Living in an English-Language Bubble

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Netflix and YouTube on the SmartTV. New York Times, FlipBoard, Huffington Post and all the rest on the iPads. Great times spent with our American guests, talking at home and in the car about everything from politics to wine and food. Waiters in La Cité (the Carcassonne castle) and the brasseries in the lower town who switch to English as soon as they hear us chatting. All in English. Mostly American topics and context.

We just finished a wonderful two weeks with our dear friends Carol and Suzanne who stayed with us. We talked everyday passionately about the horrendous US politics. That man’s name and what his swarm are up to filled our conversation many times each day. But we also discussed mayriad nuances of each wine we tasted, and each dish we were served at our Carcassonne restaurants. Mike and Carol immersed themselves in the back garden terrace in our new house: each weed to be plucked out, each early-spring bud, and all the possibilities of a new summer garden. We laughed riotously most nights, either at home over one of Mike’s or Suzanne’s marvelous dinners (duck confit, pork chops in béarnaise sauce, Italian meatballs with tomato sauce, gnocchi and Parmesan cheese…) or out at our local restaurants, motivated by wine of our new region. Even shopping in the super- and hyper-markets (Carrefour, LeClerc, Géant) is like wending our way through an immense Safeway (except for the many aisles of five-euro French wine). It is all an easy bubble of Hawaii and the US.

But we are in France! There are moments of French: at the neighborhood post office, where everyone is very friendly — in French. On the phone with our Volvo salesman as we arrange to buy a spare tire — in French. Cancelling our next haircut appointment on the phone, because the last two haircuts were terrible — in French. Keeping up with the vet as he explains his diagnosis of our nervous cat — in French. After our spectacular lunch at the Gerard Bertrand L’Hospitalet winery, and in the artist’s gift shop with the artist herself, about her inspirations in the local garrigue landscape — in French.

Fortunately, we find we are at ease at home with our internet access to the US and the world. My French is sufficient to support our navigating day-to-day activities. It is all remarkably comfortable. But I don’t want us to stay completely in this bubble. We will reach out more to our landlord friends Georges and Michèle (we happily owe them a dinner chez nous; we are planning an adobo dinner, along with other tastes that you can’t quite find here). I realized that I read the New York Times online most mornings; I just subscribed to the iPad Le Monde so I can read the French news and perspectives each day as well. Now that we have started to settle in a bit, Mike and I will start taking French lessons and find conversation groups.

We are keeping our comfortable English-language bubble — and are going to pop it a little too. On y va…

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