Welcome to a stop on Samantha Vérant Seven Letters from Paris blog tour .
SEVEN THINGS I’VE LEARNED WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE
1) I’ve learned to laugh at myself.
When I first moved to France, I was terrified to speak French to people outside of my family. I made so many faux pas, and, unfortunately, most of mistakes had a sexual innuendo attached to it, thanks to mispronunciations. For a while, I spoke in a voice so soft nobody could hear me. (I call this my mouse voice phase). But I had a choice – integrate or pretend I was a mute. I soon discovered that if I wanted to improve my language skills, I actually had to try to speak French with confidence, even if I put myself in extremely embarrassing situations. Today, if I mistakenly ask the butcher to pluck my feathers and tie me up like a chicken, it’s no longer a big deal. And, the French, once they stop laughing with me, will correct my error.
2) I’ve learned to live within my means.
My French husband is not a consumer and I’m no longer one. We work within our budget, only buying what we truly need. There is no credit card debt, no unnecessary spending. (I don’t have a credit card, only a debit card.) This is the French way. I’ve learned to keep my yearnings in check, and I ask myself: “Do I really need it? What purpose would it serve? Would I still be happy without it?” The answer to that last question is always a resounding yes.
3) I’ve learned politeness gets you everywhere.
In France, we say thank you, bonjour, and please to everyone, including the bus driver. For example, at the local patisserie, you say, “Bonjour, Madame. Une baguette, s’il vous plait.” When leaving a shop with your purchase, you always wish the person a nice day, afternoon, or evening. “Bonne soirée. Merci, au revoir!” (Have a nice evening. Thank you! Goodbye!) The same holds true for the other party. I hear or say, “A vous de même” (same to you) a lot. I’m now friends with every local merchant in my town– the butcher, the baker, and my favorite vegetable vendor. Sometimes they give me freebies. A win-win!
4) I’ve learned that sometimes you need to get by with a little help your friends.
I faced so many adjustments and challenges when I moved to France. Along with the difficulties of speaking a language I hadn’t spoken in twenty years, coming to understand the different customs and cultural differences (for example: don’t place your hands on your lap at the dinner table because people will wondering what you’re doing!), obtaining a French drivers license, and becoming an immigrant, I also had to adjust to instant motherhood. I had so much to learn and I had to do it quick, but I didn’t know where to turn. It’s extremely important for expats to reach out to others who have gone through–or are going through–everything you’re going through or you will explode. It’s also important to carve a life for yourself outside of family life. So that’s what I did. After four months of flying solo without English speaking friends, I posted a greeting on an expat blog. Today, I have more friends than I’ve ever had in my entire life.
5) I’ve learned to live a passionate life.
In one of Jean-Luc’s seven letters, he writes: “It would be a disaster if we stop this passion between us. And I am a man who cannot live without passion. It’s the nerve of my being, the best we can do.”
He really lives by this sentiment.
To those naysayers who say that passion in a relationship dies, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t; it just changes a little bit. I’ve learned that, yes, passion is a way of life, but you also have to put some effort into it. To keep the spark between us lit, Jean-Luc and I explore each other’s passions. In my case, I took up Jean-Luc’s favorite sport: scuba diving. At first, I was petrified. You know, because my bottle could run of out of air…and I could die. It took a few years, but I was finally able to kick fear to the curb. I now have my PE-40 license, which means I can dive forty-meters (over 120-feet) with my moniteur fédéral dive-master husband. I’m thinking of signing us up for tango lessons…
Vive la passion!
6) I’ve learned to cook French.
From boeuf bourguignon to moules marinière and everything in between, I’ve become quite the French chef. I’ve also gotten over my fear of flambéing. (I haven’t burnt the house down or singed off my eyebrows yet!) In the preface of Seven Letters, I write about a shrimp dish flambéed with Pastis, an anise flavoured liquer. You can check out the recipe on Ann Mah’s (author of Mastering the Art of French Eating) blog, where I popped in for one of her Tuesday dinner posts: http://annmah.net/2014/09/23/tuesday-dinner-samantha-verant/
7) I’ve learned to celebrate all victories – great and small.
I can now speak and understand a new language, even if I miss a word or ten. I know how to improvise when things aren’t working out the way I planned. I know how to make the most of everything that I have. I’ve successfully integrated into a new life in France. And, for that, I am thankful. Pop open the bubbly!