I've talked a lot about how much I love being in France (and I do). I've talked about the beautiful, old buildings and the wonderful people and the incredible food. And I hold to all of it--I am exaggerating nothing here. I am having an absolutely wonderful time. But...
But there are some things I do miss. Not enough to be homesick, but there are definetely some things I have taken for granted in my 20 years (it feels so strange to say that I'm 20!--a score!) in America.
1.) Contra dancing. I'm seeking out a dance class that I can go to here. I've heard they have a dance club dedicated to learning traditional Bretonne dances. But contra dancing is just something altogether different and wonderful and exciting.
2.) Cheap food. Yes, food is much more expensive here. It's difficult to stick to a budget of 20 euros a day even when you're trying really hard to be good. Now, the food is amazing here. The bread is like nothing you can buy in most places in the states (I can think of 1 or 2 good bakeries that I know of). The pastries are so good that they really can make you salivate without even taking a bite. But it would be nice to be able to go to my grandmother's and have as much as I want to eat without having to pay for it (and now that I think of it, grandmothers should be paid for all the work they still do to feed so many people with so little praise). I went to McDonald's yesterday with Anne-Claire (my host mother's daughter) so she could buy her lunch. Not being a fan of McDo. I didn't buy anything myself, but I was shocked to see the prices for fast food. A combo meal here is almost 6 euros (a euro is about the equivalent of $1.30)! 99c value menu? Nope, doesn't exist. The cheapest thing on the menu was over 1 euro.
3.) Central heating. I'm totally a wimp when it comes to cold weather. I do like wearing sweaters and cozy clothing, but I get cold very easily, and so I spend a lot of time here propped up against the radiator like a cat. Radiators are nice because they're instant-gratification heat. In other words, you can put your hands on the radiator and be warmed up immediately. But radiators don't heat a house very well.
4.) Having a regular class schedule. Being self-motivated helps a lot here. If I weren't self-motivated I probably wouldn't do my work or bother to go to class because, unless you have teriffic foresight, it's hard to be motivated to do work that won't matter until exam day. Here there is no homework (in general), no tests or quizzes, no worksheets. Just a final exam. And be it known that when I walk in to take my final exam I will have gone to maybe 10 classes for each course I am taking (5 total). It's really nice to be able to do a lot of work for a class and not have to rely on one exam for your grade. It's also really nice to get to know the instructor's exam-giving style and learn what he/she expects from you on an exam.
5.) Knowing "how things work." How Things Work is a term I am using in a general sense. For instance, when I first wanted to go to a cafe here, I had no idea that you go to a bar to get a coffee. I thought that bars were where you buy alcohol. Not necessarily so. You can buy alcohol at bars here, but as many bars are open at 8 a.m., the main attraction of the bar is not alcohol, but coffee or hot chocolate. I was also uncertain of how you order. At most cafes in the states, you order at the counter and either wait at the counter for your drink or wait at a table until someone yells out the name of your drink. Let me assure you, there is no yelling here. You sit down as if you were at a restaurant, someone comes to take your order, and they bring it to you with the check. If you need change, you take the check with your money to the register, and they give you change. If you do not need change you can leave the check and your money on the table. All of these things seem really small and insignificant, but knowing how things work saves you a lot of headache and worry that you're doing the wrong thing.
6.) Of course (this should go without saying, but I'll say it anyways), I miss my family, my dad's corny jokes, my grandpa's even cornier jokes, my mother's cooking (and both my grandmothers' cooking, and my great-grandmother's cooking), my sisters and the constant ear-splitting noise that follows them everywhere they go, and little Oliver of the white fur.
Thankfully, I brought a jar of peanut butter with me, so I don't have to miss that too. Believe it or not, while every US household has at least 1 jar of PB rolling around in the pantry, PB is not that popular here, Nutella being the common substitute. A small jar of PB here is prohibitively expensive, so I would advise you to bring your own jar if you know you couldn't live without PB and ever decide to visit Europe.