This year that I am French
Is nationality a pièce of paper or a state of mind ?– as I prepare to live my first full year as a French national (having acquired nationality on July 1st 2017), I cannot say whether I will be living as a Frenchman.
25 years in my chosen land of exile – and a a nice place it is too. 25 years of living, working, paying taxes … an « active » and « fully intergrated » member of my local community, I still react as a Brit – at least I still have many British reflexes, and when I head back for a sojourn in the UK, well, I react mre like a Frenchman than a Brit. Does that make me Britain in France and French in Britain ?
When I do finally obtain my French passport I will be considered French in France and British in Britain. Is this dual nationality or split personality ?
At work, I am still the token Brit, and as such, am still the butt of « jokes » – When it rains, colleagues point skywards and tell me that it is English weather – or rather « C’est un temps de chez toi ça !» meaning literally « that’s like the weather you get back home. » – but UK is not my home. I suppose I could translate the last French propos as « that’s like the weather where you’re from, » which doesn’t change the fact it is still raining where I am.
Talking of home – on the eve of every holidau it is the same – « Tu retournes chez toi pendant les vacances ? » meaning « are you going back home during the holidays ? » Erm, excuse me, but I am home. I live just a few streets away – this small slice of small town France is my home.
Now I am French, friends and colleagues are asking me if I will pay taxes in France ? Well the French IRS has had me by the balls for the last 25 years. Taxation, but no representation (Thomas Paine would be pained) but now I am French I can also vote in all elections.
Being French will actually change little for me because I have become a fully-functioning Frenchman – living, working, thinking French, because France is my everyday existence.
The French authorities hark on about « integrating » – that was one of he questions at my nationality interview
« Are you integrated ? » asked the charming young lady.
« Oh yes. I am fully integrated ? » like a chip on the great big gallic circuit board.
I am in fully integrated harmonised symbiosis with the land and I could not be more French if I tried – but then, what does it mean to be French ? What exactly is « Frenchness ». What is Britishness for that matter
No one really knows.
I think that being French is merely doing the opposite of what Brits do. The French are back-to-front Brits. Take the flag as an example.
When the French talk about the « Tricolore » they say « bleu, blanc rouge » (blue whit and red » whereas the Brits are all red white and blue – no matter who or what I am, the colours remain the same.
And finally, why did I chose to become French ? I suppose after 25 years here, it seemed the logical thing to do – I am no more French than Brit, but there are also the other 1.7 million reasons I chose to acquire French nationality – those 1 .7 million Brits who tipped the Brexit balance. The slender majority who voted to leave the EU. Had the UK voted to stay in the EU, I could have carried in being an anomoly – a UK national working for the French civil service, but thanks to the EU referendum result, I thought it better to be French just to keep my job.