France | first impressions

20 August 2019

When I took my first step on French soil, I was delusional, tired, and so jet-lagged. My mind spun, trying to grasp that I was really actually in France. My whole life had seemingly led up to that moment and I had to convince myself I wasn't dreaming.

From the quiet little airport in Lyon, we took an hour long bus ride to Grenoble, which would become my new home for the month. I watched wide-eyed as the hills turned into the Alpine Mountains in the distance. It was a moment I'll never forget.

I've been back in the US for a couple months now, but I keep going back to that first day of mine in France. I still find myself forgetting that it happened. But it did.

I honestly didn't experience any culture shock when I arrived. I don't know if I expected to, but I didn't. Europe is very similar to the US. When you first arrive it feels no different, except for the narrow streets and all the old historical architecture surrounding you.
It's the cultural differences that gradually come up that remind you that you are in fact in Europe and not the US.

In my journal I kept a list of these small first impressions, the things that surprised me most about the French and their way of life.

1. They smoke a lot. It's not just a French stereotype. It's true. The streets are filled with a perfume of fresh bread and cigarette smoke.

2. "Ça va" is the most useful phrase in the French language. You can use it for everything in every situation, and it can mean anything.

3. Public transportation is so much more convenient. Riding the tram every day was one of my favorite parts about living in France. It was also a great place to eavesdrop on native French and people watch.

4. The French eat dessert with every meal. Whether it's lunch or dinner. Sometimes it's a full gateau or tarte, or just yogurt or fruit. But always a dessert of some kind to bring closure to a meal.

5. Ice cream and baked goods are far superior in Europe. There's no comparison.

6. If you sit down in the outdoor seating area at a restaurant, someone will try to take your order or ask you to leave. They don't take loitering lightly.

7. Produce is so much more fresh and delicious in France. I never cantaloupe or carrots before as much as I did when I was eating in France.

It didn't take me long to feel at home among the French. The time went by so fast, but I still find myself wanting to order in French at a restaurant and say "excusez-moi" when I bump into someone. France is a part of me now and I'll never forget it.

There's so much on my heart that I could write about France. There's enough for a hundred posts, from the food, the culture, the classes, and the little everyday moments I experienced. I could go on forever.
For now though, I'm still reflecting on the first impressions. The first thoughts I had when I started my adventures in France, the country I had always dreamed of.


  1. So true about the pastries. I miss all things pistachio-flavored...eclairs, ice creams or chocolate. Theirs is UNREAL compared to what we call "pistachio" in America.