By Megan P.



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I met with Mr. Derfeuil at a chess tournament, where he coaches an elementary school team.
What are some of the biggest challenges you would face when you immigrate to the US? Phillippe Derfeuil was born in Dijon, France and immigrated when he was 26 years old. When moving to America, he already knew some English, having taken English classes in high school. He immigrated to the US because he met his wife when she came to Dijon to teach English. He and Mrs. Derfeuil had been together for about two years before they decided to immigrate. That definitely made his decision a lot easier! Getting his green card was a long process, but it was not difficult for him. He tries to visit about twice a year to visit friends and family. He has now been in America for about ten years.

Having gone through French school, Mr. Derfeuil does not know what American middle and high schools were like. He is an elementary school teacher, so he thinks the two are similar. The only differences that he knows of are that the school days are longer, with classes from 8:00 to 12:00, a lunch break from 12:00 to 1:30, then classes from 1:30 to about 5:00. French schools are solely focused on academics, while American schools bring all the “elements” of a school: academics, sports, clubs and a social aspect. French students also get about a week more of vacation time.
Mr. Derfeuil did not really have any “expectations” of America, so he was not surprised when he immigrated. He thinks it is not that different than Europe. The similarities are that everyone works for a living, goes to school and works hard, while the differences are that there is more time to spend with family in France, while there is a very social aspect of American life. He says there were not many challenges he faced, except for the food aspect! He loves to cook, yet the ingredients in America are not the same as the ones in Europe. “It was a nightmare in the kitchen,” He said, “So I had to re-invent my recipes.” Being European, he was used to the metric system, so, coming to America and learning to use the American system was confusing. His favorite things to make are tortillas, quiche Lorraine, and any type of pasta. When he first came to America, he thought that "British food was terrible and American food was much worse." Now, he says, that view has changed. “I think British food is awful and American food is much better.”

Mr. Derfeuil enjoys Europe because of it’s size. “If you drive 100 miles in Europe, you’re in another country where they speak another language, but in America, if you drive 400 miles, you’re still in America where they still speak English.” When asked whether he liked Dijon or Durham better, he said, “My wife is going to kill me!...But I’m going to say Dijon.” The biggest differences between Europe and the US is the nightlife...but not the party type. When living in Dijon, he enjoyed taking walks in the evening. Everything was so much smaller in Europe; the houses, the streets, so it’s much easier to walk around town. In America, walking around at night is not as good, because everything is bigger and brighter than Europe. Although, Mr. Derfeuil does enjoy Durham because of its weather. In Dijon, the sky is gray and overcast for about 8 months out of twelve. Dijon is about 200 miles from Paris, so he would take trips about twice a year to visit.
Mr. Derfeuil's past will stay with him while he lives in the US. "I used to play the clarinet in an orchestra, and I keep it with me." He thought he would just be visiting the US while Mrs. Derfeuil was finishing her studies in the US, but that was not the case. Although he misses home, he does not regret leaving France to come live in the US.