Maxime Larmande stays true to his own heritage while raised in a different one

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Ellie McDowell

A casual picture of Maxime Larmande.

Growing up in an American community while staying in the French lifestyle at home has made a difficult but interesting experience for senior Maxime Larmande. 

“I would say through elementary school, I was definitely the one who was behind [in] everything,” Maxime said. “I couldn’t read. I couldn’t write. [It] was very hard for me. I had to get pulled out of class almost every day [for] extra reading and stuff. I was being taught French at home, so that put a lot of stress on me at a very young age because I had to do English homework and French homework at the same time.”

As a son of first-generation French immigrant parents and a native-born citizen of America, Maxime also receives benefits: he is able to keep his heritage along with him. His knowledge of the French language also enhances his day-to-day life.

When you go to France, you could tell it’s different. People have a hard time understanding me. I have a hard time with some words too.”

— Maxime Larmande

“I need [French] because I go to France every year,” Maxime said. “So I still have to be able to speak with my family. Also, it helps here in America because I’m bilingual, so it helps with jobs and getting into college.”

Additionally, Maxime already formed a plan for his dream future, influenced by his ability to speak French.

“I’m going to Wofford College,” Maxime said. “I’m going to study engineering, and my dad did the same thing. He had to travel [to] France a lot. He had to be able to speak that language.”

Being someone originally from a different culture sometimes poses a struggle for Maxime. He has experienced moments of witnessing what it’s like to not understand someone, especially someone with unique and distinguished customs.

“When you go to France, you could tell it’s different,” Maxime said. “People have a hard time understanding me. I have a hard time with some words too. Sometimes, it just really sets me behind in English too.”

The challenge of interconnection continues to run down where he also finds difficulty in building strong relationships with his extended family. This has increased his feelings of distance from them.

“I don’t see [my extended] family a lot,” Maxime said. “I get really uncomfortable around some people sometimes. I’m not close with family besides my parents. I guess that it’s affected me that way.”

Furthermore, Maxime has been—and still is—taught with an elevated standard of being attached to French traditions. He has lived with a necessary desire to not abandon his background.

“[My parents] want me to be like them,” Maxime said. “They want to do things their own ways, how they were raised by their parents. So that’s what they did with me.”

Some authentic traditions, Maxime knows, develop a deeper knowledge of the culture. He has had the chance to explore more into the contrasting norms of the world he was born into and the one he has grown up in.

He has also applied his pride for his heritage by savoring the cuisine. That is just one more way that he stays connected to France.

Maxime also recognizes the importance of bilingualism. He believes that it’s necessary to master that skill in any way possible.

“Put yourself around people who speak that language or know about it,” Maxime said. “That would be a lot easier than just trying to learn it by yourself or using an app to learn. I know for the fact that my dad is trying to learn other languages through apps, and [it gives him] a hard time. So he puts himself around people who speak that language, and sometimes, it would just come to him. It makes it a lot easier [because] they can teach it from their own perspective.”