Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Almost French ?

What constitutes nationality? Is it simply an act of citizenship? It is personality, experience, years spent in a country? It is whether or not one wants to be something?

I heard a saying that I really liked - it's not that people change in the face of another culture, it is rather that that culture applauds certain behaviors that people already have, or are inclined to... instead of shunning them. The appearance is that someone changes, but in reality - they are allowed to express parts of their personality that possibly they hide otherwise.

Why are we attracted to certain cultures & countries and not others? Why is it that after living somewhere different, we either take part of it with us - or reject it completely? Can we chose to change or not to change?

In the face of what is most different, we see ourselves - more boldly. I have always thought that in traveling - we learn often more about ourselves, our own country than that one in which we are.

I bring this up to discuss some of the thoughts and dialogue brought up here - http://annesinclair.typepad.fr/journal/2008/11/les-us-et-la-fr.html - and in reference to a new new book, entitled I’ll Never be French (No Matter what I do ).

5 comments:

Rochelle said...

Very interesting discussion, I think you do have a point.

I would like to say though, can anglophones pleaseeeee stop writing books about moving to and living in France? Almost French was a great book but there's just been too many, it's become a genre and a boring one at that!

bijou said...

Rochelle - your comment is very true. But why are there so many, why do they continue to sell and sell so well? It is the same for Italy, the U.K. or other countries?

I have read a lot of them and what I love is that there are commonalities (strangely even across anglophone cultures given how geographically spread out they can be... ) about living abroad - challenges, frustrations, and rewards. I think that living abroad is probably one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences we can have. Possibly these books help one to understand that certain things are universal and not to take them personally. Taking things personally can lead to turning inward - instead of integrating into the new culture. It is a difficult experience; it can be scary; it can be discombobulating - but it also can be opening and life changing.

I once heard a metaphor that living abroad is life climbing up a mountain - very, very difficult and going up you only see one step at a time, but once you get to the top - the view is incredible and the world never looks the same.

A said...

I remember when I lived in France one day, as I was journaling at a cafe (I know, SOOOO cliche, but I had to do it... wanted to invoke Hemingway)... it came to me that one thing I DIDN'T expect to notice was how similar we are. I expected to notice the differences and I most certainly did. But as my self-destructive host mom became sloppy when she drank, it wasn't the little dried up shrimps she put out at the beginning of the party that stuck with me as different, as much as her insatiable need for attention and love. She expressed it in a HIGHLY destructive manner, but how is that any different from people in the US or South Africa or Australia. You know?

A said...

One other thing - the "French" are so multilayered. I, for one, never really befriended the French as much as I befriended Francophones from other cultures: Algerians, Moroccons, Swiss, Martiniquais. The other night I went to a party where I saw former Martiniquais coworkers and the conversation just FLOWED! It dawned on me that I feel so much more comfortable and at east with non-French French, than with French French people. So it's all very gray.

Sylvain - Big Apple said...

A french Martiquais is French, I'm afraid to say, A...

I've got the same kind issues at parties in the US, always the same (no layers): drinking light beer, talking, talking & talking, eating, eating & eating... never dancing! Where is the fun? I seldom have had fun since 1 year in the US in those so-called "parties".

You're definitely right about the mountain climbing. Living abroad is before anything a internal journey with oneself.