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Our life in France – reflection

February 28, 2010
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I’m not sure why, but we were very naive when we moved to France in 1992.  When we first flew over, we had a layover in Paris.  Carl decided he was going to look for something to drink and asked me if I wanted anything, and I asked him to bring me a roll of Lifesavers.  I was shocked when he came back and said they didn’t have Lifesavers.  I think we were expecting everything to be the same, but with a little more history and culture.

I realize that things have changed in France since we lived there, because they certainly have here.  Carl has told me of changes he’s noticed when’s he’s been there on business.   I think the internet has made the world smaller in many ways.

Things weren’t always easy for us when we were there.  Some people felt we shouldn’t be there because they thought we were taking jobs away from the French and they made sure we knew it.  I spoke English to the children at Vance’s school, at the teacher’s request (they took English as a second language) and another parent informed me that I was in France and should be speaking French.  (She thought I was British at the time.  When she found out I’m American, she was much nicer.)  Our neighbors weren’t always nice.  I had days when I would think I couldn’t do it anymore, but then I’d get up the next day and start all over again

There were other times, though,when we felt very welcome.  One time we encountered an old woman who kept thanking us for our country’s part in liberating France during World War II.  (I didn’t think she’d ever let go of Carl’s hand.)  It seemed that every student at Vance’s school invited him to their birthday party.  Some of the shopkeepers at the stores I frequented were very kind to me and always made sure they gave me extra attention.

The funny thing is because I was never completely fluent in the language, I always felt like I didn’t quite fit in.  Then, when we made a much anticipated trip back to the US, I didn’t feel like I totally fit in here either.  It’s really hard to explain the feeling.

Overall, living in another country was a great experience.  We got to travel and see and do things we probably never would have ordinarily.  (The picture above is of Vance along the canal in Annecy.  Annecy is gorgeous and that’s one of my favorite pictures.)   I think we gained a greater appreciation for our own country, but also came to understand what it’s like for people who immigrate to another country.

I’ve run out of ideas for posts about our time in France, so this will be my last one, unless I’ve overlooked something that someone wants to know about.  Feel free to leave any suggestions for topics that you might have.

50 Comments leave one →
  1. February 28, 2010 6:25 am

    I think it would be easier to fit in a place where you know the language like America. How the people handle you is one factor too and how much you know about the ways of the country. I guess, when traveling you have to research a bit so you won’t feel like the changes you have to get used to is piling up.

    But that was still a great experience right Kathy? For now, everything was a good memory.

  2. February 28, 2010 6:50 am

    It’s hard to live in a foreign country. I don’t really feel like I belong anywhere any more and I can only imagine how speaking a different language exacerbated it for you. =/ I’ve heard plenty of ranting about immigrants here; everyone is so bitter about all the EU citizens coming in and “stealing” their jobs. I don’t know if that was happening when you lived in France, but there’s a lot of bitterness about it and I often wonder if the fact that I’m obviously American has made looking for a job even harder than it should be.

    Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed this feature, and I’m glad you chose to share all of your memories with us.

  3. February 28, 2010 6:53 am

    I’ve really enjoyed reading about your life in France. I’ve enjoyed seeing the differences in customs and homes. Never having been out of our country, I’ve lived vicariously through you.

  4. February 28, 2010 6:53 am

    I thought your statement that they wanted you to speak french because you lived there profound. In comparison to our country where ESL. I enjoyed reading and learning about another culture. Thank you for the education.

  5. February 28, 2010 7:04 am

    What a beautiful photo – it looks like a painting!
    Thanks for sharing about your experiences of living in France. I’ve really enjoyed reading these Sunday posts.

  6. February 28, 2010 7:29 am

    Kathy, this series has been wonderful. I’ve learned so much. I felt the way you say you did when we moved from Texas to Oregon for 3 years. It was still the US, but it was so different in so many ways. But, I adjusted. Then when we moved back home again, I missed lots of things I had gotten used to there and that we didn’t have here. Again, lovely series.

  7. February 28, 2010 7:54 am

    I lived in England from 1990 to 1994 and I’ve been interested in reading how our experiences overlap and where they differ. Great posts. You’ve inspired me to maybe do something similar someday.

  8. February 28, 2010 8:23 am

    What a lovely shot Kathy. I’ll miss this Sunday series–great job.

  9. February 28, 2010 8:28 am

    I loved this series and I’m so glad you shared you experiences with us. Gorgeous photo!

  10. February 28, 2010 8:56 am

    This was such a wonderful summary post to a fantastic weekly feature. Thank you so much for sharing this part of your life with us.

    The photo is absolutely perfect for the title and the subject matter!

