I’ve often wondered why it was that I was so irresistibly attracted by Europe.
I’ve always liked learning languages, English in particular – I never got German. When I was a teenager, I remember that whenever there was a foreigner in a group, I would become the designated interpreter, as most often I was the only one able to speak decent English. I liked it. Then I chose not to study languages as I thought that speaking several languages was just something everybody should be able to do. So I chose to study politics, ironically a topic everyone has an opinion on.
I remember that as a child I wondered what it meant exactly to be French. Did it mean that other people were not French? How was that even possible? And what would it be like to not be French? Yes I was the kind of kid that always asks “why”. That hasn’t changed.
I remember my school trip to Germany when I was 16. My great grandfather died in World War I. My Spanish grandfather fought in the Civil War and when in France, joined the Résistance. My French grand-father fought during World War II. My parents remember Nazi soldiers coming to their home. So when I arrived in Berlin at the age of 16, I was still quite full of prejudices against the Germans, maybe even more so than most French people. Then something happened. I spent a week having fun with German kids of my age. And I realised something: we might be of a different nationality and a different culture. We might not speak the same language. But in the end, we were not that different. Actually, we were pretty much the same. That’s one of the first times I felt truly European.
Then I never got rid of the bug. I knew one day I would live in another European country. Since then I have lived in several European countries. Home, Paris, the French feel familiar, and warm at times, but I feel better abroad. I like to be surprised by cultural difference every day I live. I like to go to a party and be able to speak something other than French. That doesn’t often happen at home.
Where did that irresistible need for otherness come from? Is it because I am myself of foreign origin? Is it because when I was a child I heard my grandfather and my nanny speak Spanish? Is it because right from the start, I knew I was different?
Wherever it comes from, one thing is for sure: Europe is my passion.
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This post is also available in: French