Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pros and Cons

Spending this time in France is such a roller coaster. There are moments when I feel like I'm at the
complete end of my sanity and can't take another minute, and then there are moments when I'm struck by what a cool and unique experience this all is. I would say in the overall big picture, it is difficult, and I'm looking forward to going home in May, but there are definitely pros and cons along the way. I would also say that I hit a turning point about 3-4 weeks in. Before that point, I regretted coming here, but since then I'm glad we came. I will start with some positives.

Pros:
  • The bread. Every single block has some combination of bakery/pastry shop/chocolate shop with gorgeous and fresh bread and sweets. The going rate for a baguette is 0.95 Euro. That's like $1.20.
  • The wine. It really is that good. And again, super affordable.
  • The architecture. Just walking through Strasbourg or visiting any of the nearby villages is a breathtaking aesthetic experience.
  • The active lifestyle. Of course this is not unique to France, but living in a city and not driving, it feels good to walk everywhere and be outside for a good part of the day.
  • Travels. We are really taking advantage of being in Europe by taking lots of day trips, weekend trips, etc to try to enjoy the region and do some sightseeing. We have visited several cities in Germany, took a trip to Switzerland, and we have trips to Paris, London, western France, and Holland in the works. We will explore more of the Alsace area too, and we might even squeeze in a trip to Italy.
  • Speaking French. I really love this opportunity to improve and practice my French. I love language, and speaking French is such a treat, one that I am relishing. 
  • Diaper service! It has been really nice to have a break from washing diapers, and I love the fitteds they use here.
Cons:
  • Isolation. This has got to be the worst one. I feel incredibly lonely and isolated being in a foreign country without any friends and most of my time spent with a one and three-year old. I'm someone who really loves to connect with others and really, just...chat. And I don't have a lot of that here.
  • Lack of high chairs. Most places do not have them, even kid-friendly places.
  • Not family-friendly in general. Kids just seem to not be accepted here the same way they are in the US. Kids are not out in public or in shops much, and I get a lot of looks when I have my noisy children pretty much anywhere indoors.
  • Feeling like a foreigner–just navigating through the day can be difficult because customs are just different in different countries.
  • Difficulty communicating. How contradictory of me to list this as a con after I just mentioned how much I love to speak French. But you can love something while still not being good at it (ahem, my singing ability!). It is frustrating to be unable to find the words I want, but that is how I learn. Also, this gives me professional insight and perspective regarding people with communication disorders, since I am a speech therapist.
  • Lack of organized activities. I have always been the kind of stay-at-home-mom who schedules activities and thrives on an organized routine centered around being with other moms and kids and doing kid-centered activities (at least since Penny turned 1). Two days/week, we have something organized here, but the other days, we wing it. I do miss our classes and playgroups, preschool, etc. But I would say that I'm adjusting to the new normal fairly well. In a way, it has been a good bonding experience with the girls and a chance to slow down and enjoy each other. Although, Penny does ask me at least 3 times a week when she can go back to school.
That's all I can come up with for now. And I really hope this doesn't come across as ungrateful–I really do appreciate this opportunity, but it's also real life, and sometimes the reality of something doesn't match exactly with the expectation or the with the way you might imagine it to be.

2 comments:

  1. I feel like I'll be writing a similar post in a few weeks. We arrived in Montreal this week and don't even have a place to live yet. It's scary and exciting, and I keep hoping my years of studying French will soon come flooding back to me. I'm glad you do have plenty of things to enjoy about being there, but I totally understand how frustrating it can be at the same time. The trips you have planned sound fantastic, though!

    ReplyDelete
  2. i know exactly how you feel.i've been living in italy for 6 years now and i'm still so lonely.no real friends especially no moms here to share experiences as allo f my hubby's friends are single:( plus no organized activities here too so it's me and my two kiddos...but at least i go every 2-3 months to my home country (600 miles away) and stay for a month each time with my parents and friends!

    ReplyDelete