So Andy and I have just arrived back in France after two weeks in England. It was a strange feeling returning to England as visitors and a strange feeling landing back in Montpellier as inhabitants of this country. Despite living in the UK for more than a decade, I was surprised to find that I was more excited to fly back to France than to stay there. Even just four months away from England has helped me to see both why I enjoyed living there and also why I never felt entirely at home.
One of the main things I realised was that what I enjoy about England has more to do with convenience than culture– the ease with which I can buy a wide range of different types of food, the huge choice of places to go to have a drink or coffee, the long and regular opening hours for businesses. I do miss individual people and I understand that these people are partially the products of the British environment, but I still view them as isolated incidences of human gloriousness rather than heart-stirring examples of Britain’s incredible culture. When I am in England, I struggle to connect my interests and values with the world around me. But then, I struggle to do that with every place that I’ve lived and visited; wherever I go, I always feel like a fish out of water, an outsider trying to translate what I see and hear into a language I understand.
My compartmentalising of people and places is just another aspect of my complete lack of patriotism for countries to which I am supposed to belong through birth, lineage and citizenship. I wish that I felt national pride for England, where I was born, or for Wales, where my family are from, or for France, where I grew up, but I feel no strong sense of attachment to any of them. Instead I respect and enjoy and love sections of different countries and I wish that I could create my own DIY nation with bits and pieces of laws, traditions, habits, geographies, and words from all over the place.
The closest I’ve ever come to feeling bound to a place is America, which is odd because I have no ties to that country other than having lived there for a few years when I was very young. When I’m in America I feel constantly fascinated by what’s around me, I want to experience as much as possible of American culture, geography and language and I can talk about what makes America what it is for HOURS. Is that patriotism?