Every time someone asks me “Where are you from?” I develop quite a bit of anxiety. Most people have a one word response such as “Los Angeles”, or “Berlin”, or “Tokyo”. Simple question…should have a simple answer, right? Wrong.
I never want want to delve into my life story when I first meet someone so a lot of times I’ll just tell them where I live at the moment. And actually, my story isn’t that complicated.
I was born in Chicago, moved to Paris, France when I was 6, and grew up there until high school. In France I was always associated as being “the American girl,” but when I would visit the states I would always be known as “the French girl.” So what was I?? My passport is American, but to this day I am still left in the dust when my peers discuss American TV shows, games, and other things that they grew up with. I grew up reading Tom-Tom et Nana but also Calvin and Hobbes. The developmental years are crucial to every person and their personality. There is a certain part of the United States that I can’t quite identify with because I never learned much about it. I was taught countless times about the French Revolution, but never about any American history (until I took US History in the 11th grade). In elementary school I would get so frustrated with people telling me “oooooooo you’re so cute! say something in french!!!” My dad and I would joke how I could turn to them and list off profanities and they would just eat it up. Fortunately I was better mannered than that and mostly answered with “Qu’est-ce que vous voulez que je vous dise?” (translation: “What would you like me to say?”) At that point they were so excited that I said more than “Bonjour! Baguette! Croissant!” (like they expected) that I was let off the hook and able to go about with whatever I was previously doing. Some fun times that have happened with my best friend Catherine are when we are chit-chatting on the Métro, the bus, or other public places in Paris. Sometimes we speak to each other in just French or just English, but mostly a mix of both. We can both vividly remember times when we have heard French girls talk about us because they think we are tourists; then we switch to French and seeing their faces is pretty priceless, and always entertaining. In our defense they shouldn’t have been so judgmental since most of the time we are both decked out in full black outfits like the true Parisians that we are!
My family moved back to Chicago in 2004 (while still keeping a pied-à-terre in the 6th arrondissement of Paris) so that I could start high school in America. I went to a small private school that was just a 4 minute walk, about 2 iPod songs, away from my house. I only knew what American schools were like based off of TV shows and movies, and the thing that I was most excited for was…lockers. The simplest thing, yet it seemed so fun to me: I could decorate it, hang out near it…so American!
After high school I decided to go to one of the two West coast universities that I applied to (the rest were on the East coast or Wisconsin): Santa Clara University. Also known to many people as a the school that Steve Nash attended, the school in the movie “Bend it like Beckham”, or a country club because it doesn’t look like a real college campus. Once that happened, my parents decided to split their time between Chicago and Paris. I also studied abroad through Semester at Sea since my wanderlust is so great (see below). Why not explore as many countries as I can! I can’t even begin to tell you how many times my parents heard “Well she’s never going to come back you know?” when they told people in Chicago that I was going to school in California. But little did they know I would end up going even further…
So after all that I am now living in Thailand. I don’t even think my parents were surprised when I told them I wanted to move here. But lucky them…they get to visit me here!
Here are some observations that I have made from the 3 cultures (French, American, and Thai):
-How to eat food:
- France: people cut with their right hand, hold the fork with their left, and do not switch hands. I grew up learning like this so I eat most of my food with my left hand (but my right hand is my dominant hand).
- America: same deal with the cutting but people switch hands. Too much work if you ask me! I grew up watching my mom eat this way.
- Thailand: people use a spoon and fork for all meals. Knives are rare. The spoon is the main piece of silverware in this dance and it goes in the right hand. The fork is used to assemble the food onto the spoon to then stuff our faces with delicious Thai food.
- France: people greet each other with “la bise” for most situations. It is a kiss on each cheek but mainly air kisses occur.
- America: ahh this country has yet to figure out a proper greeting. Do we shake hands? Do we hug? Do we do an awkward wave? What if we’ve met a few times already but we aren’t good friends? It’s always an ordeal, and I am not a fan. Maybe someone needs to come up with a cool handshake for all Americans to learn and use…
- Thailand: A “wai” is the common daily greeting. There are different levels which you can read about here. The basic rule is that you “wai” a person upon seeing them every day, so I “wai” many teachers in the mornings at school. This can be quite a difficult task if you are holding things in your arms but people understand.
- France: 24 hour time. 9h15 is 9am, 14h00 is 2pm, 22h30 is 1030 pm. You get the idea. Also known as “military time” to Americans. This is how all of my digital devices are set. It makes more sense in my mind and is how i learned. I have been asked many times what is wrong with my iPhone’s clock…
- America: morning, noon, and night. Just kidding. AM and PM being used for before noon and afternoon with a 12 hour clock. I know many people who have missed morning classes and meetings due to setting their alarms to PM and not AM. Never has this once happened to me.
- Thailand: there is a very intricate system that I don’t even know how to use yet. What I do know is that Thai people are always late. No matter what. Jessie and I were told we were going to be picked up at 930 am for a Sunday teaching job….we got picked up at 1030 am. Oh well, no worries, hakuna matata, or as they say “mai pen rai.”
- France: treated better than the children. Allowed everywhere. They run the country.
- America: a man’s best friend. Rules and exceptions apply of course. Some say dressing up a dog as a pumpkin or a fairy on Halloween is torture, while others deem it to be alright. You can be the judge.
- Thailand: dogs are everywhere but they ARE NOT pets. I cannot stress this enough. Just looking at most of them you will understand. They roam into the middle of the road with no common sense that they will get hit by a car. They have fleas. They are not “fixed.” There are some that are (sort of) pets. Some of the teachers own dogs. One of the dogs lives outside my house. We have named this pup “Baan-baan” and she protects the turf. Only downfall is that she sometimes barks at all hours of the night, especially to communicate to the pack of canines across the soccer/football field (and no, not American football).
I am sure I will come across many more but these are the main ones I’ve noticed right off the bat. Also, if you were wondering this whole time what a TCK is, then check this out for an explanation better than my own. I am a TCK, along with many of my friends. Here is an article that my dad wrote about it.
And here is how I keep track of some of the f*$&ing time zones…thank you Apple.