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Why do I want to be French?

The Consulat Général deWashington asked me, “Pourquoi, voulez-vous etrê Française?”

It was a little over four years ago.  We had driven all the way from Ohio for this interview.  I didn’t get the French citizenship because my French wasn’t good.  I, also, didn’t answer this question well.

I told her I wanted to be French because we were planning on moving to France within a few years.  I wanted to work in France.  My husband and children are French. 

She told me that I could live and work in France without being French.  She was correct.  I have been doing just that for over two years.

If she were to ask me that same question today my answer would be completely different.

So, why am I going to ask for the French citizenship as soon as we have the money to translate the required documents?

I am French in my heart.  I love France.  I want to vote.  I want to live my entire life here.  But, more than all of that…I would die for France.  I would do anything to protect her. 

I don’t want the French citizenship so that I don’t have to renew my titre de séjour every ten years.  It really isn’t that hard to renew. 

For me taking the citizenship of a country is a big step.  It should be done because it MEANS SOMETHING.  It is not a light matter.

One of the reasons I didn’t want to stay in America was that for my mother’s sponsorship of Vilay to end he would have to become American.  He could have asked after living in the USA for three years. 

My problem with that is that he would never have felt American.  I didn’t want him to become American just for paperwork reasons.  I wanted him to be American only if he FELT American. 

When I become French I will be proud to be French. 

It will mean something.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • barbara February 27, 2007, 1:28 pm

    Hi Pumpkin,
    I have never taken these citzenship questions lightly, either.
    But, after 17 years here that has full and happy, I cannot yet put a cross on my US citzenship.
    I don’t know if that will change.
    I admire your convictions and the love you have for your husband NOT to force a US citzenship on him.

    Maybe if I had other responsibilites, such as a family and an important job, I would have already taken French citizenship.But, that is not the case, and I stay with my titre de séjour.
    But, I’am the not less unhappy .

    I hope for you that you will be able to pursue your dream soon.

    Take care of yourself and your beautiful family .

  • Pumpkin February 27, 2007, 1:48 pm

    Barbara,
    You are able to have dual citizenship. You can keep your US citizenship while obtaining a French citizenship. You don’t have to give up anything. However, I can understand why you would be perfectly content to live in France with a titre de séjour;

  • Carra February 27, 2007, 2:23 pm

    I feel similar about a british citizenship that I will be entitled for this year. It is strange how one can love another country more than their own isn’t it? If only I could live in Britain with my husband I would be eternally happy…
    I wish you best of luck for your next application.

  • barbara February 27, 2007, 4:29 pm

    Hi again Pumpkin,
    Thank you for your concern ;)
    I think that dual citzenship is the best bet for me. I’am have to decide , OUI ou NON.
    I’am not going through this in my old age…
    I let the years pass, and just didn’t think about this.
    Your post will get the discussion rolling at home.And it is good to talk about these matters.

    My husband hates the idea that I give up my nationality all together.
    But,I love living in France. This place has really grown on me.
    I’ll be reading you later,

  • Cathy Y. February 28, 2007, 2:41 am

    Pumpkin, isn’t it the case that if you are a non-U.S. citizen and want U.S. citizenship, that the U.S. will force you to renounce your foreign citizenship — but that it is not that way going to the other direction, i.e. that many foreign governments (including France) will let you retain your U.S. citizenship and be “dual” with both theirs and the U.S.? That’s the impression we’re under. As my husband says, “France doesn’t care” (and he means that in a complimentary way).

  • Pumpkin February 28, 2007, 9:04 am

    Cathy, It is true that in the swearing in ceremony that you must renounce your other citizenship or you can just stand there and not “say” it. I think it is stupid because contrary to what the US government wants you to think dual citizenship is recognized by them. So, it really depends on whether of not your country of origin recognizes dual citizenship or not. The French didn’t always recognize dual citizenship and it was a problem at that time from what Vilay was told by the French consolute in Chicago. Now, they don’t care. But, what if it changed one day? Then, I don’t know. This was a second reason for us to come back because even if the French government didn’t care about the swearing in ceremony Vilay did. He is French and it didn’t set well with him to “renounce” his French citizenship even if it were just words.

    Good point, Cathy!

  • samantha February 28, 2007, 9:17 am

    I think there are too many people now that have dual citizenship for the US to ever make it officially illegal. Considering the way things have been going lately, they’d probably lose a good chunk of citizens, and I don’t think they’d ever take that risk.

