Category Archives: Identity – Identité

I am unpatriotic whore, apparently.

The first time my “whoring” became apparent to me was 15 years ago when my parents invited a couple of friends over. The discussion at the table, at which I was expected to stay, somehow ended up on my speaking English on the Internet: have status in English on MSN chat for instance, taking active part in English-speaking forums about footballers I fancied and more broadly on my listening to practically only English.

The husband had objections and I can’t recall exactly how it came to that but I said: “Using English is also easier to communicate and look for things you need.” To which he replies “So you are prostituting yourself.” He had the idea that my speaking English on the Internet instead of sticking to French, and especially using English when French could be used (i.e. on MSN with some of my French friends) was like a prostitute who can’t be bothered to get a proper job to make a living. She instead opens her legs because she is certain to get the money and akin to her, I was willingly selling out my culture, myself, my identity to get what I want instead of sticking to my language, no matter whom I was interacting with, because it is easier that way. I should be working hard to establish myself as I am but instead I was sleeping with the boss to get there.

As I was mentioning this very conversation to a friend, she bounced back on my use of English, something I never used with her, but when she fathomed the scale of my willingness to learn it, speak it and use it, she simply asked “Why do you want to lose your mother tongue?” For her, actively learning and enjoying the speaking of another language to which I had no family ties whatsoever was an act of forsaking my own language. In her mind, I couldn’t have both. One was going to take over. It wasn’t about whoring myself to get it easy anymore but willingly rejecting my whole self for unfathomable reasons.

The questioning of my patriotism came with another former friend. “Former” because there are certain things I only take from foes, not friends. Again, we were on the subject of my listening to almost exclusively English-speaking music. She was going through my CD collections – no MP3 players at the time – and ruing the absence of French but for a couple of artists out of a 100 or so. She asked why and my answer prompted her to tell me I was “unpatriotic”. I was buying music, giving money to some strangers that are the very reason why French musicians struggle. I was part of the problem regarding the suffocation of anything native in the face of the American music industry. More, I was betraying my culture when I could be expanding it. I was serving the enemy.

I have been wondering why these people reacted as they did for the past 15 years. Not that it’s the first or only time I have been getting that kind of remarks but they usually come from people who call themselves “proud, real French”. The either country-side-living or poorly-educated or highly nationalistic person who, for various reasons, reject anything foreign on various degrees of violence and easily buy into the American invasion. All the while never going to a single French movie because they are “boring”…

I get that at work at the moment. For the first time, I am not in teaching languages but took a job at a supermarket because the next country I want to move to is very expensive so I need massive savings, and I am surrounded by people who don’t speak English. When I do, even and mostly to myself, most of them have this knee-jerk rejection of it. Fear of someone who knows more? Feeling of exclusion? Both I think.

However, those three people aforementioned belong to a type of population I know very well, due to my travelling and living abroad: the bi-nationals. The man is Franco-German, the former friend was Franco-Vietnamese and the other is French but both her parents are Argentinians who moved to France as teenagers.

Most bi-nationals I know embrace both their cultures, languages and the question of identity is one that resolved itself easily: I am a citizen of the world. I am a human being. Borders are irrelevant, languages are relevant in that they open doors and help you in life. If nationalities are two boxes on paper, they are endless opportunities in real life. A former colleague whose mother is Jamaican and father French, because born in Guadeloupe, was once asked the usual question: “What do you prefer most? Being French or Jamaican?” She replied that this type of questions was akin to asking: “Who’s your favourite, your dad or your mum?” This is irrelevant and ignorant.

A bi-national will appreciate and critique their culture equally but for very different reasons and the questions of identity, culture and belonging is a open pick & mix buffet. You take what you like in whichever side you wish. For instance, when talking about homosexuality, she said she was more French because France embraces same-sex marriage but when it comes to race issues, she was more Jamaican because, unlike in France, she was not “black” in Jamaica, just a normal person.