  11. February 28, 2010 8:58 am

    I can totally understand the feeling that you don’t fit in the new country, nor in your own country when you get back home. Been there, done that. I’m at a very unenviable position of not knowing where I belong. I grew up 13 years in Dubai, spent my next 8 years in India, which was supposed to be but hardly felt like. When I finally embraced India as my home country, I came to the US for my Masters, and now when I go back to India, I find it hard to relate with the people there. It is a miserable feeling all over. I wish the world was smaller than it is – maybe we are getting there. But the days when I wake up in the morning missing my mom are some of my most homesick ones!

  12. kaye permalink
    February 28, 2010 9:10 am

    Kathy, this series has been the highlight of the blogging week for me. I’m going to miss visiting you in France. Thank you for all the work you put into this. It’s been truly wonderful.

  13. February 28, 2010 9:21 am

    I’ve really enjoyed your series about living in France – it’s been so interesting to read your posts every week!

  14. February 28, 2010 9:58 am

    The language really was hard for me too in France – I spoke enough French to get by, but never enough to really fit in, so I know what you mean. Plus I always got funny looks because of my America accent — seems Parisians don’t like Americans too much. Thanks for sharing your France stories!

  15. February 28, 2010 10:13 am

    While I’ve spent extended times overseas, I’ve never actually lived in another country. I really respect you for hanging in there and doing your best. I know it wasn’t easy. And what experiences you and your family took with you! I have absolutely loved these posts, and I’m sad there are no more!

  16. February 28, 2010 10:23 am

    I’ve enjoyed these posts so much. I was only in France a week or two many years ago, but I sensed a good deal of hostility too – of course my fractured French probably didn’t help. And I walked very fast (to cram in all I could see!) and I think it came across as aggressive – once some woman just punched me in the stomach as I was racing across the street! But even so, it was a great experience to see another country, and I can see from your posts that living there was even more of one. Thanks so much for sharing all of this!

  17. February 28, 2010 10:54 am

    What a great post! I don’t often think about the experiences people go through immigrating to another country. I’m glad you shared this with us.

  18. February 28, 2010 11:37 am

    I absolutely loved this series. Wonderfully written and so informative. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. And what an opportunity for all three of you — despite the occasional difficulty, you came away with a broader perspective and some great experiences.

    I adore that photo.

  19. February 28, 2010 11:57 am

    I enjoyed your posts on France. I can imagine living in another country would have its good as well as its bad.

  20. February 28, 2010 11:59 am

    I’m sad to see the end of the posts about living in France. I think it would be lovely to read more about your experiences there even if it were little anecdotes/small experiences that you remember. (I’m being greedy here, but I’d just love to hear more.) 🙂

    Your situation does sound similar to what happens with ESL here in the US. I worked as a student helper in ESL classes in school district near where I attended when I was in high school, and I know a lot of people were upset that we were teaching the little kids to read in Spanish first and then in English. They wanted English only. But how do you teach a kid to read in a language he’s barely got a grasp on yet? Sometimes I think people wouldn’t get so upset if they would actually roll up their sleeves and help, or even just step outside their comfort zone to get to know the people they are criticizing.

  21. February 28, 2010 12:31 pm

    I have thoroughly enjoyed these posts – thank you! You were very generous to take the time to share your experiences with us.

  22. February 28, 2010 12:36 pm

    Having never lived anywhere else other than Oregon, I can only imagine how hard it would be to relocate to another country. Thanks so much for sharing your stories. They were fascinating to read.

  23. February 28, 2010 12:59 pm

    First off, the photo is beautiful, a real treasure.
    Second, I do understand that feeling of “dislocation” while being in another country, and when returning to your own. It’s worth it, however, for the change in perspective that it gives us. Your children see the world differently because of their experience in France (I think that’s a good thing), and so do you. That is priceless.
    Thank you so much for sharing your slices of life; they make me wish I had really lived abroad, instead of just “passing through”…

  24. February 28, 2010 3:16 pm

    I have thoroughly enjoyed your Sunday visits with us about your time in France. You’ve helped me see things from a different perspective. That was such a valuable experience for all of you and I’m glad you shared it with us.

  25. February 28, 2010 3:32 pm

    Oh, Kathy … I’ve so enjoyed this series! I feel like I learned a great deal and was thoroughly entertained by each and every post. I’m sorry to see them end and I thank you again for sharing your stories and photographs with us.

  26. February 28, 2010 4:15 pm

    I don’t think I could live in a foreign country. I live in a bilingual province, and the language debates really annoy me. I think it would be great to visit, but not live. I really enjoy having my family near me. I think you have to be very brave to pack up and move to a foreign country.

  27. February 28, 2010 5:04 pm

    Living in a foreign country is definitely not easy, but it can be such an enriching experience as well. I’m glad there were plenty of good things to balance out the bad in your case.

  28. February 28, 2010 5:42 pm

    Thank you for sharing your travel memories about Paris. It has been fun.

  29. February 28, 2010 6:51 pm

    I enjoyed reading this series of your living in France. Thanks so much for sharing!