  • Pumpkin February 28, 2007, 11:50 am

    Well, the US won’t change it as long as the citizens with dual citizenship are paying taxes which they are required to do even if they don’t live in the States. Money is money.

  • Cathy Y. February 28, 2007, 4:01 pm

    Yikes, so if you worked in France, Pumpkin, you’d have to pay taxes in both countries?!? Sounds a bit frightening.

  • Wendz February 28, 2007, 7:43 pm

    I am waiting to be able to get my French citizen ship….I’ll do so happily and eagerly – I want it badly and I want to vote and one day I’d like to get into local politics.

  • Maria Noland March 1, 2007, 6:24 am

    I don’t understand how a truly patriotic person can have two citizenships. Sure, it may be legal and all, but how, in being loyal to America, can you take an oath to a country like France, so anti-American in almost every way?

    It’s a pity that my country doesn’t demand more of its citizens.

  • Pumpkin March 1, 2007, 8:14 am

    Cathy,
    You get credit for what you pay to France but once I start working in France I must file both the French income tax return and the American. I may not for last year because I didn’t make that much money while working in the US. But, I am going to do it to see how much I would get back and if it is worth the postage. :)

    Wendz, I would like to be involved in local politics but am too shy to lead.

  • Pumpkin March 1, 2007, 8:19 am

    Maria Noland, After what happened in regard to Vilay and the requirement for a sponsor for him to be able to live in the States with myself and his three American children…I am not too concerned about it. Being American meant nothing when it came to my husband living in my country of birth with his three children and wife.

    I am American but really don’t see much benefit to it. However, I do love America.

    By the way, my being American is not a “privilige”…it is my RIGHT even if I become French. You and no one else can take that from me…you don’t have the right. To think so is UNAMERICAN.

  • Pumpkin March 1, 2007, 8:33 am

    Maria,

    I did want to address the fact that I can be loyal to two countries and love two countries…at once. I don’t think that the US and France are going to go to war in my life time. I agree for someone who happens to be from Iraq it would be difficult since the US is currently occupying their country.

    If it came right down to it…I would be French over American. Why? Because, I havce the right to live in France with my family and my husband doesn’t have the right to live in the States with us. Simple.

    However, no one can take away the fact that I am American even if they took my citenship from me. No one.

  • samantha March 1, 2007, 10:55 pm

    Cathy, just to answer your question, you don’t have to pay in both countries (unless you make over something like 80 grand a year). France and the US have tax agreements so that if you pay in one country, you don’t have to pay in the other.

  • Pumpkin March 2, 2007, 9:58 am

    Samantha, If you make over a certain amount then you DO have to pay in America. I am sure there are many Americans that are not happy about this arrangement.

    The scary thing is that the socialist in France are trying to push something like this to be required of French living out of country. I hope it never gets passed because it is just not fair.

  • samantha March 4, 2007, 12:29 pm

    I know that, like I said in my last post, it’s somewhere around $80,000, and unless I’m missing something, you guys aren’t making anywhere near that much. Nor am I. In fact, I don’t know a single person here, French or expat, that makes anything even close to that amount – most probably make only 1/4 of it.

    And what do you mean, it’s not fair? France and the US have a tax agreement – it’s for YOUR benefit. Would you rather have to pay taxes in both countries?

  • Jessica March 4, 2007, 2:22 pm

    80,000 is firmly in the middle class, in my view. 40,000 + 40,000…. it’s possible to accomplish that on two teacher’s salaries. It would be far from uncommon for people with professional jobs, in urban areas to make that much.

    And it still isn’t really enough to pay rent in Paris!

  • samantha March 4, 2007, 8:12 pm

    I think $80,000 is easily attainable in the US if both couples are working, but not here in France. I mean come on, half of the country makes less than 1500€ per month. The average woman makes a little over 17,000€ and the average man 19,000€.

  • Cathy Y. March 4, 2007, 9:30 pm

    Samantha – I have heard that before (about the low incomes), but it just shocks me still because of the prices. When we were visiting in a village just south of Strasbourg two years ago, I was amazed at the prices. I bought a large pack of Pampers, and even converting the Euros to dollars it was easily 1.5 to 2 times the price of the same size pack here in the States. Same for an umbrella. This was at “Super U,” which I took to be a discount-type supermarket, similar to Wal-Mart in the States. I don’t know how middle-class people survive on those wages. Even if they don’t buy diapers or umbrellas, there were many other things that were high. I just don’t understand it. We also experienced this in Germany and Switzerland.

