We have been here for two weeks already. In some ways, I feel settled in. The day to day feels more routine now. I know where to go and what to get for groceries; I know which park the kids like best; I know how the laundry works, where to find the ATM, how much water to give the plants so they don’t leak out the bottom.
Meanwhile, my kids are as unperturbed as ever. They will barrel down the road on their scooters, shouting, “Watch this, Mom!” Every time we leave the house, they run over to the air outtake vent next to the building across the alley and stand over it. Their athletic shorts billow out like bloomers, and they laugh hysterically.
So much for blending in.
I did actually laugh the first five times I saw the air vent trick. But the overarching feeling for me is one of wanting to quiet us down and make us less noticeable. We are not on our home turf here; we are visitors and, more than that, we are Americans.
Part of me feels like I should apologize for that. I come from a culture that thinks of itself as larger than life, as the center of the world. A culture of “consume more, consider less,” that has managed to nominate a narcissistic, deceitful, misogynist as candidate for President.
I made a conscious effort to pack lightly, to leave most of our Nike logos at home. Somehow, my son still managed to pack his neon yellow Under Armour shirt. We are definitely not blending in.
I’m glad I’m finding my sense of humor about it.
Ultimately, it is not about blending in, as much as it is about experiencing another way of life.
I want my kids to appreciate an alternative to our American lifestyle. I want them to be exposed to another language. I want them to see that less is not necessarily less.
In the house where we are staying, we have fewer rooms to spread out into. We have fewer toys here. We have fewer choices for dessert. We have less space outside to call our own. We have fewer playmates and fewer books. And yet, no one feels deprived.
There are many customs here that I want to adopt - like our daily walk to get a loaf of bread. I love how everyone says a general “hello” when entering a shop. I want to take up the practice of spending Sunday afternoons as a family - gathering for a meal or a walk - rather than dropping kids off at birthday parties or sports practices and running into Target for a quick nine things. I want to rely on my car less and my feet more.
I think there is also room for me to enjoy more and worry less. I don’t need to worry if the butcher thinks I asked him to cut the ham more thickly when what I really wanted was a few more slices. I don’t need to worry if I give the woman at the cash register the incorrect change. I don’t need to worry if my kids start pointing and speaking in English about something they see across the street.
I can be an American who is trying to speak in French, who is learning to count out euros, and who is a mom of three curious children.
Whether it is with worrying or wanting - less is often so much more.
Where might less serve you more?
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