Moving abroad, for any reason, is exciting, but in all that excitement, you can sometimes forget that you are in fact, moving to another country, where the culture, customs, and even the language can be different from home. It’s totally okay to feel homesick, or to feel out of place when you first take that leap of going abroad, but no matter how used to it you get, there are always those few things that can’t be replicated elsewhere. Living in France, I’ve definitely had moments where I’ve thought “it wouldn’t be like this in the states,” or “that’s not how we’d do it back home,” and it can be cathartic in some ways. That being said, there are some things I miss, and would love for them to make their way over to France (and Europe). Here are some of those things:
I 100% missed Target (pronounced tar-jay if you know what I mean), while I was in England, and I miss it equally as much in France. I feel like there are more quasi-superstores here than I encountered in London (at least, places where you can get more than just food), but nothing can ever truly compare to Target (or American superstores for that matter). There’s something about picking up that red basket, and wandering through the aisles that can’t be found in the land of cheese and wine. Not to mention, they had a hilarious adult avocado costume for Halloween, and if I had been at home, I might have bought it for the sheer giggles it would produce (so maybe it’s good we don’t have a Target in Angers?).
2. Things being open on Sundays
This might not be as big of an issue if you live in a super big, touristy city, but here in Angers, Sunday is a QUIET, and UNEVENTFUL day. Very little is open, and if the weather isn’t great, you’re unlikely to see masses of people out and about either. You can’t grocery shop on a Sunday (shoutout to the famous Costco runs, I definitely miss those samples), and there’s just generally very little to do – even those big stereotypical French strikes tend to be organized for Saturday here, so you can see how seriously they take their day of doing nothing. I also miss stores not closing for a couple hours for lunch every day… we get it France, you love your food.
3. To-go beverages
Americans’ go to “on the go” beverage is usually coffee, but since I’m not a coffee drinker, I tend to stick with tea or hot chocolate for my morning pick me up. The French emphasize the importance of relaxed eating, and indulging in your meals, so the idea of grabbing a quick coffee to go isn’t really a thing… My morning commute is not filled with people drinking from paper cups, or from travel mugs (even though I stand out like a sore thumb because I definitely do this with my morning tea because otherwise I would not function), and it doesn’t seem to be a thing to pop into a café to grab a beverage to-go. PLUS, if you do grab to-go, don’t be surprised by the seemingly minuscule sizes, which speaking of, another thing I miss is…
4. Large(r) drink sizes
I know it’s a joke that Americans plus size everything, but that is definitely not an issue here in France. The sizes for beverages can sometimes be a little smaller here, but that doesn’t mean they’re cheaper! I miss being able to go into a cafe, order a hot chocolate, and having it be the size of an actual drink, rather than something I can consume in three sips. I remember getting a hot chocolate to go one afternoon for kicks and giggles, and it was the size of an espresso shot… that was the only choice I had, and it was consumed almost before I’d left the shop!
5. A proclivity for snacking
No matter where you shop for your food in the States, there’s usually a giant snack aisle, filled with an assortment of snack foods that can range from healthy to absolutely not so. As I’ve mentioned before, France takes their meals seriously, so even their goûters (snacks) aren’t quite the same as I would be used to at home. Not to mention, the snack food that is available tends to be spendier because it isn’t a common purchase. I miss being able to buy hoards of granola bars (at a reasonable price) and goldfish crackers that I could nibble whenever that afternoon hunger takes over (because I can be a #hangrygal).
6. Peanut Butter
Don’t get me wrong, Nutella is great, but nothing can quite substitute my love for peanut butter, and the versatility it has when it comes to how it can be eaten. I miss being able to eat my fruit with some added creamy protein, topping up some dessert for an extra sweet flavor, and coating my late night toast, (or just straight up eating it from the container because why not). Peanut butter is sold in France (mostly in the American/International section) but it’s very expensive when you calculate on a per gram basis, so I haven’t splurged for it yet. That being said, I miss it a lot, so it might happen soon.
7. Goldfish Crackers
Much like peanut butter, this is a go-to snack of mine, and a staple of my diet since I was a child. I miss the cheesiness of the cheddar crackers, and popping a handful into my mouth at once. Even more so, this summer I discovered the Vanilla Cupcake flavored crackers, and I even brought a bag over with me in September (it didn’t last very long) because they are a game changer. I could wax lyrical about Goldfish crackers, but regardless, I miss having them to snack on during my long days, or as a comfort food when I’m feeling down.
8. Burgerville (or whatever your local fast food/burger place is)
I missed Burgerville when I went away to university two states away, so there was no way I was going to France and not wanting some delicious rosemary fries, or a phenomenal chocolate milkshake! There’s something special about your local place, and that definitely can’t be replicated anywhere else. I made sure to have my go-to Burgerville meal before I left the States, but that doesn’t mean that when an ad of theirs pops up on my facebook feed that I don’t get a little sad inside that I can’t eat it at this moment in time.
9. People asking “how are you” during many forms of interaction
Unlike in the US, your cashier or bus driver in France isn’t going to ask you how you are when you interact with them. You’ll get a perfunctory hello, and then the interaction is mostly finished, except for you handing them money, and then you say “have a good day/night” and you leave. Even though my conversations aren’t that much shorter in these kinds of situations in France, I still find myself sometimes starting to ask “comment ça va” before remembering that that isn’t really done here (or at least, doesn’t seem to be). I’m not the most outgoing of people, but it’s still a nice little thing to experience whenever you’re out and about. Not to mention, a lot of Americans who do this are very smiley, and their enthusiasm can usually bleed into you, which is not so much the case here.
10. Hearing that good old American accent
Granted, there are Americans participating in TAPIF, so I’m not bereft of hearing English spoken in an American accent, or the English language at all (considering it’s part of my job, it would be concerning if I never heard it), but it’s not quite the same as being surrounded by a language, and accent, that is familiar to your ears. Not to mention, I’ve had several French people tell me my accent is unintelligible, or allude to the idea that Americans don’t speak “proper” English, and sometimes it makes me so sad because I can’t change the way I speak! (this also is by no means a complaint about being in France, surrounded by French… more that I miss the familiarity of what I would be surrounded by at home).
11. Free public restrooms
I’m a planner, and forgive if this is oversharing, but any journey of mine includes planning of where the nearest facilities might be should I need them, and let me tell you, that is not an easy thing to do in this country. There aren’t any Targets, Fred Meyers (shoutout to those of you in the PNW who get it), or really any kind of store that just has a public restroom that you can nip in and use at any given moment. Here, you’ll either have to shell out to use a public restroom (especially in train stations), or you’ll have to hop into a cafe, buy something, and hope that they have a restroom you can use. It’s not something you really think about in the States, but it’s definitely something that you have to think about in France!
Obviously, missing things about the US doesn’t mean that I don’t like being in France, or that there aren’t things I know I’ll miss from France when I leave (potential blog subject for a few months time?). I’m glad I miss things because it means I’m experiencing a different culture, and living somewhere new, all while pushing my personal boundaries, and learning a lot about myself, and the future (whew, run on sentence, sorry to all my English teachers this sentence offended).