5 & 5 Friday: The easiest and most difficult transitions from American to French life

Because this is my first trip to France, I did not have too many preconceived notions about what life would be like here. I hadn't spend a lot of time imagining my life in Lille, because I'd barely seen any photos before arriving.

My blank French slate coupled with my being an American has already led to many interesting discussions about differences between the United States and France. So, for my first 5 & 5 Friday post, I'm breaking down the five easiest and five most difficult transitions I've experienced since my arrival 2.5 weeks ago.

We'll start with the easiest. It was surprisingly easy to find five!

Five easiest transitions

1) Walking everywhere. Walkability is one of the most important factors I take into consideration when I think about where I want to live. It's one of the reasons I love Blacksburg so much. Lille is so incredibly walkable--each day I walk 15 minutes to the main train station, 5 min to get my groceries, and I can easily jog to the nearby Citadelle with awesome running trails. 

2) And with that in mind, never having to drive! I'll happily spend in train tickets what I spend on gas at home. More reading time!

3) Surprisingly, speaking so much French. I thought it would be really hard to do things like open a bank account and work in a French school. People are either pretending to understand me, or it's going alright.

4) Joining my new gym. I was super worried that I would have a hard time following along because I've never learned any "exercise" vocab in French, but apparently neither has anyone else. Our warmup and reps are explained in French, but the actual exercises/lifts are in English. So, I'm actually able to focus on my workout and then use my French brain to try and make friends.

5) The leafies! I was initially disappointed to see that most of the trees in Lille turn yellow in fall, with not much red/orange variety. But, I was pleasantly surprised on my first trip to Saint Amand (the town where I work), when there were the typical orange-red-yellow beauties that I love! The cleaner air and bigger variety of trees outside the city gives me like 1/5 the happy tree feelings I have in Blacksubrg. I think that's a pretty good amount of happy.

Five difficult transitions

1) From what I've seen, the French aren't super concerned about hydration. At my school today, I was only able to drink two bottles of water the entire eight hours I spent there, which I was really bummed about. And still, people were commenting on the amount of water I was drinking. This is going to be a really tough adjustment because I, like many people (or so I thought?!?!?) like to not be dehydrated. And I would say that I'll just continue drinking water as I do at home, but there seems to be a parallel with the lack of water consumption to the ease of finding a restroom. Sigh.

2) Paperwork. Immigration, school dossier, social security, opening a bank account, CAF housing reimbursement, monthly train pass, young people discount card, teacher's discount card for museums, transportation reimbursement, lease contract........it's not even that it's "difficult." There are just so many different things to keep track of that it's a little stressful to make sure I'm doing all the right stuff.

3) Teaching English as a second language. Because I learned French, and then taught French at VT, I feel very much accustomed to helping students learn a language in the same way that I did. However, my instincts are all wrong to teach English. When the kids practice spelling in English, my brain defaults to French because that is the the "foreign" part of the language. I'm looking forward to the challenge of re-programming it.

4) Not working as a photographer in the same capacity. I'm excited to work on my business while I'm gone and I'm excited to get some great photos in France, but my business had a really great summer and it was a bummer to have it come to a pause. However, I do love going out for a walk and grabbing my camera. There are so many pretty details to be found in my neighborhood. (A few more from this week below)

5) Missing my puppers. I spent all day everyday of the summer with them, and my days off of work just feel quiet now. What does one do when you're not spending all of your free time taking dogs out or to the park???

Thanks for reading the first 5 & 5 Friday :) Enjoy some unrelated but fun photos of architecture around Lille--and a few kids skating at the cathedral which really gave me the giggles.