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Being the Foreigner Mom

So often people ask me about my life here in France. What it’s like to live abroad, how are things different here etc. etc. It’s actually a hard thing for me to write about because this is just my normal life. Although I love it, I really love this whole experience, I guarantee I do a lot of the same things you do. Laundry? Check. Chauffeur my kids to and from practice/school/events? Check. Cook, clean, and keep my house {somewhat} orderly? Check. But there are maybe some things you don’t have to do that I do.

Work on translating in your head what you’d like to ask the teacher while waiting. Wait – do I transpose those words? Is it masculine or feminine? Dang, I have no clue. I’ll just use another word. Oh shoot, it’s my turn! And then I stumble through a sentence about my kid and his class and all that jazz.

Being the foreigner mom is tough, guys! And although my French is a little better than said scenario above, I still come across situations where I have never felt so stupid in my whole entire life. Until, of course, that type of situation happens again.

You see, when you’re the foreigner mom, you want to fit it. You want to make friends and don’t want people to be afraid of talking to you. I am actually quite nice!

life of a foreigner mom

You probably have a foreigner mom at your school. She’s probably a little shy and may even come off as rude when her eyes drop down to the ground every time you walk by. She’s not rude, trust me. In her mind she’s thinking “If I make eye contact, they’ll want to talk to me!” and even though she does want to chat, it’s so hard to get up the nerve. She’s in a world she doesn’t know much about. She is in the middle of a journey in learning the language, culture, and people of this new country. This isn’t home to her and while it might eventually become home, for now it’s a strange place, with a strange language and she’s never felt so inadequate in her whole life.

See, in our own languages we’re actually kinda smart. We hold degrees and have actually held some pretty decent jobs. We are educated and can hold our own in most situations. We’re actually kinda funny too. In our own language, we can crack a joke or two. People actually laugh! In our own language and culture we’re fun to be around, enjoy company, and have friends.

But for a variety of different reasons, we’re not in our own country. We’re not speaking our own languages. And man, it’s tough. I’d invite you over and we could sit and chat and get to know each other. I’d love to hear more about this culture and how it works without having to translate everything and make sure I understood correctly. Or even possibly offending you by forgetting a cultural norm (I’m looking at you French greeting kisses!)

So why do I write this, you might ask? For one because my life is not all glamorous just because I live in France. I do love it here and the experience is something I wouldn’t change for the world, but it’s not all roses and sunshine. Or baguettes and berets in my case. Have you ever tried to make a joke in a language other than your own? It’s tough! Or struggled through a teacher/parent meeting? Tough again.

All this is still tough for me and I happen to be an adventurer. I welcome the weirdness and craziness of this expat life. I really do enjoy it and know that when we’re done, I’m going to miss it like crazy. I don’t do ‘normal’ very well. I know that many people find themselves expats under circumstances that weren’t necessarily their own. War, poverty, looking for a better life for their kids – the list goes on. Many of these moms might not have the adventurer personality. Maybe they’re innately shy in their own language and then add learning another one on top of that, I might never speak!

A couple years back there was a girl I met at a church here in France. She was so kind to me. She invited me over, asked me to go wedding dress shopping with her, we had dinners together, just overall so, so kind to me. I wasn’t the easiest friend. In fact, I was probably the hardest choice. At the time I couldn’t communicate very well in French and it took me a while to just spit out a sentence. She didn’t care. She’d sit there and let me talk and correct me if I needed to be corrected, but otherwise, just let me talk. I still don’t think she knows how much she touched me. I credit most of the progress I’ve made to her kindness to me.

We have another family that are our friends and to this day I don’t really know why they’d want to be our friends. We aren’t easy to communicate with, we don’t do things the same way they do, and we have really nothing to offer them. They didn’t care. They did favors for us, watched our kids, helped us with French paperwork and taking us to appointments. They went above and beyond the normal ‘duty’ of friendship and are still our good friends to this day. I don’t know if they even know what an impact their kindness had on us,  but I was forever changed and blessed through them.

All this to say, that mom that’s always quiet? The one that is new here and doesn’t look like she has any friends? The one that can barely get a sentence out to the teacher? Those ladies need friends. They are probably in a situation that is hard. The might not even want to be in that situation but life brought them there anyway. They need a friend. And yes, life gets busy, I totally understand that. But also – a little goes a long way. Specially for that person in that situation.

This doesn’t even have to be an expat mom, maybe a shy mom. Maybe a mom who looks like she might be hurting. Or maybe someone who just looks like they might need a friend – reach out! A little love and kindness can go a long way – I am living proof!

I know this is a little out of ordinary to share with you today, hope you don’t mind! I’ll start sharing more about our life here in France too, if you like it! Happy Tuesday!

13 Responses to Being the Foreigner Mom

  1. Krista October 14, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    LOVE this, Natalia! Although I did not move countries, it felt very much like I did nearly 8 years ago when moving from my home in a small town to a large town outside of Seattle. I still feel like an outsider and find making friends to be nearly impossible.

    • Natalia October 15, 2014 at 8:53 am #

      I didn’t mention that, but I was going to say it’s very similar if not the same for people who have to relocate. It’s tough!!

  2. molly @ still being molly October 14, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

    i LOVE this! I always try to make friends with anyone I meet… haha I just roll like that. But this gives me a whole new perspective that I will think about when Lilly starts going to school!

    • Natalia October 15, 2014 at 8:53 am #

      Somehow I could see that about you! 🙂 It’s a good thing to do, trust me!

  3. Megan October 15, 2014 at 6:24 am #

    Lovely, just lovely. I would never have thought of it. I guess I feel my own insecurities and forget that others have the same.

    • Natalia October 15, 2014 at 8:52 am #

      Oh gosh, that is so true, and I understand! It’s hard to think about what goes on for others because we all have our own issues!

  4. Jenn October 15, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

    My brother and his family (wife, 4 little kids) move to France last month. So far they love it! My SIL is fluent, so that makes it easier for her. I think it’s an awesome adventure!

    • Natalia October 16, 2014 at 3:38 am #

      Yes, the language has to be the biggest hurdle, but still an adventure!! Good for them too, that’s so fun! Where in France?

  5. Erin October 18, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    Love this post! It is such a great reminder of why we should treat everyone with kindness and warmth.

  6. Natasha October 28, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

    Wow. As an American mom living in Chile, I just want to say thank you for this!!!! You summed it up perfectly. This is totally my life right now!

  7. Jenn Kelly December 4, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

    Your family is just lovely! Thanks for sharing your stories!


  8. Katch March 14, 2015 at 6:47 am #

    This is awesome info!

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