Monday, 13 August 2012

How to be a Happy Expat Part 2

"You're must be quite a Francophile," people have stated to me on more than one occasion.

The response is a resounding "no", but only in my head. Outwardly, I just shrug my shoulders and say, "Perhaps."

Because how do you explain to someone that hasn't been there that twenty years of language learning, an honours degree, five years in a country, the ability to bluff convincingly about the difference between the different wine regions and a long-term relationship with a very nice French man are not enough to justify the slapping on of that label?

There are many things that I love about France, from the vast scope of its landscapes to the smallest details of its social customs. There are many things I dislike too, most of which I've ranted about  discussed in a mature and sensible manner on this blog already.

When I go home, I experience the exact same thing in reverse. Things to love, things to hate. Things that are better in France, things that the French could learn from us. Comparisons are inevitable.

But while I still enjoy examining the differences on an intellectual level, I find that, the longer I live in France, the less these external differences provoke me to agonise over whether being here is the right decision. It's partly because the longer I've stayed, the better things have worked out. But it's also because I've figured out that choosing to live here doesn't mean I have to love everything about it, and nor do I have to buy into all of it. Likewise, as this very funny blog post explains much more humorously than I could, when things go wrong, it's not necessarily France's fault either.

And that's why I dislike the term "Francophile". A country and its culture is far too much to love or admire in its entirety. Trying to decide whether the country deserves it or not is exhausting as well as impossible. But that doesn't mean I can't enjoy being here.

In summary: am I a lover of France? Perhaps not. Do I love living in France? Oh yes.


  1. I can completely related! I had never really planned to live in Canada. I sort of ended up there and stayed. It wasn't even love at first sight. I always feel bad because I know so many people who dream about Canada and are totally in love with it right away!

    But I grew to love living there, even though I never quite forgot my French roots and some aspects of life in Canada can drive me nuts... like France drives me nuts at times!

  2. I've been known to refer to myself jokingly as 'quasi italiana', which I think covers it far better than 'Italophile'. I live here, I love it and I have no plans to return to the UK any time soon. However, I also recognise Italia's faults, because I'm living them day to day.

    To me, when something or someone is labelled '-ophile', it conjures an image of blind adoration, rather than love. Adoration is all very well, but it gets pretty wearing, and has a tendency to be outgrown after a while. Love, on the other hand - now that's something worth having.

    For better, for worse: Italia, ti amo.

  3. (Aargh. This is Katja from Driving Like a Maniac, by the way. As was the above comment. Tell you what: I'll definitely never be a Blogger-ophile. :P )

  4. Katja, that's exactly what I was trying to say - all the definitions of those -ophile words include this idea of admiration and I find that, when I meet people who feel that way, it's nearly always either blind or superficial. When I lived in Italy I found that my feelings about it were even more up-and-down but I love your blog because it's so positive and brings back lots of happy memories :-)

    Zhu, so interesting to hear that as someone who has actually taken on another nationality, you feel the same way. That's something I want to blog about soon.