Because Americans imagine France as a magical wonderland where buttery pastries grow on trees, Edith Piaf and Serge Gainsbourg wander around singing, and smoking is actually good for you, I’ve probably come across as a privileged brat for having so many complaints lately.
Allow me to explain.
When I arrived seven months ago, I had a predictable-but-satisfying honeymoon period. Angers came off really nice at first, like the popular girl who just pretends to befriend the new kid at school. I hadn’t spent time anywhere else in France, so I didn’t really know any better.
That changed after my magical trip with Jeffrey, when I realized that the handful of things I like about Angers—bakeries, speaking French, and the farmer’s market—were things I could find anywhere and everywhere in France, without the side dish of snottiness Angers serves ice cold. I was particularly dazzled with Rennes and Lyon. Granted, spending a night somewhere is entirely different from living there, but I believe there’s a lot to be said for the je ne sais quoi feeling you get in a place. In Angers, je sais exactly the quoi: constantly feeling that I’m being scorned because I whistle while I bike and don’t carry a Longchamp bag.
Angers is thoroughly straight, white, preppy, Catholic, and socially and politically conservative.
Exhibit A: Last Friday, a group of young people wearing pig masks barged into a city council meeting to protest the building of a mosque. (News brief in French here.)
Exhibit B: Their protest was fairly commonplace for this area, because Angers is a stronghold of the Front National, which is essentially France’s Tea Party. Check out their terrifying anti-choice, pro-capital punishment, anti-immigrant platform here.
Exhibit C: About a week ago, the dog poop problem reached unprecedented levels of foul. I counted 12 piles on my walk to work, less than half a mile away.
Does that clear things up a bit?