And so my French adventure begins...
It’s a Sunday afternoon in autumn, about 75 degrees (we’ve had a warm few days). I’m sipping a cup of tea in my tiny but oh so charming apartment that is on the premier étage of an amienoise, a traditional house here in Amiens, France. Of course I embrace the fact that my accent and tendency to smile easily reveal that I am américaine, but in many ways, I’m starting to feel like an amienoise myself (a term that can also describe someone who lives here – like a St. Louisan, New Yorker or Parisian).
I’ve got my bonjour, bonne journée, bonsoir, bonne soirée, merci, au revoir, and à vous aussi! down to an art.
I’ve got my go to café where the barista already knows me well enough to charge me for a petit when I order a classique, to give me extra stamps on my loyalty card, and to send me home with a few additional baked goods on Saturday at closing (they are closed on Sundays like many places here).
I’m in the habit of keeping 45 centimes in my back pocket so I’m prepared when I pop into my neighborhood boulangerie on the way home to grab my usual demi baguette.
I’ve got a recycled glass yogurt jar on my desk where I collect coins throughout the week for doing laundry at the lavomatique.
The number to my portable has increased to 10 digits and when I answer the phone conversations are always en français.
I’m very familiar with the sound that follows the scanning of my bus pass, and I’m beginning to feel comfortable with knowing what lines to take to work and what lines to take back home from the city center.
I’ve met wonderful French friends (as well as people from all over the world) and have two tantes françaises (French aunts) in my landladies who have confirmed that they believe I am now a true amienoise.
Another determining factor? I’ve been stopped multiple times on the street and asked for directions or pâtisserie recommendations – and on most occasions I actually have an answer!
As much as I’ve begun to fit in, there has also been so much I’ve had to figure out. When I faire la bise (one of my favorite French behaviors), is it two, three, or four bisous? It turns out this not only varies by region but also by generation! What exactly is the magical hour for changing from bonjour to bonsoir? When faced with four absolutely marvelous looking quiches, how on earth do you decide? (The answer - choose the one that everyone else is choosing. This is also my rule of thumb at the supermarché. Last bottle of wine on the shelf? It must be good. I’ll take it!)
Something I am continuing to figure out: the intricate puzzle that is the French language. Every day my mind is working to remember if a word is feminine or masculine, if something is bon or bien (both mean good), neuf or nouveau (both mean new, all are used in specific situations). I can be overly apologetic, so I’ve had to get myself into the habit of saying pardon instead of désolée when I need to express an “excuse me”. And bien sûr I pick up new phrases all of the time. Et avec ceci? Would you like anything else? Pas de soucis! No worries!
One of the absolute best parts of this experience so far has been finding joy in the small things. I love the neon green glow of the pharmacie signs that mark the entrance to a beauty product lover’s paradise. I love the joie de vivre that comes from shaking baguette and croissant crumbs out of my scarf (and side note, there truly are people walking around with baguettes everywhere). I love that I’ve had the opportunity to develop new habits like choosing to walk when I can and sending more handwritten mail. All of this and it’s only the beginning. In just three weeks I can already feel myself learning and growing immensely. I can’t wait to see what else this adventure has in store for me.
To everyone who has been following along on Instagram, sending well wishes, sending Paris & travel tips, and sending me actual mail (shout out to you Kim!) merci de tout mon coeur. This adventure is even better with you in it. I can honestly say that this has felt right. No force, just flow. How wonderful to feel that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
Warm wishes from me (in France!) to you!