Today marks the end of my first week in France. I have partaken in much awkward French small talk with my host family and spent around 35 hours studying the nuances of French grammar and I am greatly appreciating that I have a weekend off to rest. My host parents, Dominique and Oliver, have a fairly busy social schedule so they are gone not only this weekend but also the next several. They are very kind and accommodating but I am nevertheless enjoying having some time to myself and my little kitty companion Schoumi.
My placement test is in a couple days and I’m trying not to sweat it but I will be very disappointed if I don’t make it into the high B2 level. I feel like I have learned just about as much as I can in terms of French grammar after studying the language for so long (7 years now!) and I’m anxious to improve my ability to articulate myself and understand the French language on a deeper level—I want to read more contemporary French literature and philosophy rather than grammar exercises about what Marc and Pierre did and did not buy at the store. (I don’t care about your groceries, Marc and Pierre.)
I’m a decent speaker at this point but it’s a very frustrating feeling to not be able to describe something or engage in conversation with someone the way that I can in English without thinking twice about how I construct my sentences and place my pronouns. But again, it’s only been a week and considering that I am doing pretty well for myself. It will get easier. I will (hopefully) stop getting butterflies before ordering a drink at a restaurant for fear of making a mistake.
I’ve come to accept that I’m always going to look somewhat foreign here and that people are going to look at me strangely as I struggle through my everyday tasks of taking the bus, walking to class, etc., but I know that things will get easier and will pretty soon become second nature to me. I also have come to the realization that even if I do get judgy stares from old ladies on the bus and even if my dancing at the discothèque is a bit too crazy for some it’s okay—of course I want to adjust to life here as much as I can but there’s no reason that I should feel self conscious about not yet having reached that point. I want to be sensitive to the cultural differences but even though I would love to have been born in France, sadly I was not and I am an American. If anything, I would like my actions to challenge the general stereotype of Americans and help people realize that yes, despite what reality television and rampant consumerism suggest, my country does have its own unique culture (actually quite a few that are very diverse) and not everyone who comes from it can be reduced into one hyperbolic stereotype, just like not all French people are baguette-wielding beret wearing snobs. So ends my rant (don’t worry, there will be plenty more to come). But until then, à bientôt!