The DOM-TOMS (France outside of France)

I don’t remember how we got on the subject (I was probably going on and on about Quebec again), but David mentioned a few weeks ago that he can ask to be transferred to St. Pierre et Miquelon. These tiny islands south of Newfoundland are not even an overseas département, but a collectivité territoriale. They are the only remaining former North American colony of New France still under French control. And even though the islands are 16 miles from Newfoundland, the culture is still very French and not North American. The currency is the euro, electrical outlets and phone jacks are French, and most cars are Renaults or Peugeots. Even the milk is imported from France. Though there is one major American aspect. The houses are made of wood and painted in bright colors, with tambours attached to the front doors (I’m not sure what this is called in English) to  allow extra space to wipe snow off boots before entering the house.

The population is only just above 6,000, with 90% of the inhabitants living in St. Pierre and the rest in Miquelon. The original French settlers were Basque, Breton and Norman fishermen so today there is an annual Basque festival and the accent spoken is similar to Norman French. The weather can often be windy and rainy in the summer (highs in 60-70 F range) with a lot of fog and winters are snowy but not bitter cold. The more I learn about this place, the more intrigued I am. And I already checked to make sure they have high-speed internet (1723 households subscribe to DSL, which is a huge percentage of the overall population) since I could not live without internet. David & I were already planning on visiting Montréal and Québec next summer for vacation, so why not stop in St. Pierre too? Maybe we’ll decide it would be a nice adventure to move there, even for only a year or two.

And then I started thinking about the other DOM-TOMs (overseas departments and territories) and how we could live in such distant and unique places that belong to République Française, but are not in France. Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy are in the Caribbean; Guyane is in South America, La Réunion and Mayotte are in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar, Nouvelle-Calédonie, Polynésie Française, and Wallis et Futuna are in the Pacific Ocean. I’m not even sure which TOMs David could work in, since we originally thought he could only work in the DOMs (Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyane, and La Réunion).  With the exception of Guyane, all are islands and I have never lived on an island before. I think I would get a little restless not being able to go on long car trips and knowing that I had to take a plane to go anywhere else. So now I’m thinking I’d rather just visit all the DOM-TOMs, like Rosie Millard is doing, just to experience how far French culture and language extends around the world. Of course we’ve still got several régions in France métropole to visit, including Corsica. Someday I will see all of France. Someday!

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.