[**This is a Repost from 2012: Ten years ago, I fulfilled a great passion of studying abroad at the Sorbonne university. This was also when I started my Frenchquest blog. I am reposting these incredible, otherworldly experiences of living in Paris for six months as a “non-traditional” graduate student.]
An American in Paris
Last Friday I felt more American than I have for the past month: I voted by absentee ballot for President of the United States. In fact, my heart swelled with pride as I exercised this Constitutional right as an American Citizen. Most of the headlines here and conversation has been around our election. The world is watching our Nation and looking to us for leadership.
This past month I have reflected on the main differences between living in Paris and in the United States and have found four main differences.
The first difference is the weather. In El Paso, we see about 10 inches a year of precipitation. In Paris, I have already seen 10 inches (or centimeters) of rain in one month. In fact, I always have my umbrella with me and wear my rainboots just in case! It is generally overcast here, or soupy, but on those serendipitous days when it is sunny, it is glorious. The parks are full of families, couples, and students basking in the rays.
The second difference is meal preparation. Most apartments in Paris have small refrigerators, even smaller freezers and mostly cooktops. With bakeries and markets in most neighborhoods it is not essential to stock up on groceries as in the United States. In fact, a lot of food goes to waste back home because I forget about it in my large refrigerator and freezer. It’s also funny the things that I depended on in the States but can’t find in French markets such as peanut butter, cornbread mix, pepper, almonds. However, this has forced me to start depending on the regional foods such as goat cheese, tofu, salmon, and milk from a ?!!! The French take gastronomy very seriously here and fast food is frowned upon. In fact, you never see people walking down the street eating. You take your time during meals and enjoy them with friends and family.
Another difference between living in the U.S. and living in Paris is transportation. I thought that I would go crazy without a car here but I have really enjoyed walking to class and taking the metro/bus/train anywhere else that I need to go. As I am admiring the incredible architecture and boulevards, I have to be careful to watch for the uneven pavement, loose cobblestones and the CRAZY drivers who never yield to pedestrians. I’ve also learned to always take a large bottle of water with me and to be creative in planning when to drink it. For instance, there are very few public restrooms and most of them you have to pay to use.
The last difference and the most obvious for me is the language barrier. The only time I hear or speak English now is when I Skype my family and friends. Fortunately because of this, my speaking and listening skills have improved dramatically which is part of the reason I am here. My classes are all in French and also the common language that I have with most of my new friends so I am truly immersed in the language. These were my weakest skills before coming to Paris and of course, the most essential in communication. I’ve learned to just speak boldly and confidently even if I’m not sure that I’m using the correct grammar or sentence structure. It also helps to listen more and speak less (as in any language!!).
In closing, all I have to say is that I’m “Proud to be an American”!!!
Copyright 2012 by Robyn Lowrie. May be quoted in part or full only with attribution to Robyn Lowrie (www.frenchquest.com)