Nevertheless, not all bi-nationals are like that, as shown by the people who called me a prostitute who was unpatriotically forsaking my whole heritage for something I had no reason to embrace. They belong to the bi-nationals for whom the question of identity has been a black or white issue and they were faced with choosing sides for a variety of reasons so it took me to know them to try and understand their apparent rejection of anything but France and French, although they should be the expression of multiculturalism.

The husband, for instance, was born from a German father and a French mother. First, as a child whose father is the foreigner, he spoke little German. It’s something I noticed amongst all my friends, either parents or children in multicultural families: if the mother is the foreigner, the child will more likely be bilingual and open to both his heritages. Fathers tend to speak their native language less for reasons I still need to explore. So he grew up speaking just a bit of both languages and when his father left his mother, the conflict of love became one of cultures. In the rejection of his father, it’s also Germany and everything that comes with it he forsook. Hence the name-calling: for him, my tending to another culture is abhorrent, a betrayal to France who “gave birth to and nurture me”. He chose France and French because, in his mind, they are family and one cannot belong to two families. I was indeed just a whore, trying to please some stranger culture by overly speaking its language because I had concluded that the English family was more profitable.

The former friend has both Vietnamese parents, she spoke, ate, drank, sang, read, danced Vietnamese culture but this was the privacy of her home. Outside, casual racism based on her looking Asian, and therefore being “Chinese” – because, of course, all Asians are Chinese – led her to work extra hard to integrate to France and become she could never look “it”, she would forever act and sound it. She therefore ended up internalising extreme ideas as to what makes a good French person and a bad one. I was the bad one, she was the good one because I embraced English culture when I should have done what she has always been told to do and eventually did: solely embrace French culture and eventually leave the rest behind. I remember her saying she was fighting with her parents because she would not marry a man from Southeast Asia, and she refused to carry on with learning Vietnamese. She was the product of our idea of assimilation of immigrants centered on the concept of leaving your roots behind altogether in order to become someone else, someone new, someone fitting for the role, someone who would not think twice if the day of confrontation with your ancestry would come. You would defend France because you have become French through steps I was overlooking. Maybe because I had the privilege of being French by ancestry…

The second one was the same somehow, except she only took in the words, not the outrageous nationalism needed to compensate others’ racism based on her looks because her family is of Spanish descent. The parents spoke perfect French after 30 years in France. they had jobs, they owned a house, she was a high-achiever at school. If the name was Spanish, they were nothing but fully integrated into the French society. The perfect immigrants, some would say. “You would not know they are not French”

If the parents spoke Spanish to each other, they spoke French to their daughters. If she enjoyed her Argentinian heritage through music and dancing, she however had this idea of having to make a choice between two options. I think it comes again from the idea of opportunities in life. Being as French as possible had probably been carved into her head by her parents so to ensure she had the best chances but it also meant she couldn’t possibly understand that my love of English was not making me any less French than I am, I was just expanding my horizon as wide as her had always been on the international scale.

I have now become very wary of these types of bi-nationals who, for reasons usually not fully understood by them, are overly patriotic and judgmental when it comes to embracing more than one culture. French politics is a perfect example with people like Sarkozy (Hungary) and Manuel Valls (Spain) who were sometimes as damning of social, cultural diversity and foreigners as the far-right can be. For me, this is one of the far-right’s and racism’s greatest victory: to have made some immigrants and their children willingly reject their own culture, reject multiculturalism as fake and treason to the soil you live on, point out variety as source of a problem instead of a solution.

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Do whatever but don’t force us to care.

In France, the Gay Pride is called “Marche des fiertés” – the Walk of the prides – which prompts someone on Twitter to say that in France, one is allowed to be proud of anything, except being heterosexual. The person is a proud member of the main right-wing party, of course, and belongs to a world chorus whining endlessly about their newly-born victimhood: we forbid their pride.

The fact is: you can be proud of anything you want, no one is stopping you but you can’t blame the rest of the world for not giving a pig’s bottom at you flaunting your privileges in the face of people who are still struggling everyday to be considered as normal citizens. At best! Homosexuality is still punishable by prison, torture and death in the world.

