BECOMING A BLAXPAT

Someone wrote me a while ago, asking what my thought process was involving my decision to move to France.

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As an answer, I have decided to re-blog an interview I gave to Black Expat Magazine a while ago:

Delorys was born, raised, educated and married to her husband of now 38 years in New York City. She has lived in several US cities (New York City, Westport, Connecticut, Saint Louis, Missouri, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Princeton, New Jersey) and in France. Delorys and her husband have been living in the South of France for over a decade after having spent 17 years dividing her time between France and the United States with the intention of eventually moving abroad.

 

 

What do you remember of your first trip abroad?

My first trip abroad was the summer before my junior year in college. I travelled in France, Switzerland, Germany and England. Back then (and I’m not going to be specific about the date) airline tickets for student travellers was dirt cheap…so were the Eurail passes. I had a blast! I met other students from all over Europe. People invited me to their homes, so I was able to see a lot of life in other countries. I was surprised also, how things in Western cultures could look so similar on the surface but be so dramatically different when you “walked through the door”… so to speak. But I had a wonderful time and in the meantime fell in love with France.

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At what point did you become aware that you wanted to live abroad and be an Expat? First let me say that I am not comfortable with the “Expat”. I just don’t like the prefix.  Nevertheless I do use the word I coined, “Blaxpat”, to describe my current lifestyle.  Anyway, realizing through subsequent travel that there was a huge, friendly world out there, and that as an American, coming from a country with so many allies, I had the privilege to be able to travel almost anywhere in the world and be welcomed. As a black American, I enjoyed the feeling of being identified culturally and nationally as an American as well as being Black. When I discovered, life in The South of France, I knew that I wanted to find a way of living here one day. I never really thought of living in a foreign country until my first visit to Nice, France, in my thirties.

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What experience has enlightened you the most since you moved abroad?

That learning a new language fluently, not only enhances your ability to communicate more precisely in your native language, but in others as well… as you learn them… through travel and social interaction. I am fluent in French. I cannot imagine living in a country without speaking the language. I would have to find a way to learn the language somehow if I already didn’t know it. Most countries in the West at least, have some form of literacy program.

 A DAY OF 'CUL CHA' IN THE CITY OF NICE

 … And the most disheartening experience so far?

The demise of the American dollar!

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 Have you adopted any new customs whilst living in France?

You know, I honestly can’t tell anymore. Celebrating Bastille Day, perhaps?

 

We know that you moved to France with your husband, did you have any children that came with you and if so how have they adapted to the expat life?

We don’t have children. But I’ve realized that if I had children, I doubt that I would want to raise them outside of the US, unless my husband was a citizen of the country where we lived. I would have no problem having them attend school abroad, after a certain age, but I feel that It is always easier to adjust to other cultures when you are firmly grounded in who you are. Family connections are important. Also as a black American, I feel it would be important for them to understand the unique history of our particular tribe of people in the US, and how it is juxtaposed with the rest of the world.

 Delorys and Allan

Do you miss any customs from home?

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I certainly don’t miss Thanksgiving, especially as a black American with Native American heritage. Otherwise, things aren’t all that different here in France. But then, it probably seems that way to me because in addition to having been raised in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural environment, I have always lived in Cosmopolitan communities whether it be Connecticut, Missouri or the other places we’ve lived.

How have you gone about making friends?

My social connections come through my work in the arts, as I am both a painter and author.

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Have you (continued…)

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MONTE CARLO EVENINGS

Despite the roster of jazz festivals, art gallery openings, equestrian events and increasing number of high-end restaurants and nightclub; Monaco appears to have acquired  a decidedly prolitarian ambiance.

Is this a good thing?

I have absolutely no idea.

But the show at the MARLBOROUGH was impressive.

Fernando BOTERO

Richard ESTES

Manolo VALDES

27 juin – 6 septembre 2013

BOTERO
VALDES

ESTES 


The same evening:

INTERNATIONAL JUMPING MONACO

photos by delorys welch tyson

http://thenovelladyfingers.wordpress.com/

DRIVING IN THE DARK

This is a reprint of a Blog I wrote last year at the beginning of the tourist season here in the South:

J’en ai marre !!!!!

