New Essay Published!

Biker near St Paul metro

Hello hello,

Yesterday I mentioned a new essay accepted for online publication. Well, voila: it was posted later in the day! What a great gift for my Paris birthday to have a new piece published – and one about living in France, no less!

The essay, “An Alien Feeling,” helped me process some of the feelings I’ve experienced living as a foreigner in Paris. I wrote an earlier incarnation of the piece a couple years ago; my feelings of estrangement have lessened since then.

Still, the essay captures my experience at a specific moment in time. As you know from this blog, I openly discuss the ups and the downs of living here, the imperfect and the beautiful, too.

Head on over to Numero Cinq if you’d like to read the piece.

Have a great weekend!


17 Responses to “New Essay Published!”

  1. 1 Lady Dee September 17, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Just read your essay. Wonderful.

    Now that you have been in France for quite some time, I’m looking forward to reading your impressions on the issues revolving around “Class” in France.


  2. 2 paris (im)perfect September 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Thanks, Lady Dee! And wow, yes. I haven’t yet written anything quite as cogent about class in France, but what a great challenge you’ve issued! Great topic. Thanks for reading!


  3. 3 Oneika the Traveller September 17, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    This is a fantastic piece, Sion, that really resonated with me. For many years, my frustration is that I am always “La petite Canadienne” to French people whenever I travel there though my accent is way more French than Quebecer. The “labelization” seems to be “de rigueur” and in my experience French people have always been quick to point the differences in my speech and expressions compared to theirs even though they never would have known I was Canadian if I never told them.

    As for some of my experiences abroad- in many places (where there are few people who look like me) I am often singled out as “The Black Girl”, never just the foreigner. I’m still not too sure how I feel about that.


    • 4 paris (im)perfect September 17, 2011 at 8:15 pm

      Hi Oneika. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, which seem to affirm much of what I said in the essay. It is hard to know how to feel about it, isn’t it? As we both are I’m sure, we’re open to different cultural cues and norms. Things like continually being called out as different (you, “the black girl,” I am “la metisse”) does raise questions of identity for sure, though. The struggle to understand how different cultures deal with these issues never ceases to fascinate me, but sometimes it cuts close to the bone. I think it’s fine to acknowledge the alienation we sometimes feel. (In fact, in acknowledging it, I actually started feeling less estranged!)


  4. 5 Paris Paul P September 18, 2011 at 12:16 am

    Great article, as beautiful as the photo that leads it off.

    I totally understood where you were coming from because everyone’s first question for my ex-wife was “Where are you from?” She was born in Paris and her mother tongue is French but she was constantly asked about her origins because her parents came from Tunisia and so her skin color was not white. It frustrated her to be made to feel she was an alien even in the country of her birth.

    Again, thanks for the enjoyable read.


    • 6 paris (im)perfect September 18, 2011 at 10:40 am

      Thanks, Paul. That’s a perfect example of what I was describing in the essay. Of course I *am* a foreigner so I can’t argue too much with that label. But the fact that a French woman born in Paris is made to feel alien in her own country because of her Tunisian origins illustrates that there is more operating than simply “we are all French.” Thanks for reading!


  5. 7 Franck September 18, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    I liked the process in progress of your essay. Just a detail about kids of banlieue. They had exactly the same chance than the other at school. Discrimination doesn’t operate so soon. It is also a very comfortable way to complaint about inequality and doing nothing against it but burning cars and destroying shops. I know it. I am one of them. This is not a REASON, this a PRETEXT. Avoid easy angelism is a crucial key to unsderstand this problem, this very French hypocrisy from the both sides of our colored society.


