major difference #1: everyone is nice.
the most startling part is how friendly people are. or i suppose, how friendly people seem to be. everywhere i go i am greeted with a smile. walking up the street to the grocery store (which, by the way, is open twenty-four hours a day... weird concept) at least three or four people ask how i am. who are these people? i wonder. and why the hell are they talking to me? a stark contrast to the stoic faces of strangers back in france. suddenly when face to face with my own culture, theirs makes so much more sense. i don/t know these people. they don/t know me. when they ask me how it/s going do they even care? i know the answer. i work three jobs now. i probably come in contact with at least a hundred different people a day. i ask all of them how they are. and for how many of them can i honestly say knowing the answer to my question might have a significant effect on my day? probably about three.
have i become cold? what is this feeling? it just makes so much more sense to only share a smile with someone you care about smiling with.
major difference #2: popularity.
it/s a major driving force in high school and we pretend it dissolves after graduation, but we all know that it is highly prevalent in every aspect of american society. in neighborhoods and workplaces and pta meetings. there is the social heirarchy and while it doesn't always directly correlate with financial status, it usually does. i did not fully comprehend the extent of this web until returning after being away from it all for so long. a few days after returning to the states i went to visit my father in his new office building in downtown seattle. when the doors opened on the way up the elevator and one of the successful attorneys cut everyone else off (including all the women) i literally laughed out loud. priorities here seem way messed up.
major difference #3: everyone is pressed for time.
this one goes without saying. we all know it. yet we all still manage to victimize ourselves and keep the vicious circle going. time is money. in a restaurant, our servers want us to get in and get out so they can get more tables and make more money, which is fine because we want to leave anyway and go buy more expensive things. at stores we can/t ever take time to peruse and get immensely irate if we have to wait a few minutes in line. in the car we are furious at everyone around us because they are not going as fast as we want to. patience is a trait that i learned (painfully at first) abroad. i need to remember to try to hang on to it here.
major difference #4: no bread, no berets, no cigarettes.
no one walks around with baguettes in their purses or cigs constantly hanging out of their mouths. apartments don/t reek of stale smoke. and it is normal to be a non-smoker as opposed to going directly against the status quo. as stereotypical as it sounds, i miss the old french men walking around with their canes and berets with a baguette tucked under the arm and a constantly burning cigarette in their mouth. it added something asthetically. and i miss bread in general. and croissants. real croissants that is.
major difference #5: everything is new.
walking through my neighborhood in france i passed many buildings and churches and mosques and storefronts that are centuries old. cobblestone streets and crumbling stone walls are part of europe/s appeal. the colorful doorways and window shutters that we see try to capture in pictures against a backdrop of such aging villages is part of what makes us long to visit, spend time, live there. and yet here in the us of a if any building is more than twenty years old we completely tear it down and start all over. i don/t quite understand. why don/t we just construct our buildings right the first time and then appreciate how styles may change as time goes on? isn/t that what life is all about? measuring the work of today against the work of yesterday? isn/t that how we measure progress? tearing every accomplishment to the ground in an effort to "rebuild and make it better" prevents us from seeing exactly where we may make improvements and we ultimately end up regressing. but then again our society in general is focused almost entirely on consumption, and rebuiding does require consumption of new materials. i still strongly believe that our most beautiful modern cities pale in comparison to the small villages of europe. but that might be just me.
of course there are other differences. the fact that i now would consider myself an adult. the fact that all my friends live in different cities around the globe. the fact that the love of my life is 10,000 km away and that i cannot say for sure the next time i will feel his embrace. the fact that i am planning a 50,000 km bike trip around the world. the fact that i am done with school but still feel that there is oh so much to learn. the fact that everyone (myself included) uses automobiles far too much. the fact that i wake up and fall asleep each night feeling terribly alone. but these are all new feelings and i still need time to digest. to readjust.
change and differences and exposure to new things is the best part of this life and i am eager to continue. i cannot wait for my next adventure. three months in taiwan; a year in france; what will the world present me next???
Type rest of the post here
a few words about miss chelsea elizabeth...
oregon-born, seattle-raised, bellingham-bred and franco-refined, she had moved back to the states from her affairs across the atlantic & now resides in columbia city with french husband & love of her life rémy. they spend most of their time taming the garden, taking care of their three chickens & two cats, and preparing the urban homestead for a new little chick of their own.
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