A couple of months ago, I went through a bit of a culture shock again. They can supposedly happen over and over but usually get milder. The last one, coinciding with the anniversary of my return to France, left me missing the States. And feeling homesick can be overwhelming but to me, I think the most difficult is to keep on realizing how little I know about my own country. I have never started watching French TV since I returned so I simply have no idea about what goes on there and probably, in some ways, about what goes on in this country. When it was time to go vote two weeks ago, I realized that I still had not decided what it was that I truly cared about. In the US, there were a few things I was very clear about: I am against the death penalty, I am pro-choice, and I believe in race, gender, and sexuality equality.
In France, I have yet to figure out which issues matter to me… Of course I care about unemployment, and social healthcare, and equality in the same way as in the US; but I have no idea what could be the solution as I believe that it is not only about a political party or about new policies but it is also about social and cultural history and I feel like I may have missed too many chapters to catch up. And that is something that is really difficult for me to deal with… I truly do not understand my own country. I have silly arguments about social benefits or opportunities or education while deep down, I know that I simply don’t know enough to stand my ground strongly and that I simply should not be either surprised nor upset if people disagree with me. It may have already cost me a job and a relationship so I really need to learn to step back and breath.
And then I met someone who helped validate my feelings. She said that being an expat in your own country was way more difficult that being an expat in a foreign land. Because when you are in a foreign land, if you don’t understand what is going on around you, you can easily just let it go. But when you live in the country where you were born and raised and you have a hard time adjusting, it is much more challenging because you not only have to fight with your own expectations that you should “just know” but you also have to deal with your friends and family not being able to understand that some things are truly foreign to you. I have been lucky as my friends and relatives do not give me much of a hard time when I tell them I have no idea who such and such actor, or singer, or political person is. Maybe they think I am not that smart but at least they don’t point it out which is really nice! Still, it can be a bit awkward to know less about your own country than you do about somewhere overseas.
But I guess it is something I will simply have to learn to live with. A couple of my friends who don’t live in their home country have told me that going back home would mean that they would no longer feel “different.” I wish I stopped feeling different. Still, at the end of the day, even if the grass sometimes seems greener on the other side, I know better and I have no intention of leaving France anytime soon. That much I know for sure.