Moving to another country is mind-blowing. New language. New culture. New government. New currency. New people.
It’s a brand new start. For some, this is thrilling. For others, it is like having 100 spiders crawling down your pants.
I’ve felt wonderful since I arrived in Paris. My words for Paris right now are: charming, indulgent, and natural. (Thanks to Tiffany Piñero Style for this awesome question.)
My whole being feels centered. A friend said I sounded “whole” when explaining how I felt here. I love that word.
I don’t feel far away. Perhaps that’s because I have a foundation in the French language. Perhaps that’s because Paris reminds me of New York.
I studied French for six years during middle and high school. Twelve years later, I can still remember beaucoup des choses, mais…my level of French is obviously way below the native French speakers. So when I proudly speak à la boulangerie to buy my daily baguette, if a question I haven’t heard before is asked too quickly, I succumb to staring at the person, perplexed, trying to pick out a word they just sped through in an attempt to not appear completely clueless.
I so badly want to blurt out that I am not dumb, that I’m quite intelligent, but I have no clue what they just said. It’s a difficult position to be in.
That brings me to…
Do you value being able to express yourself? To tell your husband how much you love him? To explain to your friend how much you appreciate their time to help you? To ask the pharmacist for cough drops without worrying about what you’re going to get in return? (Drops = tablets here.)
Expressing ourselves in every day life doesn’t cross our minds. We ask for directions. We converse with the farmer at the market. We say hello, how are you, and goodbye. We say “I love you.” But when you’re in a land where they don’t speak the same language as you, you realize how much you rely on your own expression. You formulate sentences and scenarios in your head before you leave the house. You stay quiet when you want to be involved in conversation. You use your hands, a lot. You feel dumb, even though you’re the farthest thing from it.
Being able to talk, and to be understood, is undervalued. We need to appreciate our ways to communicate. Too many times there are troubles in relationships and friendships because of a lack of communication. We’re thinking, but not speaking. Humans have this beautiful gift of speech. Why don’t we always use it?
Because we’re afraid. We don’t want to be rejected. Yelled at. Perceived as dumb. Judged. So we stay quiet, when staying quiet hurts others and hurts ourselves.
If there’s something you wish to tell someone now, do it. Say it from your heart. Start with, “I feel…” (it immediately drops all defenses).
If you’re in a new country, like me, give yourself daily goals to push through the fear. Ask for the baguette and the croissant, then tell them what a nice day it is. Explain where you come from. Try to do the accent without worrying about being judged.
We may hesitate, whether it’s with someone we’ve known for years or with someone who doesn’t speak the same language. We may be judged. We may feel embarrassed. But at the end of the day, WHO CARES ABOUT THEM? You did something that scares you. You tried. You conquered. And that’s really all that matters.
Tell me how you wish to express yourself but are holding back. Leave it as a comment below.
Also, a sneak peek into mon blog parisien… http://belle-soeur.com