This week I took a trip to Amsterdam to see my friend from home in her adopted hometown. I’ve got a few expenses at the moment with my trip back to Australia looming and a few other things coming up, so looking at the train versus bus situation from Paris to Amsterdam, 45 euros versus 180 return, I decided on the bus. Wrong decision. What was supposed to be a seven hour journey each way, became nine or so hours on both legs, with the return journey involving an icy one-hour wait in a rather scary bus terminal in Brussels. Never again.
I’d been feeling a little frustrated with things not happening fast enough in my work and personal life earlier in the week, and I’d just generally been feeling overwhelmed, sensitive to every little thing. A trip away from Paris, to get a big dose of that feeling of home with my dear friend and her family, and to take a breather from what’s become my daily life and mindset, to gain some new perspective was so welcome at this time. So I said ‘see ya’ to Paris and I took my little break.
Living full-time and ongoing in a country where the native language isn’t your mother tongue, it wears on you after a while, almost without you noticing it. My friends who’ve lived here for longer than me, they all told me that I’d feel refreshed taking a break in a country that spoke a lot of English and they weren’t wrong. Sidling up to a shop counter, a waiter or a market stall, or even being able to yell back confidently at the people who were complaining about my friend’s leash-less dog running free, it felt nice to be able to hold my own so effortlessly. But also odd to not have that moment of preparation before the interaction, the moment I automatically now have in Paris before I speak.
Living away from your home country in a foreign culture, and in particular, living in a country with a language different from your own, it can chip away at your confidence for sure. I love living in France but I’m in a constant low-key battle to hold onto my confidence and self-worth. If I’m often just a little lost here as to the way things are done and in communications, how can I not start to slowly feel less and less. It’s kind of subconscious this chipping away and I know it’s something I need to notice and keep in check. I guess it’s all a test anyway; even if I understand nothing, feel stupid and lost at times, feel small, it has nothing to do with my worth as a human being.
But coming back to the warm nest of a friend that feels like home, even if it’s not technically home in Australia, made me remember a vital piece of who I am. The ease of being around people who’ve known you for what feels like forever, who get all your jokes and know so many of the same people as you, the luxury of not having to think at all when communicating, somehow all this gave me some confidence and perspective back on my current life in Paris. Like I remembered that I was a normal, highly functioning adult before in my home country and I’ll feel that way more and more in France, the more time I spend here naturally. I realised over the weekend too that at times I shun my home country and culture so much as a way to make my dream of living here in France more real, more concrete. But Australia and my background, my culture, my language, it’s all a part of me I need to love. So I’m working on that.
I put so much pressure on myself to be perfect in this place, but I felt a little reminder this week that it’s OK to just be working on it slowly, in my own time I’m learning how to be here. I guess nine hours on a bus each way will send you into these deep thought spirals but here I am.
Some pics from our weekend below, plus plenty more over here on my story on the fading light on a cold Saturday walking Amsterdam.
I'll write again next week ❤
p.s. this song breaks my heart right open...