Thursday, August 30, 2007

Expat Blogs

I've been checking out a number of expat blogs over the past few weeks. There are so many ! I think it's cool that so many Americans are around sharing their experiences. They range from people who've been in France for ages talking about their daily lives to people with French spouses working and/or raising children in France to newcomers and students who are discovering everything for the first time.

I don't know what these berries are called, but they've appeared in a tree at the edge of the vineyard.

It's good to know that so many Americans are making their way around, seeing and appreciating France and the French people. It's the side of France, the real France, that most vacationers can never experience.

There's also a dark side. I know it's normal to be frightened, angry, and bitter about finding yourself in another culture where you're not sure you understand what people are saying to you or why, or where you sense that they treat you differently because you're a foreigner. And blogs naturally become an outlet for that. There's comfort in expressing yourself, in getting some feedback and commiseration.

A thistle in flower.

While most of the time I think the negatives are only temporary, they are magnified tenfold by the feeling of being a powerless foreigner. It makes me think of all the immigrants in the US, the people doing the laundry, cutting the grass, serving the pizza, picking the produce. And not just them, but the students, spouses, and others that move to the US with minimal English skills. They must go through a lot of the same stuff every day. I wonder what they write in their blogs ?

Tractor tracks between the vines.

But for every language or cultural setback, there are so many triumphs, and just as magnified. Those triumphs might seem trivial to everyone else, but they count nonetheless. They include things like telling a joke in French and making people laugh at the joke and not at your accent, understanding a political news story, being able to swear with style at a stupid driver, asking for and getting what you want at a market, discussing health issues with your French doctor, getting your French driver's license, and a million other things that French people do every day without thinking.

The various stages of thistledom.

I don't know why I'm writing this. I guess it's because some of the expat blogs I've been reading reminded me of what it was like when I was a student in France for the first time, or when I used to come here regularly on vacation, or when I decided to move here permanently and what my daily life has become compared to what it was like back in San Francisco.

Some if it makes me wonder, some of it pisses me off. But most of it makes me smile.


  1. Yes, it's a privilege to have lived for a long time in a country which is not your native country. I experienced that when I lived in the States for two years. After that, I never felt the same about travelling in a foreign country. You remember things you have experienced as a foreigner living abroad and it sheds a totally different light on your trips

  2. I often wonder how the Internet in general -- and blogging in particular -- would have changed my experience as a new expat in 1990. It seems like the Dark Ages -- but I survived!

  3. hear hear! (and well illustrated with the pictures...Was there a subliminal message?)

  4. I know, the internet has really changed things. I remember having to go to the PTT to make phone calls in 1982. Having a computer and the internet would have made things so very different back then.

    And reb, there's no subliminal message that I'm aware of... of course, if I were aware of it, it wouldn't be subliminal... Oh, thinking about that makes my head hurt.

  5. i'm fascinated by the number of people who move to france for lurv and/or naughtiness and are totally overwhelmed and enraged by the french and the isolation and the inevitable impingement of chop wood, carry water.

    there's a famous expat blogger whose popularity is based on, well, the train wreck. yow.

    (from buddha's old saying: Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment? Chop wood, carry water.)


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