That’s what Pride Month is about and the marches that come with it: raising awareness and show that we are united and ever-ready to peacefully fight, along with millions of straight people, to be all equals.

So you are welcome to get your arse off your chair, to come and to join us. Even with a sign reading “I am proud to be straight” – if your commitment to your pride goes beyond the cheap 140-character Twitter rant, which I highly doubt. I mean, a pride is months of preparation, hours of setting-up, standing and waiting before you can eventually march.

But as I said no one is stopping you.

What’s to be French?

Officially France recognises both birth right and jus soli. It means that one will automatically have the French nationality provided that one of his parents is acknowledged as French by l’Etat Civil (through blood lineage, then) but also anyone born on French soil is given the French nationality.

It is being discussed at the moment because the instauration of both rights in the constitution is dating back after WWII and it has been applied to every child of immigrants who came to France The problem we are having is that, for the first time since WII, we are not only dealing with immigrants but with refugees.

The very important difference between an immigrant and a refugee is that the first has made the decision to move countries in order to find better opportunities, better life or just to find something new, like I did when moving to England.

Immigrants have the will to stay for a long time, to settle, to integrate. They are here to stay, their decision is, for the majority, a life-time decision. They find jobs, pay taxes and it is fair to give the French nationality to their children born in France, who after all, speak French, read, watch and listen to French, go to French schools, abide by French laws. To give people who are born and raised in France within French values a sense of belonging from the very beginning.

A refugee, however, is different. They have no intention to stay. I am saying they don’t contribute, are unwilling to integrate or that they will never (want to) stay but most of them are living with hope that what the plague that forced them to abandon their home will end soon and they will be able to go back home and rebuild their lives. That’s just for the ones who are stationing in France. We also have hundreds of thousands, millions maybe, transiting through the country to reach some family and friends that will help and shelter them in another country, like the UK.

What do we do when one if these refugee women gives birth in France then? Should jus soli apply? Why? Why not? My real question is: Do the parents really care that their child is French? Do they want their children to be French? Will the child ever want to be French? Will there be consequences when they go back to a country that might not acknowledge him/her as one of their own? Will they be forced to give it up to be accepted when they never asked for it?

And what does that mean for the child to be French?

Having the French nationality does not open to automatic economic rights – unlike what Marine Le Pen has been saying. Believe me, I know! Ten years in England meant ten years without a cent given to the French state in taxes so when I came back, no amount of passport, ID card or birth certificate allowed me to receive any money. I want a place to live? A chance to be reimbursed my medical expenses?  Protection if I lose my job? Well, I had to get a job to begin with. My French nationality never gave me any economic rights, no. You earn them.

However, being French automatically gives you certain can-do’s (along with the have-to’s), such as the right to express yourself, i.e: vote and that’s an issue. Although the numbers of refugee babies automatically born French are a far cry from dramatic, there are babies out there who are French because they were born in France and maybe they will never know or actually never care. Some will have never spoken a word or French, lived in France or even cared for France. What do we do about them? Do we give them the right to vote anyway? If anything happens to them later on in life in another country, is France’s responsibility to protect them?

That’s a question I don’t know how to answer. At the moment, the state has inadvertently responded to it by allowing the “striping of nationality” in the constitution under certain circumstances dividing even more the country between those who are sure to remain French and those walking on the plank. Maybe a review of the situation when the child is 18 could be good, like in Germany. I don’t know…

The other major issue with being French is the problem between what the law says and what the people are ready to accept. As usual with a country, the capital is setting the tone and I will mention my cousin to show something about France and its conception of identity.

My cousin was born in Paris more than 30 years ago. His parents moved there when they were late teenagers, he has lived his whole life in Paris, has no intention to move, has always been working in Paris itself, have been paying taxes to the city of Paris yet he’s not “un Parisien”.