  • Jessica March 4, 2007, 9:48 pm

    I wasn’t meaning to debate which country has the best average incomes. I’m really talking about people with professional jobs (nearly 3/4 of French people don’t have college degrees, 20% don’t have the bac – I’ll go out on a limb and guess that most americans living abroad would fall into that upper quintile already), and of course teachers are among the lowest paid in that category. That is why I chose that example. And a mid-career teacher in France can expect to make 40,000 (brut) annually. I wouldn’t call teaching or other professional jobs upper class or unattainable. And Americans abroad in that income range will still likely find extra taxes a burden – and that was the point of the discussion I believe.

    I really don’t see why you say such jobs are more unattainable in France. France also has its share of lawyers, doctors, bankers, managers, and entrepreneurs that make over 80,000 by themselves. Those are the same types of jobs that make that much money here. And just like the US, income is very unevenly distributed in France.

  • Pumpkin March 5, 2007, 11:03 am

    Samantha,
    I agree with Jessica. It is attainable in France. Not to mention that currently the Euro is much stronger than the dollar. All of the friends of my husband make over 40,000 Euro a year. One of his friends makes over that plus gets a company house with a pool, car, phone and computer.

    No matter it is not fair because if you are living in France you should not have to pay taxes in America…you are not living in America

    Why should you have to pay taxes to a country you are living in even if you are a citizen?

    It all goes along with the thinking that you are privilaged to be American so you should pay for that privilage? I don’t know…it makes no sense to me.

  • samantha March 5, 2007, 11:23 pm

    Are you sure that French people living in the US don’t have the same agreement? I could be mistaken, but I thought that’s what a tax agreement is – both sides agree to the same conditions, meaning a French person making more than that in the US would have to pay taxes in France as well (which btw are a lot higher than taxes in the US). Maybe someone else out there knows for sure…

  • Pumpkin March 6, 2007, 9:45 am

    Not currently…but, the socialist in France are pushing for the French expats to have to pay taxes even if they live out of France. I don’t see it happening and it will only make the French expats vote against the Socialist.

  • Louis la Vache March 6, 2007, 6:14 pm

    Re Cathy at Comment #20 – The saying “there’s a price to pay for the price you pay” applies here. The prices in France are breathtakingly high, never mind the comparison of the dollar with the Euro – I’m speaking strictly of the cost of living in France. This is the burden of paying for the socialist welfare state. For example, the VAT (the so-called “Value Added Tax”) is almost 20%. The VAT is added to virturally everything you buy whether any value is added or not. The VAT replace sales tax. European socialist politicians (and virtually all of them embrace socialism whether they belong to the Socialist party or not), like the Democrats in the U.S., never met a tax they didn’t like. There is no political movement in France that is equivalent to the Conservative movement in the U.S., calling for smaller government and lower taxes. The horrible taxation is one of the key factors in why the French economy is never particularly robust. The high taxation strangles job creation. The is why the unemployment rate in France is twic as high as in the U.S. In some of the “Red Belt” suburbs around Paris, the unemployment rate is 40%. The politicians who sold the French on the European Union assured the French that prices wouldn’t go up when they converted from the Franc to the Euro. They lied. Prices went up across the board as much as 30% overnight, and they’ve never come back down. The European Union “constitution” isn’t a document like the succinct U.S. constitution, but a dictat of govenment regulaitons seeking to control virtually every aspect of life that is the siz of the phone book of a small city. The French voters were smart to reject this Orwellian monstrosity. So while Pumpkin can buy the medicine for her children at a fraction of what it costs in the U.S., she (and everyone else) pay for the drugs by paying tax-inflated prices on everything else. As I wrote at the beginning, there’s a price to pay for the price you pay.

  • Louis la Vache March 6, 2007, 6:19 pm

    Just one addendum: Le Pen, while he calls (correctly) for lower taxes, still doesn’t qualify as being a Conservative in the U.S. sense of the term. His positions are more reactionary, harking back to the old royalist-agrarian French politicians of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

  • Cathy Y. March 6, 2007, 6:56 pm

    Louis la Vache, thanks for the explanation of not only the prices/taxes but also about the political parties. Gee, I thought our 9.25% sales tax in my county in Tennessee was high.

    By the way, my husband has some relatives near Strasbourg, a retired couple, who live on only 600 Euros/month. I don’t know how they manage. Granted, they don’t have a mortgage (he inherited the house), but they still have to buy food and clothes, utilities for their house, and to maintain and run their car.

