Thursday, August 18, 2011

On being American

Sometimes you need to go somewhere else just to find out how American you are...

In 1991, I spent a year abroad in Paris. So odd to have an internship for an oil company in that wonderfully diverse city, and to be looked at with such curiosity whenever I spoke. (long story on how I ended up working for an oil company, since I went there with a fashion goal) For some reason I will never be able to understand or explain, although French is not my first language, when I hear it spoken, I understand almost as clearly as when someone speaks to me in English. When writing, I make spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, but when I speak, for some reason, I sound like it is my mother tongue, with an odd accent that people do not identify as American. I have never been to the Antilles, but that is usually where people guess that I am from when I speak. People tell me that I speak in a way that is poetic, because my word choices are unusually descriptive. because I learned via the Dartmouth Method, I don't speak "translated English"; I have learned to get a feel for the language, and make ample use of inflection and idiomatic expressions to get my point across. It is tiring, though, and I certainly have less t say when having conversations in French, because it takes a lot of work!

In Paris, I first tried to live like an American... I sought out Oreo cookies ($6 a box! In 1991!) and tried to eat meals at odd hours... and it was expensive and stressful. When I adapted to French life, I realized that it was far more budget friendly to live like the locals, taking lunch at noon, having a small dinner, having small pastry and fruit for breakfast, going for walks after dinner... lost 12 lbs almost immediately!

Despite everything wonderful about Paris, I missed home in a way that could never rival the way I feel about Paris. I never knew how American I am until I went there.

When it came to clothing, I loved their philosophy. Great quality. Few items. I wish we Americans could do more of that! To this day, I would rather have just a few great pieces than a closet stuffed to the brim with poor quality stuff. And when you look at cost-per-wear, the cheap modern clothing is more expensive than ever! How did we all fall into this trap?

So I am creating some of the magical pieces for myself that I've been dreaming of forever, as soon as I get some more current projects off my plate. It has been a tough road this summer, fighting energy and mojo to get things done. I'm refueling to regain some speed and efficiency in the Fall!

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