My British surname cancels my right to grumble
My mother is French. I have a baccalauréat littéraire from a French lycée and studied at the Sorbonne. I live in France. But, because my surname is British, it seems I’m not allowed to moan in any way about life here.
I am allowed to stand by while French people complain, but should I want to join in, I am soon met with a version, subtle or direct, of “if you don’t like it, go home...”
Instead, you should feel blessed la belle France has accepted you and remember the reasons you came here in the first place.
But no country is perfect and, as a contributing and permanent member of French society, should you not be entitled to voice an opinion?
France was built on the notion of speaking up. If the frequency of strikes and protest marches are anything to go by, letting people around you know you are upset about something is woven into the fabric of French society.
I would, however, advise that your opinion might be better received if stated discreetly, and not belted out through a megaphone in a street protest.
Anyone should be allowed to express an opinion without facing a blanket rebuttal of “well, if you don’t like it...don’t stay.”
‘Back home,’ of course, you are told that, as a result of leaving, you have no right to comment on issues in that country any longer. It’s almost as if people want an easy way to avoid engaging with the debate.
Besides, it is not a question of where you pay your taxes, or the origin of your last name. Anyone in any country should be able to voice their concern, their disapproval, their bewilderment, as engaged members of their local community. If you play by the rules of your country you should be allowed to feel upset that baguette prices have gone up, the postal system is archaic, or look askance at the shorter-than-average working week or lack of parking spaces in town.
Your experience of another country is a bonus, not a shackle. It’s a different perspective from which to make comparisons.
A French person in the UK raising questions about the NHS does not make me want to tell them to go home to their precious Sécurité Sociale, it makes me want to have a conversation about which is better, why and how.
It is time to embrace our right to complain about daily life. It is after all a sure sign of integration into French society.