My dear francophiles, francovorous and francophageous friends; let me ask you a question: who are your favorite stars? Who do you consider to be your heroes? Are they from here or from there?
I know that most of you, reader of this bi-monthly column, or Rendez-vous d’Amérique viewers on TV5Monde, are expatriates, or possess a green card or, for the luckiest, dual citizenship (the American one and the one from the French-Speaking country you’re coming from). It’s great to have a foot on each continent. It’s probably one of the best things that has happened to me.
Last week, I celebrated the 24th anniversary of my arrival in America. 24 years, an entire life… A life I had the chance to choose, in the country I chose. Without ever forgetting where I was coming from…
I do have to say that I have a profound affection for both my countries: The United States of America and France. They are both far from perfect, their political choices are not always mine (especially now in the U.S.) but they’re both my countries. I do share an equal sense of belonging to both countries. Except on one point: references…
In this week’s episode of Rendez-Vous D’Amérique, we rounded up some of the stories of the season about the most glamorous French-speaking stars we talked about in our show. We talk about Prince Albert II of Monaco, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Charles Aznavour. It’s pretty diverse… If parts of your roots are from a French-speaking country, these people mean something special to you. But if not, you may have heard of them, you may know their music, their films, or you may have an opinion about Prince Albert’s politics in Monaco, but they’re not part of your innate culture, of your references.
In all my years in the US, I’ve been facing these kinds of situations so many times. No matter how well you speak English, no matter how much you immerse yourself in American culture, no matter how well you know American History, no matter how well you know America, you will never have all the references, all the innate culture of an American. Some of his heroes will never be your heroes. Some of your stars will never be his stars.
How many times was I lost in a conversation because of a reference that I couldn’t get? How many times did I see my American friends talking for hours about someone I never heard of? How many times did I feel out of place because of that?
The more I talk with French friends living here, the more I see that they had the same experience. Maybe this happened to you too. I’m pretty sure it did.
So, what do we do? Should we feel separated by our cultural differences? Should we give up on our American friends because our references are not the same? The answer is pretty easy: ABSOLUTELY NOT!
After a lot of conversation where I pretended to know who they were talking about with a common smile, excluding myself de facto from the rest of the conversation, I decided to ask a simple question: “who are you talking about?” It took me a few years, but I did. And you know what, they were so happy to answer. And I learned so many things.
I remember a conversation about Civil Rights. It was at the beginning of the new millennium; I remember it well. And everyone was talking about the remarkable John Lewis. I gathered all my strength and asked, “I’m sorry but who’s John Lewis?” There were no blanks, no disdain. Quite the contrary… There was an eagerness to tell me everything they knew about Lewis. I remember this story because Lewis passed away this summer. Thanks to my American friends that day, when I learned about Lewis’ death, I understood why this loss was so important for this country. And it’s just one example. I learned so much about the deep-rooted American culture just by asking.
And my friend did the same with me. I told them everything I could every time they asked me a question about my French heroes.
You see, we’ll never have the same references; it’s just not possible. But, that’s more than OK since it allows us to share them with our friends. To explain why Charles Aznavour, Charlotte Gainsbourg, or even Prince Albert are part of our innate culture… It’s part of why we’re here. We’re here to share our knowledge, our wealth, and our kindness.
Sharing is the most important thing; it’s the start of everything. It could simply be the key to our future.
To learn more about Charles Aznavour, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Prince Albert, and more Francophone culture in America, tune in to Rendez-vous d’Amérique on TV5MONDE USA. Click here for more information.
Exploring cultural diversity through movie stars and beyond, Rendez-vous d'Amérique invites you on a journey to discover Francophone culture in America. Your host on this cultural experience is Didier Allouch - reporter, cinephile, and a familiar face on the red carpet. Click here to learn how you can subscribe to TV5MONDE USA and never miss an episode!