5 French Things I Quit Since Living In The U.S.

Five years ago, I left France for the United States. The first two years were the most difficult as I was trying to decipher the codes and norms of the American society. I was very naïve to think that because I was coming from another western country, I would have no problem to adapt. French and American cultures are very different. I still struggle with certain things but I have certainly learned a lot about myself but also about two countries, two systems, two cultures and two populations.

Today, I am sharing a bit of myself with you and here are 5 things I stopped doing since I have been living in New York:

  • I don’t need to look “good” all the time. Looking good even when going to a bakery to buy a baguette around the corner is typically French. I am not saying that now I look all neglected when going to run an errand one block away from my apartment but let’s say that I have embraced a more natural look. My first time going out with a bare face was here, in New York. Looking good and smelling good are French things and it is even truer when living in Paris. Now I am not saying that Americans or New Yorkers do not care about their look and smell, but I am saying that they are less obsessed with their appearance. They are more accepting of looking « different. » I have to confess that I was shocked but pleasantly surprised when five years ago, I saw, for the first time, curvy women walking down the streets and wearing tight-fitting mini dress. These women displayed beauty, confidence and curvy shapes. Lesson learned: France is often praised for its sense of fashion and esthetics but French beauty ignores too often diversity of colors, shapes and sizes.
  • I no longer see a doctor. I have been covered by health insurance on and off over the 5+ years living in the U.S. I finally managed to have my job help me pay for health insurance since last September. Yet, I keep rejecting the idea to go see a doctor if I ever get sick. I will just swallow a bunch of medicines that I bring back from France every time I return from a visit. Thanks God, I have never been sick near death which certainly explains why I have not felt the need to go see a doctor. The other reason is that the cost of a consultation is stupidly expensive and even if I am covered by health insurance I will still pay a certain amount. As a matter of fact, having a health insurance in the U.S. does not mean that all medical costs are covered. The type of health insurance plan you buy will define the type of coverage you benefit. The U.S. health care system is very much codified and still need to be simplified to allow universal and easy access to all. Now if tomorrow, I need to see a doctor in France, I will just need to pay about 27 euros for a general consultation. It is even better for those who reside in France: a part of the amount to be paid will be reimbursed via the system of social security known as “la securite sociale.” Now, for those who have an additional health insurance and/or those with a permanent illness that requires to see frequently a doctor they don’t need to pay the consultation as it is 100% covered. While living in France, I used to go see a doctor when I had a cold or a bad cough, I will now just take a few pills and wait patiently to recover. Lesson learned: I now make the distinction between a very much needed medical consultation and a consultation of comfort.
  • I traded my tartines against oatmeal. Living in the U.S. has certainly cured my addiction for bread. While my breakfast in France consisted of tartines with a bit of butter and jelly, I have become an oatmeal eater. I exchanged my jelly for some berries and my butter for peanut butter and egg whites. I am not sure if that is the typical American breakfast but it is certainly a healthier option than my French breakfast. My first year living in the U.S. was such a torture as I could not find a good bakery to buy a baguette. I was so thrilled every time to return home so I could eat all the bread in the world. But every time, I returned home, I consumed less and less bread. Lesson learned: my love story with bread was not meant to last.
  • I no longer watch TV. Whenever I will watch a TV show or series, it will be on Netflix and Youtube. I had high expectations about American TV networks when moving to the United States and I ended up being disappointed. Besides the fact that watching TV costs you a lot of money depending on what provider you will subscribe to, there are a lot of uninteresting TV shows. While some TV channels will broadcast the same movie for days, it will sometimes take you half a day to watch a full movie because of the countless commercials. And let me be honest, U.S. commercials are so amateurish. Now, my only reason to watch TV would be to keep up with news but even most of news TV networks have traded their seriousness and duty to inform against the duty to entertain and broadcast biased reporting. I would better search online for news I need to understand and have access to diverse source of information than to rely on a handful of TV networks. Lesson learned: I have become more critical and question more what I see and hear.
  • I made peace with dating. In France, we don’t date. We go out one, two, three times and if we kiss, it is a done deal! It is quicker than in the U.S. where we date for weeks, months and maybe more until we decide to become a couple. In France, it is also subtler than in the U.S. where we need to explicitly ask the other one “ are we still dating or are we committed?” or “would you like to be my girlfriend?” The first time, a man I was dating in New York asked me if I wanted to be his girlfriend, I almost bursted out in laughter. Not because, I didn’t want to but because it sounded so childish and killed all the romanticism that is contained in any early relationships. The dating scene in the U.S. reminds me of the consumerism that is dominant in the American society. Trying out people, and often time several people at once until you decide to buy. I am still not sure if it is the need to consume as much as possible or the fear to commit or maybe both. French are often portrayed as unfaithful lovers but it is easier to hold them accountable since they commit quicker and easier. Lesson learned: I lied, I didn’t make peace with dating. I still refuse to date someone who is gonna date someone else at the same time.

These 5 things are based off my personal experience and are by no means general truths.


Originally published at www.hajernaili.com.

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