5 Things I Miss About America

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

These words have never felt more applicable than now, because of the way they perfectly encapsulate how I feel about my homeland. Having been born and raised in the US, there are countless things I've taken for granted and only now am beginning to appreciate since, well, France is a very different place. So while I still don't consider myself much of a patriot, per se, I'm starting to see that for all its social, political, economic and other problems, America is pretty fucking great.

This is a grilled cheese sandwich from one of my favorite diners in Seattle. I miss them (i.e. the sandwiches) too.

This is a grilled cheese sandwich from one of my favorite diners in Seattle. I miss them (i.e. the sandwiches) too.

5. J. Crew

I'm not disputing that Paris is hip, trendy, etc., but merely admitting that a lot of the stuff I see in stores errs on the side of the extreme. Maybe I'm just not fashion-forward enough (seriously though, every time I leave my apartment I start to feel like Anne Hathaway's pre-makeover character in The Devil Wears Prada) but I miss J. Crew's basic wardrobe staples, that also come in petite sizes for the vertically challenged like me.

4. One-stop shopping.

Shopping in Paris always feels like an arduous ordeal for an American accustomed to behemoth Walmarts and Safeways. Instead of having access to everything under one roof, Parisians favor specialized shops that typically end in -erie (e.g. the fromagerie for cheese, boulangerie for bread, charcuterie for meats, etc.).* While the quality of the products, at least for food, is probably better this way, it can be in a pain when you're really hungry and/or don't have much time to shop.

*The one exception is Monoprix, which is like a toned-down version of Target. I go there a lot.

3. Getting things done online.

As the nation that produced Facebook, Google and Twitter, it's unsurprising that we rely so heavily on the internet to get things done. But for the rest of the world, this is not necessarily the case. I won't go into specifics here, but there have been multiple occasions where instead of taking care of something online, like I would at home, I've had to make a phone call or an appointment to see someone in person. And sometimes I just want to sit around at home in my pajamas and not deal with real people, OKAY??

...But actually, I'm embarrassed of my French so I prefer to email when possible. Otherwise many awkward silences and me repeatedly saying, "Encore une fois," ensue.

2. Coffee culture

Previous posts may suggest that I have an affinity for Starbucks bordering on obsession. This is somewhat true. It's not so much the actual coffee that I like, but rather that Starbucks is one of the few places in Paris where you can:

a) get a wide range of coffee and espresso-based drinks and

b) get them to go or

c) sit and enjoy it there for a couple hours.

Beyond Starbucks and other "American-style" coffee houses, your only options to satisfy a caffeine fix are potently bitter espresso shots or a weak café crème (basically steamed milk with a dribble of coffee). Clearly living in Paris has brought out the Seattlite coffee snob in me.

1. The English language.

"Je comprends mieux que je parle," (I understand better than I speak) is what I always tell people, my little disclaimer before they try to strike up a conversation. But if I'm not being an active listener, then whatever the other person is saying starts to resemble one long string of unfamiliar sounds, at the end of which all I have to offer is an eyes-glazed-over quizzical look.

I feel like a big part of living abroad is learning to accept that in a majority of social situations you won't have any clue what the hell is going on. And for someone as inherently neurotic as I am, that's probably one of the biggest adjustments.

Don't get me wrong - I think French is a beautiful language - but I miss being able to passively listen and still be fully aware of what's going on around me.