As a Mexican-American woman, I have struggled with finding my identity and adapting to both of these cultures my whole life but after so many years, I finally started to feel comfortable until I moved here. It is quite normal in our society to have more than one nationality or cultural background, we are the melting pot of the world. I have found that here in Bordeaux, France, most people even though they are exposed to multiple cultures, ideologies, ethnicities and nationalities; they still are quick to judge just based on the fact of where you are from. If I say I am Mexican, sometimes I get the comments and questions about the Narco culture and the insecurity. If I say I am American, they quickly assume that I am uncultured, ignorant and well-off. This is what I find most challenging in my host culture, not knowing how someone is going to react based on the simple fact of where I grew up in. Instead of focusing and being scared of what someone might say, I am taking these opportunities to change people’s perspectives and knowledge about Mexican and American cultures.
Another important challenge I have had to deal with on a daily basis is the language barrier. Even though I do have a pretty good level of French, I still find it tough to fully express myself, as well as comprehend different speeds, accents and local slang. For example, here in the Southwest a pain au chocolat is called chocolatine, McDonalds is called McDo, the word “gavé” is also commonly used by the young generations of Bordeaux to express “very” in an informal way. Along with this, a lot of French citizens speak more than one language, and if their level of English or Spanish is better than my French level, they will most likely not speak to me in French. Just now, I walked into a CrossFit gym and the receptionist could tell I was hispanic and automatically spoke to me Spanish, I had to ask them to switch to French in order for me to practice. The typical stereotype of the French we hear is that they do not help you learn the language and will ignore your attempts of speaking French, but I have noticed that in Bordeaux people do appreciate the effort and will help you. It is important for someone who is trying to learn the language to engage in as many conversations as possible, you just have to ask for help!
Being adaptable is an essential skill to have to be able to live abroad, even if you think you do not have this, I can assure you learning this quality is possible. Navigating challenges in a foreign culture will be an experience of a lifetime that will help me in the future, and I recommend you take the leap of faith and study abroad.