The first time I attempt to actually give a comment/opinion/try my best to contribute to the class discussion in my compared literature class, my lack of interaction with actual French speakers is minimal, so thus, I stumble over my words, realizing that in some ways I’m forgetting how to speak French, thus making a fool of myself. Did my professor understand what I was trying to say? Most definitely not. *sigh* Well that was awkward.
It’s rush hour, and in trying to get home the man in front of me as I walk onto the metro train stops right in the middle, not realizing that there are about 20 billion other people trying to get on. They start to push me to keep going forward, but I can’t because said man is in the way. Before I can say anything to him though, they push me just enough that I bump into him and the dumbass finally realizes, that oh “yes, sir, this is fucking rush hour in Paris, so quit being a selfish asshole and move into the empty spaces.” *sigh* I hate metro rush hour.
In my spare time I try to discover little parts of Paris that I haven’t seen before, usually on the weekends when I’m not trying to get caught up on homework and lesson planning/sleeping (because my tendencies to procrastinate still haven’t said goodbye), and every time I do, I think “wow, there really are beautiful parts of the city that I have yet to discover, why don’t I ever see this stuff? Oh wait, that’s right, because I spend half of my waking hours in the fucking metro, underground, in the dank, humid, smelly, crowded metro.” *sigh* I hate that everything is at least a half hour metro ride away. There’s literally nothing romantic or exciting about the metro.
Walking down the street seems easy enough, right? Well, you would think, but see, here in Paris, the sidewalks are already quite small compared to what we are used to in the United States, and with the way that Parisiens are completely oblivious to their surroundings as well as have this absolute amazing way of taking the most zig-zagging approach to their walk, walking down the streets becomes an exponentially trying task. *sigh* Why is it so hard for them to see that I’m here? Clearly trying to get around them?
I politely tell a group of students occupying a classroom (by taking naps on the desks) that I need to teach in to get out because I have a class to teach. I patiently wait for them to pack up their stuff and leave the classroom, wasting a good 5 minutes of my teaching time (which for those whom haven’t, that could mean the difference between furthering a discussion or finishing an activity that you have planned), and then discovering that they covered more than half my already tiny white board with writing done in permanent marker as well as discovering that they broke the window when I tried to open it to air out the humid warmth of the past week. *sigh* Whatever happened to being careful with things that don’t belong to you?
These are my moments of pure frustration that I have only culture shock to thank, well and just general lack of perfection in humanity for. It’s about that time, a month to about two months is usually when I start to feel the deep culture shock settle in. I literally mutter under my breath “fucking Parisiens” at least once per day. It’s as if their pure existence has come to annoy me.
Something that I’ve been noticing is that my culture shock has been different every single time that I’ve been here. This time, it comes in the form of angry and frustration, instead of a sense of extreme homesickness (though I am slightly homesick, mostly for my cat and American and Mexican food and good craft beer).
I hate the way that Parisiens take up half the sidewalk while they walk because they aren’t aware of the people around them, and they, for some fucking reason, have no idea how to walk in a straight line. I hate the way that French students don’t give a shit about the resources provided in their classrooms because they don’t have to deal with it if it gets broken or messed up. I hate the way that people on the metro just assume that you can just walk through them or the way that they shove their way onto an already very clearly extremely packed full metro train, assuming that pushing will just make us all skinnier and therefore will make more room. I hate the fact that being an English teacher and being in a very international city means that I speak and hear English just as much as I hear French if not more so, or the fact that once people figure out that I’m American, they absolutely insist that I speak English with them, even though I clearly tell them in French that I understand and speak French. Well, at least I used to speak French. I’m beginning to wonder if I still do. My lack of chances to speak it have led to the awkward mess that happened when I attempted to volunteer a comment in my lit class, a jumbled mess of Franglais that only I understand. I hate how the metro smells like piss, stops randomly with no explanation in-between stops, and is constantly humid. I hate that the entire area around my apartment building is covered in litter and smells completely like sewage, with horns blaring in the background and different people on the streets insisting that I take their pamphlets even though I’ve told them politely no thank you several times. I hate that people who refuse to buy a metro ticket jump in behind me, forcing me to go through the barrier faster so that they can get in on my scan without asking me, touching me without my consent and treating me like I did something wrong for being upset that they put me in that situation. I hate the way that restaurant servers assume that I can’t order in French because I just so happen to be there with English-speaking friends. It’s like “Bitch, my French might not be perfect, but I can order a damn coffee in French with no problems whatsoever.”
This is what culture shock does. It turns you into a ferocious beast that insists on noticing all the teeny, tiny flaws of a culture, making you feel like you hate everything and everyone and just making you want to sleep all day even though you are living in what is supposed to be one of the most vibrant and exciting cities. It makes you feel like you are doing everything wrong, even though you are actively trying to understand the city and become a part of it. Yeah, maybe you should keep trying and maybe aren’t trying hard enough, but culture shock and the depression that come with it make it that much harder to keep trying. Culture shock makes it so that all the good things in the culture are twice as hard to notice and twice as hard to stick in your mind. It makes it so that you become blind to all of the positives that could be coming from this experience. It makes you want to do nothing instead, making you not put yourself out there, to meet new people and do things that will help you become a part of the city and the culture and will most likely get you out of this funk. No, culture shock is a ferocious beast that makes it so that all you really want to do is hide in your apartment, reading books in English and watching Netflix shows in English, while you drink your warm cup of coffee and pretend the outside world doesn’t exist.
Culture shock is a bitch, and she won’t stop knocking at the door until she’s had her say every once in awhile. boo on you culture shock. boo on you.
It gets better, right?
Yeah, it gets better. *sigh* Just gotta keep chugging.