petite anglaise

March 24, 2005


Filed under: misc — petiteanglaiseparis @ 4:47 pm

Just so no-one can accuse me of slacking off today… I did write something, but it’s here instead.

But feel free to comment here, as there are no comments enabled as yet chez expatica.


  1. There’s a typo in the article. It’d be neuf-trois instead of neuf-trios… which is where I was born and grew up. I think I didn’t turn out to be a gansta rapper so I think there’s hope for Tadpole! :)
    Your article struck a chord with me: I am French but have spent the past six years in the US and the bit about not being able to feel at home in either country is probably a common sentiment among expats.
    I left France at the end of my (not-so) Grande Ecole so the US is where I experienced a “grown-up” lifestyle for the first time. Of course, being French, I always complain and tell everyone that things are SO much better in France. Yet, each time I go back, I complain (still being French…) there as well and tell everyone that things are better in the US. In the end, obviously, some things are better in France, some others are better here and it’s not going to change any time soon.
    My guess is expats wish they could take aspects they like from each country and form a virtual country where they would love to live and, to some extent, do, in their minds at least…
    I also wanted to say I really enjoy the daily Petite Anglaise report and miss it quite a bit on the week-ends!

    Comment by Chris Laprun — March 24, 2005 @ 5:51 pm

  2. I definitely fall victim to the ‘grass is greener’ syndrome.
    My expat life has been 3 years in France, yet a total of 6 years altogether. I yearn for ‘home’ when in France, but when I am in the US feel alien and disconnected, ‘mal dans ma peau’, and can’t wait to come back, er, home.
    Sometimes a well meaning person asks me, “Ca ne te manque pas trop, chez-toi?” The question invariably sends a quick pang to my heart. (‘Chez-moi’ – but I live HERE, in France.°
    I politely answer, yes, of course, at times very much, resisting the urge to scream,”J’HABITE ICI! LA FRANCE EST CHEZ-MOI!”
    It’s just altogether confusing, rich, fun and painful at the same time. I’m just glad I didn’t stay in Texas.

    Comment by sammy — March 24, 2005 @ 6:28 pm

  3. I used to suffer from this syndrome, but having spent 3 of the past 10 years in the UK and the other 7 in France (not in that order), I slowly realised how much I’d missed about “home”. I rediscovered parts of my old, pre-France self that I quite liked, and found out about whole aspects of life in England that I had completely passed me by. Some I hated but some were pleasant surprises. The best bit was sharing a cultural background with people, laughing til I cried over some old forgotten in-joke. Now back in France, however much I like certain aspects of life here, I’m actually quite homesick…. sob!

    Comment by l'autre — March 24, 2005 @ 7:12 pm

  4. When I moved to Arizona in 1984 at the ripe age of 21 I was so convinced that I had ‘come home to a place I’d never been before’ (courtesy of a John Denver song).

    We left there when I was 24 and I’ve been to other parts of AZ but not to where we had lived. I often wonder if it would be still the magical place I remember or if my life since then has changed me in ways that make really going back impossible.

    Anyway, I enjoyed your writing and think that home is where your Tadpole is. :-)

    Comment by Bob — March 24, 2005 @ 7:34 pm

  5. I agree with your “Feeling a sense of nostalgia for the twentysomething me I was when I last lived there?” comment. That’s what it’s like for me. I’ve been away from New Zealand for 8 1/2 years (3 1/2 of those in France). I miss something about New Zealand every day. There are a lot of things that can’t be found on this side of the world; the smell of the bush (I crave that smell), the climate, the people, the unique scenery, Orcs… And yet now I have my own little family here in France and am developing an ever increasing love for the country, the culture and the people, especially in Brittany.
    I miss NZ home (I say I have two) because I can’t return at will. It requires serious planning. I can’t nip home for a Sunday roast. Perhaps that’s why I will remain a “Displaced Kiwi”. I’ll update you when I’ve spent more than half my life here.

    Comment by Greg — March 24, 2005 @ 9:00 pm

  6. I totally agree that some of the nostalgia is for the person you were when you were in a place; but I’ve found that I do miss something tangible about every place I’ve called home. I’ve thus decided that I can’t live anywhere but one of these 5 places – but then, where’s the sense of adventure in that?

    Comment by Diana — March 24, 2005 @ 9:47 pm

  7. //The best bit was sharing a cultural background with people, laughing til I cried over some old forgotten in-joke.//

    All of life’s ‘serious stuff’ (buying cars, renting flats, getting maried, having kids) has happened to me here in France, but I agree – the shared cultural background is a big factor. It’s nice to know that that you can mention Captain Pugwash or hot-cross buns or Wagon Wheels or whatever and most people will actually know what you’re talking about. I share a lot with my French family and friends, but it’s background that’s been acquired (fairly) recently, whereas my English background seems more innate.

