You asked for it, you got it! On the poll on the right side (can still vote, btw!), this topic got the most votes. Well, in actuality, it tied with “Things the US needs to start doing” but this topic was ahead most of the time and I figured the “Things the US needs to start doing” topic would be better paired with its counterpart, “Things France needs to stop doing.” So that will come later.
Obviously what I miss most about the US is the people–my friends, family, and boyfriend–but I’m not going to write in-depth about that because then I’ll get sad and AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT.
I’ve been in France for four and a half months now and while I’ve mostly adjusted to the differences here, there are still a few things from the US that I miss very much. One big one is the food; even though I mostly cook for myself, so I do get a lot of American foods, some things are more difficult to make without the ingredients I’m used to! A short list that I thought of while sitting here: butterscotch chips, peanut butter, chocolate chips that aren’t 2.50€ for a cup, Stovetop stuffing, Kraft Mac n Cheese, cream of chicken soup, jalapenos, black beans…
I miss a lot of little things that I used to take for granted. Like…
Easy open gum packs: You know that little tab that makes opening the plastic around Orbit oh-so-easy? Yeah. Doesn’t exist here.
Colgate paste: Only gel for some reason!
Carpeted floors: My marble floors are nice and all, but they’re so COLD! I haven’t been in any apartments here with carpet.
Free drink refills at restaurants: And cups bigger than a thimble.
Some things are due to cultural differences…
Stores being open all day and on Sundays/Mondays: Mondays are an acceptable day for stores to be closed, and it’s not unusual to see a sign for “fermeture exceptionnelle” (I can’t think of a good translation for this… exceptional closure sounds weird. Like, an out-of-the-ordinary closure?) for several days or even over a week. I tried to go to this yarn shop three different times, all different times of day and days of the week, and it was ALWAYS closed. Then one random weekday it was open at like 7 pm when I happened to walk by so I got my yarn!
Efficiency: I tried to do a return at a HUGE department store here. First they sent me downstairs, since that was where I made the purchase; then the two girls working behind the counter didn’t know how to do a return; then another girl working didn’t know how to do one; eventually they had to call someone on the phone for how to do it and were finally successful. It ended up being like a half-hour process. And this was at, like, the Macy’s of France. No wonder most places just say “Pas de remboursements!!!”
Waiters actually waiting on you: You’re lucky if they come by three times: to take your order, to bring your food, and to give you the check (but only after you ask for it). Drink refills? Forget about it.
Some things are just different here…
Having a dryer: Crunchy air-dried clothes all day e’ery day.
Big kitchens: Our kitchen is actually pretty average-sized for France, and we have a big fridge and an oven, which is practically unheard of. But it’s still way tighter than I’m used to. Two people is pushing it, three people in the kitchen is pretty much impossible.
Technology at school: I recognize that the school where I student taught had tons of technology, but it has really been an adjustment to teach at a school with no computers in the classrooms, some not having projectors, and tons of other technological issues… but that’s a topic for another post.
Clean sidewalks: I have mentioned probably too many times about the poop on the sidewalks here, but honestly, it’ll be a GREAT day when I can walk down a sidewalk confident that I won’t get a sole full of dog poo.
Unpolluted air: I honestly often feel like every breath I take here is filled with either exhaust or cigarette smoke. I’m shocked that I haven’t had any migraines since my arrival (4.5 months!!) so maybe the air isn’t as bad as I seem to think! I do miss the clean country air of Illinois though.
And finally, some of the things I miss are due to the language barrier…
Being able to communicate easily: Although I really can communicate with most people without a problem in French, I always second-guess my abilities. I really miss being able to ask the saleslady where the black blazers are without mentally rehearsing my lines ahead of time, or being confident enough to go tell my downstairs neighbor to turn down his super loud music!!
Knowing what things are at the grocery store: Not only are there a lot of food-related words that I don’t know (because when would I have ever used the French for nutmeg), but often here when I look something up I STILL don’t know what it is because it’s some type of food that we don’t have in the US. For example, flageolet is the same in English–flageolet beans–but what the heck are they?? Can’t I just get some black beans up in here??
So those are some of the things I miss about the US! Pretty much what you expected, or did some of the things I chose surprise you? Also, the images along the way are tweets from an American chef that now lives in Paris. He wrote an amazing book I read before coming here called The Sweet Life in Paris and he often makes me laugh with his Twitter-ific commentary about France (despite his many typos). If you’re interested, check out more of his tweets here (no Twitter account required!) or his website here.