I am an immigrant but no one cares because I’m white


Ain’t no subtlety about this one, folks.

If you’re reading this blog post, that means you have access to the internet, so you are most definitely aware of what’s happening in good ol’ America. Though I’d like to point out that the xenophobic basis of what is happening in America has happened and is currently happening across many parts of the world; the US just beat us all to the punch of being really damn blunt about it.

My race and country of birth give me an immense amount of privilege so I won’t even pretend to relate to any minority seeking refuge from persecution. However, I am currently living on a Visa in France, which has lead me to think and reflect empathetically. If France decided to ban all immigrating Canadians, regardless of Visa or Green Card status, I would have to cancel any upcoming trip I have out of the country because I would not be allowed back into the place where I am employed and have a documented home with all of my belongings, and I would live in fear of being found out by the French government. And while this hypothetical scenario is significantly less grave than the real life scenarios of Muslim immigrants and refugees, it really makes me reflect on how that is a terrible situation to be in.

But the funny thing is, even though I’ve come to France to steal their jobs and live out my Canadian beliefs, no one gives a crap because I’m from Canada and I’m white. No one is afraid of me. No one bats an eyelash at the fact that I’m taking employment away from the French and imposing my Canadian values onto their country. In fact, everyone thinks I’m super exotic and interesting and my accent is really cute and they won’t stop asking me how cold it is back home. My “diversity” is celebrated, while the diversity of Muslims is villainized, even though we post the exact same level of threat to the world.

And I’m sorry for my language but that’s just fucked up.

I don’t have a conclusion to my point here, because there never will be a conclusion to the discussion of xenophobia. And it isn’t just America. My dear naive Canadian friends: if this week has taught you anything, it should be that your own bright and shiny country isn’t as perfect as you make it out to be.

We need to do better. All of us. When you think you’ve done the best you can, that’s probably the exact point where you need to try your hardest. Put yourself in the position of others and try to understand. Because there are so many things in this world that are not fair, and just because you drew the long straw in life, does not mean you won’t be impacted by the sufferings of the short straw.

Falling in love with/in France

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One of the, like, seven photos I’ve taken since I got here because I hate taking photos

My kids just finished two weeks of holidays from school (because apparently All Saints’ Day requires two weeks to reflect upon in France), and for one of those weeks they were shipped off to their grandparents’ house, so I took advantage of the freedom and spent nine days exploring Amsterdam, Hamburg, and Berlin. It was a super cool and super fun trip, but about half way through I found myself really homesick, but not for Canada, for France. And as my plane was landing in Nice on Sunday night, I literally almost cried from pure happiness of being back in the South of France. That was in part because I live in a city where November 1st can be a beach day, but it was mostly because France feels like home.

It’s really shocking how easily I’ve fallen in love with the South of France. Yes, it’s beautiful, the language is beautiful, the people are beautiful, and there’s always an endless supply of bread and rosé. But those are tangible things. It’s easy to love those (especially the bread and rosé). But the feeling I had in my heart when I walked out of the Toulon train station upon arriving last weekend is indescribable. I am so content, it’s rather unbelievable.

I had a hella stressful four years of university, between academics, work, and relationships, and on top of all that going through a rollercoaster of identity, doubting my abilities and self-worth, and discovering the corruptive power of my anxiety. But I am hardly ever anxious anymore. Sure, sometimes I get a little stressed out, but I no longer constantly feel worried about nothing or like I’m forgetting something important. I have finally let myself relax and enjoy what is right in front of me, and it’s incredible.

Keeping children alive and happy is no easy task, but I do realize that I don’t have a real job and I’m essentially living a vacation and that’s probably why I feel so chill. However, I would argue that most people I’ve met here act like they’re on vacation, too. They all enjoy life and everything it has to offer. Maybe it’s something in the salty water.

I had no goal coming into all this for what I’d do after this year is up, but slowly that goal is turning into “figure out how to stay in France by any means possible.” Seriously. I love Canada, I really do, but with every passing day my desire to stay forever grows and grows. So if you happen to receive an invite to a wedding next summer on the Mediterranean Sea just know that it is totally absolutely 100% legal and not at all like Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in The Proposal nope not at all please RSVP and don’t call immigration.

