Natalie Portman, Harper’s BAZAAR

Courtesy of Harper’s BAZAAR

Natalie Portman has lightened up in the City of Light.

Since relocating to Paris with her 38-year-old husband, Benjamin Millepied, and their 4-year-old son, Aleph Portman-Millepied, the 34-year-old Academy Award winner has readily embraced French culture.

"It's magical," she says in Harper's Bazaar's August issue, on sale July 21. "But the cultures are different in ways you don't even realize. And there's stuff you don't know you'll miss until you're away. Like indoor gyms where kids can just run around and jump. They don't have those there. [In Paris], if you're running around on the playground chasing your kid and playing a game, people think you're nuts."

The Black Swan actress has taken note of other cultural differences, too. "This French friend of ours just told me that being in Los Angeles, he missed having serious conversations at dinner," says Portman, who majored in psychology at Harvard and graduated in 2003. "In Paris, if you're at dinner and there isn't a debate, you leave and think, 'Well, that wasn't a very good party.' But no one ever does that here. And I thought, I like just having happy talk! My French is OK, but when my friends are talking about books and philosophy, that's a level of conversation I'm just not ready for linguistically—and maybe intellectually."

Natalie Portman, Harper’s BAZAAR

Courtesy of Harper’s BAZAAR

Portman, who next appears in the movie Jane Got a Gun and makes her directorial debut with A Tale of Love and Darkness, doesn't pretend to know it all when it comes to parenting. In fact, she tells the magazine, "Very early on, I asked [Cate Blanchett] about being a parent. I said, 'How do you do it? You're a mom. You're the best at what you do.' She said, 'You just do. Stressing about it doesn't help.'"

According to Portman, Millepied likely feels the same way, saying, "Most men I know are dealing with the same issues. They say they feel like if they work too hard they won't have enough time with their families. Maybe those questions need to be asked of men, too. Maybe the men need better questions."

While she occasionally questions herself as a mother, Portman says she is far more certain about other aspects of her identity, like her Israeli roots. "If you say, 'I'm from Sweden,' everyone says, 'Cool.' Then when you say, 'I'm from Israel!' everyone wants to have a 10-hour political conversation. Everyone has a very strong, very passionate opinion about it. But I'm grateful for it. I had so many friends who asked, when we were younger, 'Who am I? What's my identity?'" she says. "I never questioned my identity."

For more from Portman, pick up the August issue of Harper's Bazaar.

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