This subject comes up every time I have to renew my French residency permit. I just received my third 10 year Carte de resident which means I am entering my third decade of association with this strange tribe. Inevitably I am asked (at the prefecture, at work and at home) why I don't just apply for citizenship. After all, they say, it would save me a lot of paperwork. To which I reply, "Let me see if I understand the reasoning here? You are suggesting that I should become a French citizen so I don't have to deal with your bureaucracy once every 10 years?" And we all have a good laugh.
Occasionally the conversation takes a negative turn. “Perhaps it is not interesting to be a French citizen?” And then I must summon all my powers of diplomacy to soothe hurt feelings and ruffled fur.
Because it’s not rejection – I love France. If I didn’t have the deepest respect and love for this country and its culture I would have never have raised my children here.
But I love being an American citizen. I am often asked if I suffer here because of anti-Americanism. Not really. I realized long ago that the French preoccupation with the U.S. is actually quite a compliment. There is an entire industry, armies of intellectuals, which study and critique the U.S. When people here meet me for the first time they are never neutral about me or my country. Love it or hate it, they are positively obsessed by it. Which I personally find rather fascinating and it makes for great if sometimes heated conversations every single day.
And regardless of the country I live in, I am passionately attached to my country of origin. Nearly 20 years of wandering has not changed one whit my deep and abiding love for the US of A. As an American living in France, I can revel in my status as Exotic Beast and enjoy a high level of intellectual stimulation. If you balance those two things against the rather tepid arguments from my French friends and family about the benefits of becoming a French citizen, the status quo wins hands down. I am simply having too good a time and enjoying the show way too much to want to trade in my residency papers for a passport.