The tourist season has officially begun here on the French Riviera. What always arrives with the hordes is the inevitable and harsh criticism of French driving habits.

I’d like to intercept a bit with this blog before the Anglophones really start getting flagrant down here!

Everyone knows that anyone’s life can be irrevocably destroyed by an intoxicated or mentally disturbed driver on the road in any country by a driver of any nationality. My question is why have the French, in particular, been given such a bad rap as drivers?

I have been recipient many times of French driving hospitality. What I have found is that my French friends and acquaintances have displayed skill and grace at ever turn…so to speak. It’s no wonder, I later learned, considering what they have to go though in order to earn the privilege to drive in their country.

How may of you who have criticized the French actually studied for the French Permis de Conduire?

Drivers License

Too scared, right?

And I’m willing to bet…too broke!

Then, that means you don’t know bupkis about anything French.

Want to know how I came to this conclusion? Because it is expensive, difficult and studying for it would actually result in an evolution of thinking that would cause you to realise that you had no prior knowledge of what it takes to understand of the Gallic approach to manoeuvring safely through life in France. My philosophy is in order to criticize the French you should have been educated in France and taught by the French. How else can one understand the cultural nuances of a country which has the power to seduce millions of people through its doors, whether they be rich or poor, yellow green or blue, to a place which is probably the most complicated in all of Europe? Even people from rich and powerful countries are willing to test their fate in a country which for years will render them functional illiterates!

Years ago I took the driving school plunge…so I know of what I write.

I can’t overstate the fact that the pursuit of the French Permis de Conduire is an expensive, lengthy but profoundly informative study of the psychology of the French population. Believe me, studying this will enhance one’s relationships with the French people you encounter, do business with or with whom one becomes intimately involved. It will even enable one to distinguish a foreign driver from a French one.

Imagine that!

Case in point:

One sunny afternoon, a fellow student, who is also an American, and I left another gruelling session of La Code de la Route to stop at a corner café. As we approached the curb, a car came screeching towards us in a completely misguided attempt to park in a no parking zone.

Mr. America, hisses, ., “Look at that. After they get their permits, all rules fly out the window. How typically French!

My response was, “What makes you think the driver is French?”

He pointed to the French License plate on the Italian Fiat, and said, “Look… 06 (the code for the Alpes Maritimes)!”

As if on cue, two men emerge from the car, sharing a typically boisterous conversation in Italian!

Typically French, right?

So, this is the advice from yours truly…the Expat Curmudgeon Writer on the Côte d’Azur…to American drivers in France. Stop criticizing…stay alert and either take your bigotry and pack it in your little back packs and go back home… or just get off the road and take the friggin’n bus!

 

feel free to visit: thenovelladyfingers.wordpress.com

An Excerpt From LADYFINGERS:a novel

Muriel McCracken had left everyone and everything behind.

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Well, not everyone.

She had every intention of waiting for Eddie to get out of the Penn. But she left her family, her country, her brand new Cadillac (Madame Bozell had told her that her car would be too large for the narrow roads of Europe) and the Condo she had bought in Beverly Hills after she received her Publisher’s Clearing House money.

She had hired Madame Arthuretta Bozell and her Ladyfingers lifestyle make over service to teach her the things she needed to know as a lady of extraordinary means.

She took with her to France, a brand new look, her decorator-magazine subscriptions, some new manners…thanks to  Madam Bozell’s Guide to Elegant and Proper Behavior and Presentation, a big fat book called a thesaurus,

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nearly 20 million dollars…less Eddie’s legal fees…and a brand new name.

She had decided she’d become a socialite, while she waited for Eddie’s release. Muriel decided to rename herself as Countess Sara Haggener…in memory of her beloved Grandmother, Sarah Mae Haggener.

She bought herself a brand new Mercedes, convertible sports car as soon as she arrived in France and christened it with the name “Sadie”. She and Sadie conversed quite often together, since she had known no one else in all of Europe to talk to.

