I was asked to write about why I love all things French. The problem is, I don’t love all things French. And I’d be skeptical of anyone who claimed to. Just as I would be disbelieving of anyone who professed to love all things American.
I have lived in France for almost five years. On the day I arrived and every day since, I have seen and experienced first-hand the ups and the downs of living in France.
It’s easy to see the good about living in France: warm baguettes, the alluring countryside, strolling along the Seine, watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle on the hour.
But it is by learning to live with the bad, learning not to care so much about the bad and learning to overcome the bad that you discover the great.
That’s when you really love France.
All things french crumble
I am not your typical Francophile. I hadn’t dreamed my whole life of moving into an apartment in Montmartre with a view of the Sacré Coeur and the Eiffel Tower, the soundtrack of Moulin Rouge playing in the background of my life on repeat like my own personal leitmotif.
I moved here partly for work and partly, ‘Why not?’
When I first moved to France, I was hit with the heartbreaking realization that I didn’t actually like French food. I spent hours upon hours investigating the best Italian, Thai, American — anything but French — restaurants around. After a full year, I finally had a respectable (yet short) list of French restaurants I would frequent for the quality of the food and not just for the charm of the décor.
These days, I know which spots to try and which to avoid. I have a list seven pages long of restaurants and bars I still want to try. Having worked for it makes me love the good finds even more.
I also reached a moment when I thought I had already discovered all the major regions of France and that I would have to travel outside of France to be awed by something new again.
But then I did a bit more digging and realized that there was more right here in France to explore than I could ever accomplish in one lifetime.
I am amazed by the variation in this relatively small geographic area: the thatched-roof fishing villages and crashing waves of Brittany, the Oxford-style villages and rolling green hills of inland Normandy; the elegance of Parisian architecture and its gardens, the fairy-tale Germanic-style villages of Alsace, the châlets and high peaks of the Alps; the bright colors of the Mediterranean towns and their glamorous air, the timbered elegance of the maisons basques, the castles and the volcanoes of the center of the Hexagon…
I could go on and on.
Maybe I’ll always be a tourist in France, but if by ‘tourist’ we mean someone who has an eagerness to explore and to discover the new and diverse, is that such a bad thing?
I have lived in France for almost five years and — immigration authorities permitting — I do not plan to leave anytime soon. And that is because I am living my own French dream and not someone else’s.
If you come to France with the romantic notion that life will be perfect, you won’t last. But if you come expecting the good and the bad, you might just never leave.
What have your experiences in France been? Has it been hard or seamlessly easy?
Image Credits © Abby Gordon