to the south to go on vacation, the train will get me there in about the same amount of time. It’s simply having the option to not drive that makes all the difference.

6. Shutters=sleep=health: Not only do they help regulate the temperature inside by preventing the heat or cold from pouring in, they also help protect your house against break-ins and, perhaps most importantly, allow you to sleep better at night by blocking out the light and noise. Getting more sleep is another reason why the French are healthier than Americans.

7. Different culture & history in each region: France is so small to me, and being able to go from Alpine mountain village to Provençal countryside within a 3 hour drive is very neat. Each region of France is so distinct, it feels like you are going to a different country – but everybody speaks the same language and you never have to drive more than 10 hours to get to the other side. There’s a ton of history, from 2,000 year old Roman ruins to the beaches of Normandy, that it would take years to see and experience it all.

8. Germany & Italy are right next door: And we have German and Italian language TV channels as well as a bunch of other state channels for eastern European and Asian countries. French, German and Italian have always been the 3 languages that I want to speak completely fluently so our location is perfect. The bookstores have large selections of foreign language materials too. I have more motivation and reason to study languages when the countries that speak them are so close.

9. Limits: France is not as excessive about certain things as the US. Air conditioning is set at a reasonable temperature instead of below zero so I feel comfortable and not frozen. The obsession with celebrities and “reality” TV is not as pervasive, nor or commercials or advertisements trying to get you to buy anything and everything. There aren’t as many guns as people. Religion and patriotism are more private matters and no one really cares how much money you make because there isn’t such a huge difference between the poor and the rich. The US is always about more, more, more whereas France is content to be just the way it is.

10. Bragging Rights: When I was back in the US, people whom I had just met or who didn’t know that I lived in France would automatically remark that I must be living “the dream” and that France must be wonderful. I didn’t really contradict them because I do prefer France to the US, after all; but I wouldn’t say it’s like a fairy tale to live here, as most Americans seem to think it is. I don’t know if people are jealous that I live in France or in Europe, or are jealous that I simply no longer live in the US, since apparently a lot of Americans would like to live somewhere else because of the recession. But I like being able to give my friends and family the opportunity to come to France, not only to visit me, but to discover another part of the world that they might have never known otherwise. And of course, by extension, I give them the bragging rights to say “my friend/daughter/sister/niece” lives in the French Alps.

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  • http://davidsswamp.blogspot.com/ David

    You’ve just been brainwashed by the Socialists…

    (seriously, missing North American food???? really???)
    .-= David´s last blog ..I know you’ve missed them… =-.

  • http://davidsswamp.blogspot.com David

    You’ve just been brainwashed by the Socialists…

    (seriously, missing North American food???? really???)
    .-= David´s last blog ..I know you’ve missed them… =-.

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

    Well among the lying conservatives, do nothing liberals and french socialists, I take socialism any day because at least I have health care. :)

    I miss the variety of foods available. Mexican, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Lebanese… I like the French and Italian food I get here, but sometimes I just want a taco.

  • http://www.ielanguages.com Jennie

    Well among the lying conservatives, do nothing liberals and french socialists, I take socialism any day because at least I have health care. :)

    I miss the variety of foods available. Mexican, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Lebanese… I like the French and Italian food I get here, but sometimes I just want a taco.

  • http://www.wickedfrenchkiss.com/ Erica

    Jennie, I couldn’t have said it any better myself … those are pretty much my main reasons for wanting to stay in france ! At least for now, who knows what the future will bring.

    And sometimes living abroad isn’t as much of a fairytale as everyone thinks it must be !

  • http://www.wickedfrenchkiss.com Erica

    Jennie, I couldn’t have said it any better myself … those are pretty much my main reasons for wanting to stay in france ! At least for now, who knows what the future will bring.

    And sometimes living abroad isn’t as much of a fairytale as everyone thinks it must be !

  • http://davidsswamp.blogspot.com/ David

    For the food, apart from the Mexican food (and actually I know a couple of places in Paris), come on, we have those in France too (and Chinese will be real Chinese, not Americanized Chinese, same thing goes for the other countries (no earlier than last week I had the best Thai I have ever had))…
    We have all of those in France and of course all the many many different types of French foods…
    Can’t beat that, anywhere in the world…
    .-= David´s last blog ..The Disunited States of America (part two) =-.

  • http://davidsswamp.blogspot.com David

    For the food, apart from the Mexican food (and actually I know a couple of places in Paris), come on, we have those in France too (and Chinese will be real Chinese, not Americanized Chinese, same thing goes for the other countries (no earlier than last week I had the best Thai I have ever had))…
    We have all of those in France and of course all the many many different types of French foods…
    Can’t beat that, anywhere in the world…
    .-= David´s last blog ..The Disunited States of America (part two) =-.

