Beki Grinter

The Mid Atlantic, where I really live

In European Union, France on September 25, 2009 at 10:30 am

This is the last of my geo-political posts. Well probably not, I think I mentioned a renewed political voice.

So, I am an EU citizen but I have lived in the U.S. for 18 years. This gives my experience here in France a touch of surreal. Let me explain.

I enter and exit France on my UK/EU passport. This is good stuff. The British in particular really like to know what people are doing in their country so they always give non-EU citizens a good questioning. One time, and this feels so British to me, I was traveling with my non-EU companion and we went through the EU lanes together, and we were told that this was “OK” but the immigration official advised us that sometimes they don’t have enough stamps to stamp passports of non-EU nationals coming through the EU lanes, which would require being resent to the non-EU lanes. I was tempted to make a donation, perhaps I should start a facebook group “donate stamps to British immigration officials.”

Anyway, that’s the easy case, because I don’t have choice. Driving is far more confusing. I drive with both my US and UK licences. While my US license is valid until 2012 in Georgia, it is only valid to use for a year in France and then I have to get a French one. So I use my UK license which is valid until my 70th birthday. I also got the original, no picture, EU model. So I have a license valid for decades that’s A3 in size and has no picture. The British driving licenses have been updated and my countrymen have acquired the credit card size plastic model complete with picture (I think as a result of moving). But my UK address remains unchanged, and now I have a collectible but active driving licence I suspect. I wonder what would happen if I showed it to a French policeman. And I also wonder what would happen if I showed my EU passport to a policeman and then showed my US drivers license. I’m actually not sure which would be more confusing.

Lets just hope I don’t get stopped by the police (which the other day was foremost on my mind as I was followed by a van full of plod for almost the entire drive to work).

Do you see where this is going.

Health insurance is a good example. I travelled here from the US with my US insurance information. But I also came with the documentation that pertains to the National Health Service. I don’t actually know what would happen if I experimented with the system. So like my driving licence, I hope it just doesn’t happen.

And long before Metz, when I married, I thought about some of this too. When I married first there was the potential question of name change. And then there was the thought of changing it with three Federal Governments, two State governments, and well… then there was the question of who would even recongise it, at least one place I think only recognises marriages if they take place within the country itself. Thankfully we didn’t even do the whole church thing otherwise there would have been a myriad of confusion about whether that particular church counted (especially given that in California the possibilities for “church” are so very broad).

I think this is a glimpse of what it means to live transnationally. I say a glimpse because frankly i’m in about the best situation with the amount of permissions I have (being a permanent resident of the United States being an EU citizen, and I am thankful), but I’m also confused about which of my credentials I should use and how all these things interact with each other (acquiring citizenship for example, this is an exercise in National law interactions). And banking, when you throw in accounts and money you get another transnational experience, the one that corporations have been excited about for a long time, the one that thinks that just because you have an “offshore” bank account, you are the person who wants to bank “offshore.” To all the banks that have approached me, I will use my blog (that you don’t read) to tell you I am not, nor have ever been interested in or qualifying for some of the materials you send me about what I could do with my account in Guernsey or the Cayman Islands. I know where they those places are, but I don’t want to bank there. I want to bank in the UK and in the US, and possibly in France.

So, if you know me, I’ve likely told you or you just already can tell that I have a very confusing accent. To the Americans I am English, to the English I am not English but they are not yet willing to say that I sound American especially if they know me, and now recently I discover that to the French I am German, English or possibly American.

I went through the classic steps. First I denied it was happening, that my accent was somehow shifting to the mid-Atlantic. Then, second, I experienced regret, I had a terrible problem with my voice, one that I could likely not correct, so fail. Now, third and finally, I realise that my voice has been telling me what I should have known all along…. despite what the U.S. immigration system thinks of me I am the country’s creature too. They have shaped me, but they do not and can not ever completely own me for I am destined to live my life in the mid-Atlantic. It may be a vocal abomination, but it’s also a place, a place between two continents… it’s a place where a sea of useful paper and plastic and multiple sets of rights and responsibilities collide in intriguing ways…

  1. My difficulty is trying to figure out which passport to show to whom. It’s easy with government officials, but what about the airline people? They want the passport for where I’m going, I think, but then they ask questions like, where’s your I-94? Or, did you get a new passport in the last week?

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