20 Years Later What Am I More American Or French?

Riverie - FranceInteresting question wouldn’t you think?  Or maybe not, you’ll let me know.

One thing with me is that my brain keeps working 24/7 thinking about “what to write” because I do write a lot. And once in a while a thought comes up, and it becomes the headline of a blog post.

So, a questions that popped to my mind as I was doing something that had absolutely nothing to do with this was, what would I say I am more after 20 years in the US,  Am I more French or am I more American?

Do you want to take a guess?

I almost spent half of my life in both countries, but France is still beats it by just a few years now.   However, I’m sure that you know that’s not so much the amount of extra years that counts, but which years we’re talking about.

But for those who might wonder what it’s like for someone to have divided their life in two different countries and cultures, one of origin and the other of adoption, so to speak, which one is stronger, or where and when one is stronger than the other?

So, in this fun summer post of this series, I thought I’d interview myself to give you both the questions and the answers of my feelings about the US and France.

After 20 years in the US, what language are you more comfortable speaking?

Well, after 20 years I’m still more comfortable speaking French.  Especially if I’m nervous.  I’m never nervous speaking French.  This, however, goes away when I write. I am totally comfortable writing in English. Probably why I love to write.

On the other hand, the French Grammar being so tough, and the fact that  I’m not writing French much anymore, except when I write to my mother’s lawyer for family business, I have to be very careful.

After 20 years, what did you learn about both French and American people?

When I left France I have had it with French people and I was so ready to get away from them.  After 20 years in the US I learned that French people are not that bad after all.

Nobody’s perfect.  People are people.  They are just influenced a whole lot by their culture, but that doesn’t make them better or worse.

Dinner Table - FranceAfter 20 years, what food do you like better, American or French food?

Hum, that’s a tough one…. Let me think…. Just kidding.

After 20 years, what do you miss most about France?

The food.

After 20 years, what would you say the biggest difference between the French and American culture Is?

French love their time off and take anywhere from 4 to 13+ weeks of vacation a year depending on what job they have.  My brother who works for the French police has close to 15 week of paid vacations. No wonder he was never tempted into coming here.

American work, work, work all the time. Don’t even take time to eat and barely take their 2 week vacation if they are reminded of it.  This is what divides the two cultures probably the most to me.

I think that’s why Americans took the French phrase “joie de vivre.” That’s where the quote was born.

After 20 years, in what language do you swear the most?

I can swear in both languages, but if I’m alone in my car, I tend to swear in French.

After 20 years, what language do you speak to your cat?

Since I got them I’ve been speaking to my cats in English, Spanish and French, depending on my mood and circumstances. Yes, my Sophie is a multilingual kitty.

After 20 years, are you living habits more French or more American?

After 20 years, my eating and overall living habits are more French.  Those early habits stick like 10 tons of super glue.

I eat at regular time.  I don’t eat snacks.  I use very little air conditioning.  I open my blinds and windows.  I cook my own food.  I eat on my patio.  I don’t drink sodas.  I hang my clothes outside at times… I’m sure there’s more.

Country - FranceAfter 20 years, who are you more comfortable asking for direction, French or Americans?

Americans, no doubt.   They are overall friendlier when it comes to that.

After 20 years, who do you think has the most sense of humor, French or Americans?

The French.  French’s sense of humor is way up there! I don’t know of a culture making more fun of themselves.

After 20 years, who think the most of themselves, the French of the Americans?

Both.  These are two people who think they’re the best.

After 20 years, who is more accepting of the other’s language, French or Americans?

The French are way more accepting of the English language than the other way around. Americans don’t like songs they can’t understand. French don’t care as long as it sounds good. That’s why lot of British and American singers do fine in France and no French singers can be heard int he US.

After 20 years, who is easier to trust the first time you meet them?

An American friend of mine told me that Americans are great manipulators and that’s why he told me that I was being naive a lot of times.

With the French it’s more like what you see is what you get.  So, in a wide generality, it easier for me to trust or not trust a French person on the first meeting with them.  They are not going to give me the smile if they don’t feel like it.

After 20 Years, where do you feel more comfortable, the US or France?

The US. As a matter of fact, when I return to France I feel a little funny. It’s like French people can feel I haven’t lived there for a while and they even try to speak English to me at airports and stuff.

This usually annoys the hell out of me, and then I become rude asking them why the heck they’re trying to speak a bad English to a French person.  Not pretty.

Also, people don’t care about what you do in the US. My mom noticed l that when she came here. One day she told me that here people don’t look at you no matter what you’re wearing or doing.  In France people would look at you if you’d do certain things that are a bit strange.

So here you have it… Here are my thoughts after 20 years in the US.

Let me know what you think.
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18 Comments

  • Donna MerrillTwitter: donna_tribe says:

    Hi Sylviane!

    I can’t stop laughing thinking of you swearing in French in your car! It reminds me of my Italian family who spoke English all the time, but when it came to something that they got upset about, the Italian curses flew out of their mouth. Well so much for my second language lol.