Why? Because his father was not born in Paris but in Boulogne. His mother was born in Paris but her parents weren’t. To have the right to call yourself a “true” Parisien and to be acknowledged as such by the “true” people of Paris, you have to be the fourth generation in a row to be born and to have lived in Paris.

So despite his mother and himself being born in Paris, he is not un Parisien. All because his father is form Boulogne and grew up in Versailles, his grand-mother is from Chamberry and grew up in Saint-Cloud, his grand-father is from Tours and grew up in Saint-Cloud as well. As for the rest of the family, we come from Tourraine, Périgord, Jura, Lyon and Savoy.

Well, expend that to the whole of France and you know why people who were born in France, whose parents were born in France are not considered as French but called “Imigrants of Third Generation”, all because their grand-parents are from Algeria. Even when the State officially acknowledges them as French, and Algeria was part of France when their grand-parents were born – but at the time, no jus soli, just birth right so they were still “Arabs”.

That’s the core of the identity problem in France. The State acknowledges you as French but as far as the French are concerned, they will check on your ancestors to find out if your claim to Frenchness withholds the 100 years landmark or 4 generations born and to have lived in France.

This idea of time based on a mix of blood and land doesn’t come out of nowhere. It is actually one of the most archaic way to decide whether someone deserves to be something or not. It started with the Greeks. To have the right to become a citizen in Athens, to have the right to express yourself and vote, you had to prove that your father and grand-father were born and lived in Athens. Then later, as the system got older, you could only be a citizen if your father and grand-father were themselves citizens. Or be an exceptional character. But nothing new is protecting one’s right to be privileged.

In the US, one likes to list their Italian quarter of blood mixed with eighth of Irish blood, sixteenth of Swedish, all in half Cheerokee because they are no real definition of what it is to be American. The nationality doesn’t even match the name of the country for the US know they are a country of immigration.

In France, schizophrenia is the norm. “The Republic is one and indivisible” so everyone is French by either birth right or jus soli or both. By this definition, being French should be fairly open from the Flemish of the Lille to the Basque of the Bayonne yet in real life everyone still has to prove their blood has been purified by 100 of living on the French soil before they can be allowed to call themselves French by the “true French” – whoever we are. Celtic Gaulois by soil? Germanic Franks by blood? Romans by language? Austrians by croissants?

A good integration of immigrants is not just about them making an effort, but also about a rethink of what it takes and means to be French. It means teaching the French and the immigrants that being French has nothing to do with time and blood, rather will, tolerance, open-mindness and contribution from both parts.

The lump of fat

I met a person. A type of person that I have seen before, watched before, heard of before but never met, or at least never had a full conversation with. An Irish colleague to whom I was introduced before the lemon cupcakes I made that day were. She first started by telling me that it was not the way her mother was doing it, then telling me that, if I were a proper Englishman, I would have added some decorations. I said that as a Frenchman, unlike the Brits, I prefer minimalism and to let the taste speak for the cakes.

Little did I know that, when it comes to looks, it is everything to her.

I was finding her frankly overbearing and went back to my work, she anyway carried on by telling me that she doesn’t eat cakes anymore anyway. So what was all that criticism all about then? She told me that she had “found the way”. She had “realised it” and, putting her hand on my shoulder, that now she helps people lose weight.

I always have good come-backs and I am never speechless but I just looked at her with a blank eye. She said that she can help me, that like me, who is a true baker in the heart (Okay then…), she has another calling and it’s to help people to clear their deep psychological blockage. She was on a mission to make me thin although we had barely met, I never asked anything, I did not complain and she knew nothing but my first name.

That was the first time I met someone like that: the thin proselyte who, like a born-again Christian, has made a mission to convert the fat people to their search for ultimate yet healthy twigginess.

And the whole experience was truly terrible to be honest. I came out of it extremely angry, feeling like shit, feeling like I was beneath her, I was just weak and pathetic because what these people really are is absolute bullying wolves in sheep clothing. At first, they are very nice, want to be helpful, seem understanding and sympathetic when in fact, they are just terribly insulting and their eagerness to shove your own face into the fat-swelling rawness inside of you is disrespect beyond the pale.

