I had lunch with a friend last week. She's a foreigner too. But not from the US. Anyway, she spent most of the lunch complaining about France and the French. Which brought bad memories flooding back.
When you choose to live in a foreign country, you go through several phases. Don't ask me how many phases there are - I have no idea. I've only been living here 10 years. Ask me in another 10. Maybe.
The first year can go either way, depending on why you came. My first year in France was as an English TA at the University of Nantes. I was 25 and very happy to be here. The differences were enchanting. I came back for in when I was 27. I spent the year teaching English at two different places and planning my wedding. It was a rough year. An American friend and I spent most of the year complaining. Oh the strikes, oh the anti-Americanism, oh the anti-social women, oh the bad television, oh the confusing sexual politics. Husband and my friend's Husband (who were both fiancés at the time) staged an intervention. Told us to stop bitchin' or stop spending time together because we were making everyone miserable. They were right.
When I got back from lunch, I was so happy. So happy to not be in that place anymore, where everything rubs the wrong way, where every incomprehension is a slight and every difference is a cultual misunderstanding.