I passed three McDonald’s on my way to school this morning. In one of the oldest cities in France, home to Joan of Arc’s miraculous triumph during the Hundred Years’ War, and a Gothic cathedral, I still cannot escape America and our global influence. Yet, upon visiting at the Golden Arches (which yes, I have done a few times… just for the free Wi-Fi, naturally!) I realize it’s not the same as home. Whereas I would consider McDonald’s at home a cheap, quick, guilty meal on the go, that’s not its place in France. For one thing, everything is twice as expensive. Most of the customers are thin, come with friends, and sit down for a leisurely meal. As I have spent nearly four months here I have realized that some things are universal, even if they do not appear so on the surface, while others look the same but reveal slight differences upon closer inspection.
Living with a family has been the best decision I made for my time in France. At school I am studying French with other foreign students, which has been an awesome experience, but it’s important to speak on a daily basis with natives as well. Observing the family dynamics, eating typical meals, and being able to ask questions to my heart’s content has definitely been a huge aid to my understanding and cultural immersion. And if you’ve ever had a six-year-old French girl come up and knock on your door to say “umm… dinner!” you know how absolutely adorable and irreplaceable it is.