Few Frenchmen would ever dream of representing the USA at anything, let alone be expected to act as a quasi-cultural ambassador for the land wedged in between Canada and Mexico. Just the thought of being mistaken for an over-consuming, indi-car loving, TV drama binge-watching Yank would normally make a Frenchie choke on his ratatouille.
But for 30 year old Gaston Debarge, it`s a role that he`s now quite comfortable with. “The default setting here in Japan is “White person equals American”. People always ask me if I’m American, rather than where I’m from. At first, I`d patiently explain that I was from Lyon, France. But after a while I just decided to play along with the assumption, and I began to tell people that I was from California.”
Debarge has had to put up with occasional abuse. He’s learnt that not everyone loves Disney, Coca-Cola and McDonalds. But Debarge was quick to point out that the benefits far outweigh the negatives. “I can’t stand hip-hop, but the hip-hop chicks all want to get under a Californian. Art girls love French guys, but the art girls are more frigid, more mentally unstable, and they have high-class tastes. Hip-hop chicks just want a cocktail or two before being banged every which way.”
As a fluent English speaker, Debarge was able to adjust to his new role smoothly. A simple change of wardrobe meant saying goodbye to his tasteful, stylish European threads, and slipping into some ridiculous clown jeans and a motto emblazoned t-shirt. Then it was just a matter of eating corn dogs, drinking watery beer, and talking about TV dramas as though they carry some kind of importance.
Choosing hip-hop girls over art girls can have its drawbacks, as Debarge explains, “One night I picked up a funky young lady and took her home. When we were naked I saw that she had a large tattoo on her back. Girls with ankle tattoos are one thing, but when a girl has a large back tattoo, it gives pause for thought. I slipped on a rubber when I saw that, but I still got a rash from the encounter.
“Some people want to argue with me about American foreign policy. Now that’s when I want to cut and run. As a Frenchman, it’s in my genes I guess. That’s when I bring out my line: “What can I say? I’m a proud Californian, but I’m not a proud American.” This usually confuses the other person, and it allows me to change the topic.”
As much as Debarge enjoys the 24/7 stars and stripes fantasy life, it’s just possible that it’ll come to an end soon. “I love my new life as a Yankee boy. It has opened doors for me. Believe me – America is the land of opportunity. Even here in Tokyo I’ve really benefited from siding with the good ol’ USA. But, you know, sometimes I just want to dress nicely, go to a fancy restaurant, and enjoy fine conversation in my wimpy mother tongue.”