English, but “lost in France, in love”
“Mais, tu es française ou anglaise?” This is one of my favourite questions. Although my English heritage is obvious well before I can open my mouth, much of my heart will always be, in the immortalised words of Bonnie Tyler, “lost in France, in love”.
Since my early teens, I harboured an unfounded desire to live in France. No, my parents are not French, no, we did not spend annual holidays in France en famille and no, the French textbooks at school were hardly staggeringly inspiring. It just happened.
As I worked as a language assistant in a lycée in deepest rural France, my students were initially staggered by the amount of places I had visited. This is a compulsion I am relatively unable to control. I feel – rightly or wrongly – that I might even know France better than England – at least geographically speaking.
Harbouring a not-so-secret love for Paris (in spite of the country’s efforts to deter such feelings) I repeatedly au pair-ed in Provence, followed by several holidays in the region. So from Normandie to the Gers, from Paris to Provence, I can say that whilst obvious similarities can be found the length of the Hexagone, France’s forte comes very much in its differences; a controversial statement to say the least.
Having graduated in June last year with a degree in French and Psychology and having sat through numerous job interviews following that period, I remain incapable of explaining where my fervour for French culture comes from. Three years ago, I was engaged in conversation with a taxi driver in the Vendée, only to then realise that it was very much French that brought me to France rather than the other way round. However, with the langue de Molière came not only a second language, but the key to a whole host of friendships, experiences and the chance to discover a fascinating country that is, in many ways, very different to my own.
Talk about the simple pleasures of life (which I may do a lot, you have been warned); there is little better than the thrill of throwing out a few phrases in French to friends or strangers, than inconspicuously managing to merge into French life, and whole-heartedly embracing the perks of une vie française.