Hello, world. So this is a blog post about adaptation, a very prominent theme in my experience over here. I recently passed the three month mark of being in France, and most people say that the first three months is the the period of adaptation. So now I'm supposed to be all done adapting. No more excuses! I've been here for three months. Things are gonna get serious.
As I've said before, I really feel well-adjusted to my new lifestyle. People are starting to tell me that I am fluent in French, which is a nice sign of adaptation. I don't feel fluent, but I think it's coming soon. The amount of daily mistakes I make (i.e. missing the bus, misunderstanding instructions, etc.) has been greatly reduced. Now the mistakes that I make just come from my own spacey, ditzy nature (and yes, Mom, I'm trying to work on it, but it's sort of out of my control sometimes).
One thing I am trying to get used to is the formality of the culture here. I think in the United States we have drifted away from having a "code of conduct." That is not to say that we are necessarily an impolite culture (although you could certainly say that, especially compared with France). I think the biggest difference is that in the United States, there are many accepted rules of politeness, but if someone breaks one it is not necessarily a big deal or doesn't have big implications. Here there are many unspoken rules that are always abided by, and I find it hard to pick up on/keep track of all of them. I will give some examples to make my point clearer:
For instance, saying hello: a few weekends ago some of my friends slept over at my host family's house. In the morning, my friend's mom came to pick her up. Normally, as soon as someone walks in the door, you go say hello, do the little kissy "bisous" thing, etc. The French are very precise about saying hello. It always always always must be done. But I was busy cleaning up or distracted or I'm not really sure why, but I forgot to greet my friend's mom and that clearly disgruntled her. Again, it's not that in the U.S. we don't say hello to people. The difference is that here, the fact that I broke that rule was a much bigger deal. Now I pay much closer attention to saying hello to people.
Also, formality. At school, teachers are addressed as "vous" not "toi" (two different forms of the word "you"). Since I am used to addressing my friends and host family with "toi," plus the fact that in English we only have one kind of "you," I have made the mistake of calling my teachers "toi"- essentially addressing them as a friend- several times, which my classmates find very amusing.
There are an infinite number of other examples and anecdotes I could give, but I think I am the only one that finds them interesting. Suffice it to say that there are a shocking number of unspoken customs/rules to learn when you are not in your native country. And it means that you end up looking like a dumb-ass quite often. I think I will come home a much more respectful and polite young woman.
In addition to adapting to living in a foreign country, I am also in the midst of adapting to the idea of winter without snow. I really never thought much about it, until abou mid-November when I started hearing about snow falling in Minneapolis. and then I suddenly realized what a prescence snow has and what a difference it makes. Just thinking about the way that we have to climb through snowbanks and the way that the roads get so caked with snow that it becomes like a new layer of cement. And the quiet feeling of the city when it's snowing and the woodstove in our living room in the evening or on Sunday afternoons. And how sometimes my sister and I go outside in the winter with plastic bags on our feet instead of boots just cause it feels so cool to walk through fresh snow in your socks.
These are things that mean "winter" to me, and I have trouble imagining how winter is possible without them. So you can imagine how happy I was two weeks ago, when I woke up at my friend Lora's house and THERE WAS SNOW FALLING OUTSIDE. It snows very rarely here since it's close to the ocean, so everyone was completely enchanted by it. No one cared about the fact that it was practically slush and hardly staying on the ground. The following week, we hardly had school because the roads were icy and there was a lot more snow in other parts of the district so buses were cancelled. I went to one and a half days of school; it was excellent. I taught my friends how to make snow ice cream, another thing my sister and I love to do in the winter, and showed off my snowball fighting strategies (tackling people and shoving snow in their face). We tried to go sledding- which meant dragging each other around on patches of slushy grass. the snow melted after six days, but a week of seeing everything covered in white did a lot of good for my Minnesotan soul. Now I just have to figure out how to do Christmas sans neige... And try not to read the Facebook statuses about the incredible blizzard that hit Minneapolis (why, God, why does this have to happen the winter that I am gone?). My host mom heard about it on French radio. This stuff is international news! Be proud, Minnesotans.
There is so much state pride in this post. Being away from home will do that to you, I guess.
Happy holidays, everyone.