She wrote Eddie often. He loved reading about her new life and he had told her that he was looking forward to meeting her friend “Sadie”.

Eddie, too, had always liked those Mercedes sports cars.

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As soon as she arrived in the South of France, she had checked into the Negresco Hotel in Nice. Madame Bozell had recommended it, telling her that many famous people stayed there.

When she arrived to check in, she had burst out laughing. It looked exactly like the birthday cake that Eddie had ordered for her for her 40th birthday, over ten years ago.

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But the hotel had been a wonderful place to start a new life. Oodles of celebrity-types passed through on their vacations and it was just across the street from the beach. It wasn’t the best beach in the world, because it was full of rocks and no sand…but it was different. On the private part of the beach, they had those mattresses and umbrellas…uhm…parasols…you could rent and have cute beach boys serve you food and drinks and things.

Just the kind of treatment a Countess was looking for.

Muriel…uh…Countess Haggener…created a story for the people she would undoubtedly soon be meeting.

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Since she was from Atlanta…well…from near Atlanta…and still had her southern accent, she would tell people that she was from a rich, old, Southern family. She would claim to be a member of the D.A.R…the Daughters of the American Revolution…that she had read about in one her high society magazines.

She would tell them that she had been married to an English Count.

Since Madame Bozell had hired those people who taught Muriel how to sail (since she had heard that rich people did this sort of thing), she would say that her husband died tragically 10 years ago in a boating accident near Newport Road Island.

She had read about Newport, in one of those lifestyle magazines that Madame Bozell had told her to buy.

Countess Haggener decided that she should start looking for a house…a villa, they call it in France…for herself and Eddie.

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She made an appointment with a real estate broker in St. Jean Cap Ferrat, as Arthuretta Bozell had suggested, to explore the possibilities.

_ _ _ _

On the morning of her appointment with her Real Estate broker, she decided to take a stroll around the neighborhood near her hotel and in the Old Town…la vi-eille ville…la vieille ville of Nice, to acquaint herself with her new surroundings.

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The pedestrian street…the rue Pi-e-tonne…la rue Pietonne, was lined with cafes and fancy designer dress shops mixed in with discount boutiques.

 Odd.

Many of the people in the outdoor restaurants sat eating what looked like

crawdaddys!

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 Curious.

She had studied the travel magazines that Madame Bozell had told her to buy. So when she arrived at the big plaza area off the boulevard Jean Medecin, she stood there with her mouth open. It looked more like the pictures she saw of Italian cities than what she’d expect from a French one.

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Bizarre.

When she descended the steps of la Vieille Ville, she almost bolted back to her hotel.

A teeming mass of foreigners assaulted her view. All those old, narrow streets, mixed in with newly paved ones. The stores were lined up next to each other looking more like those pictures of cities she saw in the magazines of North Africa. Fancy French restaurants mixed in with small foreign cafes selling some kind of meat…vertically…rotating on a spit. An then there were those weird-looking pancakes…all broken up…people eating them with black

pepper!

As she continued walking, gradually picking up speed, she had begun to wonder how she looked to others walking among this mass of people, as she noticed that the sound of American voices rose above all the others.

She scrutinized those she recognized as Americans.

To her, they looked like pale, gawdy, trinkets in a…in a…Middle Eastern schlock shop as Eddie would probably say.

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When she arrived at the plaza called, Place Garibaldi, she looked around at all the cafes linked together there around the traffic circle and gasped!

Crawddays everywhere!!!

Little old matrons in little fur jackets…eating Crawdaddys! Roughed up looking people eating Crawdaddys! Back packers eating Crawdaddys! Even small dogs eating Crawdaddys!

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What kind of a place was this?

She didn’t feel that this was at all the kind of place for a Countess to live.

She leaned against the traffic light post next to her, to look at her map and get her bearings. She would take another route back to her hotel. She needed to breathe. She had begun to feel suffocated by it all.

She would take the route back along the beach.

_ _ _

Available in Hardcover, Trade Paperback and Kindle!

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http://thenovelladyfingers.wordpress.com/

(the author: photo by Allan Tyson)

Enjoy!