As for the “in” part of this post’s title? Well, let’s just say France has pleasantly surprised me in all facets of my life. You know what they say about the French language…

French Thanksgiving

To answer your question, no, Thanksgiving is not a thing in France. They’re totally oblivious to the idea of celebrating the harvest or remembering our European settlers or whatever other probably racially insensitive thing this holiday was created from.

But when you have a Canadian girl with passable culinary skills living with you, Thanksgiving is a thing in France.

My indescribably wonderful host family is really keen on the idea of an exchange of culture, even though I constantly tell them that “Canadian culture” consists of a mix of European and American traditions, covered in a light drizzle of maple syrup and/or cheese curds. Still, they insist on being educated in my Canuck ways, so about a week ago we decided we would host a Canadian Thanksgiving.

On one hand, I was jazzed to get a taste of home. On the other hand, I was terrified as heck because I’d literally never made Thanksgiving dinner, plus I’m a vegetarian so I don’t even know how to make half the dishes?????

But apparently I’m braver/more stupid than I thought, so on Saturday I spent literally the whole day in the kitchen (albeit a little hungover because that’s half the tradition) with my host mom, making stuffing, veggies, potatoes, turkey (which was actually chicken because you can only get turkey at Christmas in the French Riviera), and pumpkin pie to feed 9 adults and 4 children, most of whom were experiencing Thanksgiving for the first time ever.

YEAH OKAY NO PRESSURE OR ANYTHING.

But it turned out amazing. Like, better than I could have dreamed. They loved the food. I made stuffing for the first time in my life and wow not to boast but it was DELICIOUS. And I made an entire pumpkin pie from scratch in a country that doesn’t sell canned pumpkin purée because they have literally never heard of pumpkin pie nor do they understand that it is a dessert.

I see a French green card in my future because I am totally wife material.

(Okay, chill, I know that was, like, the least feminist thing to say but IT WAS A JOKE OKAY??)

(Not entirely a joke. I’m lowkey looking for a French husband to keep me in the country shhh don’t tell immigration.)

All bragging and joking aside, it may very well have been the best Thanksgiving I have ever had. Maybe it was the champagne (and I’m talking REAL champagne, not sparkling wine) but I almost teared up a few times our of pure thankfulness for my host family. I sound like a Charlie Brown special, but honestly, I really learned the meaning of Thanksgiving this year. I have such an incredible family who are so invested in my life and my culture that they are willing to orchestrate probably the most complicated Canadian holiday, so that they can learn more about me and give me a welcoming French experience. I genuinely feel like the most fortunate human being in the world, and I am trying so hard to not take any of this for granted because holy crap I am really damn lucky.

I still don’t know what I’m going to do after France. Heck, I don’t know if I will ever leave France at this point, if I can swing it (re: wife material). My future is more uncertain than it’s ever been but eff the future because the present is pretty freakin fantastic.

I realize I come from a lot of privilege, so I will not just say, “you, too, can have an amazing life like this!!” because I know that’s a narrow-minded perspective. But what I will say is do not settle for anything. I know I sound like a broken record in all my French blog posts, but seriously, moving to France is probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve never wanted something more, and I’ve never been happier. So reach as far as you can, and then go one step further.

Oh and just a heads up I’ll be starting a pastry business if I ever move back to Canada because DAMN I make a good pie.

French Month-iversary

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This Friday (September 30th) marks my one month anniversary of moving to France, and you better believe I will treat myself to a pastry from the Boulangerie around the corner to celebrate.

Holy crap it’s been a month. It does not feel like I have been here that long. Honestly, it still doesn’t feel real at all. Even a month in, I still stop myself and think, oh my god, I literally live in France. In. France. You’d think it would have hit me by now, considering how much baguette and wine I consume on the daily.

But one thing is for absolute sure: I do not regret it at all.

In the past month I have not once cried about being homesick. I have not called my parents in a panic. I have not curled up in the floor in a puddle of lamentation for my life in Canada. I never really expected to do any of those things, but I also never expected NOT to do them, ya know?

