Our First Week in France – Pt. 2

This will be the final article of three which looks at what happens when a family moves to a new country for the first time and needs to learn quickly how to acculturate, to understand and be comfortable in a cross-cultural environment.  One of my fellow colleagues from Pioneer Bible Translators did this with her husband and children in 2010 when they moved to France to learn French in preparation of being missionaries in West Africa.

My friend gave me permission to take excerpts from her journal that she kept for the first couple of weeks once they had arrived in France.  I found it very interesting that some of the cultural stresses that they faced while adjusting into a modern western-based culture are not extremely different from when we need to adjust to the cultural challenges we find in developing countries of the world.

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Let’s look now at some more areas of life that they had to face and overcome in their new location:

Food (Always the first challenge when you find yourself in a new environment.)

Day 1: “The kids are now (impatiently) waiting till 7pm.  That’s when dinner time is.  They have breakfast in the morning.  The kids go to school at 8am (well, ours won’t-they’ll restart their homeschooling next week).  They have lunch from noon till 2pm.  At 5ish comes the gouter (snack) usually some juice and bread with Nutella or Peanut Butter.  Then dinner at 8pm.  Since us American types would positively starve waiting that long, we’ve compromised at 7pm…at least for tonight.

Day 2: “Unfortunately we discovered that the eggs from the grocery store apparently come from free-range chickens because Sophia got grossed out after finding a blood spot in one helping with breakfast.  We’ll see if she eats breakfast this morning or not.

Day 3: “These were no Pizza Hut cardboard pizza’s but homemade dough rolled out very thin and baked right there in a very hot oven (in less than 15 minutes!) pizza’s!!   It was nice to have something that reminded of home.  And we felt proud that were dining at 8pm…the decent dinner hour in France!

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Language

[Note: Nothing is more mentally and emotionally challenging than landing in an environment where you cannot speak the language of the people around you.  Thankfully, this family had some experience learning French by living in Quebec, Canada for a while before going to France.]

Day 1: “Murrielle spoke English to me at the store and boy did heads turn!  We are glad to be in an area where English is rare.

Day 2: “I think it was the Pastor who called, and I think he wanted to come over, and I think I told him we were going shopping, and I think he was ok with that!  If I am brave (read “willing to be humiliated again today”), I will call him after dinner time (8:45pm) and ask him if he’d like to come over for a visit tomorrow.   I hope he’ll stick to the script I have in my brain.”

Day 5: “I think he was not impressed with our French and is wondering how we’ll survive in Africa but that’s ok.  We actually are feeling rather good about our communicating ability in the community at large and have no qualms about Africa where French is everyone’s second language anyway.

Later on Day 5: “There was a different librarian.  She wanted to show Sophia the books for 10 year olds but I explained that Sophia didn’t read French and I needed younger books as well.  I was looking for a basic (think 1st or 2nd grade) history of France but couldn’t find one.  I did find an older one and will try to wade through that.  When I read my library books, I try to write down every word I have to look up.  I began reading an easy general book on France.

[Note: What an encouragement to others.  The secret to learning a new language is to get out among the people and just keep trying to speak and learn new words as you go along.]

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Telecommunication (i.e. “the Internet”)

Day 2: “Perhaps we will finally get to McDonald’s where there is wifi (pronounced wee-fee :0).

Day 4: “The man who is helping us get settled into our home here is supposed to come today and help us get insurance on the car.  That way we can get to McDonald’s for the weefee :0)

Later on Day 4: “We likely won’t get internet at home so will try to get on Tuesdays and Fridays.  I’ll be sad not to keep up with all my Facebook friends’ lives but will email and post my notes to keep everyone in the loop.  And it will aid my French not to have it at home!

Day 5: “They went out to try and buy a “cle” that you can insert into a computer to make it hook up to the internet anywhere (thus making our computer our cell phone using Skype), but were told that while we may be able to buy the “cle”, we wouldn’t be able to use an American credit card to renew the hours.  So we were stymied again on getting internet at home.

Day 7: “We went to the neighbors across and down the street.  They had said we could use their land line to access email today.  After we were through, they offered a cup of coffee and we were able to talk some.

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From this article, and Part 1 last week, we can see that moving to live in a place where the language and culture is foreign to what you know from back home can be very challenging.  But look at how much progress this family made in just one week.  When we believe that there will always be people to help and trust in God to give us the strength and courage, we can all do what we thought was impossible.

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