Notes From Abroad:
Despite the culture shock,
the relentless and frequent strikes, the inconvenience
of dealing with uncharacteristic snow in Paris, Christianne
Beasley ’12 has become enamored of France, where she is
spending her Junior Year Abroad. She recently wrote from
Paris about her experience.
By Christianne Beasley
Culture shock—everyone’s worst
fear when moving abroad. Getting immersed in another language
and having to wade through countless cultural differences
is, without a doubt, a nightmare. And yet, some of the things
that shocked me all the way back in August have now become
’12 makes a tourist stop at the Châteaux de la Loire
Beasley (fourth from
the left) takes an afternoon at the French café with
fellow Smith juniors (left to right): Clare Landefeld,
Miah Williamsen, Simone Budzyn, Cara Gubbins, Anais-Lugo
Guercio and Ali Ankudowich.
Take, for example, strikes.
A common French sport, one might say, otherwise known as
a good reason to take the day--or multiple days--off and
parade for an important cause.
This year, when the government
proposed to raise the retirement age to 62 (if only!), everything
shut down. Last semester, one of my Sorbonne classes met
a total of eight times. Call it standing up for a cause or
being lazy, but one thing is certain: the French believe
in their right to question everything and aren’t afraid to voice their opinions.
Smithies, does this sound familiar?
Come winter, I experienced my
personal favorite French crisis: their reaction to snow (a
total of two inches)—or, shall we say, lack thereof. As
a native Mainer, the fact that no one even owns a shovel
astounded me. Last time I checked, pushing snow with a broom
won’t help much. And that applies only to the people who
even bothered to do something about it. Most of the French
looked out their windows, strapped on their heels, shrugged
and trudged out the door. After all, it wasn’t their fault
that Paris iced over. Why should they have to deal with it?
There’s the frowning, horrible driving, and the general lack
of courtesy to others. That two inches of space in the Métro?
Watch out, because someone is going to squeeze themselves
into it. The Musée de la Mode, one of the reasons why I came
to study here, is completely closed until next year. Surely,
France has taught me to take everything with a huge grain
of salt, literally: the beurre salé (salted butter) that
they slather on their bread is delicious and far from nutritious.
But it wouldn’t be fair to be so pessimistic. France has
taught me many other, more positive things: how to make a
tiny cup of coffee last hours at a café, how to appreciate
a good baguette, how to charm the vendor at the marché, among
others. I certainly feel more cultured and knowledgeable,
my life here in Paris being more interesting and busy than
I had ever imagined. Who gets to say that they go to the
Louvre as much as they want? Or see the Eiffel Tower every
morning on the way to class?
Come May, leaving will surely
be bittersweet. But I know that once I set foot back in my
hometown of Dawes, a little part of Paris will return with
me. My time in France may be winding down, but for the moment,
I’ll take a cue from les Français and savor it as much possible.