29 May 2011

Hidden Ambassador

There are loads of American tourists in Paris right now.  High tourist season is right around the corner, and despite high fuel prices and a low, battered dollar, Americans are here enjoying a city that has enchanted generations with its food, its romance, and its beauty.  I hear Americans speaking, and my ears pick right up.  How lovely it is to actually be able to hear people talking and understand them without even trying.  Although, sometimes I don't really want to hear what they are saying.  But still!  The concept is nice!

I am getting married to a wonderful French man in less than a month.  We are a little crazy with all the last minute details, so between working and wedding planning, it's hard to think of anything else!  But today, I had a deeper thought on my daily commute to work. (You tend to have deep thoughts when you are trying to avoid making eye contact with others as well as forget that your nose is crammed in some stinky armpit.)  By marrying a French citizen, and by making the conscious decision to stay here in Paris, I am becoming a sort of ambassador.  I represent my country, my culture, my language all while blending in and an taking on a new culture, language, and home.  And here you thought my wedding talk was a random tangent...

Seeing Americans in the metro today made me realize that...

Holy Crap, I am kinda gonna be a Frenchy in a month!

It also made me realize some of the things I miss about being an American in the USA.

For example, I miss being able to wear blue jeans and sneakers.  Not the Ben Simon sneakers either that these Parisian kids wear either.  We're talking incredibly comfy, thick sneakers.  Or heck, even a sweatshirt.  Wear one in Paris, and you ain't hip.  I saw a woman wearing jeans and a fleece pullover from her American university in the Parisian metro.  She was wearing makeup and looked nice in my American head.  But I could so never wear that here.  It's almost as if you have to dress up to go to the grocery store in the 75.  I just wanna throw on my sorority flip flops and yoga pants and go.

And beer.  God, I miss microbrews and really good beer.  Women aren't "supposed" to drink beer here in France.  It's not considered to be feminine. And often, you have to go to special bars to get a nice glass that isn't 1664.  I think a Flying Saucer type bar would do well here, with thousands of beers to choose from.  Yes, we have wine...but sometimes wine just doesn't cut it.

I miss Southern hospitality.  I miss smiles when I walk in stores and the need for everyone to look after you.  I miss politeness and being polite.  The hustle and bustle of the metro, the defensive behavior you take on in Paris or any big city leaves you tired at the end of the day.

Speaking of hospitality, I miss customer service.  I know I'm not the only American expat in Paris thinking about this one.  If you are gonna call a customer service line here in Paris, you better brace yourself for a tongue lashing from a "friendly" customer service rep that is supposedly being recorded to better improve service.  Pfff...  Calling American customer service lines is like a breath of fresh friendly air.

When fall rolls around, and the cool winds of autumn start to settle in, I start to miss tailgates.  I never thought I would say this, but I do.  I miss getting together with friends, having a glass of beer or Jack and Coke, eating bar-b-que, and then heading off to the game.  I miss the smell of the grill and charcoal and the charred meat.  Oh and beer.  Another moment when I miss beer.

Despite all of the things I miss doing and being in America, I know there are things about France that I would miss terribly if Fab and I decided to head back over across the pond.



Pastries (even if they do make me 
fat and hate their existence...)

And of course...

Certainly I'd miss...

Of course there is the quality of life here.  I may scoff at the Parisians and their stressed out 'tudes in the metro, but they really do got it good.  5 weeks paid vacation, 11 public holidays, plus an extra day every month (an RTT)...That's a lot of time to chill.  Picnics in the parks on Sundays with friends and family.  Long dinners in some of the best restaurants in the world.  Affordable healthcare, as well as an interest in making sure you are healthy to keep you from becoming sick rather than an interest in only taking care of you once you really are sick.  The list goes on.  I would definitely miss all of this.

I guess being a hidden ambassador isn't gonna be all that bad.  I can have the best of all worlds.  Sure I won't have a swanky Embassy and the glamorous parties that go with it.  But I will have picnics on Sundays in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, while wearing my flip flops and my t-shirt.  Heck, apparently I can even go to many a restaurant in Paris for a burger with foie gras on it.  But most importantly, I'll have the chance to create my own microcosm of Franco-American culture in our tiny apartment in Paris.  Who said this job didn't come with perks?

What about you other American expats living in Paris/France/other countries?  What do you miss about the USA?  What would you miss about your current home if you moved back?  Would love to see your comments!!

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