Guest Expat Blog: I’m a sleeper by Monika Willis

1 Sep


If sleeping were a sport I would win the gold medal every time. I’ve slept through storms, earthquakes, jackhammers and a tree falling outside the window.

My boyfriend muses ‘How does she do it?’ as he watches me sleep through the sound of our upstairs neighbour, the drum and bass DJ.

Well I’m not actually sure, when I get into bed I close my eyes and I start to imagine all the things that I want, ‘dreams’ if you like. When I was single it would be a person, what they would be like, how we would meet and date – usually it would be some kind of mix of artist, musician who was well educated and brooding. We would walk in the rain or some other contrived imaginings, and in about 2 minutes I’m asleep.

That’s it, that’s my trick. And then I met my man Aaron; he isn’t like the people I would imagine in my dream state. He’s not an artist, he’s an IT engineer-he can write beautiful code he’s not a musician although he did play the drums in high school and he can carry a tune as long as no one is looking. He is funny and sweet and French.

So this story brings me to my expat life. I now live with Aaron in Paris. I’m coming up on 3 years here and it’s nothing like what I though it would be. I’m not sure if that’s because I didn’t really think about what it would be actually like or if it’s just different? I packed up my life in Melbourne in January 2011 and moved 10284.04 miles (exactly, I checked before I moved) away from home.

I love Paris, I’ve actually gotten into a number of heated discussions about how Paris is the best city in the world and how I can’t understand how anyone would choose to live anywhere else. But it took time to get to that; culturally it’s different (duh!) but more than I though it would be.

It’s not the big things like language and geography that get me it’s the little things that seem strange; like I can never find things in the supermarket, it isn’t logical to me. Tim Tams go next to the tea and coffee, not yoghurt!
There seems to be this strange unwritten rule that all Parisian women have long brown hair (my hair somehow became long and brown since being here although I did shave a side bit off).
If you go to someone’s home for dinner, drinks, party or just dropping by you bring food and/or drinks, and no one bogards their own items it’s just all shared – it’s lovely I have a bar stocked with half drunk bottles left over from soirées. French people put flavours in their beer – its like cordial in beer. Peach, raspberry, cherry, lime anything it can be nice or strange depending.
Chocolate croissant is actually called a ‘pain au chocolat’.

It’s the belief that our 58 square meter apartment is considered huge and almost too big for two people. ‘What do you need a second bedroom for again?’
It’s the fact that everyone I know here speaks at least two languages (I have some friends here who speak 5! I mean just stop; I’m still struggling with the second here!)

It’s the fact that people are described in centimetres instead of feet– ‘Oh he must be all most 180 right?’ I’ve since learned that I’m 172cm whatever that is. And French people stand too close together for my liking, and they can’t stand in a queue. Ever.

It’s these things that you can’t plan on, can’t know what it will be like when your lying in bed imagining what it might be like in this new place. The big things are easy – in France they speak French, they drive on the right side of the road and they eat a lot of wine and cheese and croissants.

But it’s the little things you can’t know that are really what make a new place and it’s part of what makes it great. I love that I can get cordial in my beer, that I remember we need conditioner because it’s opposite the bread for some odd reason.

It’s just like me imagining some great love and the real thing being much more nuanced and wonderful, sometimes difficult and hard and lost in translation but better than you could ever imagined.

I imagine all the things I want to put in our apartment now when I’m trying to sleep with my great man in this great place.

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