I thought I was French

A man plays fiddle while two men dance along at an antique fair.

I spend everyday in Perpignan exploring the city by foot. It’s a walking town with great public transportation, which I have used to get outside the city twice already. But if you want to get around, walking is definitely the best way to go. It took me about two seconds after I got off the plane to discover that wherever I walk, in large groups or small, the spotlight is on the foreigner.

While Perpignan is a very touristy town, the tourists are largely from France or Spain, and rarely does a chatty group of seventeen women (and one man) from les Etats-Unis venture this far south of Paris or Nice. Saturday, I ventured the city solo thinking that without my posse of friends I would blend in better with my surroundings. On the previous night my group of friends managed to befriend a lovely French woman and her boyfriend who showed us a nice place to get a drink, and from conversing with her using basic phrases, I was confident my French could get me by alone for the day.

Beyond trying to improve my French, over the past week I’ve been observing the French women so I could blend in with my surroundings. My posture has immediately improved, my wardrobe is changing, and I’m not as smiley as I once was.

I walked out my door Saturday morning, sashayed down the street as French as I could, and none of my observations worked. Heads still turned, puzzled looks planted upon them, and one man even said “Hello” in his thick French accent.

I was caught, I’m not French. My ego was a little deflated when this happened, but I pushed forward. I stuffed a baguette in my purse and wandered about an outdoor antique fair where a man was playing the fiddle for a couple of older gentlemen dancing about. When I entered the scene, I again got a few puzzled looks, but all welcoming.

Right there, my attitude changed. I came to the conclusion I will never be French, at least not in the next month I am here. I may buy the French clothes, carry around baguettes and brie, but I will never be French. The French know this, but from my experiences so far they have accepted that, and are happy to show me how to be an American in France