I am miffed. Whatever I do, wherever I go, I am always ‘the French one’. My friends and colleagues still consider me to be French. Why? Why such a double standard? I have colleagues who, just like me, are naturalised citizen. They are considered to be British. Sometimes, someone says that they are ‘Indian-born’ or ‘from the continent’, but that’s as far as it goes.
As for me, despite my British passport and the fact that I have been living in London for the best part of 14 years, I am always considered to be French. ‘Ask Muriel’, someone says. ‘Who is she?’ ‘The French one’. But of course. What did I do to deserve to be stigmatised like this?
So what do I need to do to be British? Is it my accent? Is it because I wasn’t brought up in one of the posh British institutions? I wonder.
Maybe I need to learn by heart some British poems. Truth be told, I wouldn’t start from scratch: one of my favourite poems is If, by Rudyard Kipling. But that’s clearly not enough. I need to try harder. John Keats, Lord Byron, Sylvia Plath maybe…I wonder. Do you have anyone to recommend?
I also shamefully admit that, as I have been educated in France, I didn’t really study Shakespeare. That’s not entirely true: we studied a French translation of Romeo & Juliet. What can I say? I am not really into Shakespeare. I think that Shakespeare is over rated. Before you Brits judge me too harshly, you need to understand that I have had a crash course on Shakespeare with my children: you see, they are going to British schools They study at least one book of Shakespeare every year. I am starting to become an expert now. But maybe, just maybe, you need to be born over here to fully appreciate it. And I wasn’t. Enough said.
Maybe it’s the way I drink tea. I like a good cuppa from time to time, but that’s as far as it goes. In fact, frankly, I am more a coffee sort of girl.
Maybe it’s cricket. I never really understood the rules. I wonder. Frankly, I think that cricket should be used to cure insomnia.That’s just be, I suppose.
Maybe it’s my dress style. I wonder. I don’t think that I dress in a ‘French’ way but who knows? It is true that you will never see me wearing tweed or tartan. It’s against everything I stand for. As for dressing in bright yellow, well, I leave it to the Queen.
Maybe I need to dye my hair blonde or ginger. Well, no way. Not in a million years. I will remain a brunette. This much I know.
Maybe I need to set up a family trust and a bank account in Panama. That would help, wouldn’t it? I wish…
The thing is, Britishness seems to be a relative concept. people see what they want to see in it. It depends on their age, their education and their family. That said, one thing remains for sure: I do not stand a chance to be considered British.
Never have, and probably never will.