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AIBU?

To think I'll never feel properly at home abroad?

28 replies

Gatoalaplaya · 18/09/2022 07:07

Originally British, have lived in France for over a decade now.

I'm married to a local, our kids are bilingual, and I am lucky enough to have all the trappings of a stable and settled life - house, job etc.

To all intents and purposes I speak fluent French but I know I'm still missing some of the tone and nuance, especially from more informal conversation. I have friends here but it'll never be as easy talking to them as it is to my Anglophone friends - I'm just a bit clunky and not quite myself in French, and often finish an evening cringing at the mistakes I've made in understanding or in expressing myself.

Does anyone have any experience of overcoming this? Or has ended up giving up on living abroad for this reason?

OP posts:

Am I being unreasonable?

35 votes. Final results.

POLL
You are being unreasonable
9%
You are NOT being unreasonable
91%
brittanyfairies · 18/09/2022 07:18

Hi, I'm in France too, and have been here for 17 years. I remember feeling like you do for a long time, possibly over 10 years, I have a French partner, work in the French system etc. I still call the UK home but at some point in the last five or six years my way of thinking has changed and now I can't imagine a life back in the UK. When I think of my future it is here. However, I think one of the big reasons is whilst I have French friends, I have 3 or 4 very good Anglophone friends who I can have a proper chat with, who understand my sense of humour etc, I think without this I would have always felt an outsider. Also, my DCs are here and I can't imagine them leaving, they are very happy.

belge2 · 18/09/2022 07:32

I have lived in Belgium for 18 years. I speak French pretty fluently but make mistakes but don't care! I have some local friends who tolerate my mistakes and we laugh together about them! Also have anglophone friends. I do feel at home here but occasionally mildly struggle doing things like trying to explain to mechanic the problem with my car! I don't have the technical vocab in English or French. I know what you mean about not being yourself in French - it's taken time to really get to know French speaking friends to feel myself.

Delabruche · 18/09/2022 07:34

Hello. I can relate to this. I have been in Italy for over 25 years and everyone says I'm fluent but I feel there is so much I still CAN'T say! I also tend to overanalyse how I come across to others. It's definitely made me more introverted. I'm happy here but I think I have had to come to terms with the fact that I'm a foreigner and always will be. This bothers some people more than others.

SavoirFlair · 18/09/2022 07:35

I think all the posters on this thread are awesome - awesome for taking a risk, going to a new country and immersing yourself fully in the language.

i completely get the insecurity that may come with not feeling totally “fluent” but too often we Brits use our language as an international key to understanding, and for good reason in that English is often used as a bridge when two different languages can’t connect.

However as before, I just love that you’ve gone for it and I fully respect the approach, so YANBU, and best to you as you grow even more comfortable over the years towards fluency

anotherPOV · 18/09/2022 07:42

Just another point of view. I am from a European country, born to parents who are from a different European country to the one I was born in.

I have now lived in the UK for 20 years. My English is absolutely excellent ( if I may say so myself ).. I feel most comfortable speaking English, as I was schooled here / went to university here etc. so I am totally able to converse and it's the only language I feel I can really express myself in properly. BUT I still don't feel like I f completely belong. So sometimes, even as your language gets to that native level, you still don't feel like you belong. You will always belong with people like you, who also moved to wherever you are. Because only they really understand what it's like. The home grown ones will be your friends, but you'll always feel different. And that's OK. Because you are different. But you're also different to what you left behind. I try to embrace it and feel at home in different places in different ways. All the best to you.

Gatoalaplaya · 18/09/2022 07:45

Thanks everyone. @Delabruche your post really resonated with me, about being introverted and overanalytical... The reason I've ended up writing on here this morning is because we went out with friends last night and I decided to try to be a bit more outgoing and now I just can't stop cringing. I wasn't drinking and didn't say anything too awful, but the memory of me holding court, in French, in front of five French people, even if just for a minute... Ugh! I should've shut up and got back in my box 😂

It seems like having Anglophone friends might be key then... I did have one but she moved away. @brittanyfairies my kids also very at home here, which means we're both definitely in it for the long haul!

