Friday, August 22, 2008

Homesick

I was planning on writing about old Mrs Seffarde next door and the odd things she does, but that will have to wait I'm afraid.

Today is the first time since I moved to France (four months ago) that I have actually felt homesick. I don't know exactly which part of today brought this on but I have such a longing just to get on a plane and go home to my mum and dad, my brother and all my friends. I miss everyone so much. So much. And everything. Everything in Scotland; the rain, the hills, the green of the grass, the Irn Bru, the accents, the TV programmes, the food, the 24 hour shops, the friendliness of locals... God writing it down in a list is only making me feel worse.

This morning I was feeling great. It was pouring down - or as they say in Scotland it was pishin' it doon - and I was so happy because the rain made me feel more at home. I know that sounds so strange, people think us Brits move to France to escape the rain, but after all these summer months of disgusting humidity it just felt so good to see the rain. As I rode to work on the train I listened to Amy McDonald's (a Scottish singer who comes from the village next to mine) album on my ipod and it reminded me of the many times when mum and I were driving to the hospital in the car and we would listen to these songs at full blast, or when we drank a Sunday aperitif together in the conservatory, just me and mum. I suppose this was what set off the nostalgia but at the time I was feeling happy because I have just reserved tickets to go back to Scotland in November so I was feeling upbeat.

But then, as the day went on, I started feeling a little gloomy. Has anyone else who is an expat noticed how freakin' exhausting it is speaking another language all day long? People kept coming to my desk with questions and problems that needed sorting out and all I wanted to do was reply in English. It becomes so tiring speaking and thinking in a foreign language, it really does.

And then, when the work day was finally over, I went to the supermarket up the road where a horrible embarrassing incident that I don't want to talk about took place when I made a total ass of myself because of a stupid old Chinese woman with a bad temper and a crazy accent that I didn't understand at all. (That sentence was really long!) She also had these hideous shaved eyebrows which she had then drawn on in GINGER halfway up her forehead. When I had to bow my head in shame and explain for the second time that I didn't understand her, she got really mad, screamed at me and I just wanted to yell back at her 'I didn't understand because I was too feckin' distracted by your orange drawn-on eyebrows, Biatch!!' But I didn't. Because I'm not French.

I cried silently as I walked home. All of a sudden I felt so lonely. I am surrounded by French people. People that have an entirely different culture to my own. People that speak a language that despite after 4 years at uni and 2 years with a French boyfriend, I still don't speak fluently. People that are arrogant and so, so rude. People that don't know what Coronation Street is!

Everyone forgets that when you move to a different country and have to learn a new language it's not just the language that poses a problem. It's an entirely new culture that you have to learn from scratch.

Since moving here, so, so, many people have told me that I am 'too nice'. Too nice? I'm sorry but when did being nice become a negative characteristic?! Apparently in France, being nice doesn't work. At least seven people have mentioned my problem of being 'too nice' and have also mentioned my naïvety at work and even FP has said I need to toughen up and be a bit nastier. I have tried but I can't change. I can't bear to hurt people's feelings, even if it were my worst enemy. I can't do nasty, it's just not me. But I have noticed that even the supposedly 'nice' people here in France have the ability to be nasty. Maybe that's the only way to get by here...

Am I ever going to 'belong' here? Am I ever going to fit in, to be able to get through life without these hideous daily battles trying to prove myself to strangers that I am not just a stupid foreigner? Or is this what it's always going to be like? Perhaps there will always be those people that instantly judge you because of your accent. Perhaps I will always feel like the alien.

Or worse yet, perhaps being an expat in France will turn me into one of them. Someone who is rude. And not nice...

If anyone from home is reading, I miss you.

A lot.

But I'm okay.

15 comments:

Micah D.L. said...

Lloyd: What the hell are we doing here, Harry? We gotta get out of this town!
Harry: Oh yeah, and go where? Where are we gonna go?
Lloyd: I'll tell you where. Someplace warm. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I'm talking about a little place called Aspen.
Harry: Oh, I don't know, Lloyd. The French are assholes.

Just some fun humor for a fave movie of mine (Dumb and Dumber).

Hell, Princesse, when i moved to CANADA i felt a little lost and confused. Moreso when I moved to Minnesota. It's totally different (and sucky) there.

I can empathize, to some degree. Just don't let the bastard French change your core. That would really be a tragedy.

And no, I don't think all French are assholes. Just the ones that I ran into last time I was there...

Jane said...

Aw Hen! Nae wunder yer scunnered! Dinnae let any o' them uppity French folk bully y' intae bein sumhin yur no, cos yur jist braw the way y'are dolly.

As fir missin hame, jist think o greetin weans on the bus an' jakey neds drinkin bucky in the park! (An' yur no far wrong boot the rain, it's bin pure pishin it doon fur weeks, and the place is lookin like a right midden!)

Anyway, I hope you feel better soon Princess, sending you big hugs and much love.

Jxx

(PS Sorry about the stereotyping!)

samantha said...

