What do you miss most about the U.S.?
This is probably the number one question I get asked when I tell people I'm American. After the obvious, almost automatic 'family and friends' response, I always find it difficult to come up with an answer on the spot.
In French there is a word that doesn’t really have an English equivalent: dépaysement. It comes from the verb dépayser, which comes from the word for country, pays. So literally translated it means to be uncountried (let's pretend that's a word that exists). You might loosely translate as culture shock or the general feeling of disorientation that comes with finding yourself in another country. From food habits to everyday expressions, things are just different. It's more than that though. Once the initial culture shock wears off, you adapt and assimilate, sure. Maybe you even take those cultural differences and turn them into a list of the top 10 things you love and hate. But then what? Even if you love your new, adopted country, the homesickness never fully goes away.
So what do I miss most about the U.S.?
Lots of things: stores open on Sunday, snow days, binge watching bad T.V. with my sister (e.g. the Real Housewives, the Bachelor, etc.), Mexican food, road trips, family vacations in Florida, Costco, cross country skiing on Lake Minnetonka, and playing pond hockey on Thanksgiving.
And I miss Minnesota Summers.* Note the intentional capitalization of ‘summers.’ Because anyone from a state where winter lasts nine months out of the year understands that this short-lived season is a big deal.
*Minnesota Summers (n. pl.): glorious three months of warm, sunny weather during which locals spend as many waking hours as possible outdoors, preferably near one of the 10,000 lakes; see also: lazy lake days at my parents' home in Mound; long bike rides on the Dakota Trail; grilling out on the deck; burgers (see previous item); half-day Fridays; my mom's rhubarb torte, my Dad’s fried fish; cabin weekends; runs around Lake Calhoun; ice cream from Sebastian Joe’s; and Twins games.
There are lots of things I miss, but most of all I miss the people, mes proches. Being able to drive home in 30 minutes to see my parents is something I almost took for granted until I couldn’t do it anymore.
Still, since I moved to France, there have been moments where I realize that some things stay the same, no matter which country you're living in.
Last fall, I spent the weekend with a friend and her family. What surprised me was how nice it was to be home even if it wasn't my home. To spend a weekend en famille with plenty of good food, conversation and laughs. What surprised me even more was how I felt leaving on Sunday evening. It reminded me of going home for the weekend in Minnesota. I left with leftovers, and a little pit in my stomach, sad to say goodbye.
So even if I'm 4000 miles from home, it's comforting to know that some things aren't so different after all. That and the fact that I'm going home for a visit at the end of August. Let the countdown to lake days begin!