5 Things I Miss about Living in the USA
Leah Walker October 26, 2016

As much as I love life in France, there are some things I miss about living in the USA. As a fifth-generation Texan and a who-knows-how-many-generation American, the stars and stripes are all but tattooed on my forehead. The country and its ideals and customs are ingrained as deeply as my Southern drawl. No matter how long I live in France, I’ll never be French. Rather, I’ve become some kind of Franco-American fusion, like bagel shops in Paris and Burger King’s CROISSAN’WICH®.

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Many French find my life in Paris ‘curious’ and ‘bizarre.’ Those are the polite terms that the French use when they just don’t understand. Most French can’t comprehend why a woman from Texas could and would uproot her life and move to another country. It wasn’t a job or a man that brought me to Paris, and that scenario is beyond comprehension. You see, the French need a box they can put you into, and frankly, I don’t fit into any of them.

After nearly two years, I’ve become tired of explaining why I chose to live in Paris and have resorted to canned answers: Yes, there are things that I miss about living in the USA. No, I don’t see myself moving back. Yes, my French should be much better.

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This week, it dawned on me that it’s nearly November, which is obviously followed by December. Christmas is around the corner, and I needed to book a flight to the States. I haven’t been to Texas since June, and lately, I’ve had a longing for the familiar. As I coughed up 60,000 miles from my United mileage account, I thought about all the things I wanted and needed to cram into those ten days in Texas. Other than the obligatory doctors’ appointments, what are the things I miss most?

Tex-Mex and BBQ

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Alright, so food isn’t so bad in France {note the sarcasm}, but despite being able to find both Mexican food and BBQ in Paris, it’s just not the same, not only in taste, but also in atmosphere. Pan au chocolat doesn’t taste as good in Denver as it does in the Marais, does it? We eat using all of our senses, and even though I can get brisket from a Central Texas trained pit master in Paris’ 3rd arrondissement, it doesn’t compare to being slapped in the face with smoky goodness the moment I step out of jacked up Chevrolet Silvarado. As the lid of the massive black iron smoker is raised to reveal the meat, the heat hits my face like an August afternoon in Austin. There’s nothing to compare with BBQ in Central Texas, both in terms of flavor and experience.

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The same goes for tacos. There’s a smattering of Mexican food restaurants in Paris, but I’ve yet to find one that gives me the same feeling as in Texas. I’m talking about family-owned taquerias, where a poster of the local high school football team hangs next to a painting of Jesus. Giant glasses of iced tea, bottomless chips and hot sauce, and 101 combination plates are on the menu, but waitresses needn’t ask my order; it’s always the same.

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When I was young, I thought I’d be either a truck driver or a race car driver. I learned to drive when I was nine-years old. When I was ten, I stole my parents’ Suburban and drove to a football game. At age thirteen, I got my first car: a mint-condition ’66 Ford Mustang. Yes, I drove that sweet ride for a full three years before getting a license. It’s just one of the benefits of growing up in a town of 1,200 people.

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I don’t own a car. In fact, I sold my Escalade the day before moving to Paris. I must say that I don’t miss the costs and responsibility associated with owning a car, but I do miss the freedom that it gives me. Now if I want to go somewhere, I search for a train ticket, rather than a parking spot. Walking up to the car rental counter at the Austin airport gives me butterflies. Being behind the wheel, even for a few days, gives me a sense of control that I’ve not felt for a few years.

Communicating

The other day, I was on a tour with a group of journalists. The tour was conducted in French, and I was the only one who didn’t speak the language. Genuinely interested, I struggled to understand what was being said. Frustrated with myself, I felt disheartened. Learning French hasn’t been the priority that it should be. Although my understanding of the language has grown leaps and bounds, it isn’t up to par for someone who’s been living in France for two years. This is nobody’s fault but my own.

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Communication is much more than just verbal. Learning vocabulary, sentence structure, and conjugation is a big part, but hand gestures, facial expressions, and even the way you lay a fork and knife on a plate are also ways of communicating in France. It will be nice to return to the States, where I don’t have to run phrases through a translation app or ponder whether I should kiss, hug, or shake hands with someone. These minute things are inherent. I don’t realize how exhausting the day-to-day life of an expat truly is, until I return to my native environment.

Ease of Living

Living in the USA is just easier, and not just because of the language and cultural barriers I face in France. I know that many French that have also lived in the USA wholeheartedly agree with me. Simple things, such as doing business online, are a luxury in France. I laughed when my mobile provider, one of the biggest in Europe, recently sent out a message saying that I was now able to pay my bill online with a credit card. From renewing a driver’s license to making dinner reservations, so many of the otherwise time-consuming tasks in France are automated and streamlined in the USA.

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Need a thermometer or a quart of oil at midnight on Sunday? Craving sour cream and onion-flavored Pringles at 3:00 am? In the States, odds are that you’ll find more than one place open selling these very things, most likely under one roof. It’s a convenience that I rarely thought about, until moving to France. Now, my Saturdays in Paris include making sure that I have enough milk, water, and groceries to sustain myself until Monday. Most places, with the exception of a random Carrefour and Marks & Spencer, are closed on Sunday, which harkens to the strict Bible Belt Blue Laws of my youth. When I’m in Texas, I probably won’t drive to Wal-Mart at 1:00 am for a box of Little Debbie Star Crunch, but knowing that I could is a comforting thought.

