About being French abroad: My shocking discovery

” I don’t like French people!”

French wine tag, arrogant frog

French wine sold in Australia. And this is how the world sees us:-)

Something my international friends often heard me say. I know what you’re thinking: “That’s kinda racist! But hold on… isn’t SHE French? What’s wrong with her??”

Let me rephrase that. Or perhaps, be a bit more specific. Ok, here is another ugly truth.. A real one this time:

I used to run away from MY people while living abroad. To an extend that the nice little me won’t even offer her help when seeing/hearing French tourists lost in Chinatown SF. (I know, I know, I am really ashamed now, trust me.)

When I moved to America back in 2005, that was such a big deal to me. Going to San Francisco on my own without knowing anyone, contracting a HUGE student loan all for the sake of becoming a well-educated and fully bilingual lady. I was not gonna ruin it all by staying in my comfort zone, hanging out with French expats, and speaking French all the time. I had goals, I was different; or at least, that’s what I thought.

English only. Remember that's why you're here! - Intrax International Institute

Poster you could find everywhere in my English school.
Don’t speak your own language with your home country fellows. Remember why you decided to go overseas. I asked for that poster when they wanted to throw it away and kept it on the wall in front of my bed for a few years. First thing I could see every morning when waking up.

I used to see French expats the same way …the rest of the world does: Arrogant, rude, not willing to work much, stubborn, not mixing with locals or foreigners, so proud of being “French”, or even better ,(or worse), “Parisian”. There were exceptions of course. I did have a few French friends in America and in England but, they were different, they were  like me. We were a minority.

I used to believe that I was far from all the clichés:

  • I was abroad to stay and/or to succeed in my own way and make the most out of my experience overseas
  • I “think” I have always been very approachable
  • I believe and hope that I am not (too) arrogant
  • I worked hard on having a PERFECT English without accent ..Not saying it worked, just saying I have worked very hard on it !
  • I love to hang out with locals, discover their culture and learning from them
  • I am a hard worker, never been on strike (student strikes before 18 do not count and demonstrations against wars…were happening during week-ends)
  • Camembert is actually one of my childhood nightmare, eating snails grosses me out although, I think I have tried once and I believe.. I liked it! Berk!! (berk= yuck in English)..just thinking about it! AND I am scared of frogs!!
  •  Finally, hum… I never complain ( Where is the font size on wordpress? I need to write that with very very tiny characters)

Well, I came to realize that there might be a slight difference between what I think of me as a French living abroad, what my friends think of me and what locals think of me. A gap as huge as the one in that pic below that you might have seen all over the web:

Being French in the US

Being French in the US- Would love to credit that one but don’t know who made it! Success among the French community though.

While in Sydney, I  stayed in a hostel and slept in a dorm (4 people only , there is an age where you just cannot go for dirty big hostel dorms anymore). I got to share my room with backpackers from all over the world: England, Norway, Korea… and one day, going back to my room, there they were: bottles! Gosh, I was about to share my room with loud party guys.

They came in, introduced themselves…they were FRENCH! Yes, I  thought of lying about my identity for half a second but I did not, and even though I did not get to spend that much time with them, they actually turned out to be  the nicest roommates I had in that room! The most considerate and the less lousy of them all.

I have to confess that it was actually  really good to meet them. I was not sure about staying in Sydney at that point, I was feeling lonely for some reason and just having a drink with them made me feel better. (A Ricard, my first …and probably my last :-p)

Ricard from Marseille...Actually no, they got it in Melbourne;-)

Ricard from Marseille…Actually no, they got it in Melbourne;-)

That strong discusting yummy drink helping the thinking process, I started to wonder: Perhaps, these guys were nice because they were guys…and also perhaps because they were not Parisian … In other words, awww wait!! Perhaps these French guys were cool because they were the complete opposite of someone…. like ME!!

THAT was a shocking discovery!

And that is not the end of it. Stay tuned!

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One response to “About being French abroad: My shocking discovery

  1. Love this post! I grew up in California and live in Spain, where a lot of people aren’t too fond of Americans. I did something similar at first – I avoided English speakers like the plague, pretty much refused to speak English, and tried my hardest to do it all on my own. Since the, I’ve changed my position a bit haha.

    Can’t wait to hear the second part!

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