On our personal blog, I had mentioned that I wasn't sure when culture shock hits; whether we were in it, leaving it or hadn't entered it yet. I'm not sure I remember the technical definition from my Missions classes, or where exactly we are in it, but this week I think I found the words to describe my experience of it. It feels as though my body is struggling to be in the place it knows, both mentally and physically, but isn't and can't be. So, it feels like there is a constant battle or sense of tension, and most days this is really tiring. But, we don't like to sit in that place of tension, so we force ourselves to be in or complete a task in this new culture every day, knowing that ultimately this will help in the long run; with our language acquisition, relationships, and being oriented to our surroundings.
I've heard over and over that France is a country of paperwork, but today I also feel it is a country of rules. I'm not saying that everyone follows the rules all the time, for example when it comes to parking, but they are there.
And there are both spoken rules and unspoken rules. For example, it seems to me there is an unspoken rule (there is no sign anywhere saying this) to be quiet on the Tram. We noticed that no matter how packed it is, it is still very quiet. It is during this quiet space, our son gives us away as foreigners, as he yells "Mommy!!! Wow - look at that big bulding!!!!" or "Daddy!!! Ode-to-Syrup, that's a funny stop!!"
There are rules about eating, that will take time for us to learn. Fortunately, the French guests to whom we offered our First French Raclette meal were very gracious with us. We did notice, however, they didn't ask for anything to be passed to them - this seemed like our job, which I didn't pick up on until later in the evening. They said the meal was very French and really seemed to enjoy it. After they left, I let out a big sigh of relief (for I had been nervous about it all day).
As many of you know, Dave and I love community. Not only do we love it, we thrive on it. We love being around people, getting to know new people, and love having people over to our home. So, having a community of faith already here to welcome us has been such a blessing! Yesterday was our 2nd Sunday at the Montpellier Church of the Nazarene. This time, like the first, I was moved during worship - a profound sense of awe came over me, as we sang in a different language with our Brothers and Sisters in Christ, who were once across the ocean from us. It felt like a huge blessing to me that morning and brought tears to my eyes.
We did feel, however, that we'll be happy when the language barrier gets smaller and smaller as our time here gets longer, so that we can do more than just smile and say "Bonjour. Bonne Annee!" to people. Dave is especially feeling this more than me, as I am at least able to have basic conversations in French. But we truly look forward to the deeper level of friendships to develop from this wonderful community.