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Monday, September 27, 2010

First Day of School: Did you pack your bigotry?

I will attempt to stay even headed here, but I make no promises. Something interesting happened to me today.

I had my first day of classes, I am a proud member of the A2 level (thats right in the middle, I know I could be higher, but hey, ca va.) I'm the only American, and I suspect because all of us are either in the lowest level, or a higher level. The rest of my classmates are German, Ukranian, Swedish, Irish, and I think an English girl.

No biggie, I'm down with making friends that I will only speak French with. Or I was before class ended.

So our little activity is to fill out random questions about who we are. Then, we play celebrity where you pick someone and pretend to answer the questions as they would, nationalities were acceptable. Sarah and I did Santa Claus, one group did Sarkozy, and one did someone I cant remember. One wonderful ground did, you guessed it--Americans.

This vaguely passed through my mind, that I could have done Americans, seeing as I am one. But I thought, nah, that's not really clever, and I don't know any of these girls. Not to mention, despite what all non-Americans try to insist, I don't feel that I fit the stereotype.

So this bitc--I mean girl, who is German by the way, starts off saying, okay we did a nationality but its really just a stereotype and "un peu mechante". A little mean. I knew what was coming. Such highlights included "Whats my best personality trait?" "Speaking English" "What do I like to do?" "Manger le fast food, comme MacDos." "What are my favorite colors?" "Red, white, and blue." I think I blacked out the rest because I was so upset, I could feel the blood pumping in my head, and I wasn't sure how I was about to react. Then it was the awkward pause of "Who is it?" At this point, I kind of lost my temper, slammed my notebook shut, said, "C'est les americaines" and thought about walking out. Sarah told me later than the girl got all red in the face and started to apologize. The teacher quickly changed the subject, but I was, well, angry.

Slight changes that would have made this acceptable-
-We knew eachother
-She was American
-We were in the United States
-I was in the group

Let's be honest. This is the exact same thing as me picking Jews and saying "I love money" and "I have a big nose" or picking Blacks and saying "I like fried chicken." And, I know this is going to sound hypocritical, but it would have been okay if she had picked the French, or we were in the US and she had picked the US.

Why? Because one thing that I love about meeting international people, and why I choose to spend most of my time with them is because we GET eachother. We may come from completely different cultures, but we are all foreigners together, and quite frankly, weird shit happens to us. Its all part of the living abroad experience that made me want to come back and do this again. It's why I feel completely comfortable with Tatiana even though we dont speak in my native language. We complain about French men, or French stuff, because its foreign to us. And maybe you think I'm being a Negative Nancy (because I actually do love this country) but it helps you cope. It helps you feel sane when most days people hear your accent and talk to you like you're crazy.

So this girl, this fellow foreigner with whom I am supposed to have a bond, acted just like every other close-minded shitty person that I've met here.

So I didn't actively do anything or say anything to her, because I hope she feels awkward about it. Perhaps its funny for her to make fun of someone because of all these ideas that you get from the media and other people, but for me, and not to sound dramatic, its almost a daily ordeal that I have to deal with. People making assumptions and saying stuff to me, because I'm American so therefore its perfectly acceptable to comment about war, obesity, and how much better France is. It gets irritating. The constant strain of this has already destroyed one relationship. I have literally had people ask me where I'm from and give me a look of disgust when they hear the answer. And I had a boyfriend who couldn't separate Robin from the American.

So, I'm a little afraid to ask, am I being overly sensitive? Was this girl tactless, or am I just pathetic?


  1. i would have cut a bitc---girl. is this with the same teacher we had??? i cant believe it...germans. pfff. some ambassador she is for her people...should we all now conclude that ALL germans are rude, ignorant, and socially insensitive? perhaps so. after all, at least you would have had a real-life experience attesting to such rather than media-twisted sterotypes from 10000 km away...stay strong lovely. xox. cal.

  2. It's A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2