Living “The French Dream”: I am American, I am French and I am an immigrant.
Today marks another historical moment in not only French but European history. As 2017 has proven to be a “world wind” of the unexpected, it will continue to do so today as my motivated yet extremely stressed, French neighbors head to the voting polls. With the French presidential candidates battling off in what could potentially be a repeat of the terrifying American election, today is one of the first times, I truly feel more French than American as I this election could have a direct effect on me as an immigrant.
France is about to face a very similar dilemma to the US election, as many feel they will have to settle on a vote which decides “Who is the not the worst of all the candidates.” Since, Marine Le Pen is seen as the “Trump” of France, her policies are especially terrifying to not only immigrants like myself, but clear thinking French citizens who are able to see through her manipulative fear tactics.
It has been absolutely fascinating discussing with my French clients and friends, their insights on the election and their candidate choices. There are all different angles and arguments I have heard from every side of the spectrum. However, no matter who local Parisians decide to write on their ballot, (yes they still use paper ballots) there is one common bond between them, none of them will vote for Le Pen. So, who are her supporters then? Well, obviously the very mirror of those who voted for Trump, and we all saw how that turned out.
Unfortunately, this election could be a complete replica of the 2016 US election as fearful “outsiders” you might say, have been overwhelmed with an irrational reality due to immigration, terrorist attacks and anger as a result of “neglect” from the EU. Feeling hopeless and unheard, Le Pen believers are looking to her as a savior as she has promised to be their voice. I have even witnessed personally, Le Pen supporters in the countryside, expressing their happiness that someone is finally listening to the French people again and not so concerned about “us immigrants.”
It is not an unknown fact that France has suffered a lot over the past couple years. Since the terrorist attacks at the Bataclan and surrounding establishments in November 2015, I am not going to lie that the presence of fear has increased a little here. However, this fear hasn’t stopped us strong Parisians from living our daily lives, enjoying local restaurants or shopping on the Champs-Élysées but it has unfortunately stopped tourists from packing their bags for a Parisian vacation. Which in return, does make me boil inside since in reality is, France is safer than ever as there is still a greater chance of experiencing gun violence in the US than here.
Thursday’s shooting on the Champs-Élysées, was scary and raised further anxiety throughout the city. However, this anxiety didn’t arise from the fear of endangering our safety but the fear that this event only adds more fuel to Le Pen’s election fire. Yes, you might say we are sadly experiencing a new “norm” in our society but the extremity of this “norm” proves how well protected the country is.
During the latest string of terrorist attacks, there continues to be a decrease in the lives lost as the assailant has been killed almost immediately by military or police personnel. Since 2015, there has been a significant increase in military presence leaving the country more protected than ever and I can say, at least for myself, that I feel even safer than before.
It is easy to blame the increase in immigration on these new fighters, but 98% of us immigrants are not coming to cause trouble or take French jobs. For those of us who are truly trying to build a better life for ourselves, this election really matters to all of us.
I have become very evolved in this election because I consider myself a “dream-seeking immigrant.” Someone, who has come to a foreign country in hopes of fulfilling a long lasting dream and building a new life. Although, my story is obviously different then those coming from a war-torn country or by other means, in the end, I still came here without a job or any real plan just of my love for my new country and the land of opportunity I saw within it. I was luckily given the chance to build a new life for myself here, all on my own because they were willing to believe in me.
So, why do I love this country so much and why am I determined to stay here? Well, so far France has done nothing but reward me for my hard work and in return, here are some of the big reasons why I am so grateful to this country:
1. I was able to obtain a 4 year entrepreneur Titre de séjour (green card) without actually having to marry a French man, (which alone is a huge accomplishment if you have ever obtained a French visa before) I truly thought after my first year here, I was going to have to close the door on my life in France but I was not going to give up. After finding an opportunity, lots of hard work and a 60 page business plan, I was provided with a chance to stay and build a life for myself. Proving the fact that hard work pays off and you can do it on your own, no matter where you come from.
With this opportunity, I have built a small business here in France, which is prospering all because the French support system I have created believes in me and all I want to do is help the people of France further their education.
2. I have obtained healthcare and social security which I happily pay higher taxes for every month, with a smile on myself. Anytime I say this to a French person, their mouths drop,
“What is wrong with you, we pay too much tax here for this system!”
After, a quick explanation from the American side, they understand that from my point of view, the French healthcare system is the “American Dream.” It it is also one of the main reasons why I will stay here as long as the system remains. To have the freedom to go into a hospital without the fear of an outrageous bill is something that for me, is worth fighting for because in the end, it will save my life.
Last month, I had taken my first trip to the hospital, for a whopping total of 93€ (with the ambulance) and it finalized my decision to stay in France for as long as they will let me. That I will continue to work hard so I can keep the privileges that they have provided me with, which is truly, I am sure not just my opinion but the insight from many hard working immigrants.
3. That the majority of prejudice here in Paris, is an underlying issue. Like many other major cities in the world, there are people from so many different cultures living and coinciding with one another as best they can. It doesn’t mean that prejudice doesn’t exist here, but there is a greater tolerance so that we may go about our daily lives without extreme violence. Although, Le Pen has her own opinion on this, I love the fact that throughout my last few years, this city has exposed me to more personalities and beauty in the world.
So, in return should I still be scared of the possible outcomes of the election should Le Pen win? Yes. However, does it change my decision on whether or not I will leave France because of it? Probably not. Why? Because I love this country and at this moment, I will fight to stand by it.
I have traveled all over the world and I have to say, there is nothing like France, especially Paris. I still have to pinch myself when I pass by the Eiffel Tower and remind myself of the fact, that I am living the dream which I fought so hard to obtain. For those who will agree with me, this is the truth for all immigrants who have fought so diligently to live in a foreign country which they now consider “home.” I couldn’t agree more with the expression, “Home is where the heart is” because we all find our home in different places, even if it is for the simplest reasons. As for myself, it is the little things that I feel make France my home:
- My love for French food, 5€ amazing bottles of wine, the relaxed beauty of the “live life to the fullest” culture even if that includes the belief that, “10 weeks vacation per year.” is actually a necessity.
- That on my daily commute I still pass the Eiffel Tower and it makes me smile.
- That on a Sunday afternoon in the sun, I can sit in a park and enjoy the presence of people from around the world sitting right next to me.
- The international group of friends I have created mixed with beautiful women and men of all different religions, backgrounds and culture.
- The kindness of the French people, the uniqueness of the culture and the pride to keep it as unique as it is.
So, today I ask the citizens of France, to please be cautious of who’s name you decide to put on that ballot this afternoon. As certain candidates policies may not directly effect my immigration, it will effect all of us who are fighting to stay in the country they now call home. Many of us are grateful to this country which has taken us in, especially those from war-torn countries. Although we may not be able to put our name on a ballot today, we are with you. Not just because we are concerned about the future but because we truly are proud to say that today and from here on out, we are all French.