My anger came from me being put in a position of inferiority by this “holy” person but also my inability to really fight back. First, I did not think for a second that after everything I have achieved in my life, I would still have to justify myself for looking fat, which I found demeaning at the best of time. But it is also because we cannot attack these preaching bullies without becoming the executioner in the eyes of others. What outside people see is a very friendly, softly-spoken person who is selflessly sparing a couple of very sensible advice for your own good but the intrusion into your private space makes you want to punch them out of it or just tell them to “fuck off!” or even just be cold. But you think: “Am I proving you right by retaliating?”

I was stuck between her friendly claws wrapping closer around me and being unprofessional by bluntly telling her off. And also, she hadn’t mentioned me as such at this point so one could have easily blamed me for being touchy about being fat in the first place. “She was just making conversation; I was the one who made it about me.”

I did not know what to do and let myself being controlled into deeper self-loathing.

“I remove deep blockage” is what she said then. I felt more and more vulnerable and on the defensive side. My brain was screaming “Who are you to presume and question my mental health just by looking at me? How can you stand there and basically tell me that my physical appearance is saying all that needs to be known about my deep self?”

The worst with these people is their phoney empathy. She tried to show that she does understand by attempting to relate to me. The more she was blabbing about her ability to help the fat, the greater my need to dismiss her became so I bluntly said I had been overweight for the past 20 years and frankly nothing would change overnight. That’s when she pulled the relating trick where you show the other you identify with them. You are not yet another thin person who lectures, you suffered as well so she replied:

“Me too. I used to be obese then I found it and went from 68 kilos to 62 in two months!”

There was a silence.

Whatever “it” might be, that attempt to relate to my obesity was once again one of the most insulting thing I have ever been told. If 68 kilos from 1m60 is obese, what am I with my 120 kilos for 1m76?

I am obviously a monster that needs saving asap and that’s why she was here, right now.

In my silence, she started to throw words and phrases like “the teachings of Chinese medicine”, “the rules of Indian philosophy”, “the meaning of Asian religions”. It became more and more vague and the word “oriental” popped out more and more until it was virtually attached to every single of her abstractionisms. She is clearly one of these Westerners who have never lived anywhere near Asia and reduce it to what some pseudo gurus have let slip through our borders and books.

I found myself having to justify that I was indeed not just spending my life on my couch eating burgers. I felt like a child having to prove his parents he was not a total failure. I still cannot believe I ended up telling her I was going to the gym five times a week, was making an effort to only eat cereals in the morning rather that cakes, and that from now on, every morning, I was taking out seven to ten fruits and veg as well as 3 litres of water and a litre of whole milk that needed to be eaten and drunk by the time I go to bed. I suddenly watched myself trying to prove someone that my life was indeed a shameful mess of fat but I was trying to clear it up.

I concluded by saying that I was doing yoga and pilates to which she patronisingly replied that it was good for my condition. My “condition”, that was it. I am sick. In her mind, as long as I need to wear XL clothes, I will never be anything other than a lump of fat. I am just like a pack of butter and frankly I felt like one and became almost apologetic for it.

These thin, know-it-all-about-healthy-living proselytes want to help? They trigger nothing but greater self-loathing and a feeling of failure.

I became so fed up with her self-righteousness and her Christian-like attempt to force her newly-found, perfect way of life through every crack of my life and soul that I eventually stopped working, faced and told her that being fat has never stopped me from making it to where I was today, from leaving France with just a suitcase to live and work for 7 years in a country where I had no friends and no family, to making it as a teacher to one of the oldest and best school in England with nothing.

My being fat is irrelevant. She was not convinced.

Of course, she was not. Her self-loathing when she was “obese” will never allow her to see me as a person. For her, nothing I have and would ever say, nothing I have and would ever think, nothing I have and would ever do, nothing I have and would ever achieve will be good enough to gain her full respect because I do not look the part. I am not thin, therefore not happy nor fulfilled.

