“When I was at home, was I in a better place?”

I’ve been lying to you.

It’s the conclusion I came to a few days ago, as I was sitting, wide-eyed and embarrassed, at my work monitor. I had just failed at helping my colleague write a formal email in French. While she resorted to her list of standard French sentences to complete her task, I felt horror fill my brain at the possibility of losing my French.

This blog deals with the change in my sense of identity as I adapt to two new cultures, but this reaction proves that my sense of self is not triple at all; if I am so afraid of being de-french-ised, it’s because I still feel fundamentally French.

This simple fact manifests itself every day. France is still the standard against which I compare every reaction and custom I witness. I simply recoil at the idea of changing my nationality. I still feel a pinch in my stomach every time I hear a stereotype on the French, even if I cover it with a snarky approving comment. France is like a parent I don’t get along with; it may infuriate me, but it is still who I am.

And let’s be honest for a second: how can 6 or so years abroad modify 20 or so formative years in France? It might be a tad too early to call myself a citizen of the world.

And yet, there is a reason why I criticise France, and why I left it in the first place. I simply don’t feel at home there, as hipstery and sad as it may sound. I hate the feeling of superiority, the distrust of strangers that is often mistaken for rudeness, even the appalling taste in entertainment. If I’m going to recognise France as my main source of identity, I can’t just ignore the aspects of its culture with which I am not comfortable.

Are they the price I have to pay for the only sense of humour that has me rolling on the floor holding my ribs, for the only food that satisfies my hunger, for the only environment where I can’t make a cultural faux pas? Perfection doesn’t exist, in people nor in cultures.

But I don’t want my host cultures to become secondary, either. France can’t give me the enthusiasm and determination I find in America, nor the politeness and quiet kindness I find in England. On a daily basis, I relate to their ways a lot more than to those of my own country, so why can’t I ever truly accept them as mi…

My phone has beeped; a text message. It’s late in the evening and I have been pondering on these questions for days. It’s my boyfriend.

“I have 10-14th July off.”

A smile creeps onto my face. I relax against my pillows.

A few days at home. That’s what I need.

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About the Author: Elodie Vidal