Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Monday, September 7, 2009

I'll write more about my fantastic week down South with L & B later, but first I want to talk about the crazy weekend I just had. (Ahh!! I'm becoming Frenchified - I just wrote weekend as "week-end").

I've mentioned before that whenever I go down South, I usually meet up with a Scottish woman and her husband at least once during my trip. Well, last time I was there in May, she mentioned she was throwing a huge birthday bash in the beginning of September and that I should come. She was inviting about 150 people, and I was a bit nervous about going since I wouldn't know anyone besides her and her husband. But I decided to just put my fear aside and just go for it - it's good for me to get outside my comfort zone every once in a while. I knew there would be a good mix of anglophones and Frenchies, and I figured that once everyone started drinking, it wouldn't be that difficult to mingle. Plus it was for a good cause - every year my friend uses her birthday party as a way to raise money for breast cancer research. Normally she does a walkathon, but this year she just asked everyone to save their pennies in these little pink piggie banks. Aimee was nice enough to let me put mine at her teahouse.
It turns out I was right, and I spent the night talking with various people of all ages and all nationalites. The big surprise of the night though was that they'd decided to take advantage of the fact that so many of their family & friends would be there to use the occasion to get married! And they asked me to be the interpreter for the Anglophones. I can't even describe how touched I was that they'd asked me - I was so honored to be part of such a special day for them. So I stood up front there with the Mayor and interpreted his speech during the wedding. And then we all had a lovely meal and danced and sang until the cows came home.

Times like this are so bittersweet for me though - as much as I love feeling a part of something, I still can't help feeling bitter about Bretagne. Why was I unable to find this there? I can't help feeling like I failed in some way, but the most frustrating thing is that I'm still not sure why. I've never had trouble meeting people or making friends, and I tried joining clubs, sports activities, etc, but no matter what I did, I was always kept at an arm's length.

And yet outside of Bretagne, it's been totally opposite. During my travels, I've met so many great French people who've opened up to me right away and who've practically treated me like family from day 1. The proof being that I walked away from this weekend with invitations to go visit some really lovely people all over France. Plus the phone numbers of a few who live here in Paris. But I still can't stop wondering why I wasn't good enough for the Bretons?

I am happy though that I stuck it out long enough to have these kinds of experiences, to have given myself the time to know (and love) this other side of France and the French. And after so many years of rejection, it's been a relief to realize that it's not me, and that not all French people are automatically going to think I'm some kind of freak of nature. (They can figure that out later on their own, lol).

But I do need to figure out some way to make peace with this, because this feeling of failure eats away at me every time I think about it.

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14 Comments:

Blogger Antipo Déesse said...

Ooh how excitement! I know who got married! Must email her right now.

Honey, I think you made a typo: you mean the Bretons are not good enough for YOU!

xxx

September 7, 2009 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger Syd said...

But you've already said it - it's not you. While you may have changed a bit since you left Bretagne, the essential Sam hasn't changed, and that's the one that for some reason the people there kept at arm's length and the people everywhere else treat like a normal human being.

I know nothing of that region, but I must suspect that their culture specifically treats outsiders that way. There's nothing you can do about it, because it's got nothing to do with you. So the only way you failed was by failing to be born and raised there.

If they treated all blonds like that, would you feel like you failed? No, because there's nothing you can do about being born a blond - and there's nothing you can do about being born anywhere else.

I think it goes our American nature to classify groups of people as 'a certain way'. It feels wrong. But as I get older, and especially as I am exposed to more 'groups of people' I begin to understand that there are times when the cultural homogeneity of groups is real. Nothing you can do about it. It's not you, it really is them.

September 7, 2009 at 1:21 PM  
Blogger Emmy said...

OMG Sam - have you been reading too much of my blog?! Your post has reinforced to me that I have to get out of Amiens as I feel exactly the same about Amiens as you did/do about Bretagne. I am never going to be 'good enough' for Amiens it's obvious and I need to remind myself that I am worthy of friends and a job, difficult after years of negative influences. It is Amiens, not me that is the problem.

Don't let the memories of bretagne eat you up. It gave you the opportunity to appreciate the good things of elsewhere. You are rich in being able to compare. A lot of people will never get that chance!