To the first commenter - HEY! Watch what you're saying about Minnesota!

To PE - I feel your pain dearie. It sucks but it's all part of the natural process. And unfortunately you *do* have to learn to be a bit rude sometimes. It's not easy - it took me at least two years to get to that point, but once I did, life got a lot easier. I'm not saying you have to go around being rude to everyone, just that you need to stand up for yourself. And once you do, it gets a lot easier. People realize they can't push you around and they back off. It's unfortunate, but eventually you just reach a breaking point where you can't take it anymore and you fight back. And you've got to keep the bigger picture in mind - most of the time, it's cultural, not personal.

Don't get too down on yourself though - we all have our bad days, where we're homesick and tired of speaking French and just want things to be "normal" again. But as long as the good days outnumber the bad ones, it's okay. So chin up my dear, tomorrow's a new day (and it's also a Saturday, which means its a weekend and you can come into Paris if you like!!).

Jennie said...

I know how you feel. I always wonder if I will ever fit in here, and I highly doubt it. I will always be a foreigner, I will never speak French perfectly, and I will always miss home. Some days are harder than others, and yet some days are fine. I've been on an emotional rollercoaster since moving here and I wonder how I manage sometimes. I try to forget the things that I miss about home, but that doesn't help with the things that I don't like about France. :/

T.D. Newton said...

I think you'll be fine. You are you, no matter where you live.

It was tough for me to adjust when I first moved here to Colorado but I can't say I felt "homesick" because I hated every minute of living in Utah. It's okay to miss where you're from, I DO feel homesick about California but my life is different now and things wouldn't be the same even if I moved back there tomorrow. Give it some time, a year or two, and France will feel like home.

Brandon Darnell said...

I've seen your blog a couple of times, and I always envy your life in Paris. Living there is my number one dream, but I know it would cause homesickness too.

I think it is impossible to ever "belong" anywhere you're not native to, even though you can fit in. Being an expat means being torn between two homes, and then not feeling like you belong right away when you return home.

It's an irreversible fact (from what I'm told, at least), but you have so much more experience, and I'm sure you have found that there is more good than bad.

As far as being too nice, don't change who you are to fit in. There is no such thing as "too nice."

Loth said...

Aw hen, that's normal. A Scottish friend of mine got similar symptoms when she moved to York!! She even suffered language difficulties there - we used to pick up the phone and without any introduction she would launch into "They don't understand what a roll is down here! And I said I was going for my messages and they looked at me like I was a freak! And I can't get any tablet in the shops! Help!" Get your own back. Talk to them in English with the broadest Scots accent you can muster. That'll larn 'em!

Ghosty said...

Oh Princesse, you are too nice to ever be *not* nice. It's why we love you! ... And why don't you just take a jaunt home, say one weekend a month? That way you don't get homesick so much, and you get breaks from France and all it's Frenchness. :) It will help, trust me.

Lis of the North said...

Gutted!
For 2 reasons:
you're homesick baby-cakes :(
I just wrote a huge long comment sharing my expat insights and I think Blogger just gobbled it all up!
It gets better. You've done very well to last 4 months. I cried the minute I stepped off the train.
xx

Kim said...

Princesse, I've just returned to France from 5 days in your wonderful country (meet the most friendliest people the last time I was there too - a guy let me use his phone cos mine didn't work, and chatted 2 hours to another on a train)!! I stayed in Inverness and was greeted by 10°C weather, pouring rain and thick mist. But, I loved it there and didn't want to come back... probably because of the lovely British boyfriend I left behind and wont see for 2 months...

I have lived in France for 18 months, my French is TERRIBLE, and I haven't been home (bring on Dec!). There are a lot of times that I feel terribly homesick and miss LOADS of things about New Zealand (and lots of times the homesickness just comes out of the blue, like getting frustrated with needing some stupid little piece of paper to do the simplest thing that would have been ten million times easier at home)... but I also think about the things that I'd miss about France if I was home, surely you could think of some of them... I can't give examples cos brain is not working! I also tend to go and buy some comfort stuff from the supermarket like baked beans, cadburys chocolate, nice earl grey/english breakfast tea, all of which are horrendously expensive, but kinda comforting.

Chin up! and maybe you could head home for a weekend or during some time off! take care.

Chouitie said...

I know what you mean about the rain. It rained here the other day ad I suddenly felt so much more at home.

Apart from the weather here are a couple of other things I miss: curry, pork pies, fresh milk (rather than UHT), salad cream (my belle-mere has put me on a strict regime!), a good old victoria sponge cake made in a proper tin (as oposed to a "moule") with self-raising flour, people getting things done in August and last but not least, people who can understand that not all things work exactly the same in the rest of the world as they do in France!!

I also have the problem of being too nice. Hubby says I'll have learn to stop taking al those little frustrating incidents to heart. Hmmm....sometimes I wonder if we did the right thing coming here, but whatever happens, I'm trying to look upon it as an experience.

Princesse Ecossaise said...

