On being French and abroad during the Paris attacks

Hi all,

It has now been more than a week since the tragic events that shook up my home country and with it, the rest of the world. I have not communicated on it as of yet because it is hard to find the words to describe such an atrocity. Plus, people are becoming more and more sensitive when it comes to what others say, think or do and trying not to offend anyone is almost impossible. I do not want my blog to become a place of hostility but as a French person, I feel the need to share my experience and I will attempt to make it intelligible. I am still very angry and sad and I do not think these feelings will disperse any time soon but I am ready to use my best therapeutic remedy: writing.

Disclaimer: This post is about my own experience, which might seem a tad egocentric for many (including myself) but I hope that what I am feeling and thinking mirrors what other people in my situation might be going through.


When I learnt about the attacks in Paris, I was having dinner with my flatmate and her boyfriend in my tiny London flat. He mentioned it very casually, not knowing that my parents, sister, uncles and aunts, cousins and many of my friends live in the capital. He realised it very quickly from what I can only assume was a look of horror on my face. I called my parents straight away and was very relieved to hear my mom’s voice asking me why I’d woken her up. Then began the long waiting game! Hooked to the French news, Facebook and my phone, I waited to hear from my friends until 2am.

Waking up the next day to the radio and the number of victims was similar to being hit in the back of the head with a baseball bat (not that I have ever been hit in the back of the head with a baseball bat, thankfully, but I can somewhat imagine that it would feel similar). A lot of conflicting thoughts overcame my poor little brain. First, Sadness. Then, Disgust. And later on, relief. Relief that my loved ones were safe and the selfish relief that I was miles away from the chaos. But after relief came anger. I was and am still enraged that some twisted people with twisted beliefs can make everyone else feel unsafe. Although I aim, like most people, to continue living my life normally, my commute to work has become hard to handle and I cannot help but be thankful when I reach the comfort of my room every night and still in one piece.

I have never felt the distance between London and home more than when I realised that my family, friends and country were in danger. I have never considered myself to be a particularly patriotic person; it’s not part of the French culture and I would just feel awkward brandishing a flag around. However, since the attacks, I have felt the urge to run into the street and sing my national anthem more than once. When some crazy individuals go after everything your country stands for, your liberties and daily pleasures, it makes you realise how lucky you are that you were born in a place where you have the right to live your life the way you want to, as long as you respect everyone else’s liberties.

I do not do well in crowds. Therefore, I have not been to any of the rallies organised since the events. But from now on, my form of protest is going to be drinking with my friends at bars, listening to very loud music, watching sports, reading scandalous books and living for those who are no longer able to. I keep hearing people say that London will be next and if it is true, then so be it. There is nothing you and I can do except live and love each other, no matter how cheesy that may sound. I do feel a bit sorry for the attackers because they had no notion of love.

Today, I feel for the people of France, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Mali, Russia and everyone else who is suffering under the hands of cruelty and hatred. I especially feel for the Muslim community in France whose country has been attacked and whose pain is being questioned by ignorant people. We live in a world in desperate need of some tolerance, compassion and understanding. I, being my very naïve self, believe that these three elements could serve to put an end to a lot of the shitty things going on in the world. If only everyone could be on the same page…

eiffel tower

I wish I could be poetic and write a beautiful ode to my country but words always seem meaningless in these situations so I will end this with:

Vive la France et vive l’humanité!




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