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Losing my Americanism

I don’t understand why my family feels so threatened by the fact that I have a French husband and live in France. It is hard for me to have a conversation without my mother getting defensive in regard to America.
For instance, today I asked her to look at my blog and tell me if she liked it. Her first comment was that I didn’t have a link to Angel Girl’s blog on my sidebar (this from the woman that pretends that she doesn’t even know what a sidebar is when I tell her to look at some of my favorite blogs). She still was not happy when I told her I have a link to Angel Girl’s blog on my ABOUT page. Next, she tells me she doesn’t like my post, Who invited the Queen to dinner.

She got a bit upset and informed me that all Americans do indeed use their knives and forks. I told her it was suppose to be a funny post poking fun at mainly my husband (which she usually enjoys) and secondly at cultural differences between countries and I would even add families. She said that I exagerated a bit….really??? Mom, I meant to. If I hadn’t exagerated it wouldn’t have been funny. Ususally, when we are trying to be funny, we exagerate a bit. No???

My mother brings the French-American thing into almost every conversation. If I say something about France (unless it is something bad about France), she just has to tell me, “It is nice in America or America is….this or that.” I can say Strasbourg is a great city to live in because of the tram and there is always something to see or do. She will make sure to tell me that there are things to do there in Ohio and it is nice there too. Well, I lived there and there is not really a lot to do there. Yes, it is nice there, too. But, I don’t see why my talking about Strasbourg being nice had anything to do with Ohio.

I think she feels threatened by my life here in France.
It is not just her. The last time I talked to my brother we got into a fight because, heaven forbid, I say what I like about living in France. How dare I compare my life in America to my life in France. He took it as an attack on America and told me I was losing my Americanism. I understand that not all Americans would be happier in France. I was just telling him what I liked and even what I did not like.
I love my family but I don’t think they get it. I am American and always will be. However, I live in France and my husband and children here are French. My family sees my husband as the bad Frenchman who took me away. They don’t really see my children as French. For my family, my children are Americans living in France. That dual citizenship thing is nice…however, the kids are somehow more American.
I have even gotten the whole, “Why did you marry a French? It would have been easier if you would have married an American.” Well, I don’t think most of us decide who we fall in love with. It just happens.

I understand where they are coming from. I understand that they have never traveled outside of the states and that I am very far from them. I understand my mother is not happy that she has not seen myself or three out of her four grandchildren in over two years. I understand.

Even so, it still is not easy.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • misschrisc February 14, 2006, 5:34 pm

    Oh dear, I can relate. I’ve been repeatedly ‘accused’ of being a snob for living in France. So you see, the secret is out. That’s the whole reason I married that French guy. It’s all about learning how to be a REAL French snob. Otherwise, how else would I learn it?

    All kidding aside you are right. It’s probably because they are hurt. In their eyes France is the country that stole me away from home.

  • Vivi February 14, 2006, 6:56 pm

    My goodness. I’m sorry you get so much grief from your family. I guess I’ve been lucky because I have a cousin who married an Englishman a few years ago, and they’ve been living overseas for many years (he’s in the English Army), so maybe my family has gotten used to the idea?

    My Dad likes to poke fun at the French/American thing, and I know there’s something underneath his joking around but I know he genuinely likes my husband. My mom often commented on the blog before she fell ill and many of her comments left me scratching my head but happily she wasn’t hurtful.

    I hope your mother can come to terms with all this and take advantage of all the online things that help us stay close with our families back home. We’re so lucky – can you imagine keeping in touch only ten years ago?

  • Julie February 14, 2006, 7:58 pm

    I know what you mean! It was hard for us, and my parents especially when my sister decided to marry a man she met on-line 1,000 miles away. He’s pretty much a city guy, and we’re basically, country people. But its all worked out for the best. Although, my parents still make negative comments about him. Love is love. And it pretty much amounts up to that!

  • Pumpkin Pie February 14, 2006, 8:45 pm

    It is hard. My mother still hasn’t called me back after she hung up…I didn’t mention that in my post. It really hurts me even if I understand why. Maybe, in the next few days she’ll call?

  • D February 14, 2006, 9:52 pm

    It’s hard for a family to accept something like their daughter marrying a Frenchman and living in France. In their eyes, you were taken away from them, and now they hardly see you and your kids. They may say hurtful things, but that is because they love and miss you. Even so, I know it’s hard to hear them say such things. My parents also have a difficult time dealing with it.

