People Here Answer Me in English…


ImageQ: I had always heard that the French resent foreigners who don’t speak their language, so when I moved to Paris two years ago, I enrolled in a class almost before I had finished unpacking. My skills are pretty good now, so it really annoys me that many people here answer me in English as soon as I open my mouth. Not only does it deprive me of the chance to improve, but also it feels like a putdown. Do you have a good comeback to suggest to me the next time this happens?
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Burgundy Summertime Blues

Image Q Every year we spend our vacation “en famille,” with my French husband’s parents at their large “manoir” in Burgundy. Life there is pleasant but highly ritualized – meals at set times in a dark dining room – never outside, lots of “no-no’s” for our children and obligatory mass on Sundays. My husband doesn’t understand why I’m eager to find other solutions for our long vacation. He sees this place as hassle-free, ideal for our kids, a way to connect with his extended family and to save money. He says that his parents would be extremely hurt by our refusal of their hospitality. I’m starting to dread summer vacation already.. Continue reading “Burgundy Summertime Blues”

Dealing with Reverse Culture Shock

Q Ten years ago, I met my French husband on a cruise and have been living in Paris almost ever since.  We have a girl 6 and a boy 4.  For the past two years we have been dreaming of living in California, and miraculously, my spouse has found a job in LA so we’re moving there in August. I’m really excited, but friends have been warning me to expect repatriation shock. Do you think this is something to worry about in our case? Continue reading “Dealing with Reverse Culture Shock”

A Cross-Cultural Trap?

Image Q While working in Brest, I met a Frenchman. Things deepened over the few months I was there, but when an interesting job opened up at our Paris headquarters and I asked my boyfriend to commit to the relationship despite the distance, he refused… so I broke things off completely, even though he offered to stay friends. Since arriving I’ve been very depressed about the breakup, and wonder if I fell into some kind of cross-cultural trap. Continue reading “A Cross-Cultural Trap?”

French Mother-in-law Problems

Image Q I have been married to a Frenchman for ten years.  From the get-go, I have had a huge problem with my mother-in-law who was disappointed that her son married a Yankee and has never tried to hide her disdain for me and for my country.  Whatever I do or say comes under her critical scrutiny – how I dress myself and the kids, how I set the table, how I speak French, my choice of au pairs, the children’s schooling… Both my father-in-law and my husband kow-tow to her as I see it, and neither of them steps up to the plate for me.  My relationship with the latter has suffered as a result. I’m at the end of my rope and am hoping for some tips for dealing with her. Continue reading “French Mother-in-law Problems”

Summer Holiday Question

Image Q My French boyfriend and I are fighting over how to spend summer holidays. We have planned a 10-day camping trip in Wyoming, but I intend to stay in the US on my own for an extra week to visit some former college classmates in California. My boyfriend insists that he should come with me, even though he knows none of these people and speaks very little English. He gets very upset when I explain that I want to do this without him, saying that such a plan is not good for our couple, that I am being selfish, and that if I really loved him, I’d want him along. In my opinion, his lack of understanding shows not only the limits of his caring, but also a lack of appreciation of all I do in France to adapt to his culture… Continue reading “Summer Holiday Question”

I Met my French Boyfriend in the US

Things have gone steadily downhill since my arrival in Paris
ImageQ I met my French boyfriend in the US, and we had a passionate relationship there for one year. Then, as the government wouldn’t renew his visa, he returned to France, and I moved here 18 months ago so that we could be together. I am really unhappy and homesick, and now blame my boyfriend for not doing enough to help me. All his friends are French. I don’t speak the language, and I can’t find work; he yells at me when I complain about France…. I love him but can’t decide to what extent the relationship is worth this big sacrifice I’m making. Continue reading “I Met my French Boyfriend in the US”

Another Christmas on my Own

Q. For several years I have been living with a Frenchman who was previously married and had three children with his wife. Even though his marriage was dead before we became intimate, his children have never accepted the idea of my presence in his life, and he keeps me totally separate from anything to do with them. Although he says he intends to make our relationship permanent once the children change their attitude,  he plans many of his weekends and all of the holidays with them rather than me.So now I am facing yet another Christmas on my own, and despite countless hours spent in tears, reasoning, pleading or threatening, nothing changes. What’s left to do? Continue reading “Another Christmas on my Own”

My Mother is Hard to Please

Image Each year I return to the US to spend the holidays with my mother, a widow, who lives in the Midwest. Usually one of my two brothers joins us. But buying my mother a Christmas present is a nightmare for me. I spend hours shopping for something special from Paris, but I never seem to get it right. Last summer, I found gifts from previous years stashed in the attic – one still in its original wrapping paper. In contrast, she oohs and aahs over my brother’s gifts. My feelings have been hurt so many times… Do you think I should confront her, this Christmas? Continue reading “My Mother is Hard to Please”

Is this grudge-holding an American thing?

ImageQ I married an American woman I met while working in Chicago, and two years later we moved back to Paris, my hometown. We had two children right away, and soon after they were born I got a huge promotion and had to travel constantly. Two years later, my wife got pregnant again. My job was extremely stressful, and as she never stops pointing out, I was not very available to her during her pregnancy, which was difficult. All hell broke loose in my company at the time our third child was born, and home seemed like a nightmare, too. Continue reading “Is this grudge-holding an American thing?”