Home TAPIF This would not happen in California! (TAPIF)

This would not happen in California! (TAPIF)

by Daley

This past week has been a hard one. And please do not think that I will address the election results and how I have been feeling about them–but this post will not be related to that.

I feel in order to address everything I am feeling about current situation in the US–I need time. I want to be able to articulate my thoughts and words without being rushed to do so.

But, just so you know, it is coming.

In the meantime, I thought I would do a TAPIF update and talk about my work at my current lycée.

I still feel extremely lucky to be working at the high school I am working at and to be working with the kinds of students I am working with, but of course, as with any job there are some ups and downs.

I have my favorite colleagues and my not so favorite colleagues and there are some cultural differences that have taken getting used to.

My supervisor is an interesting fellow. Let’s just call him Mr. Supervisor. I have mixed feelings about him. Sometimes he can be very nice and welcoming, while at other times, things he says or does rubs me the wrong way.

I work in total with six English teachers, Mr. Supervisor being one of those English teachers.

I had been in contact with him prior to the program via e-mail but I didn’t actually meet Mr. Supervisor until a few weeks after starting the TAPIF program as he was on sick leave.

Here was one of his first questions when we met.

“What is your origin? Because your eyes, they go like this,” Mr. Supervisor asked, pulling the corners of his eyes to his temples, making them squinty and small.

I took a deep breath and reminded myself that what might be completely unacceptable in California may be more acceptable in France. But I couldn’t help but wonder–is this really just a cultural difference or is he being racist?

Mr. Supervisor had me answer any questions students had so they could practice their English and get to know me a bit. He told all of the students not to ask anything too personal.

“What is your origin?” one student asked.

I tried to explain to her that in English (especially in the United States) we don’t phrase questions this way. I explained to her, that I am from the United States but I believed she was really asking about my ethnicity. I was about to show her how to properly phrase the question, when my supervisor interrupted me. I think he misunderstood what I was trying to explain to the student.

“Why are you asking her this question?” he said, “Is it because her eyes are like this?” he grabbed the sides of his eyes, pulling them and making them small. “You’re wondering if she got in an accident?”

The students laughed while some exclaimed how he was being mean.

The questions continued, though at that point I felt extremely uncomfortable. Mr. Supervisor thought he was being funny, but I thought he was being racist. An accident is an “unfortunate incident” so for Mr. Supervisor to reference Asian eyes as the result of an “accident” sounded pretty f*cking racist to me as he was equating the trait as something less than.

But when I expressed my horrors to another colleague, who has always carried herself very professionally and treated me with respect, she was quite surprised I found the squinting and pulling of eyes to be offensive. (I forgot to mention the “accident” bit to her).

“I don’t understand why this is so offensive,” she shrugged, “But for me, I am not particularly struck by the fact that you are Asian.” Implying that I didn’t look as Asian as others–not that that should be a good or bad thing. I explained that I was half Chinese, but it seemed in Bordeaux as there was not a big Asian population I was automatically identified as Asian.

“Oh no, that’s not true. There are lots of Asians in Bordeaux!”

I almost laughed, “Maybe for you…but coming from Davis, California–no, there are not very many Asians here.”

Though the eyes bit wasn’t the only thing that I found problematic that day.

Mr. Supervisor told the students don’t ask anything too personal.

They asked my age, what school I went to, where I studied, where I was from, etc.

Then Mr. Supervisor went on, “Okay boys…so–you have a young American girl here–don’t you want to know if she is single!?”

*Face palm*

In some classes, the boys did not want to ask this question. But Mr. Supervisor pressed on, until a student asked me.

When I explained I was married, some boys shouted, “merde!” while others shook their head in disappointment.


It’s strange. Sometimes I really enjoy working with Mr. Supervisor and other times he makes jokes that make me think “If I were in California, I could probably file a lawsuit right now.”

He’s a nice guy but we clearly come from very different backgrounds.

I don’t feel that it is my job to educate someone on what I consider to be racism or sexism in the workplace. But at the same time, that first day with those questions made me so uncomfortable. He’s my supervisor so if I have a problem, I should be going to him. But I can’t, because he is the one making me uncomfortable!

Since that day I haven’t really had other interactions that have made me super uncomfortable.

Though I did speak with a couple of different teachers about the incident and both felt it was not something to get worked up over.

“Don’t take it personally,” they said.

So–there you have it.

Cultural difference, according to them.

I’m trying to adjust…but with things like this, it’s difficult.




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Beth November 16, 2016 - 9:32 pm

Great post, it’s really interesting to hear about your experience as someone who’s considering teaching abroad! I’m from England and I think it’s really bad that youve been treated like that by a colleague, it definitely wouldn’t be acceptable over here, though like you say, it could be a cultural thing though it still seems unprofessional. Best of luck with things, and I look forward to more posts! 🙂 x

Daley November 17, 2016 - 6:41 pm

Thanks so much for commenting, Beth! I would definitely recommend teaching abroad, especially in France 😉 I may have my ups and downs every now and then, but I still love the program I’m in. Hope to hear from you again and don’t hesitate to message me if you have any questions about teaching English abroad!

nothx November 21, 2016 - 11:43 pm

i’m surprised you didn’t know this already. france is pretty racist. just look at how they treat muslims. in europe, they don’t “believe” in political correctness and think they’re above it. it’s why i’m glad i don’t live there. i couldn’t deal with the constant microaggressions and racist behavior because i’m not white.

Daley November 22, 2016 - 6:50 am

I think the US is pretty racist as well, just look at what’s going on right now. Unfortunately I don’t think anywhere is above racism–the effects of history and race relations can be felt everywhere. Though, I do believe parts of where I grew up in California had political correctness as a part of its culture and I don’t feel that where I am right now. With that being said, I still very much enjoy living in France. But I’ve had racist encounters in both the US and France so I don’t think it’s fair to say all of Europe believes it’s above racism or political correctness as you could say the same for parts of or all of the US.

nothx November 26, 2016 - 4:14 am

the us is absolutely racist, see: the necessitation of BLM. my point is that europe is unfriendly to minorities and they refuse to acknowledge this. they very much enjoy besmirching america and while america is not kind to minorities, at least there is a dialogue being fought in the public arena. they don’t have that in europe. let’s take blackface: if pictures surface of you in blackface in america, you rightly feel ramifications. in the netherlands, people don blackface for christmas and even the most “liberal” dutch people think it’s perfectly fine and can’t understand why americans are so “politically correct” all while thinking they’re better than us because they have universal healthcare and we don’t. americans like minorities in practice, not in theory. europeans like minorities in theory, not in practice. that’s why minorities are no more accepted in europe, than in the us. at least in the us, i can take solace with the ethnically diverse. i’ve never even lived in california where there is a huge minority population and i have no problems congregating with other minorities. in fact, i think we unconsciously seek each other out. i would not have that resource in europe unless i lived in a major city and even then, it would be a constant stream of microaggressions and racist remarks.

Daley November 26, 2016 - 3:54 pm

You definitely make some fair points.

Tara December 1, 2016 - 6:06 pm

Do your best to focus on the students, Daley… They’re always the best part!! Sorry that you’re having a difficult time with this fellow. I don’t pretend to understand the cultural situation–that’s something you’re clearly better equipped to make sense of than I am–but I think that regardless of political correctness, one should try to be aware of how other people are feeling… Doesn’t sound like that’s going on here. I’ll be sending him empathy vibes from California. 🙂


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