Hey, my name is Sergio, 16 from Austin, Texas and I was reading your blog…neat stuff.
I’m actually a Francophile, meaning I literally have an obsession with learning the French language. I am Mexican-American, obviously speaking both English and Spanish as my native languages and trying to learn French. I was actually wondering if it would be difficult for me to live in France, as an English or Spanish teacher or a civil engineer. I have already read Lola’s e-mail, but my question is different because I have not been exposed to Europe or to European culture. I have a deep yearning to learn French, and maybe becoming a French citizen.
Do you think my skills in both languages would help me?
I’m still in High School and I am planning to study here in the United States. Can I keep my American citizenship and become a French citizen?
Is there any demand for Spanish speakers?
What cultural gaps or similarities do French people have or differ with Latin Americans or Americans? My culture is both Mexican and American. I am a foreigner in Mexico and in the US, so moving to France would not bring me any “culture shock”
I hope this topic is interesting…hopefully you know how to answer my questions! (My parents think I’m crazy!)
Wow, you seem pretty motivated and have a pretty set plan for somebody your age; and seeing that you’re only 16, my first two pieces of advice about your future big move to France are: be patient, and stay in school as long as you can, do not rush anything.
Now, your answers:
-Would it be difficult to live in France? I don’t know, but it’ll depend more on you, who you are as a person, your personality, tastes, adaptability to different cultures and those things, rather as what job you’ll have or whether you’ve been exposed to Europe before or not.
And I can’t really give you advice for the job market, as it will be different when you’re finally out of school and ready to look for that job in France.
Keep in mind one thing though: you’ll need a visa to stay in France, there are several ways to get a visa (search through this blog, you’ll find more details on the topic).
If you become a language teacher, being able to teach both English and Spanish may help you, but keep in mind that if you don’t already have that visa, you won’t get one because of that, lots of Brits and Spaniards will apply for that job too and they won’t need a visa, so they’ll most likely be chosen over you.
But there’s always the option of being an language assistant which is one of the best way to get your feet wet into a new country. I’m sure some readers will gladly give you more advice on that issue, as I personally have no idea about how one become an English or Spanish assistant in France (I could look it up, but if I can, you can too).
Also your skills in both languages can help you as a language teacher, but only if your degree is somewhat related to both languages, sometimes in France one can have all the skills and experience in the word, if one doesn’t have the degree, one will have a hard time to get that job. And if you need to keep only one of those languages (I mean, for that degree of course), keep English, English teachers will always be in demand anywhere in France. Spanish teachers on the other hand…
I often hear Americans or other foreigners (but mostly Americans) thinking that settling in France means getting French citizenship. Those are two separate things.
One can live in France their whole life without ever becoming a citizen. On the other hand I assume it’s possible to become French and not live in France (although I doubt it, but who knows there are always loopholes).
Most foreigners immigrating to France don’t get French citizenship. Back in the days it was really easy, nowadays things have changed and are changing as I speak with your current government that loves foreigners so much (irony inside). But that doesn’t mean one cannot get a resident card (more or less the equivalent of a green card in the US). Here too, readers are welcome to pitch in with their own experiences, the only one I sort of know in details in the “spouse visa”.
But let’s say you really want to become a citizen after all of those years in France (yeah, can’t happen after many years in France anyways), can you keep your US nationality. I’ve always been under the impression that you couldn’t, but I’ve recently heard of several people who did, so I guess you can. But if you’re also a Mexican citizen (are you?) I think it’s almost impossible to have three nationalities (but who knows?)
Concerning cultural gaps and similarities with Latin Americans:
I’m not too sure. I’ve met a few Latin Americans in the US (even dated two) and their culture was quite different from the French one. Truth to be told, I felt like the US culture was closer to mine than the Latin American ones. Don’t get fooled by the fact that France has a “Latin” culture. The word Latin in that last statement, has a very different meaning from the one it has in America, the word “Mediterranean” is more accurate maybe. Also, that’s true only for some parts of France (roughly the South East, and the Eastern part of the South West).
That being said, I’ve met a few Latin Americans in France (but I never was close to any of them) and they seemed to have an easier time to adapt to the French culture at first, but on the longer term, I feel Anglos adapt more, as if the Latin Americans’ adaptation was just superficial. But I really don’t have enough knowledge on the topic to draw any conclusion, and my observations may even be quite erroneous.
Culture shock now.
I know what you mean by feeling a foreigner both in Mexico and in the US, the same goes for many people that live abroad (I went through that phase when I lived in the US) or that are the children of immigrants (and for them it is usually not a phase), but don’t fool yourself about not experiencing culture shock if you move to France.
You may feel like a foreigner in both of your countries, but fact is, you do have a culture (the Mexican-American culture) and that culture is not the French one. So wherever you go, you’ll have a culture shock, everybody does, regardless of their situation at home. Culture shock means that you encounter a culture that you don’t understand, from the most insignificant every day life things to the deeper more complicated and philosophical ones. Some will be dealt with in a matter of days. Some never will.
I guess I answered everything. If you have follow-up questions, do not hesitate to comment, as well as anybody that has more information to share.