  • http://blondeinfrance.blogspot.com/ Andromeda

    I agree with all your reasons for staying, but mostly number 10, lol. The coolness that people imagine is usually worth the uncoolness it often is in reality.
    .-= Andromeda´s last blog ..Fish? =-.

  • http://blondeinfrance.blogspot.com Andromeda

    I agree with all your reasons for staying, but mostly number 10, lol. The coolness that people imagine is usually worth the uncoolness it often is in reality.
    .-= Andromeda´s last blog ..Fish? =-.

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

    @David: Maybe where you live, but not where I live. At least in the US there are restaurants everywhere, no matter where you are. And Mexican, I can’t live without it. Even the El Paso stuff you can find in the grocery stores is Frenchified Mexican – corn in fajitas, wtf??

  • http://www.ielanguages.com Jennie

    @David: Maybe where you live, but not where I live. At least in the US there are restaurants everywhere, no matter where you are. And Mexican, I can’t live without it. Even the El Paso stuff you can find in the grocery stores is Frenchified Mexican – corn in fajitas, wtf??

  • http://davidsswamp.blogspot.com/ David

    I can’t help you with Mexican, even in the US, I have no interest in it… For the rest, sorry to hear that you live in a region that has no international food…
    But remember, if it’s not that common in France, it’s because we don’t need it. ;-)
    (now, eating food from Savoie every day must be painful after a while)
    .-= David´s last blog ..The Disunited States of America (part two) =-.

  • http://davidsswamp.blogspot.com David

    I can’t help you with Mexican, even in the US, I have no interest in it… For the rest, sorry to hear that you live in a region that has no international food…
    But remember, if it’s not that common in France, it’s because we don’t need it. ;-)
    (now, eating food from Savoie every day must be painful after a while)
    .-= David´s last blog ..The Disunited States of America (part two) =-.

  • http://emilylaparisienne.blogspot.com/ emilyinparis

    OMG I miss Mexican so much. J and I went for Mexican the other night and it just wasn’t the same as back home.

    Blinds? I would kill for blinds. The sun is blinding in our apartment and without the AC it is honestly like living in a sauna.

    And is it sad that it’s been almost 3 years for me in France and I’ve still never gone to the doctor or anything? I guess I’d prefer to wait and go when I’m stateside. Plus I don’t have any insurance and I know my carte vitale won’t cover shit.
    .-= emilyinparis´s last blog .. =-.

  • http://emilylaparisienne.blogspot.com/ emilyinparis

    OMG I miss Mexican so much. J and I went for Mexican the other night and it just wasn’t the same as back home.

    Blinds? I would kill for blinds. The sun is blinding in our apartment and without the AC it is honestly like living in a sauna.

    And is it sad that it’s been almost 3 years for me in France and I’ve still never gone to the doctor or anything? I guess I’d prefer to wait and go when I’m stateside. Plus I don’t have any insurance and I know my carte vitale won’t cover shit.
    .-= emilyinparis´s last blog .. =-.

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

    @David: haha yes, all the cheese can be quite painful! Sometimes I get really sick of tartiflette and raclette bu that’s all people want to eat in the wintertime here.

    @Emily: If you have a Carte Vitale, then you have insurance. Basic sécu covers 60% of the cost, or 70% if you have a declared doctor. You should have insurance through your husband anyway. I much prefer doctors in France because there is no waiting or paperwork and it’s just you and the doctor, no nurses or assistants.

  • http://www.ielanguages.com Jennie

    @David: haha yes, all the cheese can be quite painful! Sometimes I get really sick of tartiflette and raclette bu that’s all people want to eat in the wintertime here.

    @Emily: If you have a Carte Vitale, then you have insurance. Basic sécu covers 60% of the cost, or 70% if you have a declared doctor. You should have insurance through your husband anyway. I much prefer doctors in France because there is no waiting or paperwork and it’s just you and the doctor, no nurses or assistants.

  • http://www.lindamathieu.com/ Linda

    That sounds like my list too. I think France is a really great place to live except for the French Driver’s license part.
    .-= Linda´s last blog ..Cucuron Brocante =-.

  • http://www.lindamathieu.com Linda

    That sounds like my list too. I think France is a really great place to live except for the French Driver’s license part.
    .-= Linda´s last blog ..Cucuron Brocante =-.

