Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The one in which I'm on my cranky soap box

This is quite the surprising realization, but for the first time in the past five years, I no longer feel at home here in the US. I don't identify with these people, with this life. Living in France has changed me, more than I ever realized. I don't know, I don't want to live in a society of mass-consumerism, where the government makes you feel guilty if you don't spend every cent you have. Going to people's houses, I'm just amazed by how much STUFF they have. Stuff, and more stuff, everywhere. If there's anything I've learned these past few weeks, it's that stuff is just that - stuff. It cannot make you happy, and it's actually quite freeing once you get rid of it.

This whole culture of lower and lower prices is so frustrating. Don't people realize that by constantly demanding lower prices, we're just forcing more and more jobs out of the US? And screwing over some other country in the process? That there are actual people making these products, and that our insistence on low prices means they're barely subsisting? There's a new Walmart in my town, and I refuse to set a foot in it. I don't want to take advantage of the low dollar if it means supporting global conglomerates like that. Sure they've brought jobs in to town, but how many have been lost due to small businesses closing because they can't compete price-wise?

Even though I don't have much money, I'd much prefer to pay more and buy something that was made in the US (or France, etc), and know that the employees were being paid a decent wage. BIC is a good example - most of of their products are still made in France, and Fab and I always tried to buy other items made in France when possible. Unfortunately though, the French are becoming more and more Americanized and are starting to demand lower prices as well, which, combined with the high taxes, is resulting in more and more French companies moving out of France to either Eastern Europe or Asia in order to be able to cut costs. Something we should all be asking ourselves - are those lower prices worth the jobs lost?

And don't even get me started on the health care issue - we call ourselves the greatest nation in the world, yet we can't even provide basic health care to our citizens. I find it extremely irresponsible of our government. Not to mention that like the low-price/délocalisation issue, it's just an endless cycle. Health care costs keep rising, more and more people can't afford it & thus go to the emergency room, they can't pay the bill so the hospital passes it on the insurance comapny, who then passes the costs onto their clients, who then can't afford to pay for insurance and we're right back where we started. Our health care system is spiraling out of control.

Some of you might not agree with some or all of this, and that's just fine - you're all entitled to your own opinions, but these issues are what have been playing and replaying in my mind these past few days (along with Bigger is not indeed Better). It's so funny, I've been dying to move back to the US for the past five years, and now that I have the chance, I don't want to take it. Maybe I'll be ready after I've had a few months to get used to the idea, but this is how I'm feeling now. It's taken losing Fab and our future to finally make me realize that France actually is my home.

(Don't worry, the irony of this all is not lost on me.)



Blogger Leesa said...

OH SAM!! You would KILL me if you saw what is already packed into our suitcases!! But, I DO have to admit... I have only lived in France for a year and a have so all the food products I am used to cooking/baking with don't exist in France or they cost a million euros at either of the only two American stores in Paris... I am hoping to do cupcakes, too.. So I raided Michaels and Party City!!! The STUFF in the U.S. is just soooo much more abundant... I totally agree with you, though about commercialism, though... In France... I never had the urge to go out and just "buy stuff." One, because it's sooo expensive, and two because they don't have Target in France... When I lived in the U.S., I would go to Target at 8 pm on a Friday night just to check out what they had going on... I found myself aimlessly buying lots of stuff... When you come to Paris... you are invited over to our place and I will show you everything I bought over here... Heeheheheheh... I don't even know where we will put all this stuff!!!!!!!!! YIKKKKEEEESSS!!! But I already emailed Justin to say that we are going to throw a Mexican Fiesta pic nic and invite all our friends.. You, too... of course...
I do agree with you... about not feeling like you "belong" anymore... I, too... feel this way!!!

May 7, 2008 at 6:58 AM  
Blogger katiez said...

Now you understand why we left....

May 7, 2008 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger katiez said...

BTW - Been watching Friends reruns, have we?

May 7, 2008 at 8:35 AM  
Blogger C. said...