But how can you feel regret in such a stunning place? The the culture and the scenery and the people and the language and the food and the everything. You can do some cool shit here, and boy have I done some cool shit.

I’ve gone to the beach more times in the past month than I think I have in my entire life. I’ve consumed meals on the beach so often that I am no longer phased by the view. I’ve gone stand up paddle boarding on the Mediterranean. I’ve had dinner on a rooftop with the most beautiful French people, drinking the most delicious champagne. I’ve gone swimming in a pool at a villa on a hill overlooking the sea. And I’ve done a few other wonderful things that I can’t share on such a public platform.

And that’s just the big stuff; don’t even get me started on sipping espresso outside cafés and wandering along cobblestone streets and exploring harbours and speaking more French than I realized I knew and drinking wine, oh my god, drinking wine.

And perhaps the most incredible thing of all is that while doing these things, I have been welcomed with such uninhibited love from everyone I have encountered. Maybe it’s because they feel bad for me because I’m foreign or maybe they’re fascinated by my long legs and pasty skin (JK I FINALLY GOT A TAN!!!) but every person I encounter here treats me like a best friend from the moment they kiss both my cheeks. The most loving of the bunch has been my host family, for whom there are no sufficient words to describe how warmly they’ve welcomed me into their family, and the respect and appreciation I have for them.

I have a family and friends and I am truly making a life for myself here, and it’s so incredibly exciting that I have another year to continue to explore and learn and enjoy (and work on my tan).

Sometimes I feel bad for posting snapchats and instagrams and really anything about my French life because I don’t like bragging. But in talking about my adventures, particularly through my blog, my goal isn’t to boast about how amazing my life is, but to try to inspire anyone who will listen to chase after what they want. I am being very careful to not say “follow your dreams” because dreams happen when you’re asleep and I am very much awake. I know that sounds cheesy, but a friend I have made in France once said to me, in English but with a heavy French accent, “I am not living my dream, I am living my life.” His words really resonated with me (and not just because they sounded hilarious/beautiful with an accent) because, honestly, I don’t know what my dream is. Every since graduating university, I’ve had absolutely no idea how to answer the question, “What is your dream job?” and that is terrifying. But I am starting to learn, with the help of this incredible place and my new friend, that I don’t need to live a dream, I need to live my life. And, honestly, I think I’m doing a pretty damn good job (re: list of cool shit I’ve done).

Live your life. Do whatever you want. As morbid as it sounds, we’re all going to die at some point, so it’s more of a risk to not do what you want when you want to. You could claim that you’re young, you have time. But when you’re young, your life is much more malleable, and I firmly believe that the things you experience now will impact your entire life more than things later on. At the risk of being sued by Nike, I’m telling you to just fucking do it.

Two weeks ago when I was sitting on a paddle board on the Mediterranean, I was low key stranded because my friend had stolen my paddle, so I just sat there and looked out at everything and I honestly felt the happiest I have ever felt in my entire life. And that was the moment I realized that taking this big risk was absolutely worth it.

On ne vit qu’une fois. (That’s french for YOLO.)

The Nanny Diaries

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There are probably a number of topless people in this photo.

(To clarify, I’m not a nanny, I’m an Au Pair. Those are very different things. Nannies spend their time taking care of young children. Au Pairs spend their days lounging at the beach until the children are done school for the day).

Things I have learned in my first week in France:

  1. French people eat more bread than you’d think humanly possible. That cliché of buying a fresh baguette on your way home and nibbling the top? Not a cliché. Real life. RIP my metabolism.
  2. It is socially acceptable to have wine with every meal. I have adopted this habit quickly. Except breakfast, which is when you have your first of about forty espressos a day. Okay, not actually forty, but close.
  3. It is polite in French dinner culture to rest your non-eating hand on the table, and you will be made fun of if you rest your non-eating hand in your lap instead like they do in North America.
  4. It is only a matter of time before I accidentally kiss someone on the mouth because I’m hella awkward about the whole cheek kiss thing every. Damn. Time.
  5. If two French people were strangers I’d have no idea because everyone seems to be bffs.
  6. When you move to another country it is very likely you won’t feel like you’ve moved to another country.

