I knew that I’d face reverse culture shock. That was a given. What I did not expect was how quickly I would readjust back to American culture and being back home.
I’m a little disoriented. I’m thankful for my summer job, bartending at the brewery that I worked at before I left for France, but I’m working so much that I forget that I was even in France. Did France even happen?
Of course, there are still parts of me that have been changed forever by my experiences living and working as an expatriate in France and traveling to all those different European countries. However, being home makes me feel as though it was just a dream, in some ways. Did France even happen?
Yes, of course I can look at the pictures and the old blog posts, but when looking at them, sometimes it’s hard to believe that I did that, that I achieved one of my life-long dreams. Did France even happen?
I speak English daily now and don’t think anything of it. Whenever I spoke English in France, even when it was with other native English speakers, I felt guilty, as if I were betraying the culture that I was living in and the experience that I was having. It sounds odd, but I liked that feeling because it really pushed me to speak French and to try my best to improve my French. I have to really make an effort to incorporate French into my life now. That’s odd, and I kind of don’t like it.
I drive everywhere again. I’m pretty sure that I’ve gained a couple of the pounds back that I lost from walking everywhere while living in France. I know for a fact that I eat more processed foods. I’ve gotten used to shoving food down my throat again because of lack of time. My standard of living is higher again because of mainly three things: paying for gas in my car, taxes not included in prices (sometimes they are as high as 9%), and tipping at restaurants and for other services. I’m re-immersed in all of these things. So, they feel normal and like what I’m suppose to be doing, yet they also don’t feel right, but again did France even happen? Thinking about the differences in French culture that I grew to become apart of and appreciate don’t feel real either.
Again, I feel disoriented, and I’m not even sure these feelings make sense to other people.
I miss France. I miss my French friends and my friends from other countries that I met while living in Laval, especially even more so now because most of my friends from home are all spread out. Work is my life. (One of the main reasons as to why my blog posts have been fewer and fewer over the course of these past couple of months.) All of my friends that are within reach are my work friends, which means one of us is always at work. So, we can’t always hang out.
I miss always discovering new places and having the time to do so. I miss those cobblestone streets around my apartment that I would traipse across every day to work, to hang out with friends, or to run errands. I miss walking next to La Mayenne and hearing the water rush by. I miss gazing my head upwards looking at the small château, or what still remains of it rather, as I walk down the cobblestone side street to meet up with friends in city center. I miss getting a baguette and a pain au chocolat from the bakery a two minute walk from my apartment. I miss having to force myself to speak another language. I miss that challenge. I miss hearing broken English with different accents and learning things about my own language that I never recognized before. I miss teaching language and about my home culture. I miss France, and yet, all of those feelings still feel like a dream to the point where I still ask myself: Did France even happen?
Isn’t funny how that works? How can we make sure that two cultures, two homes, feel real, feel a part of ourselves constantly no matter where we live or how separated we are from them? I’m still trying to figure that out.
The positive of all of this, despite the sadness I feel at the most random times in the most unexpected places, I thoroughly appreciate home so much more. I’m noticing and recognizing things about home that I never did before, even more so than when I got back from studying abroad. I guess actually living for a longer period of time and working in a culture will do that to you.
So, how do I make sure to remember and to feel like, yes, France did happen? I’m still exploring this question and all of its possible answers.
How do we make sure that all of our life experiences are a part of us and that they feel real, forever? I want all of them to be seared into my mind and my soul, forever.