Deep breath; gut check. I have been in France for 6 months. A friend from college had the great suggestion that I do a self-evaluation at 4 months. That date came and I didn’t feel ready. I marked on my calendar to check-in at 6 months and here I am. So much has happened–the many obstacles I’ve written about, making new friends, trying new foods, adjusting to the culture, starting a new job, etc. I take each day as it comes and when I look back, I have to say I’ve accomplished a lot! Everyone asks if I’ve “settled in”. At what point is one “settled”? When you have a fridge and a microwave? When every item you brought with you has a place to go in your new home? When you stop thinking about where you used to live? No, I don’t feel settled in yet.
Here are some things that have happened in the last 6 months: I’m fully stocked on all the ID cards I need to live here. My driver’s license, work/resident permit, carte vitale, bank card, and Monoprix carte de fidélité. I’ve travelled to Paris, Lyon, and Germany. I’ve been to IKEA near Geneva 4x, soon to be 5x. I bought a car and can drive like a French person thanks to living in MA for over 6 years; I can navigate the rond-points (roundabouts) like a pro! I’ve made some good friends and continue to make new ones. I can talk to the vendors at the outdoor markets in French. I hiked part of the Mont Blanc Trail. I caught World Cup fever and cheered on Team France. I know my way around the winding streets of La Vieille Ville. I’m surviving without a TV, dishwasher, and microwave. I’ve gained some weight–ooofff!! I know where to find dried black beans. I joined a salon/spa club….and perhaps the most important thing, my work-life balance is really, really good. I live in the heart of town so it’s so easy for me to head out the door at any moment to go shopping, meet friends, go to the lake, and see some of the many activities that are going on now that it’s summer. It’s mid-July so school’s out and people are starting to take their holidays so my commute is noticeably faster. The other day I got from my parking spot at work to my spot at home in TEN minutes. I was changed and on my balcony having a beer in the sunshine in less than 20 minutes! How about that?
I do have my moments. It hasn’t been this romantic ideal of sitting at outdoor cafés eating croissants or sipping wine on my balcony. If I look back on my posts, there were some huge obstacles and moments of frustration. I’ve come to realize that “no” or “not right now” is not the end of the world, I just have to alter my expectations or change my course. Things WILL happen and things WILL get done. Maybe not in the timeframe I had in mind but I’m learning to roll with it. I will reserve the right to bitch about it and having friends here to share troubles with makes it easier. In some ways it still feels like I’m on holiday; like I’ll be returning to Portland soon. Another thing everyone asks me is if I plan returning for a visit this year. I’ve avoided making too many big purchases that make my stay here more permanent because in the back of my mind I think, “I’m not staying for long, this isn’t my home.” I’m still trying to decide if I want to buy a washing machine vs going to the laundromat. Don’t get me wrong, I’d LOVE to go to PDX to visit, but to do so now would feel like a step backwards. I still have one foot in that city and when I’m trying to move forward and embrace my new surroundings, it won’t help. Everyone that has experienced what I’m going through has told me it takes one year to acclimate and feel like I “live” in my new town. I remember it with Boston and Portland. I can’t remember how long it took, but it’s that feeling when you get off the plane after a trip somewhere. You’re on your way home and you feel a sense of relief and contentment. Here’s looking at the next six months and whatever they may bring.