Thursday, October 15, 2009
Sometimes I Wish I Were Italian. Or Irish. Or...
I'm French. More specifically, I'm French Canadian. 100%. As far as I know, there is only French blood running through my veins. Both my mother's and father's side of the family can be traced immediately back to Canada, most of them to Quebec. Growing up, French Canadians - lovingly referred to as Canucks - were predominant in my neighborhood, my town and my schools. Most of my classmates had last names like Levesque, Francoeur, Boucher, Gagnon or Cote and many were fluent in French. Most of my older relatives spoke French and when I got to high school I started learning French partly because I wanted to feel like part of my heritage. After college my brother and I went to Montreal and Quebec a couple times and for the first time I saw where my family had come from. When I got to Europe in 1998, I cherished every trip to France because I wanted to sort of get in touch with my ancestry and culture. I even got a tattoo of the Fleur-de-Lis, the symbol of Quebec (also their flag).
But the truth is, I've never felt much nationalistic or ethic pride in being French Canadian. Over the years I've come to be envious of people with other backgrounds. Italians, Irish, Germans, Mexicans, Filipinos, hell even Puerto Ricans. They have so much pride in their heritage and wear it like a badge of honor. Italian Americans and Irish Americans in particular, two of the proudest groups there are in the US. There are plenty of Italian Americans who are 3rd, 4th or even 5th generation but they can still speak the language and still identify themselves as more Italian than American. Italians have made a huge mark on the US with their food, culture, etc. Same with the Irish, I mean they even have their own holiday. All of these groups have identifiable cultures. French Canadians...not so much, unless you want to count meatpies, construction, sheetrock or drywall. Somehow, saying "Kiss me I'm French Canadian" doesn't have the same ring to it as "Kiss me I'm Irish" does.
The funny thing is, living in Italy for almost 10 years now I've developed a lot of Italian traits and can even speak the language decently. In some ways, I'm a lot more "Italian" than many of the real Italian Americans back in the US but because my blood is 100% French Canadian, I'll never part of the club. I've accepted that. But sometimes I wish that I WAS Italian. Or Irish. Or one of those other nationalities who have so much pride in their heritage. In the meantime, I guess I'll just have to say "Je me Souviens!"...and pass me another piece of meatpie.