‘Frenchie’ back to her roots
If you ask an American what their nationality is (while in America), you might be surprised.
Answers vary from “Italian”, to “Portugese” to “Well, I’m half Mexican, one quarter Native American and one quarter German”. Rarely will your question be responded to with a simple “American”.
And it isn’t for lack of pride that we don’t claim our country’s nationality as our own. Historically, the population of the United States of America has continued to multiply exponentially as Spaniards looking for wealth, English looking for religious freedom, or other travelers seeking opportunity, education and safety landed on her shores. Thus, America is a nation of immigrants, with few remaining full-blooded Native American residents.
It is for this very reason, I believe, that most Americans cling to any national identity they can. Because the US is, indeed, a ‘Melting Pot’, and where we came from plays such an integral part in who we are. And as an American girl growing up in New England with a French last name, the identity I clung to from an early age was a French one.
Although I didn’t (and still don’t – for the moment) speak French, I was proud of anything to do with France: I made sure to take French in school instead of only the obligatory Spanish courses my friends were taking, I took my first ever trip out of the country on a school-sponsored adventure to Paris, and talked about plans to travel the world someday.
When I got older, some of my college friends called me ‘Frenchie’, I touted French wines over wine from other regions (even though I knew nothing about wine), and I engaged in a constant battle over which country was better: France or Italy, with a close friend of mine having a similar take on his national identity but with an Italian slant (a Mancuso, as it were).
Fast-forward a few years into my professional career and I found myself presented with the opportunity to move to Paris. Through all my grandiose ideas of traveling the globe and living an international, jet-setting lifestyle, never did I imagine that Paris would be my home. But for me, it seems to be the most fitting, albeit the least expected, next chapter in my life.
I believe that we each have a way of creating our own opportunities, and with a hint of serendipity I can now call myself an expat. What’s more is that I’ve been given the opportunity to explore my French roots, and form a more solid idea of who and what I am. Although when in France I don’t hesitate to say that I’m American, I would argue I’m getting French-er by the day…All images © Nikki Lavoie