The great French love affair with la vie Américaine
Christopher Columbus set out to on his voyage across the Atlantic Ocean only to accidently stumble upon the America’s. Although millions of people already lived on this land, the New World, his journey marked the beginning of trans-Atlantic colonization. Centuries later, people still see America as the land of opportunity. Be this true or not, it becomes a matter of experience. People still immigrate to the US in large numbers and they each have their own tale to tell about it. So, what is it that brings the French to America?
The number of French people residing in America is increasing and the reasons of the move are worth musing over. We’ll look at some reasons for the Gallic flocking on the American lands.
The first baby steps…
A religious movement called Reformation set the stage in the 1500’s for French immigration to the US. The conflicts with the Roman Catholic Church called thousands of Huguenots to leave France for North America. America had religious freedom and the conflict of Catholics versus Protestants was much less seen.
Then came the war between France and England and World War I which brought France and America closer. Jean-Baptiste Duroselle in “France and the United States: From Beginnings to Present” (1976) says, French Americans “nursed the knowledge that they had been abandoned by a country that was no longer their homeland, and of which they today retain nothing but the language.”
Besides these two reasons of Religious tolerance and Warfare, the reasons for immigrating then and now have similar patterns. So we can look at them as a part of present times.
And then the walk…
There is always a push or a pull that can instigate a change. The push could be a need to survive and the pull could be an attraction to a new life.
Take Monsieur Smith for instance. He moved from Paris to Boston, MA a few years ago and apart from the baguette which he says was and still is better in France, he loves the life here. Coming from a small French family with financial issues, he moved to the US to make a living. After a few years of hard work, he has earned for himself and his family a good life, close to the river, in a quiet neighborhood of Boston.
People come to America in search of better employment opportunities and more money. Many French people have a dream and want a fertile land to grow this seed and so head to the American lands.
Besides land and business, job opportunities are more abundant in the US. Life here in the US, is economical; you can live a reasonably good life even with a small income.
Freedom isn’t a given and only those who don’t have it, know its value. For many French people, the US represents a better way of life and more opportunities. Chef in New York, Jean-Claude says, “I may never go back to France. For me this is where the heart is. There are no 35-hour working weeks; no restrictions and the people are much more friendly.”
A consultant, Fabian in FL says, “What I have done here I couldn’t have done in France. When I arrived, I taught French to business people, which I couldn’t have done in France without qualifications.”
USA is a country made of people from many cultures and traditions making assimilation and acculturation easy. People in America are welcoming and open minded, so even as a tourist with a different language, it is easy to fit in. When people around are encouraging and optimistic about the future, a drastic change in location and country can be handled better.
For instance take Mathilda from Marseilles, who moved to the US 2 years ago to start fresh in life. She found it easy to adjust to the new change of country since people here are really enthusiastic…about everything. She says, “A cute dog in the streets, a baby in a stroller, or anything that happens to anybody becomes ‘amazing’ or ‘awesome’. Sometimes, it may be unnecessary and even pretentious, but it is a relief. It makes things easier on a day-to-day basis.”
Pick up and move
Let’s say French national Pierre is a software engineer who has great skills and who can get a work permit for these skills. Imagine having no legal hurdles whatsoever and a chance to explore new opportunities. He can just “pick his things up and move”. His choice of USA is easy – the ease of immigration without having to learn a new language, immigration laws supporting sponsorship of family, salary options, French widely spoken in many states, no right wing left wing politics affecting common man, equal opportunities and a promise of a new life.
The reasons can be piled further on, each attractive in their own way – a frog shown light outside his pond will make the leap. Like you will hear many expats say, “Just try it!”
For those expats in the US with any lingering nostalgia, there is always one French brand or another lining up the shelves, a friendly face somewhere, a man in a beret enjoying a cup of coffee in a local café (yes, berets are becoming fashionable in many places)…and us, the French District!
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes” said Marcel Proust.