My Father and Dog

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I haven’t always been a daddy’s girl, but since the death of my mother, I’ve become one. Time is very precious, and I realize that there will come a time when he’s no longer around. I struggle with balancing time with my father and my life in France. We Facetime at least once per week, and he keeps up with my day-to-day life through Instagram. I miss my puppy dog, but I don’t think she actually qualifies as mine anymore. They say possession is 9/10 of the law, and my dad has had her for over three years. They are thick as thieves, and I wouldn’t dream of separating them. So, when I go back to Texas, I make sure to give lots of hugs to my dad and belly rubs to Rider.

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Life in France is not without its frustrations, but it’s a life that I love. I haven’t totally abandoned my American ways; I still give hugs, find myself talking way too loud, scoff at strikes, and put Tabasco on just about everything. I appreciate the French joie de vivre, but I also look forward to returning to Texas, where I’ll certainly cruise through a 24-hour drive thru and order a brisket taco, with extra BBQ sauce.

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Leah Walker

Leah's a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. She documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. Leah freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, The Daily Basics, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's thrilled to call Paris home after being awarded the coveted three-year Compétences & Talents visa from France, though her talents don't extend to speaking French. Yet.

26 Comments

  1. I cant thank you enough for this post. People always write about how awesome it is to live in another country and always forget to add these things. The things they really miss. The things we will miss when we travel abroad.
    P.S Rider is gorgeous!

  2. Texas is an interesting place. They bury Cadillacs face down in the dirt. There are competitions for quickly eating 48 ounce steaks. There are freeways so straight that they induce comas. I know this to be true. I’ve driven across it … twice. But it’s not America. The same way that Paris is not France. You soon learn to live with the Sunday closings down here in the wilds of “64”. Planning. And its a much friendlier place, at a much slower pace. You’re very brave to take on Paris. The locals around here roll their eyes at the mention of Parisians. They are worse than the Bordelais! 🙂 I hope you are having a good time though. The “Galleries Lafayette” piece was interesting. I’ve been there. There’s a much easier to manage subset of it in Pau.

  3. What a truthful account of homesickness as an expat! I can’t say I miss driving, but it is definitely not easy to find decent Mexican food in Europe. When I was studying abroad in England, I had British friends who had literally never even heard of huevos rancheros.

  4. I agree that living in the US is much easier. I used to live in Japan (my family still lives in Japan) and it’s hard to explain, but so many things are just easier in the US 🙂 I’m not sure if I could ever live in Japan again.

  5. My mouth is watering – the food sounds amazing! And interesting to know that you find Texas easier. I find my home the same… New Zealand easier than London.

  6. It’s so interesting. If I could live anywhere it would definitely be in Japan. I am really intrigued to read that life in the US is so easy. Looking forward to visiting soon!

  7. There is so much that I hadn’t thought about in your post. Most of the time I think about the romantic aspects of expat life (although I know I would miss people), but real things like how tiring communicating in another language can be and paying bills online are interesting aspects. Hope you enjoy your trip back for the holidays, and that you get some great Texas BBQ while you are here!

  8. I could relate to so much of this and wrote something similar back when I was preparing for a return visit after being gone for 3 years. Now I’m back and two of the huge things I love are the vast amount of available selections and online shopping. With Amazon Prime I get most things delivered to my door in 2 days, even on Sundays. I missed that SO much while living abroad. And American convenience stores are so much better! I’ve been back for a month and have only withdrawn money from an ATM once since I can use my debit card practically everywhere.

    There are some things about living in the US that make me want to bang my head against a wall, but there sure are a lot of positives!

    There are some things that really make me

  9. I moved to Texas 11 years ago. I know that, when ai.move back to Buenos Aires, I will miss the things you mention (except your dad and puppy, of course)

  10. I always think it is bizarre the things you miss when you live overseas. Everyone assumes it will be family first (and often it is, but sometimes you need to escape your family especially if you were a strong-willed teenager who constantly battled with a strict dad. Only now do I appreciate why!) but in reality, it can be the mundane. I spent a year living in Belgium as a teenager and then in Alsace, France in my early twenties. What did I miss? Well first and foremost – salt and vinegar crisps. Yes I know you Americans probably don’t have those but they were my weakness back then. Secondly, British pubs. Yes places try to recreate them but there is nothing like an authentic British pub. On the other hand, what I miss about living in France is just how damn easy it is to travel around an incredibly diverse continent.

  11. I think that you miss these things just shows that you are human. We are a species that long for the familiar in unfamiliar places all the while knowing that it is worth it for the adventure. And food, family and pets are easy to miss – I don’t know how you left that cute puppy face tho, it would break my heart!

  12. I’ve never lived abroad before, but I can definitely see why you would miss all of these things! We always miss good Mexican food when we travel and it’s so nice to come home and have stores that are open 24 hours everywhere. I would really miss the ease of paying bills online, too. It would be fun to live in another country for a bit though–it’s always interesting to explore different cultures on a deeper level, and it doesn’t hurt when they have amazing scenery and croissants like Paris! 🙂

  13. Settling in another country and another culture could be daunting to most people. I have faced situations in cultures alien to my own and while these are not exactly what you are talking about but the general drift is the same. You miss your home! 🙂 🙂

  14. Hey Leah, I think you’re pretty lucky to get the chance to live in France. Although Texas is a world away, I’m sure being immersed in a different culture is a great experience. How are you able to manage without speaking French?

  15. Thanks for opening up Leah … I lived in the US for a while, and am now back in Australia. I’m lucky in the sense that both are English speaking countries so the transition back and forth was a lot easier in terms of communication and language barrier. That said family was the biggest thing I would always miss. Enjoy France!

  16. Food is probably something people usually miss the most.
    I’ve never been to the States but I’m really curious about Tex-Mex food. When I was travelling in Mexico I met a few Americans who’d say Mexican food is not the way it should 😀

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