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?