02 November 2005

Top Ten Things I Miss From the US

Alas, I am still unable to upload photos. Hopefully, the good folks at Blogger.com have read my e-mail and are figuring out the problem as I type. Stay tuned!

This blog is for Clayton "the Phunk-master," who asks: "So, just for curiosity . .what do you miss from the United States (besides family and that stuff). Or do you miss anything?"

I've been pondering this question for a couple of days. Someone should make a note to ask me this question again I'm much closer to moving back to the US -- I bet my answers will change a lot once the prospect of "going home" is impending. So, I'll date my top ten list for future comparisons and analysis.

November 2 Top Ten Things Amy Misses from the US
(other than family and friends)


#10 -- Unlimited Computer Access

This isn't a really big one, but it is frustrating that I can't get on the internet or type something in Word whenever I have the whim. Colin takes the computer to "work" every day, so unless I want to pay for a French keyboard at an internet cafe, I have to be patient and wait my turn in the evening. (Colin can attest to how patient I am with this ... not very!) In the US, I could always hop in my car and go to my office at U of M in a pinch.

#9 -- Target (and to some extent, Meijer)

One of my worries about moving to France was that I was going to spend my entire day running between stores to get everything I need. This fear has unfortunately come true! You can only get certain groceries and a few dry goods at the supermarkets. For everything else, you have to make a special trip to a special store: bread at the boulangerie, vegetables and fruits at the market or an epicerie, "supplies" like lightbulbs or kitchen utensils at a bazar ... seriously, I feel like all I ever do is run all over town, buying single items in 200 different stores. With Target, you could find everything in one place at one time, and the store was so huge that you weren't constantly bumping into another person.

On a related, yet much happier note: I finally found bleach spray today! Woo hoo! Still need Lysol, but hey, I'll take what I can get at this point.

#8 -- The Weather Channel

Mike Seidel, what horrible weather event are you covering these days? Colin and I briefly thought about getting t-shirts made that said, "Save Mike Seidel!" because he is always the unlucky reporter that the Weather Channel sends out to cover the horrible weather situations. Impending blizzard in Buffalo? Send Seidel. Hurricane Katrina? Send Seidel to New Orleans. Wait, the storm is turning east? Send Seidel to the west part of coast of Mississippi. Seriously, this guy must have insulted the station manager's mother or something.

Wait, where was I? Oh yes, missing the Weather Channel. I mainly miss having it on while I'm getting ready in the morning. I love Local on the 8's, which provides the simple luxury of confirming your wardrobe choice before you go out for the day.

#7 -- The barbeque grill

I don't really miss the actual grill -- I really miss "Colin Burgers"! Seriously, no one can BBQ a hunk of ground chuck quite like my husband. I guess going along with this, I have to miss KC Masterpiece barbeque sauce. Mmmmm, burgers.

#6 -- Leash-free dog parks

Really, I'd take any place that Didge can run without feeling guilty for stepping on a blade of grass. While it is true that dogs are kings and queens here, it is not true that they can go anywhere with you. I would love to lay in the middle of a sunny field at Parc Montsourris with Didge.

Not that Ann Arbor is great about leash-free parks ... you have to go down to Saline to find a leash-free area, and that's the place that Didge got attacked earlier this year. (Another dog gave him a puncture wound in the neck. Don't worry, he's all healed up now!)

#5 -- My electric blanket

Today was a classic fall day: cool with lots of rain. Not cold, but the kind of weather that just seems to seep into your bones and stay there all day. You know, the exact type of weather that begs for a pre-heated bed at bedtime!

#4 -- A bathtub

This is a biggee. I miss hot baths! It's so relaxing to lay back in a deep pool of warm water after you've been running all over the place or you're really chilled. Plus, I don't feel like I'm "working" to get clean like I do in a shower. Showering feels rushed, like I don't have time to sit down. And, while I am proud to say that I am on a winning streak with shaving my legs (scoreboard check = Amy: 4, Razor: 5), I'd much prefer to defuzz without the shower curtain sticking to my @$$.

#3 -- A full hour without hearing an emergency siren

Our last apartment was near a fire station and the interstate, so we heard emergency vehicles quite a lot. But seriously, I can't believe that there are as many emergencies as there seem to be in our little corner of Paris! I am honestly starting to believe that the police are using their sirens either because A) they don't want to sit in traffic, or B) they all want to gawk at the one accident that actually happened nearby.

Option A is likely because you often only hear the sirens go for 10 seconds (just long enough for the cop to get around a particular car). Option B is also likely, though, based on something I saw a few weeks ago. There was actually an emergency - a woman had a nasty head wound from a car accident, and an EMT was helping her when I walked by. However, there were no fewer than five separate emergency vehicles surrounding the woman at the time, and as near as I could tell, she was the only person involved in the accident. All of the emergency vehicles had completely clogged the busy intersection, and there were police and firemen standing all around looking at her but clearly unable to do anything to assist in the process. (Your tax dollars at work?)

This same sort of situation happened once when I called 911 at U of M for a girl who had gotten sick and didn't have enough strength to get up off the floor. In no time at all, there were ELEVEN responders crowded into the women's restroom to "help." The heck of it is, I think they just ended up giving her a ride home instead of rushing her to the ER.

#2 -- Businesses that are always open

Let me preface this "complaint" by saying that I think the French have the right idea on business hours. I don't know why Americans had to stick with the Puritan work ethic that drives us into the ground physically and mentally with work. It makes so much more sense to open around 9 am or so, close for lunch, and then open again in the afternoon. If I ever own a business, my employees will get lunch and a nap if they have to work all day!

Despite my approval of France's 35-hour work week, I find myself a bit fed up. This is probably because the vet and the pet store are never open! Not only do they have limited hours, but they aren't open when their signs say they will be open! I was so ticked off after my third failed trip today that I called another vet in a different arrondissement and made an appointment for tomorrow. If my arrondissement doesn't want to serve me, I don't want to give them my business!

After I hung up, I realized that I had just successfully scheduled an appointment over the phone in 100% French without major problems! Whoa! Puppy and I did the happy dance at this realization (though to be fair, he had no idea why we were dancing). I guess I should thank the inefficiency of the French service industry for forcing me to use my language skills in a new way ... but at the moment, I'd rather have a dog with short toenails and clean teeth!

#1 -- Smiling (or being friendly to strangers in general)

In France, you aren't supposed to smile unless you have a reason. If you smile for no apparent reason, people think that you are either shifty or a bonafide idiot. Among the taboos in this category that I struggle with:
  • I'm not supposed to smile at my neighbors when I greet them (but I AM supposed to say "Bonjour" or I'll be rude).
  • I'm not supposed to smile at cashiers or ask "how are you?" (but again, I have to say "bonjour" to them or I'll be rude).
  • If I accidentally make eye contact with someone, I have to look away as fast as I can (especially if the person is male because he'll perceive it as flirting). The one time I screwed this up happened to be with a homeless person, who chased me down the street begging for money. For once in my life, being about to say, "Je ne parle pas francais" in a bad American accent paid off. All he could do was yell "cigarette!!" at me as I walked away, innocently pretending not to understand.

The Moral of Today's Story...

I don't really miss much! In fact, except for the language, I don't even feel like I live outside the US. Paris really feels like a big US city in many ways, even though I'm much more likely to see a really famous historical landmark around every turn here. I honestly thought I would be horribly homesick by now, but truth be told, I'm really happy here. I could even see myself living in France for longer than a year -- as long as I became fluent in the language. This city never ceases to amaze me, and yet I really feel like it's my home, too.

[Insert single wee tear dripping from my eye while Bette Midler's "From a Distance" plays, then fade to black]

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