Going abroad is shocking in many ways. Naturally, we will feel surprised, and at times, even overwhelmed by the differences between us and the culture of our host country. No matter whether or not you have been there before, traveled a lot, or have done extensive research, you will still find some things in your new society hard to adapt to. However, rather than complain, find ways to see knowledge in the way things are done. Seek to understand these traditions and cultures on a deeper level.
In my time in Paris, I've certainly stumbled upon a few things that took me by surprise, so in the interest of sparking your research, here they are:
- There is no air conditioning. Yes, this one hurts. As a Texas girl, the idea of buildings lacking air conditioning is frankly disturbing. However, this is a reality for most people in Europe (especially if you live in an older city like Paris, where most of the apartments are pretty old too). Don't worry too much – most of Europe is relatively chillier than Texas, but definitely be ready to sleep with your window open to survive in the summer months.
- They eat like madmen. Never have I ever experienced eating in the capacity I did with my host parents. Firstly, there are courses, typically three. The first course is usually something light, such as a slice of melon or a carrot salad. The main course will range vastly depending on your family, and can also include a salad. Then, dessert – if you're lucky like I was, your host mom will never skimp out on this one. My personal favorite was chocolate rice pudding with cookies to dip, accompanied by some blueberries. Secondly, they eat fast. I've always been a notoriously slow eater, and despite my best efforts to keep up with my host family scarfing down their food, I just couldn't. Don't worry too much about this one – they'll always be willing to wait for you. Lastly, the French always have bread at the table. The stereotype of the Frenchman walking down the road with a baguette under his arm is arguably the most accurate one you'll hear. Bread will always be present, available, and fresh. Also, for my fellow budget buyers out there, a baguette costs less than a euro, slap a little cheese on it and you have dinner. As a vegetarian and certified broke girl, this was my meal quite often.
- They don't waste. Due to their history of rationing, the French will hate seeing you waste any food. If for some reason you can't eat the meal provided (it will happen, somethings you might just find absolutely repulsive), just don't knock it until you try it. One of the most beneficial things my program did for me was to expand my diet immensely, and that is only because I challenged myself to try everything. Yes, I still hate mushrooms, but at least I tried!
- They can be nice, if you are too. One of the main things I'd heard about the French is that they're incredibly rude, especially to foreigners. Yes, Paris is a big city, people will shove past you with no remorse or apology (shocking from my Southern hospitality expectations). However, for the most part, if you do the bare minimum and at least greet them in French, they will be so much kinder. I was worried about my ability to order in French, but anytime I struggled with a word, the servers would always be willing to help me out in English. All you have to do is realize that this isn't a place for your American arrogance – realize that you're entering into their world, and be courteous about it.
The list could go on forever, into miniscule things like how they hold their shower heads, or how they have the most delicious McDonald's vegetarian option I've ever had (Tomato Mozza wrap – try it), or how they yell Ah-la-la at their soccer players. But the fun of studying abroad is learning all these little things, so I'll leave it to you to discover.
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<p>Maya Haws-Shaddock is a rising junior, majoring in Advertising, minoring in French, Business and Digital Arts & Media. Having been raised in Austin, she holds a deep-rooted love for local live music, funky aesthetics, and unnecessary winter clothes she’ll never get to wear. While not staring into the endless void of Adobe Masterworks, Maya spends her time working in a variety of student organizations, drinking overpriced chai, making the most of the local live music, or digging through racks of questionably clean clothing at her local thrift stores.</p>