Sunday, April 08, 2007

Self affirming

Reading Almost French has been a fabulously self-affirming experience. I'm about 1/2 way through the book and I can barely put it down. Although I'm sure on some level of consciousness I knew this before, it's a relief to read that the thoughts, fears, frustrations and roller-coaster of emotions I experience as an ex-pat, are shared by others in similar situations. I am not a selfish, intolerant lunatic and, you know what, it's not just because I'm British either! What a relief; time to throw-off the (probably self-imposed) stereotypes that I have felt chained in for ten years.

Although I understand the French better now, the reality is in France I am still an outsider. There seem to be so many contradictions, so many social codes for different situations that make life interesting but also leave oyu feeling a bit vulnerable. Living in Paris requires constant effort: effort to make myself understood, effort to understand and to be alert for those cultural intricacies that can turn even going to the post office into a social adventure. Yet in Sydney everything had seemed so familiar, so easy. I can't even explain exactly why. It was more than the relaxing effects of sun and surf and being on holiday. It was as though back in my old environment i could finally drop the guard I didn't even know I'd been carrying.

I can relate to her comments about constant effort - I think that's what I was trying to say in my previous post about translation. It's tiring. You get used to it and it becomes almost 2nd nature, but then when you spend time at "home" you suddenly experience this lightness, a sudden sense of liberation from chains you had forgotten you were bound by.

I wonder how many other people like me are out there, just looking for the sense of cameraderie that comes from sharing these experiences and the emotions that come with them? How many people just spend time "blaming" the people whose country they have landed in for the way they are feeling because they have no better frame of reference within which to make sense of their tumult of emotions? I'm guessing more than a few.

How wonderful it would be to find these people and share these common experiences.

I sense a book coming on...?

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