    “Why did you marry a French? It would have been easier if you would have married an American.” Although that has not been said to me directly, I am sure that is how they feel at times.

    Both of my parents aren’t in the best of health. My father has a terminal illness. I feel so guilty and selfish at times, for not being there.

    Being an expat is no picnic. Not only do we have to adapt, integrate, and become fluent in the language, we also sacrifice our families and our comforts of home.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I hope that you and your mom speak again soon.

  • Doc February 14, 2006, 11:48 pm

    I have a cousin who told me I was a traitor and unAmerican because I defended the French right to do something other than what America says they should do. He even went so far as to tell me I was a disgrace to my father’s memory–he who had seen my father all of twice in the ten years before he died. The whole War Debacle has been a thorn in my side as far as certain members of the family go. My nephew’s back in Iraq and honestly its just easier if my sister and I don’t talk about certain things. Funny thing is they all just assume I feel a certain way because I’m over here. No one in the family has yet to actually ask me how I feel about certain issues–but because I’m over here I must go along with whatever the Official French Position is. Strange thing is we’re army brats and have all lived all over the world–you’d think they’d know better.

  • cj February 15, 2006, 3:57 am

    Oh I’m so sorry, that is terrible. Its hard living away from your family. I think that sometimes people can’t see that you possibly could like something different than they like. I liken it to people insisting I eat an oatmeal raisen cookie and telling me how great it is all the while I force myself to swollow it. My mom gives me a lot of crap for not being more like my sister in law – I find myself thinking she wishes I was someone else a lot. We live and learn and live our own lives. Your mom lives hers, and you live yours.

  • Tongue in Cheek Antiques February 15, 2006, 7:05 am

    How true how true! You speak for many of us expats! My family often says to me…You are becoming French! You don’t like America do you?…
    and it is so far from the truth…I love both isn’t that okay?
    After 18 years of living in France, I think I can say my home is in France and I am an American too.

  • christina February 15, 2006, 8:48 am

    Never tell your mom you have a blog.:-)

    But seriously, I too am sorry that there’s so much tension between you and your family over this. I must say I haven’t experienced this kind of thing at all, probably because I’m not all that enthusiastic about where I’m living and only live here because my husband happens to be German. Added to that, my mum also married a “foreigner” (my dad immigrated to Canada from Austria in the 50’s) so I guess they’re able to embrace it more easily.

    I DO sometimes get that “Oh, you think you’re so sophisticated just because you live in Europe” thing from some people though, and that’s hard to deal with.

  • Pauline February 15, 2006, 9:11 am

    I like Christina have never experienced this. Maybe that’s because I am not so very far away from my Mum and Dad (they’re in the south of England) so I am European anyway.

    The vibes I get from them is that they are proud of me and happy that I am happy. Although there are many times I would love to be just living round the corner. It’s hard being far away, you miss those special occasions like Christmas and birthdays, but the thing I miss most is the mundane. Popping in for coffee for 10 minutes, grocery shopping just being part of each other everyday life. I’m afraid this might get worse as time goes by, Mum and Dad are still in very good health, and I don’t know what I will do when it’s not the case.

    I’ve been living abroad for 18 years now and as another poster said I am still British, but my home is now in France.

  • Pumpkin Pie February 15, 2006, 10:13 am

    I have talked to her about moving to France and living with us when she retires. My brother just doesn’t visit her often even though he lives fifteen minutes away by car. I think she would be happier if she were near her grandchildren. It has been worse for her since my daughter moved to Tennessee which is six hours away when before she was only one hour away. I feel bad, but I have to live my life where I am happy or I can’t be a good mother.
    One of the things I don’t like about France is that my family is not here.

  • Alison February 15, 2006, 11:49 am

    I have never felt this from my family in the States, although I imagine they sometimes think those sorts of things.

    What hurt me the most is that my brothers never visited me here in thirteen years. Guess it’s a question of priorities.

    Now that I am moving back I’ll be a six-hour drive from my dad and my sister, and 8 hours from my brothers. This does not really sit well with them either.

    Anyway, I’m sorry that your mother is putting that pressure on you. I think it is how she can express the hurt she feels.

