It's been a little while since i've moved and i've been reflecting on our life in Lyon and the beautiful things that came from it. Below i've written about 8 of the lessons I learned from our life in Lyon, the French culture, and the French people.
Know that these reflect MY personal experience and may differ from other's opinions about their French experience.
1. Embracing Change
Change isn't really easy for anyone and I personally find it extremely difficult.
I won't reflect a ton on the changes I first experienced in France since I've blogged about those in the past (You can find those in my "January 2016" through "June 2016"ish blog posts), but will speak to the ways God allowed me to learn how to embrace and adapt to change. It took me a while to figure this out. (And I'm still figuring it out this time around!) My first year in France was a total rollercoaster of dealing with change: loving new cultural things, missing pieces of America, hating parts of French culture, etc.... These 3 were a continuous - out of order - cycle that I experienced over and over. I eventually hit a point of thinking 'this is my life, I can either fight it or embrace it.' This wasn't easy by any means, but I got tired of pushing back against the things I didn't like and realized I could learn to move forward and accept the changes, even when I didn't like them. After reaching that point, I could finally begin to ENJOY all the new things around me.
I used to think that change was bad because I hadn't really experienced much of it in my life before Lyon and didn't really know how to handle it. Now I'm learning that change in life/culture/experiences means new friendships, new growth, new opportunities, new chances to learn about different ways of life etc. I found this quote online and feel like I wrote it myself...
"It's so easy to pick up my things and move to a new country... but at the same time it isn't. I think about moving (again) but then I think to myself "but that means i'd have to start over... I'd have to meet new people, try and build the (already hard to find) relationships again, I'd have to get to know the new place and I'd have to learn to love it incase I don't fall in love with it after some time spent living there"... but at the same time all of those reasons are the reasons I'd want to move again because it's a new adventure and a new beginning." -Unknown Author
I've learned that it's ok that things are different than you are used to. It's ok if people are different than you are used to. It's ok if a culture is different than you are used to. It's ok if people are different than you are used to. France is a very different culture, but that's what makes it beautiful. If you don't embrace the changes, you miss out on what makes that place and those people so special. I'm thankful I let go and allowed myself to embrace all the differences we experienced in Lyon. If not, I would have missed out on so many amazing things.
2. Reliance on Others
No car, no job, no knowledge of the French language, no debit card, no friends, no apartment: This was my life for the first few months of living in France. The independence I loved was totally taken away and there was basically nothing I could do on my own. In a lot of ways I felt trapped in a life so foreign to me with no escape. The only option I had was to give in to my desire of wanting to do everything on my own and use the people God placed in my life... To accept the love, money, help, gifts, etc that people offered and to surrender my situation to God in order for Him to show me that I can't do it all on my own.
3. Being "Other"
I grew up in a community where everyone around me spoke the same language, had the same skin color, ate the same foods, had the same views and ideas (mostly) and enjoyed the same activities... I fit in with everyone around me and felt like I belonged there. Throughout my time in France, I never felt French. I knew I was different and I felt that in a lot of ways. Not necessarily in a bad way, but just different. In general, a lot of my habits were different, the food I enjoyed was different, my French accent was different, and the way some people treated me was different... Through some of the discomfort I felt, it has shown me how to have more empathy for the people who don't feel like they fit in, whatever that reason may be. It's hard to feel like an outsider but now I know to give more grace, love, and patience to those around me that may feel the same way.
4. Greater Understanding and Love for William
When Will and I announced we were moving to Lyon, we got a lot of encouragement but also criticism. We had people warning us of the difficulty it would put on our marriage or telling us we were too young and should re-think it. We moved 4 months after we were married, both 23 years old. It was definitely very difficult for us but also was an incredibly strong foundation for us to build our marriage on. I can't think of many things more difficult for newlyweds than picking up and moving to a totally different place and starting a completely different life... We learned very quickly the importance of listening to the voice of God and following his calling. I'm thankful for the trials we experienced in Lyon (there were a lot!) and the way God used those to bring us together and strengthen our marriage.
I'm also grateful for the things I discovered about Will, because of our move. When we were dating and first married in the States, I knew there were habits of his or things about him that were "different" but never really thought anything of it. After we moved to Lyon, I started to realize that the same "different" habits he had were similar to all the other French people I met. I got to connect the dots to see how the French culture was intertwined into who he was. In a lot of ways, he's more American than French to me, but he still has pieces of his upbringing and culture that make him as wonderful and amazing as he is. We will never agree on the use of napkins (I haven't met a French person who uses them - Will also finds them unnecessary) or what type of texture bread should be, but after all, he's French and i'm American and that's OK.
