After a visit to Portland, I’m still certain that France is where I want to live for now; however, there are things that I will miss about the US.
- I will miss having a larger social network
- I have wonderful friends in France; however, certain things are just easier when you have a broader network of friends. In Portland, if I need to get out of the house or want to go do something or need to talk, the odds are pretty high that somebody will be available because I have several good friends. I also have friends with a broad variety of interests. In France, I’ve only made a few close friends so far, partially due to the language barrier and partially because the culture is a little slower in regards to befriending new people. One of my friends is out of town regularly, another one has a kid, etc. Impromptu social time is much more challenging.
- On the other hand, my life in France is much more routine because my social circle is limited and I have to make set plans in advance if I want to be sure that I’ll see them. There are pros and cons to the differences in my social life. I’m not used to being so dependent on such a small group of people though!
- I will miss the shared cultural context
- In the US, if somebody says certain things, you know they’re romantic, friendly, kind or rude. When French people speak French, I can still look online to find out what the context of the phrase is. The problem is when French people speak English . . . I’ve had French people say things to me that would CLEARLY be taken as romantic in the US; however, that wasn’t the intent. The French are generally more emotionally expressive, both men and women, so I’ve had both genders say things that were overboard from an American perspective. I’ve also had French people say things that would be considered rude or insulting in America; however, it turned out they were simply using a word that has a harsher meaning in English than in French. Basically, anytime a French person says something potentially rude or potentially romantic/flirty in English, I first have to question whether they really understand the “meaning” of what they’ve said. For example, “we spent the night together” instead of “we spent the evening together.” The two sentences do not have the same meaning in English!
- Of course, the same is true of me speaking French – there is one way to indicate that you’re envious of someone (literal translation “I have envy of you”), which is actually a romantic way of saying you want to sleep with them! I’ve apparently propositioned a couple of French men accidentally, so I just avoid both versions of the phrase now to be on the safe side.
- I will miss stores that are open nearly all day, every day
- There is something to be said for realizing that you need supplies for your trip at 8 PM the night before you leave. Or being able to have fun during your weekend, then do your shopping on Sunday evening. My life is certainly more orderly in France because I have to plan ahead; however, inevitably there have been times when I really needed something and there was no way to get it (such as OTC medication or toilet paper). You don’t dare wait until something is nearly gone to replace it because it could run out on a Sunday afternoon or, worse, a Sunday afternoon before a holiday . . . and then you’re out of luck until Tuesday! While I like the slower pace of life in France, there are times when I miss the convenience of the US.
- I will miss barbecue
- Well, I’ll also miss Hawaiian and Mexican food, but I can make a decent version of those at home. But a good smoked pulled pork is beyond my current cooking capabilities! Same with a brisket. I have enjoyed some truly incredible barbecue while I’ve been here and it will top my list of “things to eat” every trip!
- The ease of communicating
- When I go to a public place, communicating what I want is a piece of cake! I can discuss topics that are basic or complex with my friends easily. I was tempted to pay out-of-pocket for a dental cleaning while I’m here just to avoid trying to arrange it in France (in French), where I hear that preventative cleanings still haven’t taken off like they have in the US and it can be a challenge to explain to a dentist why you’re seeing them without a cavity or something to treat (I haven’t experienced this myself, so we’ll see what happens)! Even my English-speaking doctors have had non-English-speaking receptionists, so making the appointment is a challenge.
- Immigrating is hard and I think that I’ve kept one foot out until now, so I perhaps didn’t focus enough on learning French. That has changed and I’ve been studying for an hour each day for the last two weeks, so hopefully #5 will be changing soon and communicating will become much easier for me!
As mentioned in the French blog, of course, the “things” that I miss the most are my friends (and family here) who make my life wonderful in both countries.