By Abigail Lin
The French are infamous for being more closed off and reserved than Americans, and it is true. I have noticed that they are less willing to accept someone, even as a friend, and are more distant in their novel relationships as a result of their seemingly inherent cultural coldness.
That being said, there is a unique fear attached to living in a stranger’s house for a semester – and even more so in a French household. When I first arrived in Paris, my host mom left me to my own devices without giving me a tour, or any rules I had to abide by.
Although I’ve been living in the apartment for three months now, I still tiptoe whenever I know she’s in the next room over. A slight trepidation still plagues me even making meals, taking showers and coming home at night, mostly because of my fear of impeding on my host mom’s home.
The first time I broke a bowl in my host’s ceramic sink, I stared at it dumbfounded. I hadn’t broken a bowl in my own home for years, and was literally confused at how it could’ve happened. I texted her frantically, in ratchet broken French, about how sorry I was for breaking something and luckily, she texted me back assuring me that it wasn’t serious. The second time, she didn’t text back at all. I avoided her for three days.
The first time my host mom showed me how to use washing machine it looked easy enough. Three hours later, I was sitting on the bathroom floor downloading an English copy of a manual of the French washer/dryer combo sitting in front of my face. I tried every setting on the contraption for a few seconds, and still ended up putting my clothes through three wash cycles and no dry cycles.
This past week, I attempted to use the iron in the bathroom. It was late, so I didn’t want to wake her to ask permission– and besides, iron use is in our housing contracts so I figured all would be fine. Skillfully, I turned on the iron. As I pressed it to my jumpsuit, it seemed to steam a bit. I waited a few seconds, and went down the other leg. An iron hole shape suddenly appeared– with crisp thin edges to round out the hole. As I looked frenetically at the iron, I noticed the black fabric had quickly turned to what looked like tar on the shiny plates. Beside myself with self-loathing, I was frantic over the thought of my host mom catching me with an obviously burnt and blackened iron. Always my friend, the internet suggested a few remedies.
And that is how at 1:39 a.m. Paris time, I sat on the bathroom floor with a wooden spoon, sponge, paper towel, and salt with an iron in my lap and black flakes all over my hair and body, scraping the life out of this poor iron. Who said study abroad was glamorous?