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Forks, Portland, Lyon - France, Paris - France, Portland and ending up in Bellingham.... the adventures of my life!

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Culture Shock: Type A Personality in Europe

I was 15 years old when I decided what I wanted to do with my life.  I made a very specific list, finish highschool, finish college, get my master's, start up a business consulting International business... I had an obsession with day-planners... by the time I was 17 I had about for different methods of charting my day/week.  On my Apple computer, though iCal, then on my paper copy- in case I couldn't get to my electric copy.  I always knew where I needed to be, at what exact hour, at what exact place- with who?  How to get there, a list of the different busses.. how much time it might take to get there.. numbers of people..

I was anal about time.  Never late, always exactly on the second; people had to schedule with me a week in advance as they all knew I had everything planned for the week.  I scheduled in the time to brush my teeth, take a shower... I made advanced lists of what I would eat- and contingency plans in case I couldn't do exactly what I had planned originally.  I had plans for my plans.

As I detailed this to my little Swedish friend she stared at me aghast.  About 10 minutes into my rant about the joys of scheduling in time to use the bathroom I stopped.  I smiled, knowingly, and said, "But that was in America." It was my old habit that died when I moved to France.  I understood her disgust, the idea of working full-time while going to school is not even a plausible thing to say for a European (except Germans, which I find an odd fellowship of workaholics like me).

Life isn't worth living if it passes too quickly. I nodded.  I knew.  I always knew, but the joys of opening up my planner and seeing it full is still a thing I love.. unfortunately very rarely in France do I have a full planner...

In France..
I have to schedule about 2 hours in my day if I plan to have a coffee with a friend.  French people are notorious about taking their time for breaks.. we could easily get lost in a conversation drinking our miniscule coffees with our pinkies out.  We sip that one mini-cup for the duration of 45 minutes; until the coffee is cold and foam rests.. nothing compared to the 'grab-n-go' mentality of Starbucks in America.

Dinner?  If I have dinner plans forget about even trying to contact me for the night.  Dinner easily lasts from 8pm in the evening to 2am the next morning- and often we start late.  It's foreign to me because I never spent more than an hour at dinner in America- we always knew it'd be done after and hour, hour and a half tops.  Here there are no limits.. and it drives me CRAZY.

Forget about scheduling anything other than a dentist appointment... and even that might take a few hours.

Type A in Europe
 So I find myself in another expatriate conundrum.. I often will busy myself trying to keep things organized but find that instead of scheduling.. I make a list of things that should be done in the time allotted.. dinner with friends, is now more like:  Hey, wanna come over around 8pm?  Instead of, Hey want to come at 8:15 and leave by 9:30?  Everything takes longer especially because I live in the center of the city.  5 minutes walking through my corrider and up my stairs, 10 minutes lost biking to school... the Type A in me counts the minutes passing and knowing there was nothing scheduled.  The first few months I was going crazy.. Brian what are we going to do today?  He would smile, shrug, and tell me we could go the marché.  I'd throw my jeans on and then find myself waiting about an hour for Bri to shower, eat breakfast, take it slow.


I think that's the best way to describe Europe... everything is done slowly.. or 'doucement' in French.  I feel like I'm from a country that drives 100k/m an hour living in a country that moves at 10k/m.



I kind of like it.


  1. We are completely different people. It would give me a stroke just looking at your schedule.

  2. I'm super duper Type A too and adjusting to lazy Provencal life has been interesting. I'm getting good at keeping my cool when I show up at La Poste and find it closed, or friends stop by unannounced at 9pm and don't leave until after 11. I just try not to let them see my foot tapping like crazy or the number of times I sneak a look at my watch


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