That last one is the most important. A ton of people from back in Canada have asked me, “How’s France??” and every time I want to say, “I have literally no idea.” Because it doesn’t feel like I’m here. Okay, yes, there are about seventeen types of cheese in the fridge, I’m surrounded by mountains, and the only English I hear in a day comes from Netflix. I know I’m in the South of France. But it’s really hard for me to actually realize it.

Maybe it’s because I’ve already been thrown into the family’s routine. Maybe it’s because people here are so nonchalant about the fact that you can see the freakin Mediterranean Sea around ever bend. Personally I think it’s because I’m a very introverted and very introspective person, so I tend to really notice stimuli all around me and overthink about it, and since nearly everything is brand new to me, it’s a lot to process.

But the most important thing is that everything is great. The family is beautiful and so full of love and it’s really inspiring. Sometimes the kids put me on the verge of a meltdown, but they’re sweet at heart and oodles of fun. And the city. Oh my god the city. Today I sat on a secluded beach on the Mediterranean for like three hours and found myself just sitting and staring out at the beauty.

I am so lucky. So unbelievable lucky. I know this opportunity wasn’t just handed to me and I had to work a bit for it, but honestly, I hope I never take for granted what I have because holy crap I have more than I could have dreamed.

A number of people have told me it’s really brave or admirable to just up and move to another country. Some (mostly the parents of my friends) have told me it’s very smart for me to take time after University to figure out what I want. I didn’t fully process any of their words when I was still at home, but now that I’m here, I get it. If I could give any advice to anyone, young or old, at any stage in life, it would be to do whatever the heck you want. Just make like Nike and do it. Being an Au Pair in the South of France encompasses so many dreams I’ve always had. I never thought I’d doing all this, and I’m so damn happy that I am. Live the dream, kids.

Okay it’s night time in France and I’ve had a good amount to drink tonight (yes it’s a Tuesday but did you miss the part where I said the French drink literally all the time??) so it is the time for me to sleeeeeep.

*kisses each of your cheeks because that’s what French people do when they say good night*

I’m moving to France on Monday

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How’s that for some click bait.

But unlike click bait, what you see is what you get. Because I’m actually moving to France. On Monday.

“Wait… What???!???!?”

On Monday I am hopping on a plane and moving to the city of Toulon in the South of France to live and work as an Au Pair for a beautiful family, for one year. For those of you who aren’t familiar, “Au Pair” is French for “a nanny who does hardly any work.” My job entails occasionally watching two adorable French children and helping them with their English, while eating their French food and living in their French home, which is a 5 minute walk from the Mediterranean Sea, btw.

I know. To quote our gods Jay Z and Yeezy, that shit cray.

If you’re thinking, “What the hell Marryl you leave Monday and I’m just finding out now??” I’m terribly sorry. If it makes you feel any better, I’m also just finding out now. Seriously. I got a call about my Visa being approved like two hours ago, and I just booked my flight. YOLO, right?

(s/o to the other god, Drizzy.)

If you’re wondering, “Why,” first of all you’re crazy because um why not?? I’M LITERALLY LIVING ON THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA. But seriously, I just graduated university, and I don’t know what I want to do with my life beyond something that is fulfilling. And I want to travel. So I figure this is a good option that doesn’t leave me completely broke.

If you want to keep up with my adventures (I’m not even close to Kardashian level of interest but I’ll do my best), I’ll be even more social-media obsessed than I am now, so follow me in insta/twitter/snapchat or whatever. Everything is “marrylsmith”. Oh god I feel like I’m ending a youtube vlog. Whatever. Shameless self promotion is the spice of life.

Oh and I’ll probably also blog a bit since my blog already has a French name so when I post on Wednesday it’ll actually be Mercredi where I am which, if you ask me, is LITERALLY THE BEST PART OF ALL THIS. Okay, so not literally. But close.

Okay anyway I have to go pack my whole life into 33 kilos of checked luggage BYE.