Yes, I Understand English.

by EmilyEsposito

I just spent two amazing weeks back home in Seattle, filled with peanut butter, almond milk and awkward cultural mishaps. It seems like my brain is split into two parts; the American half and the French half. And these halves do not work together. Only one part of my brain can be turned on at a time, so if I am using my French brain, I speak broken English and forget all the American social norms. The first two or three days I was back in Seattle, I was using half of my French brain and half of my American brain, so I was essentially experiencing a cultural identity crisis.

Our fake Christmas tree, before we assembled it (Photo credit: Camille Esposito)

On the 10 hour flight from Germany to Seattle, I was rudely awakened from my peaceful nap by the woman sitting behind me, who was pressing the buttons on her TV so hard that it felt like she was stabbing my back with her fingers (the TV was on the back of my chair). I turned around and tried to tell her to push the buttons a little more softly. It’s probably because my French brain was still turned on AND I just woke up from a very deep sleep, but  this is how she responded: “I am trying to get my TV to work. Do you understand? My TV isn’t working. Do you speak English? It’s just not working.” To which I responded,” YES I UNDERSTAND ENGLISH I’M FROM SEATTLE” and turned around and put my earplugs back in. A couple hours later, I started speaking French to the German flight attendant.

In the airport in Seattle, I didn’t understand why the other Americans had to shout while talking on their cellphone, describing exactly where and what they were doing. I was shocked to see how big the paper towel and toilet paper rolls were at home. I said “Bonjour” to the bus driver and when my friend leaned in to give me a hug goodbye, I started to give her the bise. My eyes muscles starting twitching and Google told me it could happen after drinking too much caffeine. I am convinced it is because American coffee mugs are so much bigger that I was actually drinking twice the amount of coffee that I was used to.

At the end of two great weeks with my family and friends, my American brain was fully activated. But, of course, that meant it was time to go back to France! And so this whole thing starts again. I forgot to weigh my zucchini at the grocery store before checking out (which just shocked the cashier) and the man who worked at the hotel told me I smile a lot so I must be American. I dreamt that my French friends were speaking perfect English to me and I keep thinking I see my American friends wandering around in Tarbes.

But, even though it will take some time to get my French brain back, I don’t regret going home for a second. I already miss my family, friends, a heater that works, my mom’s cooking and almond milk. My new jar of peanut butter is being sent by mail, so I will only miss that for a couple days.

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