Well, I’ve told you what France is like, and last semester I told you what England is like. Going between the two was the coolest experience, as it really highlighted the difference between the two cultures.
For starters, before I’d even left France I was sitting at my airport gate with a bunch of British people who were also on my flight. Hearing English all around me was a strange experience, and there were times I had to think twice to get what they said. But the part that stood out to me most was when I ate an apple. This chart that my friend Bethany posted a few days ago sort of explains it.
In France, munching on an apple isn’t a problem. Generally speaking, they’re higher up on the “Confrontational”/”Emotionally Expressive” ends of the axes. Les français are going to go about their business unbothered by what others think. Which is fine, it’s just a different culture and way of living. (The more timid side of my personality never really meshed with it, though) But there, amidst the British, I got a few looks. Crunching on the apple, I was disturbing the peace! Surprised at myself, I remembered that this collective politeness was one thing I loved about the British culture.
I didn’t finish my apple. God, I’d missed this country.
When I got off the plane, I grabbed my suitcases from the carousel. I had a Bilbo Baggins moment then, and it hit me that I’ve been on a very long trip. The culmination of all my communication frustrations and paperwork incidents and overall exhaustion hit me then, mixed with feelings of intense relief at being back in England. I had a major breakdown by the carousel, but I tried to pull myself together and asked for directions to the taxi bank. I accidentally asked for help in French, because, life. This wasn’t helpful in England, obviously, so I turned around and asked again in my American accent :P The kiosk to order a taxi was broken so I was temporarily stuck without transport. The train would have gotten me part way, but not to my friend’s house. So her sweet mum and sister came to pick me up from the airport, for which I am so, so grateful.
Despite my fatigue that night, the thoughts swirling in my mind kept me from falling asleep, at least immediately. My study abroad experience in France was over. I’d said goodbye to some of my best friends there. I was back in England. With another wonderful friend.
My friend, Jasmine, and her family welcomed me with lots of hugs, Christmas music, coffee, a colorful happy house, and a complete lack of paperwork! I’m already missing their sweet family as I’m staying in Canterbury, and I can’t wait to spend Christmas with them <3
How bizarre it was to bop around from country to county and still not be home. Well, who can really say where home is? I felt home when I heard English again. When I heard the British accents that I’d missed so much. When I stepped off the plane and smelled the English air. When I got real hugs for the first time in months. When I saw the bunnies hopping around campus.
Home is England and home is with my family in the United States. And scattered with my friends throughout the world. It’s where you feel relaxed and safe and happy. Where you love and where you are loved.