Well, a year in and I still can’t contribute much on the dating front without getting too deep into “personal” territory. I met a couple of French guys who immediately texted like 9 times a day . . . which is a bit much from an American perspective and it put me off, especially the part where they’d ask if something was wrong when I didn’t respond. Um, no. I was at work in a meeting during the HOUR in which you sent me a flurry of texts.
Of course, this is partially a cultural difference that I just haven’t adjusted to. Alexis expressed concern, along with a face like he’d bit into a lemon (and a very French “disapproving sound”) because a Brit I met hadn’t contacted me for ONE WHOLE DAY – clearly, he wasn’t sufficiently attentive. C’est adorable !
Year one was a mixed bag really. There were some very stereotypical experiences, like having a married French man hit on me (thanks, but no thanks). For the most part though, it’s like dating anywhere – you meet someone, hang out a few times and decide that you’re really not that interested (until you find someone you really like, of course). I live in a very small town, so that limits the opportunity to meet people . . . and I spend a lot of time with a guy already, which likely hasn’t helped!
On that note, I just passed the one year mark with the first French friend I made. I haven’t written much about him recently because there were about 9 weeks that we didn’t see each other while I was in the US, followed by him being up North. Plus, I only write about things that we’ve agreed are ok in a public forum.
He’s still one of the best friends that I’ve ever had. We joke in the US that you have friends who’ll help you move and friends who’ll help you move bodies – he’s the latter. I never really expected a friendship with a 22 (now 23) year old French guy to have any staying power, but we’ve been through the good, the bad and the ugly over the past year and neither one of us have gone anywhere. That’s not to say everything has been perfect – we’ve had a couple of epic cultural misunderstandings, one of which resulted in a MASSIVE disagreement. By US standards, it was a friendship-ending blow-up, but here? Apparently, it’s not good for my health if I don’t openly express how I’m feeling! 😂
So, the dust settles, you have a good laugh about how ridiculous it all was, forgive each other and move on. Of course, I knew some of this a year ago – the French seem much more open about expressing EVERY emotion. The upside is that misunderstandings don’t last long because they WILL be discussed. If you’ve hurt, offended or upset someone, the odds are high that you’ll know ALL about it, but it’s addressed and put behind you. There’s no lingering grudge or mysterious silent treatment after you’ve been told everything is “fine.”
In regards to female friends, I have some of those now too! I think you often quickly know who the people are that you “click” with because I mentioned chatting with a French woman in “part one” about friendship (here: Part One) and she’s still a friend. We get together about once a month for a movie, dinner, drinks, etc. She’s also very expressive, “we haven’t seen each other in months and I miss you!” – I think it’s just a French thing and I’ve grown accustomed to openly telling people that I’ve missed them, life isn’t as fun when they’re gone, that I will cry all night (not seriously) if something doesn’t happen, etc.
In fact, I think I gravitate towards people who are openly expressive now. Both of the new women that I’m becoming friends with are quite open. Perhaps I like it because it avoids many of the cultural differences that can crop up when people try to be subtle and assume you understood. Not all social cues are the same globally, so people who are direct and “what you see is what you get” are refreshing after a year of trying to navigate things like, “why is he so upset that I ate my croissant at 9 AM instead of 10 AM? I never attend that meeting anyway,” or “seriously, when you came by just to drop something off, I was supposed to offer an apéro and socialize? By definition, “dropping it off” is not a social call.”
Of course, the worst week of ex-pat homesickness that I’ve had in awhile was followed immediately by a fantastic week! Such is the life of an ex-pat – integrating is a long, challenging process with many ups and downs . . . but so far, the ups by far outweigh the downs!