Depending on how long you’ve been in France and who you socialize with, French people have probably asked you some strange questions. And a bunch of normal ones as well. Over and over. It comes with the territory! Keep in mind that French social norms tend to be less invasive and less small-talky than American ones, but still, questions abound! I love giving people a peek into who I am and what brought me to France, so let’s go!
Questions French people ask me
There are a bunch of questions that pretty much any foreigner anywhere gets asked and they include the following. I hear them at least once a week:
1. Where are you from?
I get asked this more in the summer when shopkeepers think I’m a tourist just passing through. Also, I feel like sometimes French people want to ask me this but restrain themselves (you know, those French social norms and all). The best is when people have no clue where I’m from. It makes me happy to know that my accent work with Tom has been paying off (even if I still botch grammar).
My favorite is when people think I’m Belgian. Happened the other day actually. When people learn I’m American, their expression changes and it’s usually a good thing. Now the topic du jour is Trump. If they’ve visited the USA, they’ll tell me about their trips and are usually intrigued by some aspect of life in the USA. Great conversation starter! Then when they hear I’m from New York, their eyes widen and the next question is, “Oh, that’s so different from the small town you live in now, right? Why would you move HERE?!?”
Related questions: Are you a student? What is your accent?
2. Do you like living in France?
The short answer is yes. Of course. I wouldn’t be here 5 years later otherwise. But life can get messy and stressful regardless of where you live and life in France isn’t a vacation 24/7. Certain aspects of life here annoy me just like things weren’t perfect in the USA either. The healthcare and vet care in France certainly are pluses for me. I think a combination of things play into one’s overall happiness and I wrote about it here.
Related questions: Why’d you move here? Do you like France or the USA better? How long are you staying here?
3. Do you miss the USA?
YES! I miss certain things more than others but the USA was my home for many, many years and will always be a part of who I am. I’m very fortunate that I visit the US often. I even experienced a little reverse culture shock. There are also many things I do NOT miss from the USA.
Related questions: Do you want to move back to the USA?
4. How long have you been living here?
I hit the 5-year mark at Christmas, and yup, time flies!
5. Do you have a gun?
Nope, I didn’t in the USA and I definitely do not have one in France. While many of my countrymen do have guns in the USA, including some of my family members, I was never one of them. In fact, I’ve never even fired a weapon and have no desire to. I usually explain to French people that it’s not super easy to acquire a weapon legally in many states, including NJ and NY where I used to live, and that not all Americans are gun-toting cowboys.
Related questions: Do you know my friend’s cousin Joe in NYC? Do you know celebrities? Did you vote for Trump? (NO!)
6. Is America really like how it is in the movies?
Yes and no. I always remind people that America is a big country with 50 states that can seem really different. Many French people get a feel for the USA via TV and movies so their impression of us is, well, skewed. No, we all don’t live in perfectly decorated mansions and have new cars and live life like Blair and Serena on Gossip Girl.
On the flip side, TV and movies portray American culture quite accurately — big highways and yards, shopping malls, high school sports, college life, neighbors and potlucks, etc. I used to think it was silly that French people assumed the USA was exactly like what you see on TV but then I realized that Americans’ impressions of the rest of the world come from TV and movies too. Many Americans think Paris is a picture-perfect city where everyone is slim and well dressed and strolls around eating croissants all day without a care in the world. Not accurate!
Related questions: Is everyone fat? Are you rich?
Have you ever been asked a completely ridiculous question? Sometimes people realize they’re asking something borderline rude and other times they’re just curious. Sometimes we just don’t think before speaking and sometimes questions are the perfect way to break the ice. These questions aren’t limited to just the French by any means. I think we’re all familiar with ridiculous questions — as the person asking and the person being asked.
And what do kids ask?
Well, kids seem to be way more comfortable asking questions. Back in 2009 during my first stint in France as a teaching assistant, the kids I taught loved asking me questions. Their questions were largely based on stereotypes or things they’ve seen in movies
These were all questions directed my way:
- Do you know famous people?
- Isn’t Thanksgiving just an excuse for Americans to eat and get fatter? (from a teacher)
- Do you always go to McDonald’s?
- Do you live in Hollywood?
- Have you been to Texas?
Fun, right? In all seriousness, I welcome the questions. The normal ones, the curious one, and even the rude ones. It’s an opportunity to educate.
At the end of the day, we all just want to connect with other people and get to know them a bit better. There’s never any shame in that. 😉
What about you? What questions are you always asked as a foreigner living abroad?