Skip to Content

### Franco-Iranian-American Cultural Fusion in Paris

(Max Ranney • The Student Life)

” data-medium-file=”” data-large-file=”” class=“alignnone size-full wp-image-72907” src=”” alt width=“715” height=“715” srcset=” 2048w, 300w, 1024w, 150w, 768w, 1536w, 215w, 1430w” sizes=“(max-width: 715px) 100vw, 715px” data-recalc-dims=“1”>(Max Ranney • The Student Life)

During my first-year U.S. history course, we explored how technology has revolutionized traditional connections to culture and family.

The professor, pausing for emphasis, gazed into each of our eyes and stated, “This marks the initial instance in history where you may share more similarities with your cousin from Germany than with your own parents.”

Initially, one might react with an obvious “Well, of course!” However, this was not always the case. In past eras like Jane Austen’s time, waiting endlessly for a letter from a beloved was common. Traveling to Europe was a lengthy journey lasting a year for many Americans, involving months at sea to reach the destination. Before telegraphs and cellphones, our most frequent encounters were with family members.

The notion of studying abroad would have seemed absurd to someone in the 1800s. Yet, here I am in France, thanks in part to my maternal great uncles and great aunt residing in Paris. As an Iranian-American within the global Iranian diaspora, my relatives are spread across the United States, Canada, France, England, Denmark, and Turkey. Growing up in Iran, I attended a trilingual school where English, French, and Farsi were taught concurrently. Amidst the escalating instability in the Middle East and the increasingly inhospitable environment in Iran, maintaining an Iranian identity has become a complex experience.

Upon our immigration to the U.S., I endeavored to find common ground between us and Americans to bridge the vast cultural gap – whether through a shared love for the English language or personal similarities. This quest was a response to the jolting experience of immigration.

The essence of studying abroad involves immersing oneself in a foreign setting. Opting to deliberately place myself in a situation requiring assimilation into a different country (ONCE AGAIN) seemed somewhat masochistic. However, with family ties here and the omnipresence of the Internet, how vast can the differences be between being Iranian in France versus America?

Strolling through the streets of Paris, one encounters the stereotypical images associated with the French. Parisians clad in all-black attire, with long trench coats fluttering behind them, gripping cigarettes between index and middle fingers. Baguettes peek out from tote bags and purses, while Parisians sit at cafes observing passersby with their chairs facing the street.

Residing with a host family, I observe the daily routines of a French household. The host parents maintain a certain privacy in their vibrant, Dr. Seuss-like apartment. The host father occupies his office on the computer, while the host mother heads to work during the day and navigates around the apartment at night. We share dinners thrice a week, engaging in discussions about music, politics, and history over generous servings of French bread and cheese.

Interestingly, Parisians are not vastly different from Americans, despite their pretense – both Parisians and Americans avert eye contact on the street, and the individualistic, capitalist lifestyles are remarkably similar. It’s essentially trading a baguette for a bagel.

Observing my Iranian-French family, I notice that the most significant cultural distinction persists within the Iranian diaspora. My relatives converse in Farsi at home, preserving the language. They relish a variety of stews with rice, akin to my mother’s cooking in California. While embracing Iranian customs, they have also adopted certain French practices in their daily lives, indulging in French pastries alongside Iranian cuisine, sprinkling their Farsi with occasional French words.

Nevertheless, the warmth and strong sense of community prevail within my family – my aunts and uncles exchange daily calls, arranging weekend gatherings. My cousin’s upbringing involves equal contributions from her grandparents and parents, mirroring my own childhood in Iran.

They exhibit utmost care towards me: “Tania Joon, help yourself to more rice and don’t refuse!” “Tania Joon, let me drive you home, I can’t bear the thought of you walking back on my watch!”

The interdependence and emotional concern for each other’s well-being within the family setting are profound, a sentiment I rarely encountered living in America.

The question evolves into a deeper exploration – it’s not merely about discovering commonalities. How deeply can two cultures intertwine? Can diametrically opposed cultures coexist harmoniously?

In a conversation with my aunt, I shared my approach of seeking similarities between cultures as a means of assimilation and connection with like-minded individuals. However, she offered a different perspective.

“It’s not about finding exact replicas of yourself in others,” she remarked. “Sometimes, embracing extreme differences enriches our perspective by illuminating life from a different angle.”

The key to navigating a diverse existence lies in embracing the extreme cultural and individual disparities, opening our minds to the beauty of a multifaceted world.

Tania Azhang PZ ’25 is a study abroad columnist currently based in France.