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Too French for translation…

#1 Dépaysement

Deconstructed, this noun literally refers to the act of being taken away, ‘de-‘, from your country ‘pays’, the unsteady and unnerving feeling when you are away from something familiar. Some might say that dépaysement could be translated by ‘change of scene’, ‘disorientation’ or even ‘culture shock’, but these would be mere approximations.

No English equivalent sufficiently accounts for this noun’s seeming ambivalence in meaning. On one hand, this noun carries a positive sentiment, the exhilaration of discovery and expanding your horizons and boundaries. Yet it can similarly conceal more unsettling notions, the unease at the back of your mind, a feeling of nostalgia and the impression that something is missing.

In his literary work entitled Le Dépaysement, Jean-Christophe Bailly aims to understand the significance of this noun nowadays, searching to find out whether it, in fact, simply defines something that does not exist elsewhere. For three years he travelled across France, compiling together his thoughts on everything and everyone that he encountered, in an attempt to describe this feeling of dépaysement.