  • http://www.american-in-france.com/ cynthia in chambery

    Welcome home, Jennie, assuming you are considering this home still. Yes, I desperately miss ethnic food and CA wine, not much of which you can get in our town, Chambery. But I can take you to a good Indian restaurant and a good buffet Chinese restaurant here, if you like. No Mexican though. There’s a new website where you can order real American grocery store food (the info and website is on my blog, if you want to check it out). It’s a bit pricey but what you’d expect.
    As for living in France, yes, I still struggle with all the things I miss about the US including my friends, and strugging with all the adjustments Im still trying to make here. I work much harder here than in the US because of all the cooking I do, the contract work I still have, and the 3 businesses I’m trying to start along with my video blog. Relationships also take a lot of time, particularly with the cultural adjustments. I do agree though that France is oriented far more towards quality of life, and helping the middle class (which is almost everyone) than the US. US society is oriented towards ‘survival of the fittest’ and the crap flying around now about ‘socialism’ is repulsive and purely propaganda. US is about profit and not much else because if you ever try to do something decent for the average person, corporate America will lobby the hell out of it so it will never succeed. Enough preaching. So let’s grab some kir and meet finally. Your neighbor, Cynthia
    .-= cynthia in chambery´s last blog ..Nomination for Best Film Maker of August =-.

  • http://www.american-in-france.com cynthia in chambery

    Welcome home, Jennie, assuming you are considering this home still. Yes, I desperately miss ethnic food and CA wine, not much of which you can get in our town, Chambery. But I can take you to a good Indian restaurant and a good buffet Chinese restaurant here, if you like. No Mexican though. There’s a new website where you can order real American grocery store food (the info and website is on my blog, if you want to check it out). It’s a bit pricey but what you’d expect.
    As for living in France, yes, I still struggle with all the things I miss about the US including my friends, and strugging with all the adjustments Im still trying to make here. I work much harder here than in the US because of all the cooking I do, the contract work I still have, and the 3 businesses I’m trying to start along with my video blog. Relationships also take a lot of time, particularly with the cultural adjustments. I do agree though that France is oriented far more towards quality of life, and helping the middle class (which is almost everyone) than the US. US society is oriented towards ‘survival of the fittest’ and the crap flying around now about ‘socialism’ is repulsive and purely propaganda. US is about profit and not much else because if you ever try to do something decent for the average person, corporate America will lobby the hell out of it so it will never succeed. Enough preaching. So let’s grab some kir and meet finally. Your neighbor, Cynthia
    .-= cynthia in chambery´s last blog ..Nomination for Best Film Maker of August =-.

  • Nadege

    Mexican food is so easy to make and as you wrote, you can find “El Paso” products in french supermarkets. Maybe “Baja Fresh” could do well in Europe?
    For me, being french living in the US for 30 years, I can tell yo that France has changed a lot but so has the US. Actually, I have never seen a country fall so fast as the US has. I love both places and both have their pros and cons.

  • Nadege

    Mexican food is so easy to make and as you wrote, you can find “El Paso” products in french supermarkets. Maybe “Baja Fresh” could do well in Europe?
    For me, being french living in the US for 30 years, I can tell yo that France has changed a lot but so has the US. Actually, I have never seen a country fall so fast as the US has. I love both places and both have their pros and cons.

  • http://noemagosa.wordpress.com/ N

    Hum.

    Maybe I should try to make a list of what I like about Canada. But you know what? When you have been living so long “somewhere else”, you are just sick of being “here” where ever it is. I just want to move again! :-) (I don’t know if you follow me on that one).
    .-= N´s last blog ..Pif & Hercules =-.

  • http://noemagosa.wordpress.com N

    Hum.

    Maybe I should try to make a list of what I like about Canada. But you know what? When you have been living so long “somewhere else”, you are just sick of being “here” where ever it is. I just want to move again! :-) (I don’t know if you follow me on that one).
    .-= N´s last blog ..Pif & Hercules =-.

  • http://laprochainefois.blogspot.com cathy

    the healthcare one, for sure! i haven’t had insurance since the end of may… and it’s odd, because i’ve always known it to be a big issue poltically, but i never cared about it until now, when i don’t have it.
    .-= cathy´s last blog ..une texane, une québécoise, et une tartine belge aux vermicelles de chocolat =-.

  • http://laprochainefois.blogspot.com/ cathy

    the healthcare one, for sure! i haven’t had insurance since the end of may… and it’s odd, because i’ve always known it to be a big issue poltically, but i never cared about it until now, when i don’t have it.
    .-= cathy´s last blog ..une texane, une québécoise, et une tartine belge aux vermicelles de chocolat =-.

