French are good cooks!
After two years in Thailand, I was punctually aware of little French thinks I missed. Two years ago, if you would have asked me “do you think there is a specifically French culture?”, I would have shrugged my shoulders and answered, without being convinced “French are good cooks”. Two years later, I realized that I missed not only many products but more deeply also habits, or behaviors that were not applicable in Thailand. I couldn’t go to a movie theater, hang out with friends, or simply go to a bakery (finding something looking like bread needed at least two hours driving). Talking with French and other foreigners, I became conscious that, generally speaking, fellow countrymen miss exactly the same things. I think now that one recognizes belonging to a culture after having left the home country. When I was abroad, I imagined what I could do in priority when I would be back to France. It was always simple things: cooking inaccessible dishes, hanging out with friends in a bar, organizing a party, etc. When I talked to other foreigners, we had fun comparing our situation. These projection conversations made us feel much better! In the end, one day, it was time to go home and to be prepared. Because going home needs to be prepared! I am not just talking about logistics and moving out.
Finding a balance between the culture of the expatriation country and the culture of the home country
When I was in Thailand, one of y aims was to understand the Thai culture, in order to learn working with them or just because I wished to discover them. Of course, I was trained by my NGO, I had been told that acculturation is a risk, as well as denying my own culture and tempting to integrate the other one. The consequence can be losing your own identity marks. I tried to learn as much as possible about the Thai culture without forgetting my own culture. Finding a balance was actually not easy, especially at the beginning, because I was totally separated to everything I knew. The most reinsuring way was learning to act as Thais would do. Without being really aware of this evolution, I took everything I appreciated from Thai culture, their world perception, their way of thinking or functioning. I particularly liked how they value each member of the family, without considering their age! I also like their will to take time when then can. This was so different from my hectic life in Paris! I added this part to my own culture.
Now, I am back to France. It is brand new, and I am just beginning to consider how much I changed in two years! I realize that this new part of Thai culture in me will have to adjust and find its place in France. I also apprehend how much I appreciate, more than before, simple things of everyday life. There is on one hand this environment that I know by heart because that is where I spent most of my life. On the other hand, I see this environment with new eyes. From now on, my programme can be summarized in one word: adjustment. Adjustment to go on being myself while re-adapting to the way of life of my home country. Adjustment because I don’t want to forget what I learnt during the two last years, even if forgetting would seem to be easier.
In the meantime, nothing better than finally realize the projects I planned so carefully: enjoying my family, my friends… and French cooking. Yes, French are definitely good cooks!