The last couple of weeks have been a little rough for me. I missed my first major family holiday (Thanksgiving) and it was especially difficult to see the photos and realize that I’m missing out on all of these moments. I’m also missing all of my niece’s “firsts” since she was just one month old when I left. I know my nephews and niece won’t really remember these years when they’re older, but could I really live here beyond 3 to 4 years? Could I be happy as the aunt/sister/daughter/friend who only shows up once or twice a year? I’m not sure I can answer that yet.
What made it worse was having PB tell me that I always have to be here for year-end inventory and I won’t ever get to go home for Christmas (before I arrived, I’d been told I always had to take the week of Christmas off for the plant shutdown, so this was an unpleasant surprise).😢 Fortunately, he reversed course a little when he realized that I was upset about this – while I do need to be here for the year-end inventory, in 2017 I could still fly out on Saturday, the 23rd, and be home for Christmas. The same would be true in other years as well, so he told me that he’s certain that we can work something out.
The other thing that suddenly started bothering me was just acknowledging that I’m living in a country where I have no family and no long-term, really close friends. I have friends here now, but I think it would feel like more of an obligation if I needed their help with something serious (say, a 2 AM hospital visit), whereas I have friends in the US who would WANT to be there if I really needed them (and I’d similarly want to be there for them). In other words, I have friends here who’d help me move, but not help me move bodies. 😉
I know my blog probably seems mostly positive because I truly do love France, but I’ve come across a few ex-pat blogs now and it’s pretty consistent that we all have tough times.
I’ve been lucky to avoid the bureaucratic issues mostly, although nobody seems to be able to figure out HOW to get me a social number. I’ve also been fortunate to make a few friends quickly, but you just don’t replace friendships of years, or decades, so easily. Given that, I view occasional homesickness as normal . . . but I’m glad it passed again for now!
Co-Hosting a French Birthday Party
On another topic, Alexis and I had a tough time trying to decide what to do for L’américaine’s birthday. Should we bring flowers, a good cheese and champagne to the festival? But then what would she do with them all day? Maybe we could buy her something at the festival? We wandered off alone a couple of times to look around, but we couldn’t decide on anything specific to buy for her since everyone pretty much bought what they really wanted on the spot.
We finally decided that we should host a dinner party for her (and I requested the same main dish he’d made for me). Since L’américaine and Alexis are neighbors, it was more convenient to have it at his house. With the long hours that I often work, we decided that it made more sense for him to do the main dish. He also wanted to do the apéritif, which I thought just meant alcohol, so I offered to manage the entrée, dessert and flowers. It turns out an apéritif can be more than just a few chips or peanuts with your drink, it can be a lot of small bread pieces with different toppings, so we skipped a separate entrée. With just dessert and flowers, I felt like I was getting off pretty easy, especially since the birthday celebration had been my idea, but Alexis insisted that it was “his pleasure.”
I showed up 30 minutes early to help get everything ready and had a minor moment of embarrassment because I was showing Alexis my temporary Carte de Sejour and he immediately noticed and asked about my “divorced” status. I hadn’t really thought about it being on my card when I showed it to him nor had I realized that he didn’t already know I’m divorced. I wasn’t quite sure what to say about it other than to confirm that yes, I am indeed a divorcée. Fortunately, L’américaine showed up then and I was spared having to decide if I was required to provide any further explanation.
Overall, the dinner went well, although with champagne to start and pineau with dinner (which is stronger than wine), the conversation became rather lively as the evening went on! It also went a little late for a work night, but I didn’t realize until the following day that I’d left Alexis with all of the cleaning as well! 😔
It is funny that there are so many things about French culture that seem foreign to us that L’Américaine and I still ask some of the same questions of new French people, like, “Is it really true that if a guy smiles at you and you smile back, he will assume you’re interested?” The answer has consistently been “yes,” but as Americans, we smile back just to be polite. It’s a real learning curve to discover that simple things like this can lead to a misunderstanding! It’s so unbelievable for us that we’ve had to ask four different French people if this is ACTUALLY true.
It’s also entertaining to watch a French person’s reaction to learning that it is perfectly acceptable in the US to go on a first date on Friday night, kiss the guy, and go out with a different guy on Saturday and kiss him too . . . and neither guy would assume he was your boyfriend! Not that all US guys would like this or all women do it, but if you want to watch a French person’s eyebrows raise up nearly into their hairline, explain this little bit of American dating etiquette to them. 😂 Or that you can do whatever you want with other people until you actually discuss your dating status. There’s nothing so simple as “we kissed, so we’re exclusive” in the US!
Sadly, Alexis is now gone for the next couple of weeks, so I was “forced” to expand my social circle even more by meeting up with EX-PATS! More on this in my next blog.