- Bagging your own groceries
The first time I went to the grocery store, I thought for approximately 30 seconds, “hmm I wonder where the bagger is…” and then I saw a lady bagging her groceries in my peripheral and I thought, “Oh gosh, I’m the bagger!” But since then, I’ve learned to put heavy things on the bottom and balance my grocery bags so my shoulders aren’t killing me by the time I get home. I’ve even gotten good at putting the heavy stuff first on the conveyer belt thing (is there a name for it in English? It’s a tapis roulant or “rolling rug” in French) so it’s in order when it comes time to bag.
- Using a scale while cooking
A scale is a staple in a French kitchen. Since I don’t own one, I typically use the “guess and hope for the best” method at home, but every time G and I cook together, he pulls out the scale to measure rice or flour or whatever. I rolled my eyes at first, but found myself measuring pasta recently because looks can be deceiving when making spaghetti and I’m not trying to feed an army.
- Constant measurement conversions
Sure, cooking with an American recipe is a pain because of grams and liters instead of cups and ounces. But it gets even more complicated because when you’re talking about eyesight measurements, 20/20 doesn’t impress and if you’re blood pressure here is ever /80, you’d be long dead. I’ve memorized my height and weight in meters and kilos but I’m hopeless estimating distances in kilometers (although I’m almost equally hopeless with miles). And I’ve definitely Googled on the fly while shoe or bra or yarn shopping (crocheting using the metric system is very complicated).
- Switching back and forth between QWERTY and AZERTY keyboards
This is the bane of my existence. I learned to type in middle school on a QWERTY keyboard, oblivious to the fact that other keyboards exist. My muscle memory is strong on key placement and I never look at the keyboard while I type. When I arrived in France, however, I learned the torture that it relearning a new keyboard setup. Of course this realization occurred my first day of school as they were setting up my computer account and I kept messing up on logging in because I couldn’t type properly. The worst offenders in terms or misplaced keys are letters A and M as well as punctuation and numbers. Just when I train my brain and fingers start to punch the right keys while typing an e-mail at school, I come home and get all messed up. Obviously, this is trivial in the grand scheme of things but is interesting nonetheless.
- Being a spokesperson on foreign policy, American politics, and celebrity gossip
Most days, I field questions about Trump and if Americans are really dumb enough to vote for him (a question too baffling to have a coherent response). But every so often, a colleague will ask about the caucus system or how super delegates work and I can usually offer a rudimentary, incomplete answer but I almost always don’t have the vocabulary to do it in French. The other day, I was informed by a colleague that Texas just voted that children can carry guns and they don’t have to be hidden (I think she was referring to open carry laws, I told her I’d have to do some research on that one…). At any given moment, my students expect me to know what Nicki Minaj is doing as well as any other American they can think of. This can range from being hilarious to being profoundly obnoxious.
Thankfully, most of the differences I think about frequently are minor and easy to adjust to. Except for France complete lack of Mexican food. That could be a deal breaker on whether I want to stay in this country…