Monday, 1 May 2017

An old friend I used to know

Back in March, I went to Mauritius with my husband and my best friends from France. While we were there, I realised my husband's attitude towards his country had changed. The most noticeable change was that he wasn't speaking the local language anymore. Mauritius' official language is English, but everybody speaks French (confusing I know...), and in private or in social situations like in a shop or the market, people speak creole. 

Every time we were out and about visiting places, he was acting as a guide (as usual!), but every interaction he had with locals was in French. The only time he spoke creole was with his family.  A few days after we came back I asked him about it. He said he didn't feel connected to his country, that he liked it of course, but that he had nothing to do with it anymore. And when we were there, visiting sites, he was like us, just a tourist. 

I found this almost impossible to understand. How could he feel so disconnected to a country where he lived for 22 years, especially his formative years? I replied I couldn't feel that way about France, ever. Even if I loved Ireland, I equally loved France and I would always be French.

But for the past week, I have been thinking about my own relationship with my birth country, and in the wake of the presidential elections back home, I have realised that maybe I am not as connected as I thought. Yes of course I still feel French but it's like I don't recognise my home country anymore.

I go there once a year, I have a great time, catch up with friends and family, eat and drink, generally just enjoy myself for  2 weeks and go back to Ireland with the boot loaded with wine and nothing left in my bank account. 

But I don't live there, I don't know what "real life" is like and what people are facing on a daily basis. All I know is the little bubble of my family and friends in Brittany, and the kind of life I live in Ireland. I do feel disconnected. Weeks before the elections, I knew who would be in the second round of the presidential elections, but I didn't (and probably still don't) realise what it really meant for French people. 

I watch everything from the outside, and I'm going to tell you what I see: A divided country, and angry, unhappy and frustrated citizens (I still hope I'm wrong and it's just the TV feeding me crap, sensationalist stories). 

Has France changed so much in the past 15 years, or have I changed? Probably a bit of both, but to me, at the moment, France feels like an old friend I used to know. Someone I was very close to, but time and distance made us drift apart. Someone I feel I don't have much more in common with anymore. Sure we see each other once a year, laugh and have a great time for a while but there is no more depth to our relationship.

Unless I go back to France for good, I will always feel that way, trying to understand what's going on in my home country with an outsider point of view. And let me tell you, it's not easy.