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Being a French native who has lived in the United States for nearly 30 years (it will be 30 years in very late August), I consider myself quite bilingual/bi-cultural, although I should say that I am probably a whole lot more familiar with current American culture than with French culture -- because of the mere fact that I live on this side of the Atlantic.

It took me literally anywhere between 3 and 5 years to become what I would deem "an American," and adapting to life in this country proved far more difficult that I ever thought it would be. In fact, I still mention this experience as one of the most wrenching ones in my entire life (I am now 52 years old.) I guess that a little "schizophrenia" sets into the bilingual/bi-cultural mind. One is never the same person in either language, which is rather a strange sensation. I have occasionally written about that weird feeling in my blog (walisabeth.blogspot.com).

I have also come to realize that I am not sure whether or not I could ever relocate to France (I occasionally contemplate retiring there, although I doubt that I would be able to afford it...). Why? Because I never really lived as a "responsible adult" in France. I moved to the U.S. because I married an American and, before getting married, I was a student and lived with my parents. I am not sure how I could relate to the French as a person who is not just vacationing in France, or living there temporarily. My plan is to take a sabbatical year in France, to see how I fare, and take it from there. Sometimes I feel that I might be feeling like a stranger in my homeland...


What a lovely post! I feel like I'm a completely different person when I'm in France, much as you've described. I remember the first time it occured to me that I could listen to the TV and understand everything that was going on. It was like a bolt of electricity -- an "oh my god I really get this!" feeling that was fantastic. I had the experience last summer of working in France as a camp director and that proved to me that while it might be easy to get along as a student, the work culture in France is very different than what I'm used to. Being a fluent speaker and knowing how to navigate situations in the grocery store and cafe didn't help me there.

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