Had I been thin, we would have never had this conversation and I would not have had to list my life achievements and emphasise that being fat does not make suicidal and has not stopped me from having a life like everybody else.

The fact is, the self-righteousness she caged herself in has disabled her ability to have actual empathy for people she had made a mission to save. When she did put on weight at some point in her life, she had already digested and interiorised some prejudice about people who put on weight: that we are weak, with no self-control, that when our eating leaves my marks on our bodies despite the XL clothes, it means that we have deep psychological problems that remain unresolved.

Who hasn’t? You needn’t be fat to have problems! There is a brilliant Tumblr that display mugshots of criminals and if you just judge by their looks, they should have healthy minds. I mean some of them are handsome, thin, athletic and yet they robbed, battered, raped and killed. Being fat doesn’t say anything about you or your ability but she cannot see that because when the kilos piled up, she got scared, started to doubt herself and had found “oriental” solutions she is now preaching to whomever looks fatter than they should. Which, by the way, goes against actual Asian philosophies.

Today, she is just projecting on every fat person her personal experience. She has never been able to accept herself as someone with a bit more flesh. She hated herself then and she never managed to respect that person. Now she cannot possibly, truly respect us too and unfortunately, her views are becoming the mainstream in every aspect of our society. We did have Jamelia saying that fat people should be ashamed of being fat. Nice one, love! That’s going to help us move on with our lives…

Like all other thin, smug, Nazi-style or Evangelical-style healthy living proselytes, she doesn’t understand that force-feeding me with her phoney psychological help is not going to make me lose weight. On the contrary, her and her fat-shaming ilk are one of the biggest part of the problem and unlike them, I will never consider being thin a life achievement therefore a life goal.

And frankly, I am getting tired of my being fat being constantly shoved in my face and having to apologise for it, justify and prove myself on that sole basis day in, day out.

When I went back to my lesson planning and we parted, she passed in front of the cakes I spent hours making and, to add insult to injury, said proudly:
“Look, I am resisting. I have not eaten any of your cakes.”

I couldn’t take it anymore and with all the wisdom of a school playground, I replied:
“And I have not cared for anything you have been telling me.”

We don’t do Halloween, we do much more.

There seems to be this idea in the minds of many in the US that the blue print of the whole American life-style and traditions should be copied and paste on to the whole world. “Why not? We like it, they have to as well.”

I am talking about Halloween in that context and the reaction of sympathetic, slightly patronising sadness I get everytime I am asked about it and I say that I have never put on a costume and gone trick-or-treating on October  31st. There is sadness but there is also judgment.

“Awww, I’m so sorry! Poor French kids, I can’t believe they are deprived of so much fun…”

I’m sorry, what?! “Deprived”, you said?

Then they explain that it’s terrible for the kids because Halloween is so much fun for them, they get to dress up, to go and get sweets and it’s so “great” and they are “so excited”. They love it, we love it, everybody loves it so they don’t understand why the whole world still hasn’t joined in the fun! It’s so exciting!

Americans are always very excited about things they do and obviously still under the spell of having been called “the Promise Land” in the 1800s.

I was watching Ellen yesterday and Daniel Radcliffe got exactly the same reaction when he said he had never celebrated Halloween. There is pity and the idea that we all should do it because, even if we don’t care, it’s not about us, it’s about the kids and it’s about fun. “Duncha wanna have fun?”

This ethnocentric attitude would be nice if it were not so demeaning and righteous regarding how different cultures are.

I am French and yes, we don’t celebrate Halloween.

We are not against Halloween as such, except for some old farts who think we should also ban Christmas because “it’s lost its meaning” and call it “Presents day” or worst “Materialismas”. I am not against Halloween, I actually like the tradition behind it, the chasing of the demons before All-Saints day.