I think it also depends on where you are living. You wanted to move back to the US for a long time but now that you're there, it's not that great - but you are back in your home town, which is always a bit strange. The one thing that the US has going for it, with all is faults, is that it's pretty damn BIG. Maybe it's a matter of finding a new place in the US that you feel more comfortable in.

May 7, 2008 at 9:03 AM  
Blogger Alisa said...

*cries that the US is her only option

i hear ya, and you are one lucky girl to be getting citizenship, but since you're so nice, i promise i'll try not to hate you too much *g*

see you friday!

May 7, 2008 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Le Tigre in France said...

Leesa, that's true..I don't go out and spend money on 'stuff' like I used to. If I am I'm usually buying online and it takes a lot more careful consideration I think, you don't do the impulse buy as often because you aren't pressured to.

I've stopped buying clothes in France, they are too expensive and terrible quality. I'm buying second hand clothes online which I do feel a lot better about. It's not made in China and I'm giving a college student an income. Plus I'm tired of being forced to wear clothes that don't suit me because the fashion gods have dictated what kin d of clothes are going to be in every single store..

Cutting down on clutter is liberating. I feel more focused when I'm not in an enviroment thats piled high with things.

May 7, 2008 at 10:32 AM  
Blogger BurkinaMom said...

I completely agree with you on all points Sam! Well said and bravely done!
As a double national(French/USA) who knows both countries very well, I have to say that I could NEVER go back to live in the United States. It's nice for vacations, but the lifestyle is completely, well, unlivable.
Work and spend, spend, spend is the norm.
That said, the low prices, high quality and amazing variety of the good in the USA is completely mesmerizing. I can't be trusted anywhere near a Target or TJ Max shop! So, I'm really better off here in Africa or in France, where I am not tempted to participate in the race to have lots of cool stuff.

May 7, 2008 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger misschris said...

It's nuts isn't it! The only thing we bring back in our US suitcases these days are a few articles of clothing (my family is in Florida so not much works in the Alps!) and of course lots of books in English.

There was a point where I went back home a year or so ago and had this realization that "this isn't home anymore" I love the US but I just don't fit in anymore. It was hard to admit but my homeland is now just as much a foreign country to me as anywhere else.

May 7, 2008 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger parisiannewyorker said...

Hmmm. I don't know that I totally agree.

I like France a lot, but I think I like the US better. (Then again, I've only ever lived in NYC and people keep telling me that NYC is not at all like the rest of the US). I admit it has been a little weird to be back in the US after so much time in France, but I am feeling much more at ease now.

I just feel like people in the US (or NYC) are friendlier, more open, and more optimistic. In Paris I just felt bogged down by cynicism and negativity. It may have to do with my health issues (at least here in NY it is so much easier for me to find something to eat and people don't get insulted when I explain my gluten intolerance) but also I guess a lot of it has to do with the fact that I am starting my career, which is much harder to do in France. At least here in the US you can really evolve in your career, at least much, much easier than you can in France.

As for stuff, I don't know either. I guess I am guilty of buying stuff, but I mostly buy clothes and shoes (then again, I do work in fashion). I have accumulated a lot of random things, but I'm a total pack rat and save everything for inspiration and/or new ideas and creations. I don't know, I think a majority of people in most developed countries tend to just buy a lot of stuff because they can.

True though re: the healthcare issue, but the US is such a large country and has such a large population that I honestly don't think that a system like in France would work very well. I did read an article recently in the NYT where they said that the US has been studying the healthcare systems in Holland and some of the Scandinavian countries, as they have excellent coverage, but it is funded privately rather than publicly. Hopefully soon they can figure something out - we're such a big country that it is going to be painfully hard to come up with something that will satisfy EVERYONE (which I think is next to impossible because someone is always going to be unhappy).

May 7, 2008 at 5:21 PM  
Blogger Patricia said...

