Monday, November 27, 2006

Foreign in the U.S.A.

I felt so at home with John's family in Ohio during our Thanksgiving vacation there. It was such a wonderful time -- getting to know one another better, laughing, cooking, eating, making music, playing with the kids. I wish we could have stayed a little longer. Being with family is good. There's a certain kind of warmth that you can't get anywhere else. It must be all that love in the air.

Stepping out of the coziness of family and home to go shopping or eat in a restaurant sometimes felt like stepping into foreign territory. I've been in France so long I've forgotten how things go in the States. For example, in the airport restaurants, it was a bit startling to hear the service employees calling their clients, "honey," a way too familiar term for France, where we have to use the polite "vous" form for all verb conjugations when talking with someone we don't know. Using the familiar "tu" form is just plain rude unless you're talking to a friend, a family member (with the exception of certain elders), or children. "Honey" is more on a "tu" level, or maybe lower.

The shopping experience really made me feel "etrange" (foreign). First of all, at the supermarket, I automatically started bagging my groceries and realized later that the cashier or bagger usually does that. Doesn't hurt to help out though, right? I always feel funny anyways when someone is doing something for me that I could easily do myself. Even before I went to France. I always tried to avoid having my groceries taken to my car by an employee, except for when I had really heavy items like fifty-pound bags of dog food.

At Target (no, pronouncing it "tar-jhay" doesn't make it French, contrary to popular belief), I removed my cart from its line of nestled siblings from the wrong direction (I forgot that the carts run from the outside to the inside in places like Target and Wal-Mart allowing access to the cart from the interior of the store) and felt discombobulated when it came to paying with a credit card. Slide it through, follow screen instructions, sign paper. In France, most people use a debit card or cash, and our card machines are different where you actually insert your card and type in your PIN.

I'm also having trouble recognizing cars now, when I used to be really in tune with the domestic and import car industry in the States (at one point in high school, I wanted to become a car designer). I'm familiar with most French models of Citroen, Peugeot, and Renault. But ask me to recognize the more recent models Japanese and American cars? I'd be at a loss.

Geez, I couldn't even recognize my preferred facial cleanser by Clearasil (unavailable in France)! They completely changed their look from a bold blue to mostly white. I was happy to notice, though, that Jif peanut butter (ca n'existe pas en France) looks the same as ever.

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