There haven't been any huge changements in my life since I discovered a week ago that I'm actually French now (and have, unbeknownst to me, been French since August 8th). But I've already noticed a few minor differences.
For one thing, Le Garçon is now vigorously insisting that I must speak French 100% of the time becauase now I'm French. When I remind him that he's learning English and needs to be able to practice, he swats that away like a fly and says he'll learn it in school. (Little does he know the French school system's method of teaching foreign languages actually teaches them next to nothing that is useful in communicating with others in that language; it's nearly all textbook and grammar. So he needs me speaking English to him if he's going to become fluent like his father.)
Another thing is that I have caught myself making my usual jokes about French people... and then stopping when I realize I am now ONE of them, at least technically. Does this mean I need to wear a striped shirt, a beret, have a cigarette hanging out of my mouth, and never smile again?
When I saw the news reports that Hollande is planning to stand with the U.S. if there is any military action in Syria after these recent chemical attacks, despite the fact that I'm conflicted about the pros and cons of any such military response (but how can we stand by and do NOTHING?) I thought: "At least my two countries are on the same page!"
In 12 days, I will put on a new dress. I will go to my ceremony, where I will listen to a speech about becoming French in a special room at the Préfecture de Paris called the Salle Marianne that is only used for naturalization ceremonies (two of them every Thursday, each one for about 50 people in Paris who are becoming French). We will sing La Marseillaise together; they will provide us with the words on a sheet, but I have known them by heart for years. One by one, we will come forward to receive a folder with all our new precious documents inside; we will guard those documents for the rest of our lives and will use them later to obtain French passeports and the optional Carte Nationale d'Identité. Georges will be there and will take photos.
And then I will go on with my normal life here in France. The only difference being that I will travel in and out of France on a new passport (still using my American one to enter and leave the U.S.), that I will be able to vote starting in 2014, and if I ever have to fill out any forms here where they ask my nationality, I'll write "France" first. More importantly, I have the security of knowing I will have a lot less of a hassle now and will no longer have to prove myself and my right to remain in France.
I'm a member of the REAL French club now.
I think, however, that I will always identify myself as American first. It's just such a big part of who I am, as much as I also identify with many things I like about French culture as well. I think that's normal for someone like me who spent the first 45 years of my life living in one country, with one particular culture. Maybe for people who are born to parents of two different countries, people who have dual nationality from birth (such as the young children of some of my friends here in France), they always think of themselves as "hyphenated": French-American. And perhaps for them, their two cultures are more equally balanced as part of their identity.
I suspect it will take a while for me to fully absorb what it means to BE French, other than the legal and practical aspects of it, at least as it applies to me.
In the meantime, better start shopping for that beret. I'll pass on the cigarettes, though.