Are You Becoming French?

Are You Becoming French?The French say that foreigners can never truly “become” French – no matter what legal status is inscribed upon what identity papers they carry around in their France-based wallets (1). Nor might newly minted citizens or official residents wish to swap their own cultural markers, manners and mentalities for those of the local waiter who serves them their morning café au lait et croissant (to say nothing of totally being able to). But if you’re here long enough, your adaptation mirrors those Escher drawings where columns of black geese or fish on the left fly or swim straight across the page, migrating and mutating by imperceptible degrees, melting into and finally becoming their white counterparts on the right. To a greater or lesser degree, whether you expected to or not, one day you realize that you’re crossing to the other side. How do you know that you’ve arrived? When you (a very incomplete list):

1. sound as brilliantly amusing-funny-sarcastic-snide-snarky-smartaleky in French as you do in your native language

2. bristle at questions about your private life and stop asking others about theirs

3. call 5:00 “late afternoon” instead of “early evening”

4. consider 7:30 a tad early for dinner

5. stop smiling at folks you pass on the street and wonder why those batty tourists are smiling at you

6. succumb to the verity that the way to get what you need from the policeman, clerk, passerby, receptionist, helpdesk is to excuse yourself for disturbing them – no matter how ferociously you’ve heretofore resisted this humiliation

7. know that the 9:00 meeting will not start before at least 9:15 to 9:20 and that no one will remotely consider you late if you stroll in at 9:10

8. find nothing wrong with saying, in English, “I’m going to close the light,” “I have to get down from the bus at the next stop,” “I am here since three years”

9. no longer order coffee with the main course (as opposed to with – or after – dessert)

10. no longer think – let alone complain – about how small the closets are

11. have inordinate trouble typing flowingly on a qwerty keyboard

12. start a series by counting with your thumb (as opposed to index finger)

13. lose the urge to invite new neighbors in for coffee

14. bag up all your purchases before reaching for your wallet

15. ask everyone you know about their recent and/or upcoming vacation (2)

16. paraphrase Henry Ford when it comes to cocktail dresses (“any color as long as it’s black”)

17. routinely say bonjour to the total-stranger bus driver

18. kiss on both cheeks, not only one

19.  put your hand to your ear, thumb and pinky up, middle three fingers folded, in a pantomime meaning “Call me!”

20. have a favorite player in a favorite French soccer team

21. more later….. (and please feel free to add your own below in the comments)

1) If you become a French citizen and you happen to be subjected to an identity check, it’s only your French papers that you must show to the authorities, no longer those of your native country. 2) Not considered an indiscreet question.

by Shari Leslie Segall, a writer who lives in Paris and who authored the book 90+ Ways You Know You’re Becoming French


becoming french

Did you like this article? Then you’ll LOVE the book. Visit the FUSAC Boutique to order your copy and maybe one for a friend! She might also like a Becoming French scarf.

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