Our identities as we live abroad

Air travel really inspires me. Waiting without being distracted by daily activities brings me back to my first love: writing what’s on my mind, sharing my thoughts with you. Wanted to chat about our identities as French living abroad.

I’m sitting at a table at the Paul in the Charles de Gaulle train station right now. I arrived an hour ago from Toronto to surprise my grandfather. Tomorrow he turns 90. 90 years old, guys, and he’s still in Olympic shape. I can’t wait to see the surprise on his face, I’ll let you discover it in the vlog I’ll post after I arrive in Ardèche.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about today. I wanted to talk to you about our identities living abroad. A few weeks ago I saw the video of Thomas from the Yes Theory channel,

He announced that he was leaving Los Angeles after several years to come back to live in Paris because he felt like he was moving away from his culture, from who he is, he also explained that he felt a lack of speaking his mother tongues (French and Swedish).

His video made me ask myself the question? Do I feel like I’m losing myself as a French person by living in Canada for 8 years now?

Well, if I’m completely honest, I had never asked myself the question. On the contrary, for the past few years I have had the impression that my identity as a French person has intensified or even simply been created following my departure from France.

I had never asked myself what made me French until I saw the evidence in front of my eyes when I found myself with other French people in a foreign environment: everything we had in common, naturally, without even realizing it, was part of our identity as French.

I grew up with people who questioned my parents’ origins, my curly hair, my dark complexion, the “where are your parents from?” or “Yeah but your parents aren’t from France, are they?” didn’t help me define this French identity either. It seemed like a stupid question to them at the time, but for me it made me think that I was missing something to be French. If I was born in France I am French? It doesn’t matter where my parents were born, right?

Then I left France. And my God, I discovered that I was French! No doubt about it. We share the same cultural references, we laugh at the same jokes, we have the same love for cheese and pains au chocolat.

Maybe unlike Thomas from Yes Theory who evolves in a completely English-speaking environment where he has erased his French culture, I have managed to involuntarily integrate my French culture in my Canadian life.

I realize that for the past few years I have been speaking mostly English all day long, that sometimes some French words take a little longer to come out of my mouth than I would like to admit, that my French turns of phrase have a little English taste. But I am connected to my culture. I have developed resources (this blog, my Instagram, my Youtube channel) in French for my community, I exchange daily with Francophones on Instagram, I collaborate with Francophone organizations in Toronto, I have a segment on Radio-Canada in French. I have been called Frenchie many times.

I really feel like, unlike Thomas, I’ve built my brand around my Francophonie and I can’t escape it (I don’t want to either!).

It’s interesting because the experience can be so different depending on the situation.

I am proud of my culture and I have no desire to erase it. My boyfriend often laughs and tells me: “You’re so French!”. He is right, I am so French and I am proud of it. I am proud to be able to share my culture rather than erase it.

The question arises when you live in a foreign country and even more so when you live in a multicultural relationship. Between the French, Jamaican and Canadian cultures, one might think that there is not enough room, but I think that we are in a very advantageous position: we can take the best of each culture but also question certain aspects by seeing things from a new perspective. I often say that we create our own culture together and for the future.

The question arises when I return to France and everything seems so familiar and yet so far away. It’s not my daily life anymore. I don’t know the music on the radio, the series on TV or the commercials. I follow the news thanks to Hugo Décrypte’s account. Great reference for French people abroad. It’s a summary in less than a minute every day, but not much more.

My mom is coming to Toronto for the first time at the end of July. She will be able to discover my life there. This life that she has been living through a screen for several years. She will be able to discover our habits, our ways of doing things, our supermarkets. I always take my visitors shopping, it’s a great way to discover the local habits. But also and especially … her Canadian daughter.

In France I am very Canadian, in Canada I am very French.

I am curious to see if she finds me different in my habits in Toronto.

Answer in a few weeks.

Thanks for spending some time with me,

A très vite.

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