  • Louis la Vache March 7, 2007, 1:51 am

    I don’t know how they do it either, but you know that on that tiny amount of money there are absolutely no frills. The high tax rate is driving many of the French middle class, the ambitious ones, out of the country. Of course, it is the middle class that foots the bills for everyone else – so the tax base is eroding. In the last three years, more than 19,000 French have settled in the nine San Francisco Bay Area counties.

  • Angela March 7, 2007, 2:55 am

    Louis la Vache – we meet again – I think fond your blog a long time ago – appreciate your imput in this banter.

  • Pumpkin March 7, 2007, 9:37 am

    Louis la Vache,

    As a mother that has shopped in both countries I don’t think things are higher here. First, the tax is included in the price at a French store where as in the states it is not. Secondly, the food here has a higher quality. If you compared the same quality in both countries you would end up paying more in America. I know because the grocery store I worked at was comparable to Europe in the and the food was much more expensive than at a regular grocery.

    Plus, the French minimum wage is around 8 Euro while in America it is much much lower in most states. Ohio is around 6.75 bucks an hour but that just changed this year. Before that it was around 5.35 (I think). The median income is $32,611 for individuals and $46,326 for households. And I would like to add that there is a higher level of poverty in Ameirica than in France…there is a reason for that.

    Diapers cost around 10 bucks in America for the low end cost but higher quality…and in France it is around 12 Euro but we buy the cheep diapers which work just fine at around 6 Euro here in France and I couldn’t find these in Ohio.

    In France college is free and in the States it is outrageously expensive. For Angel to go to college where I did which was around 20 grand at that time…it will cost around 60 grand a year when she goes.

    The cost of health care in America is unbelieveable even with insurance and most companies aren’t even sharing in the cost of employee insurance like they used to. I was paying over 350.00 bucks a month for our family while working at the bank. That doesn’t include co pays when visiting the doc at 20 bucks a pop or the prescription. My birth control pills cost about 12 bucks a month and here it is around 70 cents for two months.

    So, as a mother of three children living in France with her…I think we are able to have a higher level of living here than in the States. And my kids will go to college no matter what. If they are sick it won’t break us financially. One month all three girls were sick and it cost 60 bucks for the office visit alone. When Sweet Bear was in Childrens for three days it was 200 bucks with insurance…plus the 50 bucks for her going to emergency before she was admited. Afterwards she had to visit the doc two more times because of it and that was was another 40 bucks. So, we were at close to 300 bucks without including the medicine or the monthly cost of just having insurance (which as I said before was around 350).

    Vilay and I can make as much in France as in the States especially when you take into account the cost of education and health care in the States.

  • Louis la Vache March 7, 2007, 10:22 pm

    Bonjour, Angela! Je suis heureux de vous revoir!

    For Cathy (and others who may be interested) Much of this article is apropos to our discussion:
    http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NzBiYTM0YWYxNjVmNTBmODA3MGIzYWJmYzJlOTE5MmU=&w=MA==

    Pumpkin,et al – It is true that the VAT is included in the price while aux États-Unis, the sales tax is added on. However, it is the rare state that taxes food items, or, if food items are taxed, in most of the states that do it, it is on items deemed to be non-essential, i.e. salty snacks, candy, carbonated beverages. In no case does the tax approach the almost 20% VAT. In France, the VAT is added to EVERYTHING. My experience in shopping for food in France was that I found it to be more expensive. One couple in France who are friends of mine and who have lived in the U.S. are of the opinion that food is less expensive in the U.S. Louis la Vache can’t speak to the cost of diapers as he has no “calves” needing them. :-)

    Also, I found that buying most other things in France was more expensive. It was actually cheaper for me to buy the after shave I prefer from L’Occitaine in California than to buy it in France. Ditto buying European-label music CDs. The same label in FNAC would be $2 – $3 less expensive for me to buy in California than at FNAC/Forum des Halles. Every time I went shopping for clothes in France, I found myself deferring the purchase until my next trip to the U.S. On my trips home, my French friends gave me lists of things to buy for them in the U.S. for the same reason – it was cheaper for me to bring it back for them than for them to buy it there.

    As to the cost of education – Yes, it is expensive to go to college/university in the U.S. – BUT – it isn’t really free in France. That cost is buiit in to the horrible income tax rate.

