In this post, I ask my husband (aka Tall Mountain) to share from his perspective how the transition has affected him..
Alright. Why don’t you start by painting a bit of a picture about the first time you came to France and what it was like.
I had met a sweet gal and we’d been dating long distance for 2 months with a nine hour time difference. It was time to see what it would be like living in the same city, so across the ocean I flew. France was, well, fairly far from my mind. I came for the girl, and that girl happened to be living in France. It was more of an afterthought really.
So, you lived in France ten years ago. What are some notable differences this time?
France moved from an afterthought to a central focus. Whereas last time the croissants and wine were a nice bonus, this time they were front and center in my thinking along with all the other aspects of this country that I’ve become more familiar with. I studied the language for a few months that first time living here, but for more than 4 years I’ve heard the language daily as you speak it to our kiddos. So there is a lot more familiarity with the French language.
How do you feel about your kids developing a Third Culture Kid identity?
I LOVE IT. I’m married to a Third Culture Kid and she’s pretty amazing, partly thanks to the gift of her TCK identity. I want this for our kids. We need more TCKs in the world…I think they are uniquely equipped to be peacemakers, bridge builders, empathetic and astute.
How do you approach cross-cultural transition that is different to your Adult Third Culture Kid wife?
I’m American and my identity culturally is a bit more straightforward I think, which in some ways makes the transition easier for me. Or maybe it’s not easier, but less complex. I know I’ll go through culture shock and have the aspects of tension between my home culture and this culture. But I’m approaching this transition as an American living in a foreign land. I don’t feel a need to become French, nor will it ever happen. I’ll learn from this place, but retain my cultural identity. My Third Culture Kid wife gets to deal with a different sense of home, less tied to a culture. So I think her transition is more complex and nuanced as she knows this culture much better and it was “home” for a long while.
How good is your French today and how do you feel that affects the way you do life in France?
It’s not great. I’m not too bad at baby vocabulary having heard it for 4 years, and a few expressions do roll off the tongue. But overall my vocabulary is terrible and don’t ask me to write anything. I’m pretty good at following a basic conversation and getting by, but any real improvement in my French is probably going to require some serious study…which requires time…which I don’t have at the moment!
Not having the language would be much harder in other parts of France, but we’re so close to the expat hub of Geneva that we can exist fairly well with English speaking relationships. Apart from that, I’d be withering on the vine and probably even more desperate to study French immediately.
Where would you put yourself on the culture shock curve, four months after arriving?
Probably somewhere between the honeymoon and hostility stages. Loving the food here (croissants!! yogurt!! wine!!), the stunning beauty of this part of France, the early stages of some friendships. And I’m here with an open mind for the most part, but still battling some frustrations and judgment of the “different”.
What is the absolute best part about life in France?
The French understand healthy rhythms of life. They eat well. They vacation well. And generally don’t seem to kill themselves for their career. They prioritize relationships, which take time. So maybe I sum it up by saying that I love the way the French people relate to time. It seems really healthy to me, and it’s something I hope our family can learn from. It’s one of the reasons we moved here!
How about something that is the hardest for you to come to grips with?
It takes patience. Everything feels like a bit of a struggle when you are a driven person used to accomplishing lots of things quickly. Classic examples are getting a repairman to come by when you need them, or having the right paperwork for any kind of legal/immigration/financial appointment, or needing to do some quick shopping later in the evening. None of it happens easily or quickly.
Ok, so what is your greatest fear about our life here?
I really haven’t thought about this much. But my initial response would be that we take too long to ease into the healthier rhythms of life here in France. I don’t want to keep driving ahead like we do in the US. I want to cut back and enter this new season of life or I fear we’ll miss out on some of the greatest gifts this season in this place have to offer.
And of course, what is your greatest hope?
I hope we truly “live” and are present here. I want to be a local person who is globally minded. In past seasons I’ve struggled to really enter into the community we live, either because I’m traveling so much, or my work colleagues are around the globe and not related to our local context, or because we didn’t know how long we’d be there. I hope we get rooted here in this community.
A bit of fun, if you had to describe yourself in terms of a French cheese, what would you be?
I think at the moment I’m probably a Comté. Hard, savory, better when aged. And of course, fairly competitive with it’s Swiss distant cousin, Gruyère!
This post was part of the #Write31Days challenge, on the topic: Our family in global transition.
You can read the other posts written this month, by clicking on the links below!
1 – French Preschool
2 – Making friends in a new land
3 – ‘Yes’ people in a ‘No’ culture
4 – How language affects transition
5 – Not all French people are foodies
6 – The apple juice party
7 – I’m the third-born
8 – French-Mex ridiculous
9 – Busted by the Swiss police
10 – Educational field trip
11 – Visitors: the good and the bad
12 – Christmas in October
13 – A good place to get sick
14 – C’est les vacances!
15 – Playdate anguish
16 – The five year plan
17 – The Q&A edition!
18 – Holidays are for world-schooling
19 – The Granny I want to be.