    I’m sure the food is so much better in France. I have a friend that is here in the US from France for 30 years. She always raves about how different the food is in France. How she can eat so much there and not gain one pound.

    As for our work hours, I cannot believe your brother has all that time off and gets paid for it. How wonderful. That always puzzled me – People who have jobs here in the US only get two weeks off a year if they are lucky. Talk about stress!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Donna
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    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Donna,

      Great, mission accomplished! The goal with this post was to make you guys smile and laugh.

      When I encounter some bad drivers I do swear in French a lot. Come out naturally 🙂

      Yes, by far the food taste and variety in France beats the US any time, and I do miss that.

      France is a smaller country where the majority of people live very well, while having way more vacations than people do here. No wonder that it’s one of the countries with the to highest life expectancy.

      My family never wanted to move here because they would have lose out a lot. My brother in vacation, and my mother in health insurance. I don’t blame them.

      Thanks for coming, Donna.

  • Lisa Magoulas says:

    Sylviane,
    I always LOVE your stories. You’ve opened my eyes in so many ways from cooking, to language to the world of France. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed this. AND, you did a great job as interviewer and interviewee here. Your writing always draws me in like I’m there. I really enjoy that. Chuckled at many of these too. Thanks so much for putting a smile on my face and a warm feeling in my heart. You really should write a book. Warmest regards – Lisa

    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Lisa,

      Thank you so much for you kind words. Really warms my heart.

      Everybody is telling me to write a book. Well, I have a new eBook that will be coming up soon to help people write better, and I know I’ve got to continue that personal development book that’s been sitting on my computer.

      Thank you for the encouragement and I’m glad I made you laugh a little 🙂

  • Sue PriceTwitter: suejprice says:

    Hi Sylviane

    I love this one. When you said you had to think about which food you like most I thought you have gone mad. No offense to my American friends but there is no comparison in my mind and French food wins every time.

    In Australia we are more like the French and take much more time over meals than Americans do.

    I want to know one more thing Sylviane. What language do you think in. I mean when you are cooking or doing something other than work?

    A great post. Thank you. They can never take the French out of the French I don’t think 🙂

    Sue
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    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Sue,

      Of course the one about food was a joke, that’s why I said, just kidding and the very next question is what do you miss the most and I said… food.

      The mind of a bilingual person is a complicated one ya know 🙂 but then maybe that’s why they say that people who speak more than one language are less likely to develop memory problems. I have an excellent memory for the most part.

      So, this said I think in both languages. When I think about France and my people there, I catch myself thinking in French, but when I think about anything else here, then I think in English. If I think about things related to my Spanish friends, I also think in Spanish.

      But it all comes without any effort whatsoever, I don’t do a thing, my brain does 🙂

      Yes, you can take the man (or woman) out of the country, but you can take the country out of the man.

      Thanks for coming Sue. Always appreciate it.

  • Harleena SinghTwitter: harleenas says:

    Hi Sylviane,

    I liked this post a great deal, or perhaps we got to know a little more of you through your own interview – nice idea 🙂

    I can well understand you missing the French food most of all, though I’m sure you are a good cook as we keep seeing your wonderful recipes you keep trying here. Yes, the Americans are forever working and that’s got it’s good and bad points both, whereas the French know how to have their share of fun. I like that your brother manages to get away those many weeks – awesome indeed!

    I think it’s natural for you to now get to like America more as compared or have that as your preference over France, though the old memories are at times hard to take away. I can imagine how you must be feeling when you go back there.

    Thanks for sharing this with us. Have a nice weekend 🙂
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    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Harleena,

      Yes, that’s a bit like looking into my life as I interviewed myself. The idea came to me all of a sudden as most of my ideas, and I jumped on it, because I thought it would be cool.

      I do not like the US more than France, though, I like France forever because it’s still home, but the US also became my home after so many years. There will always be things I like better there, but there are things I like better here.

      Thank you for coming 🙂

  • Susan Neal says:

    Hi Sylviane,

    Absolutely loved reading this post – a great interview, providing fascinating insights into both cultures. I laughed at your bit about wanting to get away from the French but then realising they’re not so bad after all – that’s a fairly typical “grass is greener” experience that we all have.

    I was interested to hear you say the French have such a great sense of humour – I’d never have guessed that.

    I’d heard about the holiday thing, but was gobsmacked to hear your brother has 15 weeks paid leave – that’s more than double even the longest serving public sector workers get over here, and I thought we did pretty well. I think it’s a healthy aspect of the French culture (as long as it’s affordable!) – I admire the US work ethic, but find it a bit intimidating and exhausting.

    Surprised you didn’t mention fashion – I suspect I’d feel very scruffy in France, as I’m usually dressed for walking the dogs, and I get the impression they’re very fashion conscious – or is that just in places like Paris?

    Thanks for a great share, Sylviane – very entertaining and enlightening 🙂

    Sue

    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Sue and nice seeing you here.

      Yes, the grass is always greener on the other side, isn’t it? So very true.