    Great post, Petite – lots of food for thought. Enjoy your Easter weekend!

    Comment by Iain — March 24, 2005 @ 10:44 pm

  8. From your blogging, you don’t seem to see England and the past through such rose-coloured glasses that it’s ‘only’ nostalgia you’re feeling now.

    The way I figure it, the down side is that you don’t feel at home in either country. The up side is that you can feel at home in both countries and, for me, to have that richness is what makes it all worth it.

    Comment by Sierra — March 25, 2005 @ 1:10 am

  9. I think this feeling is peculiar to all expats. I am a Kiwi living in Australia and always confuse people when I am talking about going ‘home’.

    In 8 sleeps I am going ‘home’ to NZ for 2 weeks and for the 1st time in six years trying to get a feel for whether I want to move back there. Yet I know that I shall continue to refer to Australia as ‘home’ when I am there!!!

    I shall come back to Australia with my accent reinvigorated, with a bag full of treats that me and my Kiwi buddies miss and we too shall eat them with that puzzled frown which reveals that same thought “these don’t taste as good as I remember!”.

    Comment by deeleea — March 25, 2005 @ 1:11 am

  10. I like mushy peas.

    (Yes, leave it up to me to miss the point of the article and just pick out something to contradict…)

    Comment by srah — March 25, 2005 @ 1:28 am

  11. After 20 years in the United States (wow – the time just flew by!), I still talk of going home to the UK. Yes, same experience here of longing for certain foods at home and then finding that they’re not quite as good as I remembered. Chocolate here in the US though really ISN’T as good as chocolate from almost anywhere else in the world, but at least it’s pretty easy to buy European chocolate here nowadays. In fact, I can even buy custard at our local supermarket now and “British blend” teabags (i.e. some that have a decent flavour.) Couldn’t do that 20 years ago. That’s nice in some respects, but it’s sad to see that kind of globalization.

    I’ve always managed to make wherever I was my home and when I leave it’s always with a feeling that one day I’ll be back. It amazes me when I realize that it’s 20 years since I was last in Perpignan – that was home for while – and at this rate I’ll probably never get back there.

    After 20 years it still really irritates me to be introduced to someone and have them say “Do I detect an accent?” “Do you miss England?” “Do you like it better here than there?” I’m not the one with an accent, you are; yes, of course I miss it; and given the current political leadership, I’m often embarrassed to be affiliated with either country . . .

    Comment by Susan — March 25, 2005 @ 4:26 am

  12. I know exactly how you feel. I’ve been living in Italy for nearly 12 years, since I was 23. I feel totally English and would never take on Italian citizenship yet when I go back to London now and again to visit family I long to get back to Italy. I wander round London just as I did 12 years ago when I lived there and everything is totally familiar yet strangely alien.
    I hope you and Tadpole have a very Happy Easter!!

    Comment by Hazy — March 25, 2005 @ 9:43 am

  13. Similar to what Sammy said, I don’t feel like I have two “homes” really, but rather none at all. Somehow, to me “home” is more of a feeling than a location, a place where you feel welcome, where you fit in, “where everybody knows your name, and you’re always glad you came,” etc.

    I still don’t have that feeling in France yet. For now, I keep thinking that once I am really an active part of it (perhaps if the school thing works out, or when I have a job), it will feel like home, but I’m doubtful as other times at which I said that (I thought it would be the same once we were married and I lived here well and proper) I ended up feeling more permanent, but still not at home.

    And back in Arizona, it all seems so strange now. I drive through the neighborhoods I know like the back of my hand to find old storefronts emptied, or new ones in their places. Family and friends’ lives continue, and therefore, they aren’t always in the same “place” as when I left, which I somehow unrealistically expect them to be. And I must concur, the home cravings seem to set up unattainable goals, as the food never seems quite as tasty as I remember it being.

    I wonder if that home feeling ever arrives, or if it’s just something you have to get used to… the forever-stranger.

    Comment by kim — March 25, 2005 @ 10:14 am

  14. There’s probably some reminiscence, but a classic case, I think. Which pretty much means you’re doomed, but it’s not all bad. I guess home is just a state of mind – it’s where feels right at a given point in time.

    Living in Paris, the rose-tinted glasses definitely go on whenever I think / talk about Britain, but I’m invariably disappointed when I go to visit friends and family (particularly agree about the flabbiness point – when did it become fashionable to bulge out of the smallest items of clothing imaginable?)

    I reckon that the best thing about being ex-pat is that I can enjoy all the great aspects of France – thereby showing what a great job I’ve done of integrating yourself – whilst dismissing all the less appealing stuff as ‘foreign’. I have often found myself taking a very superior air and explaining in great detail that ‘that would never happen in England’ – usually to a bunch o French mates, over a Ricard or three whilst munching on saucisson at l’heure de l’apéro…

    Comment by Rich — March 25, 2005 @ 10:34 am

  15. It’s all been said above: just to add that exile is a kind of privilege as well as pain; it sharpens the feelings – as well at times turning them that nostalgic pink. You are where your blog and your heart are both. I too love, hate and miss my lands simulaneously – even sometimes the one I’m in.

