Hello, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go back to the states to celebrate the American holiday. However, celebrating an American holiday in France is very interesting and was an experience that I don’t think I’ll ever have again. Fun, strange, but exciting!
When I first told my host family about Thanksgiving, they laughed because I said, “Donner Merci.” Actually, they had no idea what I was saying at first, but it made sense in my head:
Donner = to give
Merci = thanks
Put it together and it made sense logically! But no…Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving in French with a French accent. Most people call it America Day…lol. Whoo! Learned that the hard way. The funny thing is that NO French person knows anything about American history or American holidays. It’s literally every stereotype they google that they come out with, which is never very accurate. However, I was sort of entertained by how many stereotypes and misconceptions I ran into.
On Thursday, I worked at one of the middle schools to help them out with America Day. As exciting as that was, it was definitely not the typical Thanksgiving that I was expecting. I spent the day helping out a bunch of 12-15 year olds learn about America. This involved baking pies and muffins, drawing pictures of Pilgrims, filling out crossword puzzles about Pocahontas and John Smith, and trying to teach them how to play baseball. But let’s go one by one, since this was a pretty big day.
Muffin and pie baking was interesting. Unlike at the other school I work out, I couldn’t speak to most of them in English because they didn’t understand. But I realized how fluid I sounded in French when I wasn’t freaking out about it, which made me really happy. The kids joked around with me and I felt like I was working at the middle school again in the states. I understood everything and they were all incredibly nice. However, some of the boys’ hormones were raging, and I think it’s because they view the Americans as “exotic women”. I learned that “canon” means bombshell in French and I learned that they’ll do anything to talk to you. I was asked about 3 times what my Snap Chat was, which I said I don’t have. My professor, who is about 40 years older than them, was asked for her phone number, in which she proceeded to give out her business card. The funniest part, though, is that they actually called her.
Baking, itself, was really hard because I had to translate the American Lipton blueberry muffin recipes into French so the kids would understand. However, the problem is that I didn’t know how to say half the words because my vocabulary is incredibly limited. You can have the greatest skills in grammar, but if you don’t know how to say the word, you’re screwed. I was lucky enough to have older kids with me who had more of a vocabulary word bank, so that was good. I’m learning new words every day! And I’m learning how to deal with boys in puberty…very different from those in the states. I don’t even recall boys in my middle school hitting on women the way they were hitting on us. It was a little uncomfortable what they were doing, but this may also have to do with different cultures. Heck, a college boy wouldn’t even go up to his crush and tell her directly how pretty she is. And I’m so used to this that listening to boys (especially in middle school) directly call a girl a “canon” is incredibly creepy.
But who cares? They were all really sweet. The boys AND the girls. At the end of the day, they set out this huge buffet table for us American students filled with pies and muffins that they made. They didn’t let us help out and told us to sit down and wait for them. I have never felt so appreciated in my life…they were walking up and down aisles giving out pies and trying to practice their English. When I had about 3 slices of pie on my plate, the kids were still begging me to take their slices of pie because they made those pies and wanted me to eat them. Unfortunately, I had to refuse, but these kids made me feel like a queen.
French perception of American history is thrown off because American perception of American history is thrown off. A majority of middle school education in the states centers around how great Christopher Columbus is and how Pocahontas was the princess who fell in love and led a better life in England. So wrong: Columbus was no different than an abusive colonizer to the natives and Pocahontas was raped and forced to go to England in hopes of saving her family and people. Because of this misconception, French people end up thinking what the mainstream American textbooks are teaching, which is that Europe is great and America isn’t. I have so many fundamental problems with this, but I’m going to stop before my liberal brain gets ahead of myself.
I got the kids, however, to repeat some of the English words after me. The youngest ones were the cutest and they pronounced pumpkin like “poompkin” or Mayflower like “Meyfleur.” They had the biggest problems with the “th” sound, which I realized doesn’t really exist in French. I spent 5 minutes with one little boy, trying to get him to say “John Smith.” It came out more like “John Smit,” but he got it after a while. Once he did get the sounds correct, he looked so happy. When I congratulated him, he looked like I had just made his day.
Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t your typical Thanksgiving dinner. To be honest, I expected a feast. Not one as big as the ones we usually have in the states. But I thought there would be some mashed potatoes and a whole turkey in front of me. Nope…I had turkey meatballs and sweet potato fries. As great as it tasted, it wasn’t traditional.
But what’s traditional about having Thanksgiving dinner in France?