Letters to the Editor: Dying in France

23rd January 2006, Comments 0 comments

Expatica France readers respond to this question. Plus, some more thoughts on the eternal pronoun debate: 'tu' v 'vous'?

This first group of readers is responding to a 'Message from the editor' in our weekly newsletter where I related an anecdote about my French husband trying to claim that Leonardo da Vinci was really French because he died in France. So, I asked the question: if I grow old and die here, will I really be French? (By the way, this is a question of the rhetorical variety; dying and/or being buried in France does not actually have any bearing on your nationality.)

- Expatica France editor Clair Whitmer


Dear Editor,

We have now been here two years also. My husband and I moved here after our children, who brought their children here and my second daughter gave birth to our fourth grandchild here. Will we stay for life?  We are in our fifties. I have also pondered this question. Would I want to be buried here?  Will my great grandchildren have a French parent and be French themselves?

Somehow you don't think about that before you leave and begin to develop roots. There are so many things you don't think about before you leave your country of birth.

I don't know the answers yet, either

Devina Guyton

(Address not submitted)


Dear Editor,

Well, if that is logical, then Napoleon, (a Corsican) is English…

Ha! Ha! Ha! End of argument.

Ernie Todd

('La France Profonde')


Dear Editor,
I'm married to a Brazilian, living in France for 13 years now and we both love it. We have decided to stay here for the rest of our lives. We're not French but we love France. I guess it's like foreigners in the US who still feel like they are Italian, Polish, Hungarians, etc. but also love the US.

You don't have to technically have a nationality to love the country where you live and would be willing to fight for its survival if that became necessary. I would fight for France. I served four years in the US Air Force but I would sooner fight for France.  The US has enough physical military power. France would have my physical (what's left of it) and spiritual power in the event it was attacked.
I don't know what it is about France but we love it, warts and all. Maybe it's the civility of the people or the rich history, literature, poetry and language. Maybe, it's the joint history of France and the US going back to the American Revolution. Maybe it's the many people whom I have met.
My wife and I intend to stay here for the rest of our lives. They'll bury us here and we will not be French but that doesn't diminish our love of France.
There is a lady who works in the ATAC supermarket close to us. Somehow I discovered that she speaks Spanish, as I do, so we have been chatting in Spanish every time we meet. Recently she reminded me that she is French but her parents are Spanish.

It all depends where your heart was captured, which usually occurs in the country where your teenage years are lived. Once you have passed your teenage years in a country, your heart is captured forever.
Strange how we feel, isn't it?
James Kearney

(No address submitted)


Dear Editor,

I'm an American who relocated from France to a village near Saint-Aignan-du-Cher, in the greater Loire Valley, in 2003.
For years, I've been saying that I want to live out my remaining days in France. I didn't know that would make me French, but if it's true, so be it. Sometimes I've also said that I thought the French language would be the death of me.
Ken Broadhurst



Dear Editor,
You are what you think you are, no matter what the passports or birth certificates say. I gave up trying to define my nationality long ago; I tell friends and relatives I'm a citizen of the world. 

I was born in Wisconsin of Wisconsin-born parents and have completed more than 21 years in the US Air Force — so I should be in the old baseball-hot dogs- apple pie-and Chevrolet commercial. But there it ends.
I converted to the Orthodox Church decades ago and have Russian-born godparents and loads of Russian, Greek, Romanian, and Arab Orthodox friends, and I know something of their languages and identify with the plights of their mother nations.

One year of my education was taken in England, and I studied years of French. So I'm both anglophile and Francophile, which is an unusual combination. I lived two years in the Philippines and my wife is Filipina. Our kids are Fil-Am (Filipino-American).

Imagine also my wife's mindset, marrying an American, becoming Orthodox, living three years in Belgium with her husband...

We're citizens of the world. I'm unable to hate or exclude any nation in any context of international relations.
Jim Boubonis

(Now living in California)


In response to: Language lesson: the role of the pronoun in police action

Dear Editor,

Readers who are not very familiar with the period of the Revolution might be interested to know that in the years immediately after the abolition of the monarchy and the overthrow of the Girondin government, (1792-1794), the Jacobin regime strongly discouraged the use of 'Monsieur' and 'Madame' as terms of address associated with the hierarchies of the Ancien Régime, and strongly urged the use of 'tu' instead of 'vous' in all social exchanges, in the interests of equality and fraternity.

Needless to say, like the Revolutionary calendar, this form of 'political correctness' died out with the overthrow of Robespierre and his allies in 1794.

Sheila Oakley

(Address not submitted)


Dear Editor,

I couldn't agree more about the potential disasters lurking in an ill-chosen pronoun. A Eurostar official about ten years younger than me got most irate when I tutoied him recently.

As regards the 'racaille' business, in trying to get an accurate translation in cases like these, surely the issue is less what a word means than how pejorative that meaning is. How insulting is it to be called scum in a country where people happily use what we prudish English call the c-word in front of their parents but wouldn't dream of tutoieing them? You could live here for  the rest of your life and not know the answer to that one.

The term Anglo-Saxon, though, seems pretty clear. It refers to a type of thinking, particularly economic thinking, prevalent in countries in which the ruling class are ethnically Anglo-Saxon like the UK and USA. I certainly think that in any particular context the French know exactly what they mean by 'anglo-saxon', just as we know instinctively in any particular context what someone means when they describe something as 'very French'.

Jim Pollard

(Address not submitted)


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NOTE: The editor reserves the right to reasonably edit letters published here, for reasons of space or coherence. Readers opinions are published as independent comment and do not represent the views of Expatica France.

January 2006

© Expatica France

Subject: Living in France, French news, Letters to the Editor

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