Grenoble is undoubtedly the most beautiful place I have ever lived at this point. It’s surrounded on three sides by some of France’s most well-known and most-skied mountains: the Belledonne’s to the east (bordering Italy), the Vercours to the West, and Chartreuse (like the monks and the liquor) to the north. It’s actually fairly impossible to get lost in Grenoble, even though I’ve done it now 4 times, because the mountains are all very distinct, and anywhere you are you can still see them. But they’re also a constant reminder of something much more literally foreign: my global placement.
I’ve been becoming increasingly aware of my place in the world, and when your window looks out onto the most French-looking street this side of the Champs-Elysees, it’s rather inevitable. But aesthetics aside, the other non-ignorable constant is the culture shock I’ve been going through for the last two weeks since I was woken up from a nap on an airplane and realized I’d landed in this country. Since then I’ve been hit over and over again with strange differences that I thought I’d be perfectly able to adapt to: no one smiling on the tram, kissing everyone’s cheeks, a constant stream of “bonjour,” “merci,” “bon journee,” and “au revoir” so the French don’t still not smile at you. And luckily, through all of that, I manage to clam up and squeak out a few “mercis’”.
(The view from my French room)
It sounds a little stressful, but it’s not! It’s the most wonderful, cultural experience I’ve ever had. I’d been trying to put my finger on the exact language barrier when, in VERY RAPID French, my new grammar teacher put it perfectly. English allows you to say a lot of things in very few words, and even basic French requires a high level of sentence intricacy, the kind that I’m learning it takes years to master. But then I focused in on the coolest part of her having said that: I understood it all perfectly. Every single word. And maybe I couldn’t quite form the same sentiment in a perfectly grammatically correct way, but I understood it. Which honestly made me less embarrassed that I couldn’t quite say it yet. So I decided: I’ve only been here for two weeks, and I figure if I listen more and talk a little less, I could probably learn a thing or two. Au revoir!