When I woke up this morning, my inbox was joyfully clicking because I had just received an email from the “Union of the French abroad”. There was a sexy message inside: “DFAE, AEFE, CFE… news for the French living abroad”. I had also received an email from a good friend of mine, which, as often, contained a glimmering and not-so-true depiction of my life.
From what I can understand, this is what living abroad looks like:
1 be on holiday 24/7, and spend week-ends visiting remote areas and talk to unknown-and-sociologically-fascinating-tribes. Being therefore entitled to utter mesmerising clichés like “progress-leads-nowhere-without-brotherhood-of-mankind” (of course, it works better if you live in Venezuela than the US, but still)
2 have a bunch of fascinating friends. Being therefore entitled to make casual and irritating name-dropping (with my friend Sarah, who is a sculpter from Singapore, and my friend Ioulia, who runs a hedge fund, we were both going to yoga and …)
3 for parents: get bilingual children for free. Being therefore entitled to complain because your little girl mixes up spanish and russian and this is SO annoying.
4 have a huge house, a maid, a gardener. Not being entitled to any complaint, and in particular, avoid saying that you don’t miss Paris and its tiny apartments that remind you of hutches. Even friendship has its limits.
5 as a summary: always have Carrie’s eyes in Sex and the City’s opening credits.
Sometimes, that’s indeed how life can be (except for 4, honestly I haven’t seen any of that). Sometimes not. My post is too long already, therefore I will leave my arguments for future posts, but here is the list already (the psychorigid lawyer in me cannot help writing lists):
1. Being abroad makes you far.
2. Being abroad makes you lonely.
3. Being abroad makes you stupid.
4. Being abroad makes you whiny.
… have a lot in common:
– red or white brick on the walls
– pretty hearts solemnly painted in your latte by handsome baristas. Unfortunately, I regret to inform you that the handsome baristas don’t look at you before or after they paint the heart so I guess there is nothing personal about it. I was very saddened by the fat and furious customer who received the exact same heart as I did yesterday.
– a passion for pop-rock from the 2000’s (which is great, I stopped pretending I knew anything about music around that period). The playlist is more or less the same from Williamsburg to Wall Street. Mostly the Shins, the old Arcade Fires, and the exhausted Conor Oberst, moaning that “this is the first day of (his) life”. Sometimes, the same song plays twice within three hours.
– clients that are mostly people working on their mac. There seems to be a highly dynamic network of guys working on their mac in coffees, since they spend quite some time exchanging business cards
– a lot of classy tattoos, like tattoos based on the golden ratio (“Have you ever heard about Fibonacci”?) I do have a fascination for tattoos, so I always ask the baristas why they chose this pattern. Lots of tributes to a lost brother or father, but also a huge willingness to visually stand out. And they are always thrilled to talk about their tattoos, so I get a lot of free cookies.
Note, for pure scientific purposes, that out of principle, I have excluded Starbuck from the scope of my study. Which is stupid by the way, nothing is more new-yorker than walking around with your starbuck papercup
– The Dog Market (capital letters required): dog psychic, dog coats, and little shoes. Dogdates, dogs playgrounds, serious conversations about dogs, presents for dogs (seen in a catalog: little doggie diapers)
– Available free bibles everywhere
– the fact that everyone calls you “mommy” (and no-one calls your husband “daddy”)
– the fact that trucks look like children’s toys. They seem to be used just like children’s toys too. Flashing lights and fire alarms everywhere. If only Charlotte could drive and use flashlights, she would behave exactly like this.
– your own stupidity of woman who hasn’t used her brain for way too long. When exactly have you become that socially awkward weirdo who makes disgusting sex jokes to someone she barely knows?
– The first day, you blink. Right in front of you, two women are wearing a blue TShirt, with a huge and aggressive message “are you free from sin”? They stand across a set-up with the huge mention “Bible crusade”. Nobody except you seems to find it super weird.
– The day you realise the bible crusade thing is actually completely normal (it took me about three months).
– The day you sing at the top of your lungs “New York is cold but I like where I’m living, there’s music on Clinton Street all through evening”.
– The day you naturally say “God bless you” to someone on the street.
– The day you decide you have THE idea for THE new startup: printing New York maps mentioning the locations of famous songs, or movies. The next morning, you wake up realising there is actually no business model behind this so great idea. But you have thought about doing something, that might be a good sign.
– the day you give up with the celsius vs fahrenheit conversion. And you look super concerned when someone mentions his baby’s “101 °F” fever although actually, you have no idea if this is high.
– the day you are craving for a third meal with solely meat, after bacon and eggs for breakfast and a huge Philly steak sandwich for lunch.
– and all the normal days, where you are so bored looking for a job that you end up compiling frantically the tiniest piece of information regarding Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt’s break up (yes, that was a long time ago). And you solemnly declare that you root for Angie.
After a careful observation of my new environment, this is my own personal list of “must haves to adjust to my new aggressive surrounding”.
Yep, I am 100% ready.