Micah you are TOOOOO cute! Your comments always make me smile. I guess not all of the French are assholes, but because their culture teaches them to be a little less friendly and a little less polite than Brittish or American culture, they can come across that way. It's a shame really, but it's something I will have to get used to. Sigh!

Jane Och aye the noo! Ah t'was grand tae read the stereotypical Scottish dialect. Made me laugh onyways.

Sam I guess that when you choose to live in a new country you really do have to adapt to that culture as much as you possibly can huh? It's a shame, I have always been rather proud of the fact that I amn't one of these rude people you get in restaurants complaining about the cold fries, but I suppose when in Rome... But it's true, the good days definitely out number the bad days and really, I know I will get through this. I will I will I will.

Jennie Don't worry,I think the French will come eventually to both of us. I work with a Romanian girl who has been living here for three years and she speaks fluent frech, albeit with a strong accent. Of course she still makes mistakes but they are the small mistakes that even a French person might make. The language will come, I know it, so don't you worry about that. It's more the culture I worry about, but I suppose as expats we should try to immerse ourselves in the culture as much as possible, to soak it up. If only it weren't so difficult...

TD I agree that things wouldn't be the same if you were to move back to the original country/state. I was so ready to move to France. This was the move that I had been waiting for for the past six years so most of the things I left behind were my choice. I only wish I could bring my family and friends over here with me. Then maybe it wouldn't feel so odd when I look around me and see so many strangers. Moving to a new place often means friends are few and far between so that's just another reason why I can sometimes feel so very alone.

Brandon I think that the problem with being an expat or even an expat's offspring is that you never really will feel like you 'belong' in one place ever again. You go home and you don't know what's been going on, you've missed out on all the gossip, all the news for the past xx amount of time that you've not been there, and can't catch up. And then, living as an expat means that you don't share the same type of past, or culture or childhood upbringing / memories as the rest of the population. You have a different accent so you will always be judged on that first of all. This is what worries me the most. Have I just given up Scotland to move to France so that I will never again feel like I belong in either country?

Loth Please tell me your friend can stil get Irn Bru in York! Because although the lack of tablet in the shops is sad, not being able to get your hands on Irn Bru is torture. This is why every time someone comes to visit me here they are obliged - OBLIGED - to bring some Irn Bru.

Ghosty Awww shucks!! Despite the French turning 'nice' into a negative characteristic, I am still touched when told that this is what I am, so thank you. As for going home often for a wee weekend I agree, it would make a world of difference, but my salary isn't begin enough to afford this luxury.

Lis awwww you called me babycakes!! I love that! Blogger sucks sometimes. Oh well, you will just have to MEET ME IN PERSON so that we can complain about being expats and discuss the best way to tell a rude French person to feck off!!

Kim Waaaaa!!! You were in Scotland! You lucky duck! Even if it did rain! I'm so glad you enjoyed yourself there though, it's always so nice to hear a foreigner reassure you that your country is just as you thought. Sorry you had to leave your British bf there for the time being. I knwo exactly what that is like as my Frenchman and I spent the first year and a half of our relationship in two seperate countries!!

It's true. When I think of the things in France that I love and would miss dearly if I were to ever leave it helps make things clear. You see I lived in France for a year and then came home to Scotland for two years before coming back. And in those two years of living in Scotland all I could think of was all the lovely things about France that I missed so much. There are so many things. And now I have attached myself to two countries, my home country and my second home country, I suppose I will always miss something no matter which country I am in.

Chouitie Yes the rain! This summer has been so humid and gross that I was so relieved when I saw the rain. I felt like the country needed to see the rain just as much as I did. And Oh My God!!!! I have really missed self raising flour too!!! Why the feck are the French stuck in the 60's era in the cooking department? Why haven't they realised that it's so much quicker and simpler just to have self raising flour?!

It defo is an experience. And one that will serve us later on in life, I just know it. Hey it's better to live as an expat with all the difficulties than to stay in the same tiny village that you grew up in for the rest of your life, isn't it?

Emma said...

Hello
As a fellow british expat in France, I feel your pain. RE Amy MacDonald - I cried silently on listening to the secret 'track' on her album last week. Weak moment. RE being nice, it's dam hard being rude, and doing it well, in French, so I too take the easy option and am nice. Being rude will come. Hey, the day we can put someone down with a perfectly constructed one liner is the day we can say we really can speak French.
RE corrie (hollyoaks and x factor too), *sigh*

hang in there. X

pierre l said...

Hello Princesse. I remember having language difficulties when I moved from Montreal to Paris 35 years ago; I don't think the Parisians made a great effort to understand me. But, after 30 years in the UK, I feel very comfortable here. I know, from your next post, that you are now feeling better, and hope that will continue.

tartetartan said...

Know what you mean about having to speak French all day. Did it for two years in my last job and it makes your head hurt! It was worse when I had a French boyfriend, as I would have to speak it in the evening too. Have swapped him for an English one....so much easier.