The non-native native

I like to speak French with strangers. They don’t know I’m not French, and I love it.

When I was in secondary school in France, I was just a normal French kid, and apart from my unusual name that could have given it away, most of my classmates didn’t even know I wasn’t from here before I told them. But funnily, now that I have been away for a while, in the eyes of all the people I know from before as well as ones I meet in international circles, I have become a foreigner.

The problem is not being from Finland. On the contrary, I’m very proud of my country and feel deeply Finnish in many ways, and it’s a big part of who I am. But when I’m in France and my nationality is brought up, I feel that often I’m not accorded credit for as big an understanding of the local culture as I have. It’s like I’m suddenly put outside of a club I used to be in. It feels weird, and usually not in a good way.

It’s similar to when I say I come from Finland, and suddenly everyone is impressed about how well I speak French. Which they obviously weren’t until that moment because they thought I was French. Sometimes it’s annoying, because for me, speaking French is not an achievement. It’s a part of me. After all, I did spend most of in my childhood in a francophone environment and in many ways it feels as natural to me as Finnish culture does.

I don’t blame anyone making these comments or thinking this way, how could they know? But still, it often feels like I’m not fully acknowledged for who I am.

When I’m speaking with a stranger, my nationality is not the first thing that comes up, and I can feel like I am a part of the club for a moment. Until they ask my name and I have to explain it’s Finnish and I’m not actually French. So in those situations, I’ve started saying for example that I am of Finnish origin but grew up in France. Which is kiiind of true. At least when it’s about one-time encounters, that actually gives a more truthful image of me, in addition to saving me from frustration.

These are topics that I have been thinking about for many years and keep coming back. My views change with time and place, and I am often in contradiction with myself too. But I guess that’s just how the mind is. I don’t know if these thoughts are relatable to you in any way, but maybe at least in the way that each of us must feel at times that others don’t see us they way we would want them to. Then it’s a question of whether it’s worth correcting the situation or just letting it go.


2 thoughts on “The non-native native

  1. Great post. Thank You. Speaking French is normal in Finland. I am normal man, but it does not prevent me knowing, writing and speaking French. My blogs are in French – also.

    Bonne journée à vous.


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