The Question

It's bound to happen when you live abroad because it's the easiest way to make a connection with both Frenchies and foreigners.

The basic question: where are you from?

It's an easy enough question that is simple to answer but it's the aftermath that is harder to deal with - especially if you are in the company of another foreigner.


My English friend K and I were waiting in the hall for our dance class to start when we struck up a conversation with one of the Frenchies also waiting for class.  Then came the question: "Where are you from?"  K answered first - "I'm from the Lake District in the north of England."  The Frenchie politely smiled and probably said something along the lines of "how nice."  Then it was my turn to answer - "California," I said, "near Los Angeles."  And then the embarassing outburst began - "Wow Los Angeles! Trop bien! J'aaaaddooorrre les Etats-Unis!  And then the clincher: the Frenchie generally lists all of the American television shows that he or she watches that involve Hollywood and Beverly Hills.  It's really embarassing, especially when "The Lake District" (which I'm told is one of the most beautiful areas in England) get's the "how nice" response.

Thankfully, K takes it in stride - we now give each other knowing eyes when "The Question" is asked. It's pretty much guaranteed if the question asker is French. I think I understand why this happens - I guess I could compare it to meeting a European in America versus meeting a Canadian...it's just cooler, more exotic, different.  England is an Easy Jet flight away and due to the amazingness of the European Union, Frenchies can fly in and out without limits, they can work there without any paperwork - it's too accessible. The USA however, is far, a visa is required for entry and even then, the border control could send you home if they wanted!  TV shows are filmed there and then diffused all over the world.  My French friends watch Desperate Housewives and Dexter more than I do.  They feel like they know LA because they see it on TV all the time.

Even though I understand why it happens, it's still embarassing.  I try to tone it down by expressing my love for San Francisco, pointing out the traffic on LA freeways and lack of culture, but it never works.  Los Angeles is like the unattainable dream for the Frenchies who have never traveled there, never sat on the 5 freeway for three hours trying to get home from the airport.  I give them a month in LA...I bet they'll be crying for the fresh air of the Lakes, begging for some greenery in no time flat.

1 comment:

  1. crazy how when you're anywhere else you can just say you're from Los Angeles and PEOPLE KNOW. But there's only a small handful of cities that are internationally identifiable like that ...

    I have a friend (from AZ) who studied in England for a semester and when she and her australian friend went european traveling, they had the SAME reaction. Everyone asks about the U.S. No one really cared about Australia.


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