The no go plan of becoming a Parisian

Complete cultural immersion is going to be a one sided deal, so I've realized. Which comes as no surprise seeing as the Parisians really have no business in aiding with the transition. And by business, I mean they all together couldn’t care less.

The realization stumped me for all of a few seconds. Because hadn’t that been my plan, to shed all that is American in hopes of grasping all that is Parisian? Of stepping onto the city streets, baguette in one hand, beret in the other, my identity masked as the American abroad? Of replacing the abruptness of my American mannerisms with the refined and delicate touch to that of the Parisians? And of becoming one with the French, however temporarily?

And so I racked my brain, desperately seeking a way to zip the newfound burst of knowledge back into its thought- flooded compartment. Until I stopped, once again. This time left wondering if complete immersion is, in fact, really what I want.  

I’m an American college student abroad in a country of culture and glamour, of wealth and history—bearing little similarity to that of my college life, and none to that of my home life. I’m quick, as we all are, to pick up on the differences among lifestyles while abroad, yet I recognize my observations will remain observations. Just that. They’re observations I can implement into my routine, but the insights (which mind you, are no different to the swarms of abroad students who too have made the same discoveries) will hardly set me apart from all who have experienced the same, and relatively little to help with the process of my transformation into a Parisian. In fact, the idea of a complete, seamless adaptation is merely a lofty goal fabricated by the naivety of my college- student- abroad mentality.

The French, and I can only assume the great majority of Europeans, cling to what shapes and defines them as a way of protecting themselves from loosing a sense of prominence among a continent of the cultured. Parisians expect you to speak French, rarely wavering to help should your vocabulary prove insufficient to express yourself effectively. This is their culture, this is their lifestyle—this is their country. The stereotype of the snobbish Frenchman (which in any case, stands as a massive generalization)  is merely a reflection of the French culture’s inherent defense mechanism—a safeguard from the outsider who could somehow push aside the roots of what make the French, the French. It’s this attitude that this our culture, this is our way of being that builds onto the national pride that groups the identity of these people. They look down on us, the outsider, because there’s no room for the intrusion. The French don’t want the American culture of an ethic defined by work, a mentality defined by the material, infiltrating the customs and ways of their own. 

(That being said, however, I would appreciate it if the French would at least permit the American [brilliant] concept of water fountains to seep through. That and Starbucks [aka free bathrooms] lining the streets. Which, obviously, would have to be implemented following the passing of free water fountains for all. Equality at its finest.)

Australia had been different; I do recall feeling a part of their culture, one among the ordinary citizen within Australian society. Perhaps it was because I was working, but I believe it’s more reflective of the notion that Australians welcome the outside world, welcome the outside interest-- a factor, perhaps, influenced by how far removed Australia is from the rest of the world. Australians (who possess an utmost fascination for all things American) welcomed us into their culture, permitting space for us to join and learn and share in the Australian way of living. And that’s what made cultural immersion possible; the open invitation from host to guest.

But there’s no invite from the French. The guest remains a guest, forever an outsider in the eyes of the Parisians.

And so cultural immersion: a no go, here in Paris. Outsider is what I will forever be, and my four months as a student abroad will do little to change such a fact.

So I won't become a Parisian, nor will I be identified as a tourist. Observer, rather, is my place here. 
And that, I've come to discover, is fine by me.

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