In France, it’s coming and going of course because of course there’s a huge marketing push (that’s annoying!). I mean the shops are happy to be selling costumes and sweets, and yes, the appeal for the kids to be monsters and get free sweets is fantastic. However, on the morning of October 31st, I went to the supermarket and it was business as usual. No decoration, no sales on sweets and costume props, no special department dedicated to Halloween. Only a poor employee, they dressed up as a witch, was standing on a corner, bored, handing plastic bag, with a couple of sweets and a ghost drawn on it, to some toddlers with their wary-looking parents.

On the night, no house was decorated, no one came to ring the bell and I can’t remember anyone who knocked at our door for the past 30 years asking for sweets. Halloween doesn’t take off and not because we try to resist it but because it’s just not what we do. Maybe one day it will be, but for now, very little parents take their kids around the streets at night because they know that getting a couple of Werthers Original or Vicky mints will be a night to remember.

I don’t know how we translated “Trick or Treats?” but I do know  most of the French kids are not aware that you’re supposed to retaliate if the person doesn’t give you anything. Actually, I can bet most of the kids don’t even know you have to go from door to door to get the sweets. Many parents will buy a pack of sweets for their kids and just give it to them because “the TV said it’s Halloween and it says I have to get sweets, mum!”

But there is no need for pity or emotionally-charged, narrow-minded judgments on how the French treat their kids either.

In France, on December 6th, on St Nicholas’ Day, the official first day of the month of Christmas, kids will get some sweets and chocolate. In my family, we bake gingerbread cake with my mum. I am not taking about the hard, five-spice, teeth-breaking gingerbread used for the house but the Northern German soft, moist, loaf of gingerbread with candies orange peels, strong honey and iced with warm milk and granulated sugar. The loaf of which you cut big slices on which you spread some thick Normand butter and add some more honey.

On January 6th, the English-world gets nothing? Awwww, that’s terrible because in France and other Catholic-tradition countries, we celebrate the three Wise men with the Epihany. We stuff our faces with Galette des Rois, a big cake made up of layers of puff pastry and stuffed with frangipane. And because we love it, we celebrate all week: at school, at work, when the parents, with the grand-parents, with the cousins…Every single person you meet is an excuse to eat that cake warm because inside is a figurine and the one who gets it is the king or the queen for the day. Poor little American children who are so cruelly deprived of a chance to be kings and queens!

On January 1st, we traditionally get “les étrennes”: a gift of money from our parents as a reminder of an old tradition, the gift of money given to orphans by the people at the beginning of each year. American kids get nothing? Aww, that’s terrible! How dare you deprive them from such a generous gesture?

On Mardi Gras, except for some places in the US with a strong French tradition like New Orleans, no one dresses up and celebrates. We do! Fat Tuesday is traditionally to stuff your face with as much fat and sugary food as you can before the Lenten season. You try to make it merge with Shrove Tuesday but it is just not. In France, it’s not a bank holiday but there is always a carnival so even if you’re at school, you dress up, you parade in the street with music, your friends, your family, your teachers, you sing, you shout. Then we all gather in the town square or a park to watch a huge figure of wood or cardboard built, by the kids at school, to be burnt off. Now we also have fireworks. It’s brilliant! Poor American children who are so cruelly deprived of so much fun!

See? It’s easy for me to list all the occasions of celebration in the French culture and highlight the terrible deprivation the Americans are enforcing on their children by not embracing every single one of them.

Every culture has countless traditions and occasions to celebrate and I have no problem with people not knowing about it. I knew very little about how much celebration and bonding were involved during Ramadhan’s nights before teaching kids who were Muslims from South-East Asia. I knew nothing about Eid so I asked them and we compared cultural practices because it’s okay not to know. But passing judgments…really?

Bottom line, there is a difference between not knowing about one’s own traditions and wilfully ignoring them. There is a difference between not knowing about someone’s culture and pitying them for not having the same one as yours then trying force your own traditions in their face in the name of “fun”.

Get your minds out the gutter.