Wednesday, January 6, 2010

De retour en France...

Well, I'm back in France and have been since Sunday.  Normally I would be thrilled to be back, but this time I am not.  I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about it, and I've been busy trying to figure it out.  I absolutely did not want to get on that plane on Saturday and I would have done almost anything to stay.  Unfortunately I had to get back to reality, to work, and to my miserable apartment.

For the first time ever I was truly devastated to be leaving the US and after all this time abroad, I think I am finally experiencing homesickness.  It's a weird feeling for me.  I've always prided myself on my ability to adapt to change with little to no difficulty, but this time it is hard.  And it isn't even true change because I've been living in France for a while now.  I think it just finally hit me.  I had been home in over a year and I finally went back and saw my family and friends after such a long absence and I just really started to realize what I am leaving behind.  Plus, before I always knew that I would be going home in the summer, and now I don't know when my next visit will be.  I'm hoping for August, but I can't be sure that it will work out.

Before I left for the States everyone kept telling me that it would be good for me and it was exactly what I needed for the holidays.  But now I'm starting to wonder if that was true.  I don't think it was good for me; it just left me more hurt and depressed than anything else.  And I don't know if it was what I needed; it has only created more questions without answers.  This whole trip has left me feeling sad and uncertain.

I am starting to wonder if Lionel and I should stay in France or if we would be better off in the United States with higher salaries and more luxury.  But perhaps I am just looking at this through rose-tinted glasses.  I am fresh off a great visit to the US where I was on vacation and not working.  Perhaps I have forgotten those realities of life in the United States that originally made me happy to leave.  Maybe I need a reminder so I can feel more comfortable with my life here and more certain that staying is what is best.  But for now, the question is in my head: do I want us to go to the US and give life there a try?  For the first time ever Lionel actually said (in complete seriousness) that if I want to go back, we can go.  Is that what I want?  I think I have a lot of thinking to do.  Or perhaps I just need to return to my routine in France and things will be better.

The strangest thing is, I don't know if I should be feeling this way either.  I felt very awkward in the US.  I felt comfortable with my family and friends, but with everything else it was strange.  I easily fell back into the habit of driving everywhere (let's face it, I don't really love the metro), but there were other things that just felt so strange and made me feel like an outsider even in my home.  I thought it was the most amazing thing in the world to hear people around me in stores and restaurants speaking English.  Every time I heard it I was confused and shocked.  It just seemed strange.  And I could not get used to tipping and showing ID.  It just didn't feel natural and I had completely forgotten it was necessary.  It also felt foreign to be surrounded by so many chubby, poorly-dressed people.  Not that I am the skinniest person in the world and not that I dress well, but even I felt small when I was back in the States.  And I felt like I was dressed in designer clothing compared to the people around me.  It was strange.  I also noticed that my English has been suffering from living in France.  I noticed myself saying things and as soon as they came out of my mouth I knew it wasn't right (either it didn't sound right or I could tell from the looks on people's faces).  It was difficult and it concerns me.  I think it is a mix of all the French around me and of having to teach British English most of the time, rather than American English.

So what do you do when you no longer feel completely at home when you are home?  When you don't feel at home anywhere that you live or have lived?  How do you decide which place is best for you and where you will be happiest?  Or do you just put all the thoughts aside and live life as it is and not worry about the future?

This trip has confused me more than ever.  When once I thought I was certain I knew what I wanted, I am now unsure of what to do.  But I guess for now I have no choice but to stay in France and continue the path I am on now.  I can only try to make the best of it by looking for a new job, finding that bigger and better apartment and by seeing what 2010 has to offer.


  1. Hi Michele
    I'm sorry to read your post. If it helps it's something that I've experienced and continue to experience. I don't feel at home anywhere now and am making do in France for the time being but one day I will be off! I did go back to the UK for four years but ended up coming back to France. Have been back here for two years now and its okay, definitely better than the UK but not entirely home! Just have to keep reminding myself why I like living here and what made me come back :)
    I'm sure you'll feel better once you get stuck into your routine and working on your projects. You're young so have plenty of time to consider going back to the US. Homesickness will pass but if it doesn't then you have the option. Good luck.

  2. Michele,
    Thank you for your comment on my post. It's really comforting to know that i'm not the only crazy American experiencing these feelings and asking these hard questions. My hubby also said he'd go live in the US if I wanted to, but then I wonder if i'd be selfish by dragging him that much further away from his family, which is in Reunion.
    I know what you mean about the language! It was funniest to hear it coming out of children's mouths. My brothers teased me and said that I'd developed a French accent, but my friends here tease me that i've got a british accent because i've picked up so many of the expressions from teaching it.
    I think it'll be easiest for us to just stop thinking about it and let what happens, happen. If only I could get over the jet lag and get myself back into the routine!
    Thanks again for your words though, I really do feel more assured knowing that this is something we all must experience at some point. Get back into your routine and see if you don't start feeling better. It would help if we could get some sunshine! :)

  3. Oh trust me, you are not the only one, and I think the above is totally normal, if it is any comfort! :) I have only been here 19 months, but have been back to the States a couple of times in that period and I have gotten a little this way, too.

    I keep thinking about the line from Sarah Turnbull's book "Almost French" where she says once you have lived in another country and called it home, you are always trapped in a situation where you never fit in anyplace! That's a paraphrase, but the point is that the US is never going to be home again because of your experiences in France. Vice versa, too. I am sure there would be a lot of things that you would miss dearly about France if you lived full time in the States, too.

    I have decided for me that "home" kind of has to be inside of myself, inside of my head, if that makes sense, lol. It's more of a state of mind than a place.

    If it is any comfort, my best friend has lived in Antibes for 12 years now, and had been in Japan for four years at one point, too, with some life in the States and other European countries inbetween. She'd been fine in recent months until a visit to the States for Christmas, too, and now she is in the same place in her head as you are. She is also the middle of a divorce with her French husband and is looking at having to live longer in France as they will share custody and he is refusing her to take the children back to the States. *sigh* It has been tough and she is looking at several more years of life in France for her kids' sakes.

    Still, I am sure that the funk will pass, too. It's a horrible time of year for feeling gray about cross-cultural living. Once spring comes, and sunnier, warmer weather is here, I think it will be better.

    In the meantime, I know that David Lebovitz has written about his coping skills for times like these: 8 Coping Tips for Living in Paris

    I tried to write some, but they are things like "blog" and "watch American TV," lol, so I don't know how helpful those are. I do think writing blogs about it does help, though, and then folks like us in the same boat can come online and say, "I get it."


  4. Thank you for your support and for your comments. It makes me feel better to know that I am not the only one who feels this way. Things are getting better. I'm settled back in and back into my routine of waking up, going to my miserable job, being gone all day, coming home late to my miserable apartment, planning lessons, eating dinner, and then going to bed. I'm just trying to take it one day at a time and am trying to find things to look forward to such as finding a new apartment and planning a weekend trip from time to time.

    It's hard to imagine that I am going to feel this depressed every time I go back to visit the US though. It makes it harder to be excited about the idea of visiting my family and friends. But I know it's worth it in the end and I know I wouldn't necessarily be happier in the US right now, just probably richer.