I get stared at a lot. I am becoming accustomed to it. I don’t get as startled anymore when I lock eyes with someone staring into the bus window at me, and it’s much easier now to ignore the titter of voices of the students I pass by at Jean Lurcat. While I am sure that there are a multitude of reasons for these stares (toilet paper stuck to my shoe, booger on my face, et cetera), I am always a little suspicious that it is because people can tell immediately that I am American. Well, maybe not American, but certainly they can tell that I am foreigner, that I’m not French, that I’m not from around “these parts”. I know this is obvious from my voice, when speaking French, but apparently it is also obvious from my dress, my demeanor, et cetera, when I am not speaking French. I think what it really boils down to is my hair. This distinction between myself and those around me was especially apparent in Madrid, among Spaniards, but there is still a stark difference between blonde, curly-headed me and the Perpignais around me. These people are of Spanish descent, of Catalan descent, Northern African immigrants, gypsies, from the Langue d’Oc region. These people are dark-skinned, dark-haired, with dark eyes. I can’t exactly be the needle in the haystack in Southern France.
I have been mistaken for German (with blonde hair, everyone assumes I will have blue eyes) and Swedish (the chef at the cafeteria at one of my schools took one look at me and said, “suèdoise?”). I guess from this, I can assume that the French don’t automatically know that I am American. Just different. Foreign. It’s kind of weird being the “exotic” one. In America, the exotic girls have the darker skin, darker hair, darker eyes:
While I have gotten used to the stares, it’s a little disheartening to know that no matter how good my French gets this year, I will never in a million years be mistaken for French. At least not in these parts.