Friday, 30 November 2007

The relativity of being "home"

Here are some random thoughts on going "home" for Thanksgiving and then coming back "home" to France...

1. I had culture shock, was overwhelmed by the size of the cars, the shampoo selection and the parking spaces!
2. I have been frenchified against my own will. For the first couple days in NJ, I reacted like a French person, was looking for cars coming from the right, was over polite in stores with the French shopping protocol and had to suppress the "bonjour" that wanted to escape from my lips.
3. It's nice to go running and not have people, not even garbage collectors, make rude comments about various body parts.
4. It makes you fell all warm and fuzzy to say "hi" to a stranger in the street or to be met with a smile in the subway.
5. Target is awesome. So awesome that I didn't even step foot in Whole Foods! (Didn't have any space in my bags anyway).
6. The fall leaves were absolutely gorgeous and watching Suzanne play in them while my Dad raked was a highlight of being a mother.
7. French playgrounds suck. Absolutely suck! The playgrounds we went to not only had baby swings, but had lots of climbing equipment that looks like it's for kids, not for little adults. Everything in France is for little adults rather than kids.
8. I have become a cat person. I love dogs but realized I'd rather scratch a random cat behind the ear than a stinky old dog.
9. With the exception of cheese and the Saturday market, I hasten to say that food back in NJ/NY is better than in France. And I'm not just talking bagels, pizza and goldfish crackers. I had delicious Chicken Mole, huge wonderful salads and delicious fussili with Italian sausage and broccoli rabe. I could gain a lot of weight if I lived back "home".
10. Thanksgiving. What else to say? Despite family crap that all families have, it was so nice to be home for it and to see everyone. My mother made a delicious meal and we all enjoyed watching Suzanne chow down on her drum stick.
11. The French wine I dragged home paled in comparison to the California wine my parents had.
12. I really miss my friends back "home". But it was nice to catch up with everyone and to see our kids playing together. I especially loved watching Suzanne and Hazel (my bff's kid) giving each other kisses.
13. I had culture shock when I got back to France and have a faint feeling of wanting to move to the US and live closer to my family and be "home" but know deep inside it won't happen. Life is better in France, more child friendly and more family friendly (at least for now).
14. I have "made peace" with my job but I'm not sure it's enough.
15.American pharmacists must be really frustrated. Suzanne had a cold when we got there and I asked the pharmacist at CVS for advice to which she informed me she was not allowed to give advice for such a young child. Why go to school for 5 years just to count pills?
16. Paradoxically, the longer I'm away from home, the more I miss my family despite any family bullshit. Especially now that I have my own family, it would be nice to be closer to my people.

Ok, my "peace" awaits me now with 164 emails to be read...

4 comments:

Deb said...

WELCOME BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can pretty much relate to your list. When I go back, it's almost as if I have a feeling of euphoria. Like I am discovering everything for the first time. Then I end up missing it like hell when I return back to France.

I know you say that you won't move back, but who knows what the future holds? I have days when I secretly wish that we could move back too.

Elisabeth said...

Being a French expat who lives on the other side of the Atlantic, I can fully relate to your post, although I mildly raised an eyebrow at item #9. There are things that you will always love and cherish in your native land, and things that you will always love in cherish in your adopted country, and the sad part is that you just can't have both. Sometimes you may think that life would be better if you were back in the U.S., and if you were here, you'd still miss bits of France just as, in France, you miss bits of the U.S.

I have said it many time, ce n'est pas toujours rigolo d'avoir le cul entre deux chaises!

Also, ponder this: As your daughter grows older, what will her identity be? That of a little French girl, or, later, of a young French woman, or that of a Franco-American?

Reb said...

The ups and downs of the ex pat life - I hope you had a good Thanksgiving Deb!

Elisabeth, thanks for the food for thought. I definitely want her to feel some attachment to the US. I think at this point, it's much harder for me than for her because I'm trying to figure out just how American I am and how I can pass that on to her. As for point 9, I know French food is good and eating in France is more of an institution than in the US. But where my parents are, it's so easy to find fresh, good food. Restaurants are affordable, easy to find a good one, and the food is so varied. You just don't find good variety in France, especially in Lille. In my parent's town alone, there's Ethiopian, various types of Indian, Turkish, Moroccan, Thai, Vientamese, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, "American" and even French. You don't get that kind of variety in France.

The Late Bloomer said...

I can understand and relate to SO MUCH of this! It sounds like you had a great time with little Suzanne back home in the U.S., and made some wonderful memories with your family. Welcome back (home) to France once again!

I still sometimes feel like a kid when I go back to visit my parents at home, and this year's expected trip will probably be the same... But I don't have any children of my own, and I imagine that one day, if and when I do, that feeling might change, evolve in some ways, like you described here.

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