I am the first to admit that living in a foreign country (even France—or maybe especially France) can be exhausting.
It’s very true in Paris that the Parisians can wear you down, from the careless cigarettes in your face on a crowded street, to the glaring games of chicken on the narrow sidewalks, to their indifference and superiority when you try to converse in French, it all gets kind of old after awhile…
…especially after you have spent 2 weeks in a much friendlier and relaxed part of France being bowled over by overtly pleasant French people.
But being a fulltime temporary residence of a strange land does have its benefits. In addition to the obvious ones: getting to really know your new home, making personal connections, experiencing life the way the natives do, etc., there is one less obvious benefit that I like to take advantage of every now and then: being a fake tourist.
I don’t do this very often, but there are days in my beloved France when I just want the mental break from trying to be too French, or from stressing out about getting my grammar and pronunciation right. I give my feet a break from wearing uncomfortable, but beautiful, shoes. I give up on eating small acceptable portions, and instead, I allow my casual, optimistic American upbringing to take the lead.
On these rare days I consciously let myself go into tourist-mode and breathe a sigh of relief.
Okay, so I don’t go as far as slipping on my running shoes, white socks, workout clothes and baseball cap. I don’t strap on a fanny pack and wander cluelessly in the bike lanes. I don’t use my really loud outside voice to press on as if no one else in this entire country can follow my conversation or understand English. And I certainly don’t make grand exclamations about how things would be better if the French just did it the American way.
What I do do is generously allow myself to see this city and country as if I had never set one teeny tiny toe on the other side of the Atlantic. I open my eyes wide and pretend I am a complete newbie, and…ssshhhh….I don’t speak French, at all. (Don’t tell anyone.)
Oh, and sometimes I scandalize those moody, dark Parisians by wearing a pink coat!
On fake-tourist-days, I allow myself to peruse the tourist trinkets and bargain with the North Africans selling black market handbags. I stand in other people’s way and take pictures of important monuments. If the weather is nice, I’ll take a cheap cruise on the Seine. When the spirit moves me, I might buy a slice of pizza or possibly a hotdog, or even an American candy bar in lieu of a salad Périgourdine or a 3€ maître-made piece of chocolate. I will smile at strangers and I’ve been known to inquire as to how they are feeling. It’s all so freeing.
Hmmm….when I see all this freedom in writing, it occurs to me that maybe I ought to play at being a fake tourist more often, except of course for the speaking French part…I’ll save that luxury for the days when I really need a break.
salad Périgourdine: Perigord salad; a salad originating in the Perigord region of France and consisting of crisp lettuce, cooked or preserved duck giblets, bread cubes, chopped walnuts, walnut oil, and wine vinegar