    • 8 paris (im)perfect September 18, 2011 at 2:32 pm

      Thanks for your thoughts, Franck. I agree that nothing is easy in relation to these issues and idealizing any one group is not a fair representation of the thornier reality. I do think saying that everyone has the same opportunity is also too easy, though. Institutionalized racism is something so insidious and entrenched it’s sometimes hard to even see; it’s invisible, but potent. My husband went to a school in the “banlieue” and his experiences did not sound anything like the educational experiences of my friends who went to school in central Paris, for example. Deemed only fit for the track of manual labor, not university, he was shut out early from opportunities to try to do anything else. Of course there are cases of individuals overcoming. I am one. A “model minority” in my social context. While the majority of black students at my high school had at least one failing grade, I was a valedictorian. Still, you better believe that I felt I had to work even harder to “prove” that I was as smart as the white kids in class. Once I did, it was smooth sailing, but as a young person, it can be difficult to name this invisible weight, but it is there. That weight can crush you. I don’t think anyone would argue that burning cars and destroying property is a proper way to respond to these feelings of being treated unequally. Do I think it’s important to understand why that rage exists, though? Yes. I can’t think of any society that doesn’t have its own unique issues related to race so I’m certainly not calling France out for being any worse. I was relating my own process of understanding my feeling of alienation and imagining myself in the place of someone who grew up here. Thank you for your testimonial as you are one. I cannot speak for anyone else.


  6. 9 Sweet Freak September 20, 2011 at 4:41 am

    Who do you think you are, Sion?! You’re setting a very enviable pace and bar for your peers, sheesh. 😉 (Feliciations! Encore!)


    • 10 paris (im)perfect September 20, 2011 at 3:04 pm

      Look who’s talking, miss thing! How about you and all your articles in high places (New York Times, National Geographic)? And your *book* soon! You’re one of the most productive and prolific writers I know, Amy! An inspiration! (though sometimes it makes me wonder why I can’t be like you! 🙂 )


  7. 11 Jennyphoria September 20, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    I finally finished reading your piece. It’s wonderfully written and a very interesting read. I wouldn’t say that I have had the same experience, but then again, I wouldn’t, which may even add to your point. And I can certainly see signs of what you are talking about. Very, very interesting, indeed.


    • 12 paris (im)perfect September 22, 2011 at 12:18 pm

      Thanks, Jenny. That *is* a good point – the fact you haven’t experienced the same may even add to my point. Just as anywhere, being a mixed race woman is probably really different than being a white blonde-haired woman! But more than that, we *all* have our own experiences and we can be in the same situation and feel very differently. Even my own feelings about living in France have changed over time, so of course they’re not going to necessarily match anyone else’s experience. It’s all a journey, right?


  8. 13 Amy Kortuem September 21, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Congratulations, Sion. It’s a beautiful piece, and you handled the topic with grace and inspiring insight.

    We all have our times and places where we feel alien, don’t we? Even though I look similar to everyone else in the town I live in and blend in fairly well (except when I’m hauling around a 6-foot harp), I *feel* foreign on an emotional and psychological level. It’s not as recognizable as *looking* different, but it’s a foreign feeling nonetheless. Easier to ignore than the issues you brought up, too.

    Keep writing!


    • 14 paris (im)perfect September 21, 2011 at 7:53 pm

      Hi Amy. Thanks for the encouragement. I wonder if it sometimes isn’t even harder to deal with the feelings of foreignness when you’re able to “blend in” on the outside. I wouldn’t know, but I’m just thinking about what that experience must be like. Yes, we all have our times and places when we feel alien. Luckily, there are also the joyous moments of connection, too!


  9. 15 Paris Karin (an alien parisienne) September 26, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Hey Sion! I finally got to reading this fantastic piece. I left a comment for you at the post (which is at the moment still awaiting moderation, so you may not see it straight away). I just wanted to comment here how you really hit the nail on the head with the essay, and summed up so much of how I feel it is to be foreign in France.

    Thank you. 🙂


  10. 17 Paris Karin (an alien parisienne) September 26, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Hey Sion! I finally got to reading this fantastic piece. I left a comment for you at the post (which is at the moment still awaiting moderation, so you may not see it straight away). I just wanted to comment here how you really hit the nail on the head with the essay, and summed up so much of how I feel it is to be foreign in France.

    Thank you. 🙂


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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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