Friday, March 14, 2014

observations

{got salsa?}
It's been just over a week since I've been back in Texas now and all I can say is... actually I have no idea what to say. I'm pretty much swimming in culture shock. This is something I wasn't prepared for, like at all.

When I was younger, I traveled back and forth to Europe visiting family; Dublin, Ireland mostly, with the occasional stopover in London. Maybe the differences between Ireland and England and suburban New York weren't that great in the 80s, or maybe I was too young and too wrapped up in double-dutch and Punky Brewster to notice.

Of course in the ten years that I lived in Ireland and France I had made trips back to the States, about seven I think; four to New York and three to Texas. And for some reason the culture shock didn't seem to sink in then either. Maybe it was because I was looking at everything with excited 'I'm on vacation' eyes instead of 'this is my life now' eyes, and maybe it's all hitting me now because it's been two and a half years since I've been here last. Either way, I'm gobsmacked and a full on fish out of water.

The first thing that struck me when I arrived was the size of the vehicles. Now I get that I'm in Texas and that back in high school I dated boys that drove those big a** trucks, but holy moly, they're huge! I walked into the airport parking lot and felt downright Lilliputian. People are basically driving around in tanks, it's unsettling. I could hop in one of those jacked up Ford F-150s and drive right over my old Renault and terrorize all of Le Petit Village. (I just had the most amusing scenario flash through my mind... Run Honey Jr, run!)

Then there is the number of choices for everything... oh the choices! Texas may not hold a candle to France in the wine department, but if you're looking for salsa, well then you've come to the right place.

There are a bunch of other little things that I'll have to get used to... croutons in my salad (I forgot all about those), food portion sizes (it's fine, I'll take whatever I don't finish home with me), and monster sized drinks (I'm convinced people here must have to go tee-tee at all times).

I've eaten in restaurants three times since I've been back and I have to say, I'm not thrilled. Don't get me wrong, I love the super nice waitstaff (see below), the inexpensive options and being able to take a doggy bag home without judgement (or at all really), but what's with the rush? Going to a restaurant in France is a leisurely activity, here I feel like I'm on an assembly line. Lets slow it down. (Before I get a bevy of comments about this one, let me say that I do realize that Americans go out to eat more often and the act is usually more often about 'eating' as opposed to 'dining' and that if I don't want to be rushed I could go to a more formal restaurant. However, even with knowing this, it's still a big ol' shock for someone who has been living in France. Trust me on this.)

But the biggest cultural shock is the people. Now, I will never speak badly of the French, I love the French, I love France, I loved my time there, my French friends, and my French family,  but when it comes to French customer service... meh (of course there are always exceptions to every rule like this guy). Everybody here is so nice. SO NICE. Any confusion and culture shock shakes off me right quick as soon as I see a big smile followed by a "how are y'all doing today?" It's lovely and I like it.

So yeah, this is me at the moment. To sum up... big trucks are freaking me out (although I may or may not be planning a takeover of Le Petit Village in the near future), I'm indecisive and confused most of the time, and I can usually be found carrying a doggy bag and running off to tee-tee. But most of the time the answer to the question is, "I'm doing great, thank you for asking". 

And how are y'all doing today? 

Bisous!

31 comments:

  1. I'm so glad that you are posting as I'm super curious about repatriation - we are starting to look at moving to US in the next year or so and I'm excited/terrified. I do love how nice everyone is when I go home - friendly friendly! Good luck with everything!

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  2. I've only been to the US once, but I'll never get over the size of the drinks! How DO people not spend all their time peeing?!

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  3. Such an interesting read! I can only imagine the shock of seeing North American portions after all those dainty plates in France/Europe. And the choices - my goodness. I lament the lack of choice in Holland but when I was back in Toronto and had to do some groceries I think I had a minor anxiety attack trying to choose salad dressing.

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  4. Have to confess I found the US portion sizes somewhat revolting when we were there in Dec 2012. And the giant drinks loaded down with ice... ugh. But that's just my ageing sensitive teeth speaking. I'm with you on the customer service though - it's something the French need to learn. One of my friends started off working in Customer Service in Carrefour 20 years ago. Her training consisted of twenty ways to shrug, raise her eyebrows and say "Pffft."
    Besides all this, do you miss Bisous? I found it very weird last time I was home NOT to be kissing my old friends. Can't believe how engrained it is after only 18 months

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  5. Having lived in a bunch of places around the world, I find that it takes about 2 months before I have re-assimilated and it seems natural again.

    (I find that Vietnamese Restaurants in the US tend to have that, "There is no rush, take your time," kind of vibe that most other places here do not have.)

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  6. I'm now better today, thank you for asking, because of this post of yours. Glad to hear that in spite of the strangeness of it all, you're still happy, if a bit of a mess. :-)

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  7. Welcome back to the States! I was only in France for half a year, but I TOTALLY get what you're saying about restaurants. It still drives me a bit crazy to eat out here. I just wanna tell the waiters to chill out and leave me alone for a bit. If I need something, I'll ask for it. Every time I drive by one of those ginormous pick-ups, I squeeze the steering wheel and grimace. Reverse culture shock is always harder, I've found, but I have no doubt that you'll come through it with grace...and hilarious stories. :)

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  8. Oh my goodness -- the salsa! That's hilarious! I hate how at restaurants here in the US the server will bring you your bill before you've asked for it (to save time I guess, so you're not flagging them down asking for the check), sets it down and says, "This is for whenever you're ready -- no rush." And then of course you feel rushed! Geez!

