Almost two years in NYC, and the Frenchie that I am has never felt more French, or more American. Let me explain. Being so far away from home made me realize how French I was and how much my country’s traditions were well rooted in me. However, the more I live in NYC, the more I feel like a true New Yorker. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what matters is where your heart is. And right now, my heart is in NYC.
Being an expat, I can’t help but comparing the culture I was raised in and the culture I now know. The country that gave birth to me, and the country that I now call home. The friends who’ve been part of my life forever and the friends I made as an adult. So here are a few differences I noticed about me the past couple of years. Differences in language, behavior, reactions. Because moving abroad and leaving everything you know behind might not fundamentally change who you are but it fundamentally changes your life.
1. I no longer say France, Spain, or the UK (although since the Brexit happened, I probably should!). I say Europe. I understand now why people coming from America don’t just visit one country but rather travel around the Old Continent. It makes total sense now. Europe is like this one big country to me. Now that I live in the US, I realize how similar European cultures are. You just need to step outside of Europe to realize it. Experiencing that big a shift in perspective is amazing.
2. I go to the nail salon ALL THE TIME! 10-minute massage? Yes. Mani-pedi? Yes yes yes! You’ll find them at every corner; it’s an institution here. No need to make appointments and spend a fortune on treatments, you can feel rejuvenated in 10 minutes and it will cost you 15 dollars. Now I wonder how I could live without them my whole life.
3. I stopped apologizing all the time. I should mention that I spent 5 years in London, where the only interaction you’ll see on the subway or on the street is “sorry” and “thanks”. That being said, I also stopped apologizing for who I am. You’re free to be who you are in this country. American people are unapologetic and I like that. I love how they easily talk to you, speak their mind and think aloud, even for the socially awkward me. Which brings me to number 4.
4. I talk to people and people talk to me. On the street, at the grocery store, everywhere. At first, I was never too sure if I should reply or start a conversation, but now I just go with the flow and talk back even when I know they’re just thinking out loud.
5. I have a bunch of credit lines. Like any good European, I didn’t want anything to do with credit, but eventually surrendered when I realized there was no way around it! You have to build your “credit score” (the score shows how reliable you are when it comes to paying your bills) in order to do anything. I have 4 credit lines to this day.
6. I tip everyone, everywhere. This is something I do because I have to, but I seriously hate it. You cannot go the hairdresser’s, the spa or the restaurant without having to tip around 20%. Even the guys bagging your groceries expect a tip at my local supermarket. Everywhere you go, you’ll see people begging for a dollar. Even though service is included in Europe, I became a great tipper there too, force of habit!
7. The AC is my best friend. You cannot live in NYC without one, it’s become part of my life and I simply couldn’t live without it (in the summer, that is). Summer in NYC is extremely hot and humid, nothing like what I experienced before.
8. I celebrate Thanksgiving. And I love it. I love the atmosphere, the food, the colors… It’s the American version of Christmas. I’m not going back to France for Christmas this year but I’ll be flying to Paris on Thanksgiving Day, so my mom is organizing a Thanksgiving dinner just for me! See… I even Americanized my family.
9. I try to eat local, fresh & organic when I can. Not because I turned into a hipster (I do live in Brooklyn though) but because I need to! Food regulations in the US are different from those in Europe, and you need to be careful what you eat. Same goes with cleaning & beauty products. I buy all my cleaning products from The Honest Company, this is the only brand I know and trust here.
10. My friends date. Terms like “dating”, “exclusive”, “seeing other people” are totally foreign concepts to us Europeans. On one hand, I couldn’t do it – not knowing if you’re actually with someone would freak me out – but on the other hand, I wish I could experience it and get rid of this feeling that I’m missing out on something that is so big in this country. Even my single French friends do not date, they meet someone, and they’re either together or they’re not. And even if they’re seeing someone and are not too sure of what their relationship status is, they still don’t call it “dating”, simply because the term does not exist.