September 7, 2009 at 2:46 PM  
Blogger kylie said...

i was just about to leave the exact same comment as antipo: they were not good enough for you. :)

(but in the not-snobby sounding way!)

glad that you had a great time... :)

September 7, 2009 at 3:23 PM  
Blogger GL'sD said...

After we met at Aimee's Tea House we went to Omaha and Utah beach. There I met a fellow from Seattle, WA. And things got around to talking about different places. I told him about your experience in Brittney. He started to laugh, really hard and than said that he was born and raised in Brittney and lived there for 27 years. Now get this he left there because he never felt that he was accepted. So I guess I'll have to go along with Antipo Deesse one this one.

September 7, 2009 at 5:51 PM  
Blogger Starman said...

It should be obvious from all the other comments that it is not you who are at fault. Your ordeal with the Bretons is over. Now you must let yourself be accepted in Paris.

September 7, 2009 at 8:40 PM  
Blogger MISS YURI said...

i really think you're reaping the benefits now from how crappy the bretons in brittany were. if you had managed to make a lot of deep connections with people there, it would have been doubly heart-breaking when your relationship ended because you would have mourned your connection to all these great people you were welcomed by, etc. but this way there's no love lost. it always works out how it's supposed to, no matter how crappy it may have seemed at the time. and could you remind me of that next time i'm bummed out about something? haha

September 7, 2009 at 9:07 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I don't know. I certainly haven't spent much time in Bretagne and don't know many Bretons, but it always seems to me like a remote, isolated region/group of people.

September 7, 2009 at 10:00 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

You need the same pep talk that I always give my kids. It amounts to this: "Don't dwell, stew or otherwise waste time on pointless regrets. Move forward. You are a great person with a great future ahead of you."
True for my kids, true for you.

September 8, 2009 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger Crystal said...

let's not dwell on the past my friend...that part of your life is over and done with - the good and the bad. The negative stuff only made you stronger and able to appreciate the new people you meet now. You could have been surrounded by jerk-offs in the states too...just depends on where you end up :)

It was their loss, not yours.

September 8, 2009 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger Animesh said...

+1 to Antipo and Kylie.

:)

September 8, 2009 at 10:59 AM  
Blogger Cindy in NE said...

Bonjour Sam!
You're scaring me! I have been in my husband's home town, Guémene-Penfao, many times, and I've always been treated so well! I would even like to spend more time there someday. Am I missing something? Is there anyone out there who hasn't had a bad experience with Bretons? Would I be making a huge mistake? (They do drink alot though!)

September 9, 2009 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger Ksam said...

Cindy, there's no way I would ever say that you would for sure not like living in Brittany! It depends on what your goals are in life - it's a lovely vacation spot, and I also think it would be a wonderful place to retire to, have a garden, etc.

But for non-retired folk, it's true that it can be quite difficult. I've been thinking about your comment for the past few hours now, and I have to say - I met a lot of foreigners there over the years, and barring the ones who lived in the capital city (Rennes) or who lived in Anglophone bubbles w/no contact with the French world, I can unfortunately only think of one or two who were truly happy there.

September 10, 2009 at 12:43 AM  
Blogger Zuleme said...

We were in the Luberon at almost the same time, in Goult. Didn't make it to Les Baux though, spent most of our time bicycling. Loved it, it was our second trip and even better than the first. I have learned some French too, which helps a lot.
And then we went to St. Nazaire and Nantes to visit friends. This is the first time I have been in that part of France and we were staying with French friends so we had a great time and met lots of other French people. We didn't have time to get out in the countryside but I would say that Brittany is different from the rest of France, it has the whole Celtic thing. We have been invited back to stay in the family's summer house and an artist friend offered to let us use his house in St. Nazaire so I hope we get back.
I think that if your experience was different, it was really just the people you found yourself with. It's not you. But I can understand it is disturbing to try to fit in a place and make friends and not feel accepted. If I was to spend more time in France I think I would want to be in the South. We are planning a trip to the south west with our French friends some day. They have lots of family there.
We invite French students and people to stay with us in New Hampshire so there is already a relationship of mutual hospitality and that opens a lot of doors. And we are helping their kids with work experience.

September 12, 2009 at 1:40 PM  

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