  • RaleighRob February 15, 2006, 3:50 pm

    There are three types of Americans–
    1) Those who’ve travelled outside the US.
    2) Those who haven’t, BUT really want to travel outside the US if finances ever make it a realty (I was in this category until last year).
    3) Those who haven’t travelled outside the US and really don’t have much ambition to do so.

    Your family sounds (to me at least) pretty much like the third category. These are (usually) Americans who think the American Way is always the best way…is always the RIGHT way…to do things. They feel most comfortable in their American life and don’t want their world view distrupted. It makes them comfortable to be what they are and not change. They tend to not see the point in getting exposure to new cultures and new ideas.

    So don’t take it personally. It’s them, not you.

  • Pumpkin Pie February 15, 2006, 4:02 pm

    My mother called today and told me she has been under alot of stress. I feel better and I do think it is because she is lonely and we are so far from her. She always dreamed of having her grandchildren close to her. She is a very loving grandmother that is upset about all the little things she is missing. I feel guilty because she is not with them but I know I can’t live in Ohio just for her. Life is not easy.

  • SP February 15, 2006, 5:42 pm

    For what it’s worth… I get a very similar reaction from my mother. I live in San Francisco- a mere 90 minute drive from my hometown. Everytime I say something about how much I enjoy SF or what is going on at the moment, she almost always has a snide or dejected remark about the fact that I live in “The City”- like I am somehow on foreign soil. I think my mother’s comments (and most likely your mother’s comments) are borne out of hurt that their daughters have chosen to move away. Although, I do admit that a 90 minute drive cannot be reasonably considered “away” when compared to a move to another country.

  • Francine February 16, 2006, 3:36 pm

    I have an American friend here who gets the same reaction from her family. Her mom gives her a total guilt trip about it and it’s very hard for her.

    I think being from the Caribbean I’m “lucky” this doesn’t happen, in fact it’s quite the opposite. My friends and family think it’s so cool that a person from a tiny island lives in France and they are always surprised when my husband and I say we’d happily live in the Caribbean. They of course think it’s “better” to live in Europe or another “developed” country.

    Funny how the reaction can differ.

  • peepfrench February 17, 2006, 10:31 am

    This was a very painful post for me to read and I hesitated to comment, but here’s my story.

    I had the same negative reaction from my family when I married my French husband 19 years ago and four months later (1988) we decided to leave the States to live in Europe. My family took our decision pretty badly, especially my mother. We are presently, not on speaking terms because of our decision to leave “The greatest country on earth”. They resent my husband for “taking me away”. Throughout the years, I have made several attempts at reconciliation,(especially when the children came along) but to no avail.

    My family has seen my son twice as an infant in 1992. They have never laid eyes on my daughters and the last time I saw my Mom in the States was in 1998. It has been very difficult for me to watch my wonderful kids grow and only have my husband’s side of the family know them and love them.

    I adore my kids and my husband and everyday that passes by, I’m thankful that I have them. I can’t imagine going through life without them. I’m sorry that my family has chosen to reject them and myself for that matter. However, I must accept the fact that they are what they are and I’ll never change their way of thinking.

    Despite all of this, I have never once regretted my decision to live outside of the United States. It has been a wonderful enriching experience only to my betterment. The quality of life I now have is a 100 times better than what I had before. I intend to live out my days in France. When my children grow up and venture out in the world on their own, I know that I’ll have the open-mindedness to accept whatever decision they’ll make regarding where they’ll choose to live in the world. When that day comes, I’ll wish them with tears in my eyes and watch them (take flight)!

    I hope your family will (one day for everyone’s sake) come to terms with your decision to live in France…

  • Pumpkin Pie February 17, 2006, 11:11 am

    What you said at the end is what my mother throws in my face the most…”How will I feel if one or all of my children move away from me someday like I did her?” And I answer pretty much like you. I will be happy for them if they are happy. Because, as parents we raise our children to live their lives on their own and to be strong. If we have done that then we have done our job. Hopefully, they stay close to us but if life pulls them further away in distance it doesnt mean they are further away in the heart.

    I am sorry that your family is so closed off from you and your children. It must be very painful. I know how hard it is for me to deal with my families comments, but I also know that as much as my family doesn’t like my living here they would never cut me off. Well, my mother did take me out of her will.

    I don’t know what is wrong with people. I dont understand why anyone would cut off their child just because of their child making a life with someone they love in another country. Not to mention the grandchildren. I hope that someday they realize how foolish they have been and see you again and your children before it is too late.

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