A Tough Question

Having a French dad and a British mum and having been brought up with both languages and cultures, I am often asked if I feel French or British. The thing is, that question is tough to answer. I guess that when you are a mix of two cultures or nationalities, you never feel like you belong completely to one or the other.

I grew up in France, so I guess I should feel French. But it’s not that easy! When I was a kid, my mum used to sing English songs to me, I watched cartoons in English and we spoke English at home. So now, as an adult, when my friends talk about their childhood memories, what they used to watch on TV or the songs they remember, I can’t be a part of the conversation.

On the other hand, as I’ve lived in France for the last seven years, I’m not really aware of what is happening in England. Of course I read international newspapers and know the big picture, but I wouldn’t be able to say what the British talk about when they go out for a drink – I haven’t seen the latest TV shows, I don’t know which celebrities they are interested in (apart from those we hear of in France)…

That said, identity is about much more than watching TV. But don’t you think you need to empathize with people to feel you belong to their culture? That is why I find the British / French question difficult. The way I deal with it is by adapting to the people around me – I naturally feel more British if I’m hanging out with British people, and I feel more French when I’m in France.

It’s the same with languages – I mostly think and dream in French when I’m in France, but my mind switches to English when I’m in England or with British people. This usually happens naturally and requires no effort. But there are moments when I cannot remember if I read a book in French or in English, and I do sometimes get confused between French and English idioms.

To be completely honest, I enjoy my dual nationality. Being able to speak English helped me get good grades at school and at university. But beyond that, it makes me deeply interested in cultures generally speaking – I love discovering the way people live, dress, eat and relax together in various countries. I think this comes from the fact that things are done differently on each side of my family.

Consequently, I’m not sure whether I want to be able to answer the question about me feeling more French or English. I quite like not knowing where the line is between my “French side” and my “British side”. The one thing I know though, is that I need both.


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