As I said before this time around in France I haven’t really experienced any culture shock. It’s more like a bit of confusion and frustration. However, that does all get better in time. In the first few weeks there’s a lot of that but then there are also many more moments of making connections in the following weeks. I’ve been finding my routine and planning all sorts of things, branching out and making friends. Of course on my blog I always try to keep this real and not sugar coated and pretty tongue-in-cheek. For all the people that just see my pretty pictures on Instagram- living abroad and adjusting to living in a foreign country isn’t glamorous and it’s not a vacation 24/7. I promise.
There’s also been a huge adjustment for me to living in such a small town. The two cities I’ve ever lived in (Warren and Kalamazoo) have had a population of about 75,000 and 134,000 + people. In Kalamazoo especially, the majority of the people living there are about my age. Now compare that to Phals where the population is about 6,000 people and most are either much younger or older than me. It’s also different for me this time when I was here the first time it was the ‘spring semester’ aka January to spring. So experiencing fall, winter and all the festivities or lack there of is a new experience for me.
Also in regards to the age thing there’s the whole in between the students and the teachers ages. Like this listicle on what it’s like being a teaching assistant, sometimes you feel out of place at the front of the classroom or in the teacher’s lounge but for real the best thing is faking it until you make it. “You’re not only a teaching assistant, you’re an actress too”. That is way too real.
You win some, you lose some
If you all know me you know I’m one to look on the brighter, positive side of things even when it becomes difficult. For example I share WiFi with my neighbor (assistant principal) who is extremely nice and helpful.
Positive: I don’t have to pay for internet like I did for the past two years and my first time in France.
Negative: when it stops working I have to write a note/catch him and sometimes this takes days. As someone who wants to blog/plan lessons/Skype this can become tiresome.
They say living abroad makes you a more flexible person, thus, all of us assistants must be among the most flexible. It’s also made me more patient and realized how impatient I became at home….
Remembering the grocery store isn’t open on Sunday’s and you’ve got 30 minutes to go there
Realizing French people don’t really celebrate Halloween the way we do
Missing things like: an abundance of craft beer/breweries, being with my friends and seeing my family, crow’s nest potatoes, jimmy john’s and how quickly I could get my #7 (Vegetarian with no tomato, add onions and dijon)
DONT EVEN TALK TO ME ABOUT THANKSGIVING (P.S. If you want to mail me things I miss that would be a-okay).
When you’re in a town without a train station, just a bus stop and even covoiturage is tricky
Sometimes just being straight up lost in France, not like lost in a city, but in the way the culture functions
Very confused that my bank randomly chraged me 59 euros…so my balance is currently like -53 euros….
The stress that comes with planning trips and travel and having it all line up perfectly
Struggling with French more than you thought you would AND should be….
The worst was probably was when I was anxiously awaiting my first paycheck (which is only 70-80% of what we’re usually paid and we get the rest the following month) and then I got it! Only to somehow forget my pin and also get my French debit card swallowed by an ATM….just my luck.
C’est la vie en france….at times a country that functions very differently but you just deal with it.
Then realizing all the things you forgot you loved about this place
How cheap groceries are! I may not be able to go to meijer at midnight but I can feast on French food for pretty cheap. Spending usually between 5-20 euros is better than $60+ I’d spend at Meijer
How genuinely friendly everyone is in a small town like this
When ever I tell a French person what my job is they think it’s pretty neat
Having the opportunity to work on my french in addition to my job
How much easier it is to travel here and see and experience different cultures
Living in the only region in France that produces/consumes wine and beer!
Making friends with fellow expats, assistants, GLT members, friends from back home and French friends
Grateful that Lush and Sephora exist here
A (singular) microbrewery that I found, but living in a region where they also produce beer
Having a great (functioning for the most part) flat, rent free
Tarte flambée. Seriously. Also discovering new foods I like! For all the American expats who miss our food there are cute lil shops in bigger cities that sell overpriced American goods and there’s one online too.
More ‘aha moments’ to follow.