Someone wrote me a while ago, asking what my thought process was involving my decision to move to France.
As an answer, I have decided to re-blog an interview I gave to Black Expat Magazine a while ago:
Delorys was born, raised, educated and married to her husband of now 38 years in New York City. She has lived in several US cities (New York City, Westport, Connecticut, Saint Louis, Missouri, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Princeton, New Jersey) and in France. Delorys and her husband have been living in the South of France for over a decade after having spent 17 years dividing her time between France and the United States with the intention of eventually moving abroad.
What do you remember of your first trip abroad?
My first trip abroad was the summer before my junior year in college. I travelled in France, Switzerland, Germany and England. Back then (and I’m not going to be specific about the date) airline tickets for student travellers were dirt cheap…so were the Eurail passes. I had a blast! I met other students from all over Europe. People invited me to their homes, so I was able to see a lot of life in other countries. I was surprised also, how things in Western cultures could look so similar on the surface but be so dramatically different when you “walked through the door”… so to speak. But I had a wonderful time and in the meantime fell in love with France.
At what point did you become aware that you wanted to live abroad and be an Expat? First let me say that I am not comfortable with the “Expat”. I just don’t like the prefix. Nevertheless I do use the word I coined, “Blaxpat”, to describe my current lifestyle. Anyway, realizing through subsequent travel that there was a huge, friendly world out there, and that as an American, coming from a country with so many allies, I had the privilege to be able to travel almost anywhere in the world and be welcomed. As a black American, I enjoyed the feeling of being identified culturally and nationally as an American as well as being Black. When I discovered, life in The South of France, I knew that I wanted to find a way of living here one day. I never really thought of living in a foreign country until my first visit to Nice, France, in my thirties.
What experience has enlightened you the most since you moved abroad?
That learning a new language fluently, not only enhances your ability to communicate more precisely in your native language, but in others as well… as you learn them… through travel and social interaction. I am fluent in French. I cannot imagine living in a country without speaking the language. I would have to find a way to learn the language somehow if I already didn’t know it. Most countries in the West at least, have some form of literacy program.
… And the most disheartening experience so far?
The demise of the American dollar!
Have you adopted any new customs whilst living in France?
You know, I honestly can’t tell anymore. Celebrating Bastille Day, perhaps?
We know that you moved to France with your husband, did you have any children that came with you and if so how have they adapted to the expat life?
We don’t have children. But I’ve realized that if I had children, I doubt that I would want to raise them outside of the US, unless my husband was a citizen of the country where we lived. I would have no problem having them attend school abroad, after a certain age, but I feel that It is always easier to adjust to other cultures when you are firmly grounded in who you are. Family connections are important. Also as a black American, I feel it would be important for them to understand the unique history of our particular tribe of people in the US, and how it is juxtaposed with the rest of the world.
Do you miss any customs from home?
I certainly don’t miss Thanksgiving, especially as a black American with Native American heritage. Otherwise, things aren’t all that different here in France. But then, it probably seems that way to me because in addition to having been raised in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural environment, I have always lived in Cosmopolitan communities whether it be Connecticut, Missouri or the other places we’ve lived.
How have you gone about making friends?
My social connections come through my work in the arts, as I am both a painter and author.