Leslie Burke1 Comment

Stand Out or Fit In

Leslie Burke1 Comment
Stand Out or Fit In

It always amazes me how much people stare at me on the streets in France. With Paris still reeling from terror attacks, its hard to understand if its because I look different (most black people here don't resemble blacks at home), I am wearing color (Parisians prefer black in their fashion), or due to fear of brown skin. Arriving at our hotel in 17th arrondissement I was shocked that all women must open their purse for security - at the mall, at Sephora, at hotels. What an inconvenience to everyday life. Men strolled in and out of doors carrying briefcases without pause. This is a new Paris for sure.

To practice my French I have been reading the local news online and am shocked at the way with ease presidential candidate Sarkozy suggests immigrants quickly integrate. Not British or American immigrants but his statements come thinly veiled to be aimed at North Africans and others of Muslim decent. As this blog is about becoming Zoe and embracing life as the wife of a French man, I worry about how much of who I am will have to be left in America. After submitting to the bag check in Sephora, I discovered many locations don't offer shades darker than Alicia Keys. I see I'll be stocking up on makeup for months before the move.

I don't know what these issues will mean for me in the future as Iearn to assimilate into a new culture. I have decided however where I will draw the line of being who I am. I won't stop wearing big hair to make anyone comfortable with me. I won't stop wearing color regardless of how often people stare. I won't lose my Brooklyn edge and remind anyone where I am from if I feel disrespected and I won't lose my Christian values of accepting everyone - Jewish, Muslim or atheist - as an equal worthy of blessings. However, I do agree that to truly respect differences you have to find ways to fit in. I am speaking French to everyone I encounter as I am horrified when I over hear tourists yelling at people in the service industry in English. I am enjoying stinky cheese and understand that a meal without dessert and wine is not a meal. I am greeting people with "Bonjour" or "Bon soir" in the elevator and shops even though the New Yorker in me wants to ignore everyone. I do greet friends and loved ones with warm cheek kisses even though I hate being touched. Lastly, I prefer eating my meals outside despite bugs and am offended when offered the interior. I have a long way to go with feeling truly local in any city in France but I am hoping if we move back to Paris as opposed to the warmer, friendlier south like Bordeaux or Marseille, I will choose just the right balance between standing out and fitting in.

P.S. I am wearing my "loud" Sandro Paris romper which got me many stares around town, an H&M leather moto and my favorite inexpensive gladiator sandals perfect for walking everywhere.