Having lived in Paris for close to two months now, I like to think I fit in well with the native Parisians. However, I have been told by European friends and have noticed in the way that native Parisians have treated me, that I give off a distinctively American vibe. Before I even open my mouth to attempt their native language, more often that not, French people can tell I am not French. How can they tell I’m not Parisian, let alone pinpoint my exact nationality?
Am I not dressing Parisian enough? Am I not walking with enough of a European attitude? Is it my awe at my gorgeous surroundings? Is it the fact that I coo at every little petit chien that walks by? Is it that I still can not get used to the sight of the Eiffel Tower lighting up at night and can’t help but to emit a small sound of glee?
Maybe Europeans are just very intuitive, and especially Parisians, thanks to their booming tourism industry, have a knack at narrowing down a visitor’s place of origin.
When my parents visited, my 6-foot-1-inch ex-All American football player, redheaded dad might have given us away as Americans. But I have lived here for two months. I walk into boulangeries and order in French without the shop owner looking twice at me or stopping to question my language; I stroll down the Champs Elysses without getting lost and pulling out my map every two minutes. I even have learned to keep my voice hushed, since the pure volume of our voices gives Americans away instantly, compared to the European pitch. But still, at a party over the weekend when people ask me where I from, I answer “The United States”. Their quick response: “I know, but where in the US?” Out and about enjoying the Paris nightlife, French men point their finger at me and declare “You are not French- where are you from miss?” and examples like this go on and on.
I have a feeling that Americans give off an “American” vibe. Americans exude a bit of attitude reminiscent of imperialism, and a faint arrogance is always about us. When looking at the ancient buildings of Paris and walking down the epic and historical Champs Elysses, it’s hard not to picture American troops liberating the city from German occupancy during the Second World War. It’s hard not to feel a bit entitled to everything the country of France has to offer when you look at the numerous cemeteries dedicated to American troops killed over here, or when you visit the beach at Normandy.
Americans have that feeling everywhere we go- England, Italy- we’ve been everywhere, we’ve impacted every country. Even countries where direct fighting hasn’t occurred has somehow been impacted by foreign policy of the strongest superpower in the world.
Maybe that’s how they can tell. Maybe every American, even when in Europe, or maybe especially when in Europe, gives off a “Proud to be an American” vibe.