There are good and bad about both countries. I totally understand what you are saying, Sam. My house where I live is not considered a big house, but it is bigger than all of my husband's family's houses in France. Also, in the U.S. it seems like cars are such a status symbol where in France it is not (which is better!). I do agree with Parisiannewyorker that New York is not like the rest of the country. I live in Washington, DC and it is not like the rest of the country either. It is very international (I just came back from having lunch at a French woman's house and there were also people there from Brazil, Canada and England!). I do not think I could live many places in the US - and my husband definately could not!!!! We moved to Tampa, Florida when we first got married and came back after one year - it was too American!!!

May 7, 2008 at 8:09 PM  
Blogger Global Librarian said...

Some of what you say I am in complete agreement with.

However, I refuse to pay more money in Europe for items from the same company and made in the same place.

For instance, we recently purchased a Bugaboo stroller. Made by a Danish company, these strollers cost 1500 chf in Switzerland and require ordering 8-12 weeks in advance. We purchased ours off the US Amazon website for $899 and it was delivered (with no delivery fee!) to my parents' home within a week.

Since the Swiss franc is now worth pretty much the same as the US dollar, it was almost half the cost!

If you would like to know why we purchased a baby stroller, send me an e-mail and I'll send you the link to a private blog...

May 7, 2008 at 8:24 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

That happened to me not long ago. I realized it would be very difficult for me to adjust to life back in the States. If you did move back, it would change you all over again.

May 7, 2008 at 9:27 PM  
Blogger Leesa said...

I second Global Librarian... The thought of paying an exhorbitant cost of the same thing in France as the U.S. Plus, I have really found that the "style" there is not really my style (in France) and I have WAY too many clothes, anyhoo.... I think Le Tigre has it spot-on... But, I DO TOTALLY agree that the US is totally geared toward a SPEND SPEND SPEND economy... We have seen SOOOO many Beamers and Lexus' since we have been here in SD.... I'm sure there are much more status symbol cars in LA... Why are there soooo many HUGE utility cars, anyhow? Americans waste too much...
Ah oui... Je prefere largement la vie en France! C'est vrai que les gens ici sont sympas, mais en France, on trouve une vie plus calme, plus tranquille!!! J'aime la France! C'est mon pays, maintenant! Je ne suis plus habituee' aux E-U... je me sens bien dans ma peau en France, qu'aux States!

May 8, 2008 at 4:05 AM  
Blogger barbara said...

Hi Sam,
There will be a lot of interesting things to talk of if I catch you in Paris ;)
I've been in France such a long time that I know that I would have a MAJOR adjustment moving back.Like most everyone, I go back, visit family and travel.

May 8, 2008 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger Betty C. said...

I'm sure living in France changes us all irreversibly. I'm sorry I haven't been keeping up but since you don't have an RSS feed...I'll have to find another way.

A friend of mine just moved back with her family to France (American gal, French husband, typical expat story) and things haven't been so rosy. Of course maybe they'll work out, but then again...

Your new haircut looks great, BTW.

I'll try to save your blog in several places to make sure I can find you!

May 9, 2008 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger The Big Finn said...

Yes, I agree that America is a big country. However, I also think that Americans as a people are too big. Perhaps Americans wouldn't need the health care system as much if they:

...stopped eating so much damn food!

...turned off the TV every now and then, got off the sofa, and exercised a bit.

Everybody complains about the state of U.S. health care, but very few people are willing to look in their extra-wide mirrors at the real root of the problem.

May 14, 2008 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger Ashley said...

I think I would feel the same way you do Sam. I always this that if we get the opportunity we would move to the US. I actually think that my husband (french) would do better then I would. I would have to deal with my memories being different then what I would be confronting, whereas for him it would all be, more or less, new...

May 15, 2008 at 1:25 PM  
Blogger Cécy said...

I love the work opportunities in the US. With a Maitrise/4 year degree in France I had a hard time finding a job and ended up working in a sandwich place (La croissanterie). Here besides the work permit issues I was offered several jobs in my field and good positions too.
I don't like the health system, I don't like that you have to use your car for pretty much everything. But I do love the city I live in and the mountains around and my husband is here. I will always miss home, and I look forward to share it with my husband, but I think once you get used to live in a foreign country, you can never quite look at your homeland the same way.

July 16, 2008 at 4:05 PM  

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