I Am More French Here Than in France
While skimming through it again, this note in Nancy Adler's book hit me with a few thoughts.
Executives are more national abroad than they would be at home.
I am always wondering what it is to be "French", really. What does it mean? What do people think when they realize that I am French? But most importantly, what does it mean to me to be French? I've asked myself this question many a times, and I have never really come up with a satisfying answer.
The first time I asked myself this question was in the US, when I left home to study for two years in an international environment. I remember extending my hand in the first few days, presenting myself
"Hi, I'm Delphine, from France". This "from France" turned out to be the most qualifying thing I could say about myself. Mind you, all of us were doing it, adding our country of origin to our name, but I realized that where the first name really does not tell much about a person, the fact that they're "from a country" tells a lot more.
In that international environment, I started thinking about what it was to be French. And this has followed me through my international perigrinations. I realize that being French is really something I am actually a little proud of, but... only when I am abroad. In the end, one's nationality is somehow defined in a negative way (more in the photography sense of the word), against things that are different from what they are "at home". There is the language, of course, which probably taints my use of other languages (I tend to make never-ending sentences in English and use too many parentheses, a typical French thing), but there is more.
I could say that there is the food, and the wine. It's kind of trivial, I guess, but it's very true. I make a point of cooking "à la française" in my German home, for example. But that really isn't it. There are both so many things that make me feel French, and so little. The whole church saga made me realize how anchored in me the separation between spiritual and administrative was, for example. Or the difficulty I have using "du" (the informal "you' in German), because it exists in French too but social codes are very different about when you can use it in France and Germany.
But these are all things that I hardly think about when I'm in France. Actually, I tend to be rather un-French when in France. On the contrary to many French people, I speak several languages or I defend the US for example.
The thing is, I believe that my being French is made of many many little trivail things, as well as of many fundamental values, thoughts and behaviours. I just don't know how to list them objectively.
One thing is sure, I am more French here in Germany, than I have ever been in France. But please, don't ask me why. Maybe just because I am not German?