Blame France

Adjusting to France, Living Abroad

Narrator’s Voice is heard: 

“Does this ever happen to you?”

Queue photos of a woman carrying a grocery bag that breaks, a man having a car splash water on him, a couple having the doors to a theater shut in their face.

“Do you ever feel like you just want to throw in the towel, like the world just isn’t on your side?”

Show image of unattractive depressed person looking out a window on a rainy day.

“What if you could change all that?  What if I told you that there is a way that you could never have a bad day again and nothing will ever be your fault?”

The word “HOPE” flashes across the screen.

“Follow me through this infomercial as we tell you more about this exciting side of living overseas.  We’ll explain how everything that happens to you while in another country is actually just the result of that country and not your personal actions.

Do you remember that cold you got last winter?  That cold was your fault for drunkenly making out with a stranger in January (*The bottom of the screen scrolls “get checked for meningitis”).  But I guarantee that if you come with me on this journey, you will learn that any cold you get overseas is not the fault of your own stupidity, but instead, the fault of your host-country for having weird virus strains.  If your grocery bags breaks; it is because that country has crappy grocery bags and not because you overloaded it.  If a car splashes you with water, it is because the people in your host-country are jerks; it is never just an unfortunate accident.  Don’t stay trapped living in a world where bad luck and bad days just happen at random, instead, live in a world where you have something to blame.

Show sun peeking through clouds as people waving different flags dance together in a field. 

As you join us on this journey, please remember our motto:  There are no bad days, just bad countries!”

Scroll at bottom of screen:  DISCLAIMER: We are not responsible for any individuals assaulted, arrested, or kicked out of their host countries. 

And scene.

Every once in a while, I will go through a phase of blaming everything that is wrong in my life on France.  If I have had a bad day or if someone is mean to me it isn’t just random coincidence; it is the nefarious nature of France.  It’s a sort of expat trick that no one ever really talks about.  Basically, you can glamorize your home country and decide that all misfortunes that befall you are based directly on the culture, government, and personality of your host-country as opposed to just dumb luck or your own poor behavior and choices.  It’s fantastic; really…except for the fact that you are completely ignoring personal responsibility and setting up your home country to disappoint you hugely (no big deal, right?).

Luckily, I only go through these phases occasionally.  More often, I take it the other approach which is that it is all personal.

“WHATEVER!  I just want to go home.  I’m not having fun; I don’t like it here anymore.”

(No, this is not a child crying from home-sickness at summer camp; this is me.)

“What’s more,” I continue.  “I don’t think France likes me being here either.” I say this with the best “conspiracy theory” voice I can muster.  “It’s like it’s trying to kick me out.”

MB sighs.  “France is not trying to kick you out.”

“How would you know?!  You are not France, are you?  Heck, you lived overseas for the past six years; France probably doesn’t even talk to you about its plans anymore!”

This is the tack that I take when I have decided that missing the tram, getting yelled out by a professor, and burning dinner is actually a passive aggressive message from France telling me to get the hell out as opposed to just a series of randomly unfortunate events.  I mean, it must all mean something, right?  It isn’t just coincidence; France is plotting my demise.  …Right.  It’s personal not business.

It is one of the weird things about being an expat – that you can blame bad luck on your host country or that you can decide that your host country is trying to push you out instead of being forced to embrace problems head-on and realistically.  It’s really just an extension of the “grass is always greener” idea, the lie that the “other” is the better.  The reality is that bad days and bad luck can happen anywhere and it doesn’t matter whether it is in the place you were born, a place you’ve visited once, or a place that you have lived for a few years.  Bad luck isn’t a place’s fault at all; it is just coincidence and a consequence of existence in our Universe…so for now we have to deal with it.

Though, I have no doubt that once a new Universe is discovered and people move there they will blame that one for everything and think that this one is perfect.

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Fourth of July: for Lafayette

Conversations with France, Holidays in France

Me:  Hey France!!!  France!!

I wave trying to get France’s attention.

France:  Ah, bonjour.  It is the Américaine.

Me:  Yes, it is the Américaine.  Why do you say that like you don’t know who I am?

France lights a cigarette and shrugs.

Me:  So, Happy Fourth of July!!

France:   Ah oui, your independence.  Why do I care about this?  This is not my holiday.  Take your Américain enthusiasm somewhere else, huh?  It fatigues me.

I put my arm around France’s shoulders and keep walking.  France looks at my arm as though it were a poisonous snake. 

France:  Why are you touching me?  I do not eenjoy thees.

Me:  Well get over it buddy, I’ve allowed about a million strangers to kiss my face over the past 16 months and that hasn’t made me comfortable either.

France:  Such brutes, you Américains.  To kiss someone’s face is polite, gentile not like this horrible hugging business.  Why do I want your fat body pressed up against me?  (France shivers)  Grotesque!

Me:  What?!  I’m not even fat.

France:  Yes, but you are Américain so you might as well be fat.  I can’t help it; I hear the accent and this is what I see.

Me:  You don’t want to know what I see when I hear your accent…

I say this menacingly. 

France:  Pfff…this is what you will never understand, little Miss America, I don’t care what you see when you hear my accent.

Me:  You’re impossible.  I don’t know why I keep trying to talk to you.

France:  Because I am fascinating.

Me:  Irritating as well.  I’m just trying to celebrate my Independence Day and you have to bring me down.  I mean, you know that the French helped us significantly during the American Revolution.  You supported us.

France gives me an eye roll.

France:  Ouais.  It was a long time ago, non?

Me:  Yes, but you know even in WWI, we honored Lafayette who helped during the American Revolution.  There was even a Lafayette Squadron.

France:  Typical Américain, so overly sentimental.  Wasn’t he declared a traitor later?  I seem to remember that.

Me:  UGH!  YOU exhaust ME!

I start to walk off.

France:  Très typique!

France says this loudly to stop me.

France:   I am finally interested and you walk away.

This time I roll my eyes.

France:  So, what are you going to do for this holiday?  Talk too loudly and wear tennis shoes everywhere?

France casually lights a cigarette and sniggers.

Me:  Haven’t decided yet, what are you going to do for Bastille Day?  Feign boredom and wear scarfs in summer?

There is a momentary stand-off and then France nods.

France:  Bien joué.  You are learning.

Me:  I think we will probably have a party for the fourth.  You know, lots of food and decorations, patriotic music; I’ll probably wear red, white, and blue.

France:  Ouais, sounds like you, everything has to be over-the-top and too much.  Why do you need to decorate your houses all the time?  I don’t understand this.

Me:  Oh please, like you aren’t going to be running around screaming the Marseillaise and waving the Tricolore next week!

France:  I most certainly will not!

France is indignant.

Me:  Do I need to bring up photos from last year?

France turns bright red.

France:  What?  No!  I don’t know what you are talking about…I am France, I don’t act like that.  You are the reedeeculous ones.

I give France a smirk.

France:  Fine.  Maybe we decorate a little, certainly not like you tacky Americans.

Me:  Certainly.

France lights another cigarette.

France:  So, I am invited to this fête?

Me:  I didn’t think you would want to come.

France:  I didn’t say I wanted to come!  Mon dieu!  Everything must be a challenge with you always.  Pfff…

France looks everywhere but at me. 

Me:  Oh France, you know you are invited.

France:  Well, I should think so.

Me:  Wait, why?

France:  Pff…always the same.  You know we did help you to win, without us there would be no Etats-Unis, huh?

Me:  But I already sai–

France interrupts me. 

France:  So yes, I will be there, I will bring some good cheese, something French that will actually taste nice, you know, for Lafayette and all that.