As soon as I landed at Logan Airport, everything felt different: the dominant notes of the ambient noise, the fonts and colors on the signs, the way the crowds moved, the smell of the food. It’s only been about seven months since I was last in the United States, but I haven’t lived there for a few years now, and it’s long enough to make the familiar, novel– I can’t imagine how permanent expats must feel.
The first week back, French hummed in my brain: alternatives ready to jump off my tongue, plus Franglais expressions I so recently used with fellow expat friends. Now past the one-week mark, the hum’s beginning to fade, and I have no one to talk to about how sad that makes me.
The decision to work and live in France was maybe the best one I’ve ever made, and I feel so fortunate to have stumbled into the opportunity. It broadened my perspective, improved my language skills, and made me more independent. It also introduced me to a way of life I’d never imagined, some elements of which I’m glad to have left behind, while others I already miss so much I could light a cowboy hat on fire.
I’m not actually from a cowboy-hat region of the States, but it’s still strange to need to re-adjust to American life, things like the uniform narrowness and cloth-like texture of dollar bills, the ubiquitous ice blast of summer air conditioning, the size of the cars and the streets made for them, the pale yellow color of the egg yolks, the dazzling efficiency, the longer business hours.
When I was new to France, it felt ridiculous to hold eye contact while clinking glasses. Now, as I initiate the clinking of glasses with my wonderful American family and friends, I’m momentarily surprised by their downcast gazes. Right now I feel almost as mismatched as our eye-lines, and wonder how long my homeland will feel just a tiny bit like a foreign country, and what I will have lost when it doesn’t.