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

    These seems good reasons… I can see why healthcare is a big one to an American.
    .-= Zhu´s last blog ..Inukshuks On The Ottawa River =-.

  • http://www.correresmidestino.com Zhu

    These seems good reasons… I can see why healthcare is a big one to an American.
    .-= Zhu´s last blog ..Inukshuks On The Ottawa River =-.

  • Carmen Alvarez

    I’m also an American/Canadian living in France (Paris). Been here for about 5 years now. After having many people ask me “which country do you prefer?”, I wanted to make a list like this, but never got around it!

    I have to agree with you 100% on the healthcare and vacations! If I ever go back to the US, I’ll either have to find a company with at least 4-5 weeks vacation, or I’ll plan to take unpaid vacation! Could not go back to two weeks after being used to 5-7 weeks here in France :)

    Some of the other things in the list are perhaps differences between France (or parts of France) and parts of the US. The smoking ban is pretty recent (2007 or 2008). When I first came here, before the ban, it was definitely unpleasant to go out to restaurants and bars and have to inhale the other customers’ smoke :) Where I come from in the US (California), there was a smoking ban, not sure about Michigan or other states. So that was actually a negative point for France on my “US vs. France” list a few years ago :)

    You could live in cities in the US with public transportation as well. But I agree, this is definitely a plus, coming from California where driving was an absolute necessity! It’s also welcome given the difficulty and cost of obtaining the French driver’s license.

    I’ve never had shutters, either in the US or in France, but I’m sure you could have them installed if you ever go back to the US :) Living in a 30-story apartment building in Paris now, I wouldn’t say I sleep better now then I did in the quiet suburbs in California…

    I’m sure the US has a variety of cultures as well. Life in the heart of New York city is quite different from, say, San Angelo, Texas :)

  • Carmen Alvarez

    I’m also an American/Canadian living in France (Paris). Been here for about 5 years now. After having many people ask me “which country do you prefer?”, I wanted to make a list like this, but never got around it!

    I have to agree with you 100% on the healthcare and vacations! If I ever go back to the US, I’ll either have to find a company with at least 4-5 weeks vacation, or I’ll plan to take unpaid vacation! Could not go back to two weeks after being used to 5-7 weeks here in France :)

    Some of the other things in the list are perhaps differences between France (or parts of France) and parts of the US. The smoking ban is pretty recent (2007 or 2008). When I first came here, before the ban, it was definitely unpleasant to go out to restaurants and bars and have to inhale the other customers’ smoke :) Where I come from in the US (California), there was a smoking ban, not sure about Michigan or other states. So that was actually a negative point for France on my “US vs. France” list a few years ago :)

    You could live in cities in the US with public transportation as well. But I agree, this is definitely a plus, coming from California where driving was an absolute necessity! It’s also welcome given the difficulty and cost of obtaining the French driver’s license.

    I’ve never had shutters, either in the US or in France, but I’m sure you could have them installed if you ever go back to the US :) Living in a 30-story apartment building in Paris now, I wouldn’t say I sleep better now then I did in the quiet suburbs in California…

    I’m sure the US has a variety of cultures as well. Life in the heart of New York city is quite different from, say, San Angelo, Texas :)

  • http://www.edgeoftheforest.wordpress.com/ Andrea

    I know I’m late in commenting, but great post!

    I especially agree with the “limits” one – agreed. The wasteful excess of just about everything here in the US is quite bothersome to me, after living in France for just 8 months. A/C, huge watered lawns, huge portions, etc…

    On the other hand, I LOVE being able to keep my windows open here in northern Wisconsin without mosquitos and/or bats flying in because we have SCREENS.

    Overall, I find it quite interesting to see which things we all value the most, and miss the most, from our native countries. I have to say, though, that I’m really looking forward to moving back to the US in a few months, because I really want to work towards improving my own country. Idealistic, I’m sure, but true.

    BTW, you’re right about the shutters. Amazing.
    .-= Andrea´s last blog ..Things I don’t miss from France, part 1 =-.

  • http://www.edgeoftheforest.wordpress.com Andrea

    I know I’m late in commenting, but great post!

    I especially agree with the “limits” one – agreed. The wasteful excess of just about everything here in the US is quite bothersome to me, after living in France for just 8 months. A/C, huge watered lawns, huge portions, etc…

    On the other hand, I LOVE being able to keep my windows open here in northern Wisconsin without mosquitos and/or bats flying in because we have SCREENS.

    Overall, I find it quite interesting to see which things we all value the most, and miss the most, from our native countries. I have to say, though, that I’m really looking forward to moving back to the US in a few months, because I really want to work towards improving my own country. Idealistic, I’m sure, but true.

