Monday, March 14, 2016

Living abroad has taught me a thing or two

If you've lived abroad, I'm sure you'll relate to this post. If you haven't you might just laugh in amusement and that's fine with me. Living away from home for an extended period of time changes you in ways you didn't even think possible. It is not only the place but your stories that change you.

After over ten years of living abroad I admit to the following:

Engaging in conversation and being understood in a foreign language feels like an accomplishment every time.
French is not an easy language. Even the French confirm this. Engaging in a conversation as long as it is not about sports or cars, is something I can do with ease. You can put me in any kind of scenario and I'll pretty much chat with anyone. You can learn a lot from a person in regards to how well they defend their point of view. Now, all this has another kind of dimension when I get to do it in french. Keeping the flow and expressing my thoughts while not sounding too ''√©trang√®re'' to French people is still a challenge. Many people I know would say I do pretty well but I know I'm not quite there yet when my brain is still looking for that french word that I already know two synonyms in English and Spanish. 

Good food and a good drink will always be key.
I dont' need anything fancy, just good food and drinks! A 1€ croissant? Love it. A 6€ bottle of wine? Of course! When I research my destinations for vacationing I need to be certain I will eat and drink well or there will be an experience missed. After all, food is a big part of a country's heritage and its roots expressed with their local ingredients and flavors. Food is for celebrating and enjoying. I'm all about that anytime. When I chose to come live in France those two things where checked of right away from the list. Check and check. I don't understand how someone can not like the food or the wine here. Either they have terrible taste or they are hanging out in the wrong places.

A nice and safe place to live, even if small is what matters to me. 
(I didn't say tiny just small)
While I wait for the day when I'll have a bigger apartment, I appreciate the beauty of my one bedroom home. 
Living in Paris means leaving with less space. A balcony is a luxury and I got one of those! Facing a parking lot but I don't care because there is a huge tree and it's lovely.
Living with less space applies to anyone living in a  major city. I was trained in my days in New York but here, well let's just say; try living for the past six years without a storage room and less than 50 sq. meters with a guy and a dog. Trust me when I say this, perspective on what to have and keep is taken to another level. My closet and kitchen cabinets for example look like level 30 of Tetris and I'm OK with that. I do like the fact that I can walk Pooky at nighttime around my cute French neighborhood and know I will be alright.

Having a dog in an apartment is difficult. Can I get a robot to walk my dog? 
Leaving my dog in the kitchen every morning makes me sad but I gotta go work. I can't call my mom nor my sister to go take her for a walk. So it's like that. Walking the dog in the morning is a nightmare but I deal with it. Looking for a dog sitter when I travel is extremely difficult and expensive no less. Yes, I wish my dog would know how to walk herself but let's just start by admitting that even if possible,  she won't be able to press the buttons in the elevator. 
Living in an apartment is not the best for Pooky. She stays all day alone while we are out at work. I do feel for her. Then there is the weekend where I find excuses not to take her out for long walks because I have errands and other things to do. Talk about an apartment dog. That's why I take her with me as much as I can. I'm glad France is pretty open to letting dogs in many places.

There is nothing like family, so just shut up and find time to call your mom and dad. Let them know you're alive.
I may be in my thirties but I still get called by my parents if three or four days pass by without giving no sign of life. There is no excuse today. Facebook and whatsupp are easy to use but less personal. Taking the time to find a moment when you are available and calm, easier said than done.  I don't like calling too much because I feel I get even more homesick but all my loved ones want to know is that I'm OK.  I'm working on it.

I speak a pseudo - language that's rooted from English, Spanish and French.
After a long day of work I usually had my full dose of french until the next day. There are other times when I just like to do mix it up because I feel lazy and I want to speak quickly. I do this, I'm guilty. The problem with this habit is that when I go back home to Puerto Rico, I keep doing it and then I just sounds like I forgot how to put a simple phrase in Spanish together. 
The one country where this weird way of speaking has worked at? Italy. Over there they say express themselves with gestures and their hands.  They know I can barely manage a conversation with my limited Italian but my sentences transform into something I'll compare to a roulette tournament. Every word in Spanish, English and French has a chance of being comprehended. It also helps that Italians are super nice people. 

New friendships are harder to come by and old friendships are totally worth cherishing. 
Big cities like Paris open up the possibility of making friends with people from every corner of the planet. I know establishing and keeping new friendships is not as easy as before. It may be just what happens when you get older or something else. The point is that making and keeping friends is hard when you are grown up. We are getting busier and we are not all available like before. It may also be that we are more selective as we get older. Still I got my old friends. Wow! I actually have friends that go back to when I was 5! I want to keep them in my life, no matter the time and distance.
 I've accepted that learning things again is part of the process.
I wrote a post on my driving permit ordeal but I what I am talking about is learning the rest of things that I leart when I was a kid. Reading in military time, writing dates with the day and month after, calculating weight, measuring distances, dictating telephone numbers, the basics. I grew up with the American method Not only did I have to learn the language, I also had to learn this crap again in my twenties? I had no choice. When I moved to France I felt like everything was just the opposite and it took me a while to let go and accept that I just had to learn it again.  many lessons are still pending? I'll let time run its course and stay determined to make the best out every single one of them.

I'd love to hear your lessons on living abroad!