Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On Being a Stranger in a Strange Land

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.


Chelsea said...

HAHAHA! Nice picture :)

The Man With A Million Dollar Smile said...

That sounds like an exciting and scary position to be in, Ash. Maybe soon you will find yourself in the same position of those around you, taking notice to the individuals that stand out. And when that happens, you'll turn to your neighbor on the bus and say "est-il japonais?" or "Il est americain. Quel con cet homme?" Irregardless, I'm sure when people see you, they are just jealous of your kick ass blond curls.