Am I an American in Paris?

“…the whole of Paris is a vast university of Art, Literature and Music…it is worth anyone’s while to dally here for years. Paris is a seminar, a post-graduate course in Everything.”-James Thurber

         The market street of Rue Cler is petit, cute, and quintessentially Parisian.  It has all the shops you need in one space, but not under the roof of a supermarket.  Because it has such charm, it’s highly frequented by tourists.  As I hear American accents, part of me recognizes they are from my homeland.  But am I American?  I’ve lived away from America for nearly 9 years, and in addition to that 2 of my adult years were in Hawaii (not the mainland).  

         I stood in line for a coffee today, and as I did, there was an American who spoke Franglaise.  The barista opted to speak to her in English.  The American then said, “merci beaucoup, thank you.”  Both phrases to ensure the staff member understood her.  Yet when I ordered in French, I didn’t speak one word in English.  She responded by speaking to me in French.  Perhaps I am fitting in a tiny bit more than I thought.  Maybe my French is better, or at least I’m attempting to speak French in full sentences or I appear to fit in more?  

         I can’t help but ponder my identity several months into my year here.  It’s more than the exterior of language.  How American am I in my values?  How I represent myself to the world? How I engage with others.  It’s quite interesting the longer one is away from one’s home country, one begins to understand it more because it’s viewed and questioned from numerous angles.  I can also appreciate aspects of it that I have taken for granted, each time I return home, such as closet space, convenience, sense of humor, idioms, and the fact I can understand everything that is being said.

         The shock values is heightened with each trip back to America over the years, and then my eventual return to wherever I am living at the moment.  Where is home?  What resonates with me?  How do I want to live my life?  I will continue to ponder these questions over lattes the next several months…

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