    Comment by grannyp — March 25, 2005 @ 12:44 pm

  16. I am happy to say I feel at home in France (16 years here now), the UK and New Zealand – I’m so lucky! I love it when people question me about my accent. I love it when people stare at my children because they’re speaking in a foreign language. Missing things just heightens my appreciation when I rediscover them. (Gosh, it sounds like my happy pills are working!)

    I don’t see a comment from Katia – oh wait, I just checked her blog and she’s been shopping for shoes again!!

    Comment by Antipo Déesse — March 25, 2005 @ 12:51 pm

  17. Petite, I’ve been reading your blog for a couple months now, and this entry made me feel obliged to respond.

    I’ve lived off and on in France, starting the year I was 18. By the end of that year, I was head over heels in love with the country, but when comes that inevitable question “Do you think you’ll ever live there for good?” I say no.

    Because I came to the conclusion that I *am* American. I’ll always be fundamentally American. And I don’t ever want to change that. Happily, I can now say I’m an American who has a second homeland, who can loftily run on about chateaux and croissants and chauvinisme, who aches for the special kind of diversity that France can offer.

    That first year in France has ruined me…like you, I’ll never be completely fulfilled in either country. But I’d rather contemplate the wider scope of understanding that has been given me, rather than dwell on the limitations that come with it.

    Comment by sarah — March 25, 2005 @ 7:46 pm

  18. Great article petite!! Congrats!! I feel pretty much like you about my life here in France and back “home” in the USA. But the more time I spend here (6 years now), I truly am feeling more at “home” here in France.

    Comment by Pat — March 25, 2005 @ 8:19 pm

  19. I’m an Italian American living in France for a year. Over the last few months I have fully begun to appreciate all three of my countries for many different reasons. I still miss my family and my friends, but now I have twice as many as before. Home is where the heart is (even if it’s rediculouly cliché to say it) and I think having more than one is definately allowed.

    Comment by Alessandra — March 26, 2005 @ 2:17 pm

  20. Do please explain the time changes in England and France over your holiday weekend, which I hope you thoroughly ejoyed, by the way, because I find it a headache to adjust to one change, let alone several.
    Thanks, Petite; I enjoy your posts so much, keep on blogging!

    Comment by Ruth — March 27, 2005 @ 10:10 am

  21. we change the clocks on the same day as the UK nowadays so nothing complicated – although it used to be about a week out and be rather confusing.

    I don’t know whether I’m coming or going though. Back an hour in England. Forward an hour this morning. Forward another hour tomorrow back in France. Grrr.

    Comment by petite — March 27, 2005 @ 2:03 pm

  22. Thanks to everyone/anyone who bought Over My Shoulder by I Am Kloot as a result of Petite’s gracious plug earlier in the week. The single entered the chart at number 38!! A big result,

    thanks again,


    Comment by Jim in Rennes — March 27, 2005 @ 4:17 pm

  23. I’m an Australian who moved to the US for graduate school (I’ve been here for two and a half years now – although I had accumulated nearly two years of visiting before starting my PhD) and I can’t imagine moving back to Australia. Somehow, I just “fit in” here, in a way that I have never fit in in Australia. Which isn’t to say that I fit in completely here – just better than I do in Australia.

    Comment by Katie — March 27, 2005 @ 5:03 pm

  24. i echoed falling in love with france through the language. did just the same and we are all are…!

    Comment by ruth — March 27, 2005 @ 6:54 pm

  25. I arrived back ‘home’ in SF today from England, laden with creme eggs, Quality Street Eggs (I was tempted cos they are new but they aren’t very good), Tetley tea, marmite, strepsils, Resolve, Butterscotch Angel Delight and a million other English food stuffs I imagine I need with me in America. My own Monsieur Grenouille told me – you should read Petite today, she’s JUST LIKE YOU! He was extra amused cos I’d already blogged about hot cross buns in my absence…

    Comment by sam — March 28, 2005 @ 4:48 am

  26. Hey there… I actually experience the opposite of what Kim feels, only based in the same logic. Indeed, having a “home” is much more of a feeling for me than a location. That said, instead of concluding that I have none, upon reflection, I’ve determined that I have at least four! I don’t worry about throwing around the phrase “going home.” I can be at home in many places in the US, and am definitely at home here in Paris. And I love it.

    Comment by Emily — March 28, 2005 @ 1:06 pm

  27. Woohoooo! :smile:

    Comment by Cori — March 29, 2005 @ 1:11 am

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