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  9. I'm sure they are "tee-teeing" all the time, which isn't that big of a deal because I feel like public restrooms are easier to locate in the States as opposed to France.

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  10. Awesome rant. I totally agree. But you know EVERYTHING IS BIGGER IN TEXAS. So get used to it! KIDDING. But they def seem to continue to go by that mentality materialistically as well as physically... womp womp.

    I am having a good day. I am leaving work to head home (early by almost 3 hours!) to then head to my hometown for a good local Virginia festival - maple sugar festival! Yums for days.

    XO

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  11. I pretty much understand all of your thoughts, I have felt the same way. Especially about the eating vs dining. I always feel so rushed in American restaurants and that makes me feel uncomfortable. I don't want them to bring the check when I still eat. Leave me alone. In Europe I can sit on my table for hours and nobody disturbs me.
    Enjoy your time, Sara!

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  12. I had culture shock on the way into very rural Canada as a high school exchange student, and then again on the way home, isn't it funny how our thinking unconsciously adjusts to what's around us? I do love the long, languishing French meals, sans indigestion though!

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  13. I have gotten so use to the tiny cars in Iceland that I am sure when I go back home I will be in shock as well of the size of all those big trucks, like my dads massive truck!

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  14. Huge choice of huge vehicles/portions/everything = advanced capitalism/consumerism!

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  15. Interesting observations. I'm from the generation of smaller portion sizes and believe that, in general, "less is more". Bon week-end

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  16. I know how you feel!! I have been back in Finland for 6 months now and sometimes i regret leaving France very much. I hate to say this, as I'm a Finn too, but Finnish people are not cool. Well of course friends and colleagues are but in generally when you walk around here people don't smile or greet, say thank you or anything. It pisses me off a lot. I think this cultural shock never goes away ;) maybe France did change me too much hehe. -Sini

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  17. Yes, coming back to American service is always shocking after being in Russia for a while. I know I've been away too long when I immediately get suspicious and think "what do they want from me?!"

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  18. Every time one of my German neighbors snubs my polite 'hello' I get homesick for the US. Everyone being nice makes a big difference. I hope you aren't too homesick or culture shocked. Ten years is a long time.

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  19. Interesting to see that culture shock works both ways - when you first go overseas and then again when you return home. Of course, I think it might be a bit different in your case since you've been gone for so long. I have a feeling everything will be much, MUCH easier and better for you once Gregory and Fifty join you. But I'm glad you're having fun!!

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  20. I'm European and I would love to travel to the US! Everyone says that we, Portuguese people, are nice and welcoming but I would really like to see how it is on the other side of the ocean! :)

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  21. We had the same reaction when we came back to the US. We were shocked by the cars at the airport too. Trucks and SUV's EVERYWHERE! It is shocking, isn't it?!? You'll get back into the groove of things…and of course, you'll reminisce about France often, as you should. Welcome back Sara!

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  22. Ahhhh I remember these feelings. It may sound weird, but enjoy them! You'll miss them soon enough.

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  23. Good luck, dear! I can't imagine what it'll be like to move back to the States but I'm definitely thinking of you! :)

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  24. How about the ice in a drink? Paying for dinner with a credit card…and the card disappears into the kitchen? No roundabouts? The endless variety of salads, the huge parking spaces, Big front yards with no fences, the stuff people leave outdoors like benches, patio furniture, bikes...

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  25. Hahaha it's funny, because I notice all these same things every time I am home, particularly the difference in wine prices... holy crap. However, I'd never thought about the vacation vs. living there mindset, it must be off-putting. Hearing about the friendly people though just warms my heart - I guess I always worry it's going to change.

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  26. I bet Texas has to be probably one of the states that is most UNLIKE the LPV! That salsa aisle kills me. I think what you need is a trip to somewhere more like the LPV like, I mean, I don't know...just throwing out a wild hair but, some place like Atlanta?!

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  27. And yet still the ONE KIND of salsa that would bring me joy is never there. What I don't understand is how there can be 5 million options at the grocery store and still I have to go to 3 different grocery stores to complete my grocery shopping.

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  28. Having just returned from a really nice, warm, sunny sejour in Sablet, I can say there are so many things to love about life in Provence. It's nice to come back to CA and see family and friends but I could live a long time in France and not miss to much from here.

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  29. I can SO relate to this! Especially the size of trucks! Always gets me when I go back to Texas!! They are so crazy big!! The first few days back in the US i am always in, what I call, an out of body experience. A can't quite grasp that I'm back experience. It's familiar, but foreign all at the same time!!

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  30. Oooh, I agree with all of these and feel like, after living overseas for so long...well, it is normal that everything seems wierd right now. Hang in there bella. Once your sweetie is there you will at least be giggling about all of this together!

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  31. haha when I first moved back I had a meltdown in the peanut butter aisle. THE PEANUT BUTTER AISLE.

    Toto, we are definitely not in [England] anymore...

    you'll acclimatize eventually! maybe it will be easier in MA than in TX though?

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