    BTW, you’re right about the shutters. Amazing.
    .-= Andrea´s last blog ..Things I don’t miss from France, part 1 =-.

  • http://www.marieinlille.blogspot.com/ Marie

    What an amazing post !
    I wanted to leave quite a long comment but got an error message about my email address and lost my text…
    See if I remember it well : First, thanks for all you said about France.
    Below is my list of, being French, what I really miss from the US :
    1- Very high level in healthcare : I am sure that I could get a better chance of surviving a big disease in the US than in France (provided that I have insurance in the US of course). I loved American doctors, American dentists, American pediatricians. I loved giving birth in the US (and I know I was lucky to live close to Boston for that) and I am not sure I’d feel good if one day I have to give birth in France !
    I also don’t like having to talk to my ob completely naked on the examination “table”…
    2- I’d love to have screens on my windows during Summer
    3- Customer care, real customer care
    4- Cheerios
    5- Oatmeal (with apple & cinnamon)
    6- YMCA or being able to exercise at almost anytime anyday
    7- Wider parking spots
    8- School buses : having to drive my children back and forth is a huge waste of time and put a war zone around school every morning
    9- People actually respecting rules (well, most of them, most of the people)
    10- Clean, spotless public restrooms
    11- High speed Internet through cable set up almost instantly instead of ADSL through phone with you-have-to-wait-2-weeks-m’am-before-being-connected
    12-Target…but here, I am being French I guess !!
    .-= Marie´s last blog ..Summer Time =-.

  • http://www.marieinlille.blogspot.com Marie

    What an amazing post !
    I wanted to leave quite a long comment but got an error message about my email address and lost my text…
    See if I remember it well : First, thanks for all you said about France.
    Below is my list of, being French, what I really miss from the US :
    1- Very high level in healthcare : I am sure that I could get a better chance of surviving a big disease in the US than in France (provided that I have insurance in the US of course). I loved American doctors, American dentists, American pediatricians. I loved giving birth in the US (and I know I was lucky to live close to Boston for that) and I am not sure I’d feel good if one day I have to give birth in France !
    I also don’t like having to talk to my ob completely naked on the examination “table”…
    2- I’d love to have screens on my windows during Summer
    3- Customer care, real customer care
    4- Cheerios
    5- Oatmeal (with apple & cinnamon)
    6- YMCA or being able to exercise at almost anytime anyday
    7- Wider parking spots
    8- School buses : having to drive my children back and forth is a huge waste of time and put a war zone around school every morning
    9- People actually respecting rules (well, most of them, most of the people)
    10- Clean, spotless public restrooms
    11- High speed Internet through cable set up almost instantly instead of ADSL through phone with you-have-to-wait-2-weeks-m’am-before-being-connected
    12-Target…but here, I am being French I guess !!
    .-= Marie´s last blog ..Summer Time =-.

  • Joseph

    french girls are hot. europe rocks.

  • Joseph

    french girls are hot. europe rocks.

  • Joseph

    p.s. i’m currently scouting for a french soccer/football club to support. any suggestions?

  • Joseph

    p.s. i’m currently scouting for a french soccer/football club to support. any suggestions?

  • Steve

    Good lord, my body has been acclimatized to the quality of food/ ingredients for making food to far suproceed any weak notion instilled in me growing up of craving bland american food… I dont think i could do it again @_@

  • ilyasse

    hello everybody, i live in america now since i was 13 years old i’m from Morocco, when i was little i was raised by the french culture, watched all tv series from french channels breff everything was french even the language spoken with my parents and in school….
    now that i’m in texas houston i missed so much the french culture that i was educated on the politeness, the way french people talk the food and the cities, to be honest america is great but there is something missing in me personally here that i think i can find in France, not sure what is it or what i want but im settling to go visit my cousins in france in 2 years and maybe planning on staying there….it will be great since i speak the language fluently with no accent; since the french people are a bit complex about that but like i tell everybody i love the culture not the french people…. i love us as well but long vie a la merseilleise

  • Nuria

    Hi, does someone knows about Franceforstudents? . I am looking for accommodation in France

  • RW

    Am in France now for an extended holiday. OMG no comparison. If you want quality of life in every way France wins hand down. Depressed to be going back to the US on Monday!!

  • http://www.videocasinoreview.com Chris Smith

    Next time I read a blog, Hopefully it won’t disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, Yes, it was my choice to read, nonetheless I actually believed you’d have something helpful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something you can fix if you weren’t too busy searching for attention.

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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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