      It’s interesting how a lot of people are not aware that the French have a huge sense of humor, maybe because of their grumpy reputation. But I can assure you they do. More than Americans. That’s why here I’m very careful of what I say, because of my French culture I may offend some people that just don’t get it. And, yes that has happened to me, while it never did in France.

      My brother had 13 weeks vacation within 2 years of working as a mechanic for the police, he since then graduated to 15, but he’s been there for over 20 years now. But that’s way more than anyone being 20 years in a company in the US. He is just not allowed to take them all at once, though, but that is certainly not a problem for him.

      Yes, I could have mentioned fashion. Now while people don’t walk around like in magazines they tend to have better dress taste then they do here for the most part, but there’s always the exception here and there you know 🙂

      No, there isn’t any difference if you are in Paris or anywhere else in France when it come to dressing up or down.

      I’m glad you enjoyed this post, Sue 🙂

  • AdrienneTwitter: adriennesmith40 says:

    Poor Sophie!!! You speak to her in three different languages! Does she just look at you like she knows what you’re saying or ignores you altogether? That’s just too funny.

    Of course I’ve never lived anywhere other then the US so I can’t really say but I would think if you were born and raised in France that you would still feel more of a pull to them for most things. Whether you’ve lived here longer or not.

    Now I think that we’re pretty darn friendly but I think it also depends on where you live. Also a big part of that too Sylviane is of course the type of people you attract to you so I never really bump into the meanies or those that take advantage of me. Not anymore.

    That was an interesting interview so thanks for doing that to yourself. Pretty cool and I learned some new things about you again. I love when that happens.

    ~Adrienne
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    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Adrienne,

      So this is how it goes with Sophie. When my mom used to come visit, my kitties heard more French then English for 3 months out of the year, but if I’m alone, I do speak to Sophie mostly in English, but there are sweet things that I say to her in French because it’s cuter, and because when I first had Tony and Sophie I was still with my ex-husband and a lot of Spanish was in my life, there are also some sweet words I tell her in Spanish by habit.

      Sophie is a cat that responds to talking a lot, she always answers to me and sometimes even talks first, like if I come in a room where she’s in. she is so smart. But I don’t think she cares what language I speak to her. Anyway her favorite phrase is “let’s go out.”

      Yes, your country of origin sticks, Adrienne. No doubt about that.

      You’re right, you find the people that you attract. Problem with me I used to attract all the wrong ones 😉

      Thanks for coming and have a great week!

  • GladysTwitter: coachgladys says:

    Hello Sylviane

    I love reading about your country. Yes, you are too funny.
    Like Lisa mentioned….You really bring your readers in with your writing. I love it. I feel like I am getting a private one on one lesson about France.
    I find there are so many interesting things about France that it can be so easy to develop a desire to visit.
    Correct me if I am wrong, is it true all the new styles first come out in France/Paris?
    It is amazing how many weeks people get for vacation. That is awesome, because it can give people enough time to have vacation” but also relax and regroup if necessary.
    Keep writing about your country.
    As you know, I am from a Hispanic background, but I don’t think in Spanish. LOL
    Thank you again
    Gladys
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    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Galdys,

      I sure appreciate that people seem to like what I write. I love to write, so somehow this love comes out in such a way that people enjoy what I write.

      I am not sure if fashion comes to Paris first, but It’s something I’ve heard of, but I wouldn’t say that I know it, because I really don’t.

      yes, no French would like to have 2 weeks vacation a year, that’s why while there are some French people living in the US, it’s still a small number. In any case French come because they want to, not because they have to.

      Thank you for you visit, Galdys and have a great week ahead!

  • Carol LynnTwitter: carollynnrivera says:

    I saw this title a few weeks ago and I knew I had to check this out! It’s a fascinating question and I love your answers. Even though I have never lived in two countries, I have lived in 2 states in the US and they might as well be different countries sometimes! I can imagine exactly what you mean about being more or less one way or the other depending on the circumstances.

    I got a good laugh out of your multilingual kitty. And I can imagine that you miss the food. I don’t even know what American food is (except maybe hamburgers? Or barbecue??) All I know is when I cook and go out to restaurants they are Spanish, Mexican, Cuban, Thai… not really American! I guess a steakhouse would be American. I can live with that 🙂

    I can also see some cultural differences that you mentioned – about who is more polite, or more genuine. I would love to see more posts like this, I really find different cultures fascinating and I wish I could travel all over and live everywhere just to see them!
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    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Carol,

      I’m so glad you did make it to this post, because as much or as little as I know you, I would think that this is a topic that interests you 🙂

      No doubt there are differences between cultures, and I think that they are so fascinating too. I’ve inserted myself (so to speak) in quite a few of them in my lifetime, and I love to analyze them. I know the Hispanic, North and South African , and Korean cultures pretty well too, and there’s good and bad in all of them.

      Thank you for coming here. Always appreciate it.

  • Jeremy Norton says:

    Hi Sylviane,

    I guess wherever you may be, at the end of the day, you will still feel most comfortable with the language you grew up with.

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