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October 4, 2012

Local Voices From Around the Globe: Childhood dream comes true with some twists

Ashely Bliss

— Unless you have ever personally experienced another culture at some point in your life, it’s hard to imagine how different two cultures can be.

Ever since I was a little girl, I had always dreamed of traveling to France. When I was given the chance to experience it firsthand however, I never could have imagined that I would find so many, often comical, differences between the two cultures. From the moment I landed in Paris, I knew that my childhood dream was soon going to have a few exciting twists when I realized how much can change with just a seven-hour plane ride.

The day I arrived in France, I soon realized that I didn’t even know how to do the little things here. I could only laugh at myself when I had to ask my host family how the lights work, how to shut the front door properly or even turn the shower on. I left the United States feeling like such an adult, but found myself about 15 years younger as soon as I landed in France. That was probably the hardest thing of all.

So many little things that you could never imagine are just done differently here. Take for example, going to the grocery store. First of all, everything in France is so much smaller than it is in the U.S. Back home, I am a frequent shopper in BJ’s Wholesale Club where you can buy almost any item in packs of one million. I couldn’t help but laugh when my host mother put the “family sized” bag of chips in the shopping cart, as it was the size of a typical “snack sized” bag in the states. I can only imagine how I looked to the French shoppers as I tried to push a French shopping cart for the first time. While the carts in the United States simply move forward and backward, the shopping carts in France are made to move any way they please. I found myself sliding all over the floor, knocking into displays just trying to get my family’s groceries safely to the car.

My first day of taking notes here in school became rather interesting when I realized that the French write their letters and numbers slightly different, just enough, to confuse the average American. It took me a few days to realize that the “G” that the teacher wrote on the board was actually a “9,” that “6” was really a “4” and that “A” was actually a “1”. Once I had it figured out, things started to make a little bit more sense.

Putting all comical cultural differences aside, I know I already love it here. It’s very similar to back home, but it’s beautiful in its own French way. I love being able to ride along in the car and seeing a castle every 10 minutes. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit two castles already in my time here. I love how the sunrise looks in the morning. While I know it’s the same sun and sky I’ve always been under, it just looks different here; everything is. In just three short weeks, France has already won a special part in my heart. I love ending every day wondering what adventure the next day will bring.

Ashley Bliss is a Cooperstown Rotary exchange student. Follow her adventures on her blog at