    While the minimum wage in France may be higher, governmental workplace restrictions add to the unemployment. For example, in the Jospin years when the work week was cut to 32 (?) 35(?) hours (I don’t remember which) – the intent was to force employers to hire more people by limiting the number of hours those already working could work. The reality of it was that the employers responded by firing their least productive workers, the logic being, “If I can only let Pierre and Marie work 35 hours, since Marie out-works Pierre, I’ll keep her because she gets more done.” So the effect was the opposite of the intent – it created more unemployment.

    It doesn’t fit that there is less poverty in France than in the U.S. when the “official” unemployment rate is over 10% in France vs. less than 5% in the U.S., with the rate as high as 40% in many of the housing-project banlieues of France. Two of my French friends who work in the government have confided to me that the real unemployment rate is closer to 13% and in some parts of the country 15%, but the government, aided by media sycophants, won’t publish the real number because of the political fallout it would cause. Not to be argumentative in the pejorative sense of the term, but it just doesn’t equate that France has a lower poverty rate when the real unemployment rate is almost 3 times the rate in the U.S.

    To further the point, in the U.S., even most of the lowest income people manage to own cars. In France few of the impoverished (and many of those who are technically not impoverished) can afford to own cars, not only because (on a comparative basis) buying a car is more expensive in France, but because the cost of operating one is astronomically higher than in the U.S. Even as the price of fuel has increased in the U.S., it has also increased in France and the equivalent cost of a gallon of fuel is over $6.00 en la belle France. There are reasons cars in France are so much smaller!

    As the population of France ages – and the low birthrate among traditional French (as opposed to the birthrate among French of North African, African or Middle-Eastern descent) is increasing the average age – the burden of the welfare state becomes more onerous. Compounding the problem, those in France who ARE having children are those most likely to stay on welfare.

    As I wrote yesterday, much of the tax base that funds the welfare state is “getting out of Dodge.” And those that are staying are not having children at a rate to sustain the population, much less continue paying for the welfare state.

    When you have absurdities such as the still-largely communist union that controls the workers of the SNCF (the national rail system to those who don’t know) dictating that SNCF workers can retire at age 50 at full pay – and add the negative demographic trends to the mix, you have a formula for disaster.

    The cost of health care in the U.S. has risen dramtically and most of that is attributable to govenrment meddling in the market forces. Government regulations both on health care providers and insurers took much of the incentive to control costs away from the health care providers and created the monstrosity we have today. But in the U.S., we don’t have the scandal of government “health agencies” telling us we can only have 1 dental exam every two years or creating situations where people needing surgery can’t get it because the national health care service says they can’t have it. This is true so long as we don’t get some version of “Hillarycare.” When I was living in France, there was a scandal, quickly hushed up, about filthy hospitals, particularly operating rooms. Yes, there is a scandal in the U.S. right now about conditions in the Walter Reed Army hospital (and other Army hospitals). This only proves the point about what happens when we put health care in the hands of the government.

    As Ronald Reagan was fond of saying: “Government isn’t the solution. Government is the problem.”

  • Jube March 10, 2007, 3:50 pm

    Bon alors au final, c’est qui qui a la plus longue?

  • Pumpkin March 11, 2007, 9:23 am

    Louis la Vache,

    I disagree that the clothes are more expensive. I shop at stores like Kiabi and I pay about what I did in the States. Not more and not less.

    As far as the education and healthcare being covered by taxes and not really being free…I understand that. But, I also understand that these are available to everyone and not just the ones that can afford it which in the long run makes the country stronger.

    I see “real” French with two or more children all the time.

    The food in the States is cheeper for a reason. It is full of growth hormones and even the milk is from cows that are given drugs to make them produce more milk. Kids in America are eating and drinking all that crap and in the end the cost will be much higher…my opinion.

    In France you can for the most part get by without a car whereas in the States it would never fly.

    Many people in America don’t make enough money to get by even if they are working. I saw on tv that a woman was working three jobs just to live and pay back her student loans. I don’t think that is uncommon.

    The cost of daycare in America is ridiculous. For one child it is over one hundred bucks. I have three small children. Kindergarten doesn’t start until age five and is only for half a day in most schools. There is no option for a full day.

    But, we could go on forever. :)

    In the end I love my life in France whereas I always felt like a caged animal in the States. I never saw more than work and bills and stress over the cost of the kids heathcare and college. Even if we would have stayed in the States we would have told the kids to go to college in France because we still would not be able to afford it in America.

  • AM May 20, 2007, 12:34 am

    I haven’t been paying taxes in the US while living in France because I make no income in the US and the income I make in France is not that much. So I never even bothered to think that I would have to owe anything to the American government.

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