Most of the time, I hear people talking about going into “culture shock” when they arrive in a foreign country. For me, when I left France, the culture shock that I experienced was the shock of returning to the United States. There are so many things here now that never really irritated me before, but they feel like nails on a blackboard now:
- Drivers who are sitting in the fast lane! My anger is specifically aimed at those that refuse to move over when someone comes up behind them.Yes, Irritating Guy this afternoon that almost caused my meltdown, I am talking to you! Move your @ss over!When you are driving in France, the passing lane is treated as a privileged place for the few, not the many. One should ONLY enter the passing lane after a careful check to make sure that you are not cutting anyone off and only for the express purpose of passing another car.
- The lack of a boulangerie on every block: If you have never been to France, I can tell you that the bread and pastries are phenomenal! Since my return, I have decided that this is a travesty and something must be done…I want my baguette and I want it NOW!
- Since my return to my real life, I also find myself particularly sensitive to loud, obnoxious voices. My return to the United States made me realize that French people are much quieter than we are. Even a full subway car in Paris is somehow not loud. Shhhh, stereotypical loud travelers, I am talking to you! If you quiet down enough to pay attention to what is going on around you, you might learn something amazing!
- Too many big trucks and not enough Turbo Diesels: Seriously, we have a real addiction to unnecessarily large vehicles in the US. I can count on one hand the number of pickup trucks that I saw during an entire week in France (and most of them were being used for work or hauling something).
- The lack of a bidet: I got brave this time. After my positive toilet experience in Japan, I decided to give the bidet a go on this trip and I am not ashamed to say that I am now a huge fan of the bidet. Any bathroom without one is now seen as lacking in my eyes.
- The selfish people on escalators and moving walkways: If this offends anyone…well I can’t say that I am sorry because I am not.I have firmly decided that people who won’t stay to one side on escalators and moving walkways are exhibiting blatant selfishness and lack of regard for others and if you are one of these people, you should be ashamed. Stay to one side. Not that complicated.
- Roundabouts: After driving many miles in a few different countries, I have come to the conclusion that roundabouts are the single most efficient way of keeping large numbers of cars moving speedily towards their destinations. More going, less stopping=good for everybody involved.Many thanks to my ever patient brother in law who helped me to refine my roundabout negotiating skills on this trip, by the end I was zipping around like a pro and loving it! Key points that US drivers need to learn about roundabouts. If there is no one coming, do not stop. Also, it is polite to signal your exit of the roundabout so that other entering know that they do not need to stop to enter.
- The profound lack of “Bonjour” and “Merci” (or at least their US equivalents): In France, I think that you cannot help but be struck by the increased levels of politeness that are inherent in French society.When you enter a store, it is polite to say “Bonjour” to the person working there. It is also expected that you will say “Au revoir” when you leave. “Merci” is the magic French word that can open up all sorts of windows for you, so use it frequently.
What difference do you generally notice most upon returning to your country after visiting a foreign one?