September 7, 2013

What Gives Me Away as NonFrench - Before I Talk

Gone are the days when I try to disguise myself as one of the French. While living in France has influenced my style, I have accepted the fact that there are certain things I’m unwilling to go without. This is why it’s easy to spot that I’m not French, even before I utter "bonjour".

Here are five tell tale signs that I ain’t French:

1. My Chapstick, or should I say Carmex.

I am addicted to chapstick. I use carmex brand lime scented SPF 15 lip protection pretty much constantly. Not only does this brand not exist in France, and I’d be surprised to see French cosmetics in bright neon green casing, but also the way lip balm is packaged is different. In America, the part of the case that comes off to access the interior goodies is a small cap no bigger than my thumbnail. In France, the chapsticks I’ve seen, the entire outer casing is removed in order to access the chapstick.

Mon stick à levre (my chapstick)!

This is how I spotted a fellow American language assistant on the Lille metro on our way to orientation.

2. My Rainbows.

While sadly I cannot sport sandals year round in France as I used to do in California, as soon as weather permits you’ll find me more often than not cruising in my rainbows. I have yet to see these particular shoes for sale in France, and every time I’ve spotted another human wearing them, they have indeed been American.

The same rainbows as me! Get your own pair at:

3. My Tendancy for Bright Colors.

I wear a lot of color. Well, “a lot” of color when one compares me to my French counterparts. One of my first French friends, while we were going to the movies, told me “tu te habilles toujours très coloré (you’re always dressed so colorfully!)!” when all I was wearing was a white t-shirt, jeans, and a yellow sweater. I mean, only one item was colorful!

Flash forward to this past school year where living in France for three years has influenced my style. Despite that I now own a lot more black, navy blue, etc articles of clothing, while enjoying an apéro at one of my friend’s houses, he commented on how I’m always wearing colorful clothing and how nice a change it is.

Bref, even under France’s long-term influence, it would seem I still love wearing colors.

4. My Aluminum Water Bottle.

In college, I felt like everybody and their brother had their own personal water bottle. In France, the only other people I’ve seen with one are the Canadians in my same masters program. Although, it’s starting to catch on with my French environmental studies buddies.

Ma gourde (My water bottle).

I love my water bottle for a variety of reasons. It makes me feel a lot more environmentally friendly than buying plastic water bottles, and it saves me money. Plus, I love being able to drink water whenever I feel like it, even if it means my bag is a little bit heavier than it needs to be.

5. My Short Everything.

While French girls tend to dress a bit on the conservative side, all my dresses, skirts, and shorts are definitely on the shorter side. Especially when compared to their version of short. If a French girl does wear something that shows a bit more skin, they cover it up with tights. I dare to wear my short everything with bare legs!


  1. Great post! Now I'm going to have to think about what gives me away :)

    1. Maybe you're more integrated than I am!

  2. Love the Blog - it demonstrates how hard it is to be a spy.

    1. Haha thanks! It would definitely be difficult.. although besides all that stuff I still have a bit of an accent.

  3. Great post! I'm sure high on my list of what gives me away are my ever-present jeans, and my clogs. What can I say, America has better options for wide feet. However, I can (proudly) say that some people still don't know I'm American, after I've lived in the same village for 7 years! Most are starting to catch on now that my kids are in school and I talk to them in English, though. ;)

    1. Go you! I'm not sure jeans count as French people wear them as well ;)

  4. Interesting! It's funny how even the smallest things can give you away...

    In here, it's pretty much impossible to spot non-Brazilians, as we are a very diverse people, as Americans are. But when I do, it's mostly because of the clothing style. I found a Frenchman simply for the fact he was wearing red pants! No one in here would dare this. I'm sure you'd be easily spotted in Brazil, if you enjoy wearing bright colors!

  5. Ha, ha, your blog has given me a good laugh! I came across it as I was looking for rubberstamps in France (tampons France) and found your blog entry on tampons. I think your culture shock of France is similar to what I went through decades ago now (1988-89) arriving in the US as an exchange student being 16 years old. It was a confusing time - skirt length measured at school, hall passes, importance of Christianity, the size of everything (portions/drinks/cars)!!! Now, the world has changed. I've travelled a lot, often go to the US, it's all become more 'normal', yet you are describing the exact things I would have felt back then. Things maybe haven't changed as much as I thought. Best of everything for your stay in France - it's a lovely country. My husband to be is French and I hope to live there one day.
    Helena (half Swede/half Finn living in England!)

  6. Glad you're "doing you" in France. I'm the same way. I don't care if French people wouldn't be caught dead in the grocery store in yoga pants and flip flops. Out where I live, it's not THAT bad to be more casual since it's country living, but I think if I lived in Paris, I'd prob change my ways. ;-)


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