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vendredi 6 avril 2012

F is for...

France.
Easy, this one.
My first experience of France was when I was almost 15, on a school trip. We went to Paris for a few days, just a group of girls from school (yes, it was an all girls' school. Yes, it sucked) and my two favourite teachers. I remember little of what we actually did, though I have a vague idea that we went to the Eiffel Tower and Montmartre. I do remember undercooked steak in a restaurant and the hotel with the lights on timer switches meaning we had to go up to our top floor rooms in a relay...
After that, my parents and I drove through France every summer for 4 years on our way down to Spain in the summer for a couple of weeks, but the French scared me and, even though I theoretically spoke more French than both my parents combined, I could barely utter a word.
I'm not entirely sure why I chose to study French at university. I was probably better (then, anyway) at English literature. But I chose French, added in Spanish and there you go. My dad's disappointment in me started there.
I spent 3 months in Paris in my 3rd year at university, studying French at the British Institute and working at the (now no longer) Burger King on the Boul'Mich (boulevard St Michel for the uninitiated). It was not a particularly happy time, as I recall it, though the flat I shared with two friends (on avenue Daumesnil) was lovely.
So it's kind of surprising that I voluntarily returned almost immediately after graduating. And have been here ever since. Amazingly, I'll have been living permanently in France (first Paris (very briefly), then Lyon (7 years), now Montpellier) for 20 years this summer.
My French is pretty much fluent. Yes, I still make careless mistakes about "le" and "la", mainly because I can't be bothered to make the effort to learn them correctly, but I think my accent is pretty damn good.
I've only ever worked in France, my children are essentially French (more than they are British, anyway), my whole life is here. Yet I've never taken out French nationality and I most certainly do not feel French. Not at all.
Many things about life in France bug the shit out of me - lack of civillity being the main one, I should think - but many others make me sure I could never move back to Britain (the standard of living seems better, though maybe living in the south with a generally pretty wonderful climate has something to do with that).
As a non-citizen, I can't vote in the upcoming Presidential election (less than 3 weeks to go!), though I'll be watching the results come in on TV like everyone else, and will moan if Sarkozy wins again.
My daughters have dual nationality (though France is pushing for the abolition of this status, which would piss me off mightily) and I hope that one day they will choose to spend time in Britain.
France is a beautiful country and I have no regrets about my decision to come here. I don't miss Britain (apart from year-round proximity to Creme Eggs and hot cross buns, I mean), but I do miss my friends.
What is true, though, is that I don't really feel like I belong anywhere anymore...



3 commentaires:

rch a dit…

I remember being there in the Navy, it was quite magical to a naive countryboy of 19.

Dawn Embers a dit…

Interesting post. I don't know much about France. My sister has been there and studied french but when I was a teen we didn't go on trips like that, plus I studied spanish. would be an interesting place to visit some day.

Jadzia@Toddlerisms a dit…

I was just thinking about the lack of civility today at Leclerc. After a guy barked "ATTENTION!!!!" at me simply because I darted around him to get where I was going. Which was back to the caisse where the hotesse was waiting for me to bring back non-broken eggs!

That said, I probably will take out French nationality. Mostly because the U.S. punitively taxes its expats. (Essentially, you get double-charged on the social charges, and no credit. And at some point I am working for not much more than the tax bills.)