I often get the question “Which do you like more, France or the United States?” and no one is ever happy with the answer. I say I like things about both and dislike things about both. I mean, there are days where France pisses me off so much that I think moving back to the US would be the best option. Other days, I can’t imagine ever leaving. It’s all about the circumstances, isn’t it?
Many Americans I know (even some that have lived in France!) have this glorified version of France in their minds, and often tell me that they are jealous of my life and that I’m living the dream. Okay, don’t get me wrong, I do have a good life. I’m happy. I’m with a great guy, have the cutest dog, and have had some great experiences. But living the dream?
Sometimes, I think my potential has been wasted on France (I’ll save that for another post). I wouldn’t be an intern if I went back to the US. I’d have a decent job by now. For me, that’s the dream.
I look outside and see a bunch of young guys smoking joints and destroying things. I open the window or go on the balcony, and all I can smell is urine (and it’s not dog urine). Drug deals are going down just outside all the time. Is that the dream?
If you Google “Lille”, you’ll probably find images of the Grand Place, Vieux Lille, and all the other pretty Flemish buildings. The vast majority of people cannot afford to live in those areas (maybe in the outskirts of Vieux Lille, but it has horrible public transportation connections, and who wants to deal with cobblestones?).
We currently live in Lille Fives. It’s a “quartier populaire” (think working class neighborhood but with a lot of poor immigrants (or second or third generation immigrants) that is apparently becoming more and more “bobo”, but I don’t really understand why people say that. Fives does have a horrible reputation, but J has lived here for almost 3 years now (and I’ve been here over a year now).
In the beginning (and up until about last autumn), we couldn’t see why the neighborhood had such a bad reputation. We have a really nice reasonably priced apartment in a new building (with a garage and balcony) on the main square with the local town hall. We just assumed that only some areas were shady and giving the entire area a bad rap.
Starting last autumn or so, youths (most likely the younger brothers of the drug dealers) have pretty much taken free reign over the area. They like to kick in and break the doors, smoke joints inside our building (I’m assuming they deal as well), ride motocross bikes dangerously across the square… you get the picture. If you call the police, they take 45 minutes to show up and then tell you that they’re already gone (uhh, duh!). If you call the company that manages the building to talk about security issues, they say to call the police or the town hall. Then, they blame residents for some of the damages to the building (we’re waiting to see if they’re raising the monthly charges). So basically, nothing is happening to deal with the issues.
I know, these things could happen anywhere, but is this what foreigners picture when they picture France? I don’t think so.
I also want to state (in case my mom is reading) that while the guys have caused all sorts of problems, they have never threatened us or harmed us.
Back to the idea that I’m living the dream or that France is the best place ever or whatever. For me, life has just become normal. I think that’s why I had a lot of trouble keeping up with my old blog and why I stopped updating here for awhile. Writing about my mundane normal life didn’t seem interesting. I’m having far less of those “Wow!” experiences that many new arrivals have. Day-to-day life in France is just that. Normal. I think many expats will agree with me, right?
Okay, just wanted to get that out there.
More positive post coming soon!