OP posts:
Itsjustricemichael · 18/09/2022 07:46

Similar to what @anotherPOV says... the bit that will really twist your melon is that if you come "home" you'll realize you don't fully belong either. I spent most of the first 35 plus years of my life outside UK and now I've been here for 10 years and I am still not really fully integrated at some level.

anotherPOV · 18/09/2022 07:56

Itsjustricemichael · 18/09/2022 07:46

Similar to what @anotherPOV says... the bit that will really twist your melon is that if you come "home" you'll realize you don't fully belong either. I spent most of the first 35 plus years of my life outside UK and now I've been here for 10 years and I am still not really fully integrated at some level.

And I think that's OK. I think you feel most ' at home ' when being around people similar to you.

I work with many long term immigrants from Europe. The ones that have made a proper home in the UK and have kids and are married here. They have mortgages etc. properly settled here is what I am trying to say. I get on best with them and feel most at home with them, as we are living such a similar experience. We all go home to visit our families or have family visiting from abroad often. We all find certain things about British culture fun/ interesting / strange and compare to where we are from. We all make fun of how ridiculous things are in certain ways back in our home countries and how much better they are here and vice versa. We all have kids growing up with at least two languages. We all want to pass on our culture/ language of origin somehow. Etc etc a so many things in common that a person who's never lived anywhere else, just wouldn't get / deal with.

I also have many British friends, but they have usually lived abroad and or are married to non brits. I also have some completely local friends and I love them dearly too. But probably always feel a bit ' foreign ' when I am around them.

Desperado40 · 18/09/2022 08:00

I

Itsjustricemichael · 18/09/2022 08:02

Sorry for the diversion @Gatoalaplaya but thanks @anotherPOV I needed to hear that today.... I guess sometimes you need to remember it's OK to be a bit different ... and that there are a bunch of other people who are too :)

anotherscroller · 18/09/2022 08:05
Enko · 18/09/2022 08:06

I am Danish living in the UK I have for 32 years. I am fluent in English I am studying in English. I feel at home in the UK I cant imagine moving away

Yet there is always the questions.. 'Do you go home often??" (Yes every day dont you?) Comes in Denmark to we are here at the moment for my stepdads birthday. 'Oh its so good you could come home for his birthday"
I am often asked. Is that accent South African? Genuine surprise when I reply no.

None of these things are done to be mean or to put me down
. Its simply peoples way of thinking. They can't imagine not living 'at home" so it doesn't compute to others doing so.

I have no Danish friends living in the UK my friends are British. I do feel at home but it was 15 or so years before this was an absolute for me. Oddly these days my.husband would like to retire to DK and I am the one saying no
I want to be where my children are.

I think it is a very slow process and for me it was one I didn't fully realise was happening until I could see it retrospective

Hope that makes sense.

Desperado40 · 18/09/2022 08:07

I have this feeling (having lived in the UK for 18 years now), that I will never truly belong, as in I will never feel that I am British. I also don't really belong back in the country of origin. However, I have now embraced this "in between" state of being an immigrant, even though I do consider UK to be my home. I think in English now but have the special gift of different cultural upbringing which all in all is quite enriching I think for myself and people I interact with. Embrace it OP and Good luck.

anotherPOV · 18/09/2022 08:17

Be proud of it OP !rather than wanting to fit in with them, think of yourself as having much more varied life experience. That's exactly what it is. I wouldn't want to be from one place and only ever having lived in one place.

Katyrosebug · 18/09/2022 08:22

I lived in Portugal for 5 years, not as long as some other on this thread, I felt like home after about a year, not quite fluent but the more I learned through school and just using it the more brave I felt if I made a mistake. I make mistakes in English all the time and cringe at interactions I had during the day, so I don't think thi is exclusive to you living abroad

LaChatte · 18/09/2022 08:35

I moved to France as a teenager in the 90s (also spent 2 years in France as a child).
French husband and kids (although eldest DC says he feels British).
I'm a civil servant. Most people can't hear I'm not French until I say something stupid like la dentifrice or la pâté .
Overall I've spent about 3/4 of my life in France.
We have Freesat, so watch British TV. I'm currently listening to radio 4.
I could never go back and live in England, despite it still being 'home' in my head. 'Home' no longer exists, everything has changed so much since I left.

snowqu33n · 18/09/2022 08:53

This is an interesting thread. @LaChatte I have been abroad for a large proportion of my life, in our current country for over 15 years.
The UK I miss is the UK of my childhood and the people of that time, many of whom are sadly no longer with us.
I am not a royalist but the Queen passing was a reminder of that.
Whenever we go to the UK for a visit it’s kind of jarring to me, and I have had enough by the time we come back to our current home.