  30. February 28, 2010 6:55 pm

    I also enjoyed your Life in France series, and will miss its continuation. Merci, Kathy! 🙂

  31. February 28, 2010 8:31 pm

    Kathy, I enjoyed reading about your experiences in France because they were relatively recent — the only books I’ve read about Americans in France (i.e. Julia Child, MFK Fisher) all take place much longer ago than that.

    It’s interesting that you think France has changed in some ways since your stay there. I would have thought it is a country that doesn’t like change (because its so old, etc).

  32. February 28, 2010 9:01 pm

    I could honestly never treat someone in that manner just because I thought they were taking a job away from a citizen of the country. I will miss your posts about your time in France as I’ve really enjoyed them!! 😀

  33. February 28, 2010 9:53 pm

    I really enjoyed these posts. Thanks for sharing.

  34. February 28, 2010 10:17 pm

    This was a wonderful series Kathy. Thanks for sharing your experiences and photographs with us. I love this photo, it is beautiful.

  35. February 28, 2010 11:17 pm

    Fantastic recollections and series Kathy. If there were some sort of award for a series going around I’d nominate this one. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  36. March 1, 2010 8:01 am

    I have enjoyed this series so much b/c you have been so honest in it — sharing both the good & the not so good!

  37. March 1, 2010 1:11 pm

    Thanks for sharing all the posts regarding your time in France, I loved reading them.

  38. March 1, 2010 3:26 pm

    Although I look forward to living in a foreign country for a year or so in the future, you point out what I do kind of dread, which is the feeling of not fitting in. Still I think the experience of being somewhere else and having that feeling will definitely make me appreciate home much more!

  39. March 1, 2010 4:52 pm

    As you know, I have been really enjoying these posts and am sorry to hear that they will be stopping for awhile. It sounds that although things were very different there, that there were good things and bad things about being a foreigner in France. I can imagine it must have been hard to really fit in, and then to come home, and find you don’t fit in there either, well that must have been very confusing. I hope others come up with some more questions so that you can extend these posts for a little while longer!!

  40. March 1, 2010 4:56 pm

    I loved this series…thanks for writing about your life in France!

  41. March 1, 2010 8:15 pm

    I’ve so enjoyed this series … and I think it takes a lot of courage to live in a country where you don’t speak the language. I think everyone should do it at some point in their lives … we’d probably all appreciate our own countries more and have a better feel for the rest of the world. Thanks for writing this series … it was so interesting to read!

  42. March 2, 2010 1:09 am

    I totally understand, we get the same treatment here, like we are taking away the jobs.

    Your posts were really interesting Kathy.

  43. March 3, 2010 1:41 pm

    I loved these posts and hope that you find more topics. Maybe even have some guest posts from your son and hubby about their experiences. Did you all go sightseeing or to museums…etc.? How were those experiences? Did you take french courses before you went to speak french or did you take them while in france to learn more of the language.

    Did you learn any new skills while in France…was there a PTA?

  44. March 4, 2010 1:02 am

    That’s a marvelous picture!

  45. stacybuckeye permalink
    March 5, 2010 12:00 pm

    That is an awesome picture! I remember thinking the same thing, about the most things being the same only more cultured, when we visited Italy and was surprised at how different it really was. I’ve really enjoyed these posts, Kathy and I think you’ve found your place to fit in in the book blogging community!

  46. March 5, 2010 12:23 pm

    I really enjoyed reading about your life in France. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences.

  47. March 6, 2010 8:55 am

    I’ve enjoyed all your France posts although I didn’t comment on every one. I gave up learning French a long time ago — too much of a tongue twister for me. LOL!

  48. March 8, 2010 12:46 pm

    I’m sorry I haven’t been around to read about your experiences in France and comment on them “on time”. Of course I can read them and enjoy them now, but that is not really the same.

    Anyway, I’ve lived abroad twice myself (in US and in Egypt) and its true that there are many difficulties, but I also think that the good experiences outweigh the not-so-good-ones. In my opinion anyway.

    I’ve only visited France once myself (even though it is only a short flight from Copenhagen, or a day’s drive by car or train), but I definitely experienced the exact same “unwillingness” towards me speaking English (since no one speaks Danish and since my French suck big time). People I know who has visited since (I went in 1990) say that things has gotten easier what with the global village and the information highway and all that…but I’ve never really felt the need to go back there, although Paris was indeed wonderful.

  49. March 8, 2010 2:50 pm

    Kathy, I really enjoyed this feature. Thank you for sharing what it was like for you and your family living in France.

  50. March 15, 2010 2:01 pm

    Thank you, Kathy for writing this series – it was fascinating. You have a wonderful time-capsuled memory of France and I’ve loved sharing it!

    I know the feeling of not belonging when you go back “home”. (I had it after living a year in the same country, but on another coast.) I guess you belong where you’ve been a while because things are always changing where you are and where you aren’t. (Does that make sense?)

    BTW your picture of Vance looks it was painted by Renoir. Amazing!

    Thanks again,

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