I’ve been living here long enough to adapt, but my first days in the United States were full of culture shock. I thought maybe I’d made the wrong decision in moving here. Who hasn’t second guessed themselves after such a big turning point in their lives, though? I’m still here, and don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon! But here are a few things I was asking my new American friends when I arrived, and most of my French friends have the same questions when they visit.
- Dating. It’s not the game here in the United States that it is in France. You don’t look at the people you like the same way we do. There are no “rules” in France. But here? Oh my god, if you go out to a movie, you have to label it a date! If you do it more than once or twice, suddenly you have to label the relationship as more serious. You have a new boyfriend or girlfriend! I found it so ridiculous. In France you can do whatever you like without labeling it. “Dating” in France is a casual affair, and we don’t label it or constrict it like you do.
- Dressing. I’ll follow it up with an aspect of American culture I’ve fallen in love with over time: casual dress, like always. In France you look your best almost around the clock. “Casual” might work for relationships, but it certainly doesn’t work for clothes. French standards are high; American standards are not. But that’s okay! People should be free to wear whatever they like without judgment. Buying groceries in pajama pants? It was one of the most liberating moments of my life, even though a friend had to drag me out to enjoy the experience.
- Meals. They’re less about socializing over here, and more about needing nourishment. It’s not uncommon to see an American work through their lunch break, or bring a lunch to their desk. We don’t understand that at all! We take our time to eat and talk, and then we rest. We go back to work later, but the French world pretty much shuts down for lunch. You guys can enjoy your half-hour, but I miss my two-hour midday break.
- Driving. Your standards are a joke to pretty much everyone else. Your driving exams are meant to be passed, even at age sixteen. When I trained to get my California license, I couldn’t believe how easy the test was — and that was in LA, where they’re supposed to be more difficult. It makes me feel more anxious on the road, knowing that there are so many sixteen-year-old kids out driving (while on their phones, of course). As if that’s normal!