I looked around my apartment tonight, and realized that I have run out of a lot of things I brought with me from America.
My toothpaste, bodywash, trash bags, cleaning products, soaps… slowly but surely, Crest, Olay, Glad, Mr. Clean, Ivory, have been replaced with Colgate (with only French text), Caudalie, Monoprix brand, Monsieur Propre, Le Petit Marseillais.
The little things that make up my life are transforming into French things. What a weird feeling.
I’m headed into my sixth month of living abroad (I mean seriously? Half a YEAR, already?). I didn’t have any goals per se coming into six months, didn’t set any milestones at all – if I didn’t love it, I’d have come back, no timeline impositions here. But I have (finally?) started to feel some pangs of homesickness, I’m sure entirely exacerbated by my canceled trip from a couple of weeks ago.
I had tried to predict, back in April, what would be the things I’d miss six months into my life in France. I think I could’ve guessed most of these things accurately but now that I am in the thick of missing them, it’s such a weird and palpable feeling.
- Real Starbucks iced coffee (black coffee, double brewed, ice.)
- Ice. GIVE ME ALL OF THE ICE IN FRANCE!
- American Diet Coke (I love Coke Light, don’t get me wrong, but… I know it’s off)
- An actual cheese pizza. No crème fraîche, oeufs, viande hachée… just greasy cheese and a chewy crust
- Being able to understand everything that is happening around me. Not having to mentally prepare to venture outside and interact with people
- Turning on the TV and just finding some shite reality show rerun and zoning out for a minute. Internet TV is not the same okay!
- The ability to have long and meaningful conversations with somebody face to face. This one is tricky. Because I know that I can (and I have!) told my French friends anything and everything, and they are here for me with love and support (seriously I am so lucky). So this isn’t to say that I can’t have meaningful conversations period. But there is something about the ease of communication that you can have with a fellow native speaker that I miss – and knowing that I am understood just as easily. My French friends, I will say, have made herculean efforts to improve their English and I am proud to say that they all sound more American now than they did six months ago ;)
- Being surrounded by Americans. I honestly feel like I could go for a group hug or a cuddle puddle with thirty jolly loud boisterous exclamation-mark-using Americans right now. Just for a couple of hours. That’s all I need.
- Side story: my boss (American, been in France for four years AND IT’S LIKE HE WAS NEVER AMERICAN, I swear) chided me for using too many exclamation marks in a piece of copy and teased me about how American I was being. HOW DARE HE
And naturally, being in close physical contact with my friends back home. FaceTime, Whatsapp, Hangouts are great but it’s just not the same.
I’m worried that if I post this blah of an entry it’s going to undermine the fact that I am honestly still really happy here. I just know that it was only a matter of time before homesickness crept up and bummed me out for a weekend or two. It’s a happiness hangover, to be honest. These past six months have been the best six months of my life and I’m trying to look at this moment as an equalizer, to help me stabilize my mentality to take me through the next six months (and beyond) of life in France. I think this feeling is something that every expat anticipates and faces eventually, and I’m sure it is different for everybody.
So to end on a lighthearted note, here is a list of things that I do after six months in France that I didn’t guess I’d be doing :)
- Speak in Franglish. Oh yes. Every day. Putting the noun before the adjective, using overly emotional or odd words to describe simple things. I can’t even think of any specific examples because Franglish is slowly taking over my brain
- In the same vein, I pepper my English texts and emails with French words kind of naturally now. I write terrasse so often that it took me a couple of tries to find the right spelling for “terrace” (and that still looks wrong now)
- Pronouncing French colleagues’ names with a French accent even while speaking to Americans (come on, it’s not pretentious, it’s POLITE okay) :P
- Taking a coffee after lunch every day. Espresso (and saying “taking” instead of “having.” There’s that Franglish)
- Pouring drinks from bottles/cans into smaller glasses
- Preferring smaller cups/plates to my giant American glassware. I had some people over one evening and we had ordered some food, and when I brought my plates out I WAS STRAIGHT UP EMBARRASSED. (An American salad plate is the perfect size for a French dinner. An American dinner plate it the perfect size for a French serving platter.)
- Not batting an eye when someone blows cigarette smoke into my face. Or a child’s. Or lights up while eating a meal on a terrasse. Or noticing really. Or even caring. That’s so Parisian of me.