|Boats along the Seine in Paris|
Basically everything changes...
1. My primary language shifted from French back to English. While you might think that this would be a relief, I spent about 2 weeks searching for specific English words to use in conversation when my French words would be the first to come to mind. My friends and family would find it humorous most of the time (myself included!), but it could be frustrating knowing I had the means to express what I wanted to say yet it would mean nothing to the people I was conversing with...which is basically the same problem I had when I first returned to France, yet in opposite languages. For example, I was trying to explain the beauty of Paris' many parks and gardens to my friends from back home, and ended up saying "Paris has such beautiful jardins" (French for 'garden', but in this instance I said "jarred-ins"...whoops!). While this isn't a huge problem and ultimately doesn't last for long, it's still a strange feeling to have to search for your words in your mother tongue!
2. Social cues are different here. After having perfected the art of avoiding eye contact with strangers (lest you care to be constantly cat-called in the street), upon returning to the US I realized just how friendly Americans are, always offering a friendly smile and greeting even to those they don't know. While this is just one of a myriad of examples, basically the way you go about handling many of the social situations you'd encounter over the course of a day is quite different between our two countries.
3. Food and drink. Most days in France I wouldn't start cooking dinner til 7pm or later and finally sit down to eat a leisurely meal around 8, and back at home we eat quite regularly at 5:30. And boy, do I miss my French wine! There's no such thing as a $3 bottle of delicious wine back here at home, and it certainly isn't acceptable to drink it all throughout the day (especially on your lunch break at work) like it is in France...America has some catching up to do in that department!
4. Things are open on Sunday! While Sundays in France (and most of Europe, for that matter) are truly days of rest - as nothing is open! - the US treats Sundays like any other day of the week. You can get your grocery shopping done, buy some clothes, and even might have to work on Sundays here. Gone are the days of lazing around the house and strolling through the park, we've got things to do on Sundays.
|Strolling through Place des Quinconces in Bordeaux|
|Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris|
Obviously, I could spend all day expanding this list, but these are just a handful of the larger cultural adjustments I've faced! Travelling in general is really eye-opening as it not only gives you first-hand insight into other cultures, but gives you a chance to reflect upon your own culture as well. Sometimes you see things done in another country and wish that it was like that at home too, and other times you decide that you prefer how things are done where you're from. The best advice I could give anyone is to simply keep an open mind. Different things aren't necessarily bad things, and you'll never know what you might be missing out on unless you go out on a limb and try something new.
|Place de l'Hôtel de Ville in Paris|
Did I like living in France? You bet! I can wholeheartedly say France is my "home-away-from-home," a land with a beautiful language, chock full of culture and gastronomic pleasures. Day-to-day nuisances aside, I'd move back there in a heartbeat.
Did I like my job? Some days were better than others, but I went into the job knowing I didn't want to be a teacher for the long-term, and came out of the job feeling the same way. That being said, my job afforded me opportunities to meet and work with a variety of new people, gave me a free place to live, and paid me enough to do some serious travelling. Let's say it was a means to an end!
Would I do it again? The jury's still out on this one. I ended up with a pretty sweet set-up, getting a fully-furnished apartment in a town with a train station (a.k.a. a way to get out!). Some people I met weren't so lucky, struggling to find a place to live and then paying through the nose to afford to stay there, or essentially being stuck in a tiny village with no easy way to travel from it. I'll be eligible to re-apply for the program again next year, but unsure as to if I actually would want to take that all on again.