Redqueenheart · 18/09/2022 08:55

''@anotherPOV
Just another point of view. I am from a European country, born to parents who are from a different European country to the one I was born in. I have now lived in the UK for 20 years. My English is absolutely excellent ( if I may say so myself ).. I feel most comfortable speaking English, as I was schooled here / went to university here etc. so I am totally able to converse and it's the only language I feel I can really express myself in properly. BUT I still don't feel like I f completely belong. So sometimes, even as your language gets to that native level, you still don't feel like you belong.''


That's interesting. I have the opposite experience though.

I was born in France and moved to the UK when I was young. I went to university here and have lived in London most of adult life (30 years!). This is my home. I have no emotional link whatsoever with France anymore and I feel comfortable here.

Maybe because London has so many people from different cultures and origins anyway being from abroad has almost never been an issue.

I am British and if anyone here has a problem with the fact that I still have a slight accent that is their issue, not mine.

OneFootintheRave · 18/09/2022 09:04

I hear you OP and in fact had the same discussions with a relative recently. He said that you are a different person when you speak in another language. Your personality never really comes across as tone, nuance, stress, cultural reference and idiom plays a huge part.

I have been in spain for 7 years and my Spanish is OK but forget trying to make a joke, or sarcasm. I feel like kim just stating facts or likes and dislikes a lot of the time!

Having said that though, English is not his first language though and I feel I can get his personality.

OP your partner is French, I thought that was the magic key to learn the languages properly? 😊

LaChatte · 18/09/2022 09:05

Actually, if I think about it I'm British/English when I'm in France, and French when I'm in the UK 🥴

alwayscrashinginthesamecar1 · 18/09/2022 09:11

I am originally from NI, but haven't lived there since I graduated. I did ten years in London, then ten years in Cork, and I've ended up in Perth, Australia, about as far away as you can get! And yet this is where I feel 'home'. Obviously, it's easier because we all speak English, but I feel like I fit in here, and am lucky enough to have both Aussie and non-Aussie friends here. Watching the queue for the Queen, it just all seems so alien to me now, and I am so glad I'm not there now(although my mum feels the same and she never left!). The whole Brexit thing would also have really pissed me off too! I'm very happy to be Australian now.

Beachcomber · 18/09/2022 09:13

Could have written your post word for word OP!

I've been in France for nearly 25 years now. I miss home terribly (Scotland). I have a nice life here but would move back in a heartbeat if it weren't for the children.

My French is very good but I don't feel "myself" and I'm cringing at the moment over something I said clumsily at an important work meeting last week which rubbed my boss up the wrong way...

I get through it by having UK telly, reading Mumsnet, having long chats on whatsapp with family and friends from the UK, visiting home when I can and speaking English with my DH and DC.

Also my (French) DH lived in Scotland in the past and loved it so he understands. My DC also love it and feel very half Scottish.

It's hard, I sympathise massively with you.

MarshaBradyo · 18/09/2022 09:16

This is interesting as I’ve lived o/s but as the language is common not same issues. Plus my parents are English so a lot of cultural knowledge already.

I can absolutely see that another language could reduce your personality as it’s harder to get all nuance across. Maybe some more friends who do speak English mixed in with French might help. The story about holding court socially made me feel exactly what it would be like.

I’m with a pp though London is made up of many cultures and nationalities - we make up a vibrant city together. So I do feel like I’m home here. I love it as a country (and can find the anti stuff on mn so intense). I feel lucky though to have two potential homes though so that’s a bright side

Delabruche · 18/09/2022 09:41

The whole Brexit thing would also have really pissed me off too!
That's very true. Just about the only benefit to Brexit for me has been that I am at least happy that I moved to the EU when I did so that my kids have more opportunities. Sad for my nieces and nephews though. It also helps that my kids feel very Italian and are happy here.

FloorWipes · 18/09/2022 10:05

As someone with parents from different countries, who has lived in both, I would confirm that no one ever fully fits in everywhere! Everyone gets culture shocked in every direction and people can always pick up on who is different. When you’re in one place you long for the other and vice versa. It’s not necessarily just a language thing. I think the key is just to accept it.

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