5. Slowing Down
In this section, I'll be generalizing about the French culture and people... This will not always apply to each person or situation but seems to be the majority from what I've experienced.
French culture has taught me a lot about slowing down and living a slower-paced life. A full-time job is 30-35 hours a week. French people get 4-6 weeks of paid vacation time each year and spend most weekends relaxing at home, walking through the city or park, or enjoying cafes and restaurants. Most stores are closed on Sundays and close in the early evening during the week. Many schools are closed on Wednesdays so typically one parent stays home with them. Kids don't usually have 25 different activities taking up their time during the afternoons and evenings.
They value time outside of work, time with family, and understand the importance or resting and relaxing. I liked not having to feel rushed... Most people around you aren't in a hurry. They do a lot of walking instead of driving and enjoy the "in-between" parts of their lives just as much as the big moments. I hope to apply this healthy lifestyle to our life in Denver, as much as possible.
6. French Cuisine & Meal Times
Meals were one of the hardest adjustments to get used to when we moved. It was difficult going from eating dinner at 6:00 to eating at 7:30-8:00. Food portions are much smaller and I remember feeling hungry often, until my body adjusted. Most dinners with family or friends lasted for hours, whether it was at home or at a restaurant. At first, I hated it. Now I've come to really enjoy and admire it. Meal time is important for the French because it isn't just about eating food, it's about connecting with the people around the table. I remember on my first New Years Eve in France, 2 days after we had moved, we were still eating dinner when the ball dropped... I couldn't believe it took so long. When we eat at restaurants, we're usually there for a few hours. No rushing to eat and leave, but instead taking in the food and company around you. The waiters and waitresses don't come around often, because of how common it is for people to be there for so long.
As for the food - the French sure know what they're doing when it comes to cooking and baking. I'm not into the typical French food: bread, cheese, wine, or foie gras, but the meals are incredible. Every restaurant we ate at exceeded our expectations. I was also lucky enough to eat more homemade French meals than I can count. Will's mom is an incredible cook and it was fun learning what typical homemade French meals are like. Out of all the different types of food I've eaten, French definitely outranks them all. Living in the gastronomy capital of the world may have spoiled me, but I'm hoping to find some authentic French restaurants in Denver.
Seeing things in a totally new way showed me that my way is not always the best way or the only way of doing things. I am a proud American and love so much about America. However, seeing things from a different perspective showed me that other countries, cultures, and people have even better ways of doing things than I am used to. I learned to be open to new ideas and ways of life and to realize that just because I have been doing something for a long time, doesn't mean it's always the best.
8. The Importance of Travel
I didn't have the opportunity to travel until Will and I got married and now that I have, my life will never be the same. We have gotten to experience 12 different countries together and will add many more to our list in the future. It's amazing all that you can learn from traveling, especially when you throw in different languages, money and cultures. The practical parts of travel are fun to figure out together.... public transportation, navigating your way through a new place, long airport waits, using a map, etc. It's thrilling to be in a different part of the world and not really have a clue where you are or where you're going.
The experiences you have and the lessons you learn through a trip to a new place make traveling priceless.
-"The Best education you will ever get is traveling. Nothing teaches you more than exploring the world and accumulating experiences."
-"Travel : the only thing you buy that makes you richer."
-"Travel is an investment in yourself."
-"Travel makes you realize that no matter how much you know, there's always more to learn."
-"A mind stretched by new experiences can never go back to it's old dimensions. Learn. Travel. Grow."
"But that's the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don't want to know what people are talking about. I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can't read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can't even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses."
My favorite part of travel is eating the local food, interacting with natives, and seeing how different the landscapes and architecture is. France alone looks different depending on what region you're in. Seeing different cities and countries reminds you of the beauty and detail God put into the creation of the earth.
"When I say I want to travel I don't mean I want to stay at resorts and go on tours with tour guides or buy key chains from souvenir shops. I don't want to be a tourist. When I say I want to travel I mean I want to explore another country and become part of it. I want to discover small coffee shops in Germany and Italy and France. I want to walk on beaches in Australia and browse the book stores of England. I want to hike the Great Wall of China and go cliff diving in Hawaii. I want to meet people who are not like me, but people who I can like all the same. I want to take pictures of things and places and people I meet. I want my mind to be in constant awe of life on earth. I want to see things with new eyes. I want to look at a map and be able to remember how I was transformed by the places I've been to, the things I've seen, and the people I've met. I want to come home and realize that I have not come home whole, but have left a piece of my heart in each place I've been. This, I think, is what is at the heart of Adventure and this is why I plan on making my life one."