May 27 2013
I don't drink coffee I take tea, my dear,
I like my toast done on one side,
And you can hear it in my accent when I talk,
I'm an Englishman in New York.
Shortly after moving to Paris, my friends would pick me up on the new mannerisms that I'd unwittingly adopted.
"You're becoming so Parisian," they'd say.
"No, not Parisian," I'd reply, batting my eyelids, "French maybe, but I don't ever want to be Parisian."
It's true that when I moved, I naively wanted to fit in. I tried to do all the things the French do. Talk about holidays, the price of cheese at the market, what scandal the neighbour next door had just got up to. I deliberately would tear off the top of a baguette as soon as I stepped out of the boulangerie because that's what I saw everybody else do. I didn't want to be a rude, grumpy, stuck-up Parisian, but I did give up my Englishness in a quest to fit in. I believe, in business-speak, it's called "to go native."
Yet, over the last two and a half years, I've grown up fast. I don't feel that need to blend in anymore. I've got to the stage where I don't give a damn about what people think of me, of how I dress, that I don't wear a scarf, bag and perfectly accessorised jewelery 24 hours of the day. I'm not saying that one shouldn't make an effort to learn the language. In fact, I believe quite the opposite, that speaking the local language (or at least making an attempt to) wherever you are is essential. But there is certainly a line to be drawn before you give up on your originality. For me now, I don't think twice about donning my Wellington boots and jumping through puddles on those fancy Parisian cobble streets. I'll eat roast beef on a Sunday and I won't be skimping on the roast potatoes. The goal, after all it seems, is to remain authentic, even in a foreign culture.
"Be yourself, no matter what they say" so sung Sting. (Ha, 'so sung Sting' - try saying that out loud after a glass of wine!)
So, on a fairly chilly, lazy Sunday afternoon in May, when there's cream in the fridge that needs eating up, what's a girl to do? Clearly the answer is to make a batch of scones, a cup of Twinings loose tea and devour the best part of a jar of home-made jam.