When I was a kid, time seemed to have no end and waiting for anything felt like an eternity. Now, every passing year seems to come to an end more quickly than the blink of an eye. Already, this month five years ago, France became my new home country. A new chapter in my life was beginning, yet I was unprepared in every sense of the word for what was ahead of me. I had mistakenly assumed that migrating from one Western country to another would be a smooth transition. I was, however, in for a rude awakening.
I arrived in Paris in the midst of one of the coldest winters that the city had seen in decades, but I didn’t even own a proper winter coat. Mastering the language and cultural nuances were much bigger hurdles than I could have ever imagined. Those difficulties only intensified my struggle with carving out my own sense of self in France. Adapting to my new living situation, being thousands of miles away from my family and friends, and grappling with the fact that my career was taking a nosedive made forging my own niche here seem like a herculean effort.
In spite of these challenges though, what I lost in forfeiting the comforts of my former American life, I gained in learning the art de vivre à la française. The French have elevated the art of living to a level matched by no other, hedonistically relishing all of life’s pleasures, in particular gustative ones. Little by little, I’ve discovered France’s richly diverse cuisine, which has the notable distinction of being the only country in the world whose gastronomic meal is classified as an UNESCO cultural heritage. The country is the planet’s biggest consumer of wine, butter and cheese, with over 1,200 different varieties of cheeses! And the pastries, THE pastries. The French have set the bar high when it comes to concocting delectably splendid sweets. They have dominated at almost every World Pastry Cup, earning the most gold medals of any country. Clearly, these folks know how to cook, bake, eat and drink!
With all of these goodies, I’m lucky to call this country home. After the horrific terrorist acts last month, it became clear that our way of living was under attack. We respond by continuing to live, to sing even louder and to dance to our hearts delight, refusing to succumb to fear. These events only inspired me to feel even more attached to France and to plant deeper roots here despite having always felt like a foreigner here. The world has become an ever increasingly precarious place, but I’m looking forward to what 2016 has in store. Wishing all of you a happy new year filled with good eats and health!