Hello readers – I am back, bigger, bolder and I do promise, stronger – which means I will be posting twice a week and I will do so every week. I do hope you have all been well. And have enjoyed or are enjoying winter.
Let’s not wait any longer to get into today’s subject : race.
I’ve recently finished reading Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie – which although ok I am nor black or from Africa, I can very much relate to. Yes, I am white and yes I probably have had quite a priviledged life in France. It doesn’t mean I don’t acutely feel unfrench most of the time. I was born in a town -Bergerac in the Dordogne, south west France – in the 80s and every day since my very first day at school I was ‘the little English girl’. I am a first generation French, half English and half German. What does that make me? European? Well I think a lot of you might relate to that if you are born in a similar situation as I was : not French in France, and not english in England, or german for that matter. So where do I f***ing belong? Seems like a simple enough answer to say that I belong where my heart is but seen through the lense of the other – that other being French or English or whatever else-..well I am something of a strange foreigner. You don’t need to be black or from North Africa to feel this stigma and it does stick to you your whole bloody life. Just the other day, my work doctor asked me how long I’d been in France? Erhhh… well just about 30 years!!! Most of my friends will tell you that I speak french like a french person, but that I have a different intonation. Well does that justify the question of my identity? I wonder.
I can start with my mother : she still has quite a strong british accent and she’s been going to the same bakeries for over 30 years, yet they still treat her as a tourist. She once had a phone interview -yes it was in french- to work as a guide for a cave, where the other person asked her if she spoke french.. she was speaking french during their whole phone conversation. She’s been living in France for around 35 years, speaks, reads and writes french fluently. Does an accent have to mean that you cannot speak a language? In that case how many of us don’t speak any other languages? Who truly loses their accent when acquiring another language? Besides saying you can’t understand another because of their accent is bullshit. Not making an effort is ridiculous. Can’t we make open mindedness compulsory? My mother has had to deal with this kind of backwards attitude her entire adult life. When will it stop? I reckon that’ll be when she leaves. That strange english woman… who doesn’t behave like all those other english tourists and yet is still here. The problem with my mother is that she doesn’t fit the usual British stereotype – she isn’t wealthy, she’s isn’t old and retired and she struggles with her life just as much as most people down there.
We should probably go back in history – just a wee bit- , not that that excuses any behaviours I have mentionned or forgotten to. La Dordogne is part of the Aquitaine region which used to be British back in the 12th and 13th century. So the history between french and brits here is very rich and very bloody – I mean you’ve all heard things about the 100 years war- and should you ever visit this region -something I strongly recommend- you’ll see and visit plenty of reminders. Now in more recent years the Dordogne has become somewhat of a spot where brits buy their holiday and retirement homes. They tend to buy old and run down buildings, and restore them which adds great charms to the areas. On the other hand french people do not like this – they say it brings up the price of houses on the market and because of the tourists buying up the properties, french people can’t afford much. Well let me assure you, most of my childhood friends from the Dordogne are doing fine and most own houses. When you go to the markets -llike Issigeac for example or Sarlat – it’s funny to see that a lot of the people are brits. But don’t they contribute to the wages of the locals by encouraging tourism and all that has to do with that.
Considering race in France, it’s something inherent to our society here : french people highly dislike foreigners. I know this is no exception and that each country has to face racism. And I am not saying that all french people are this way. But they sheer number of them is impressive. And with the recent events in Paris, things aren’t getting any better.
Anyway, time for me to go and refill my cuppa tea,
so until next time y’all 🙂
And please share with me and the other readers your own feelings of alienation or being a foreigner? 🙂