Excerpt from A Month in Paris:
It was the first time a grocery store has ever caused me to panic and break out into tears. I have never felt a sense of not belonging, of being so different as I did at that moment. I’ve never felt foreign before. It’s a horrible sensation. Not understanding is horrible also. We take socialization for granted. It is so easy to understand our own culture that few of us appreciate how hard it is to go through the process again as an adult.
The rest of the group had wandered on to another aisle, so they did not witness my breakdown or my tears. They were all laughing merrily at the strange French quirks. None of them seemed to be panicking over the cereal boxes. I began to question my decision to be in this strange world. Obviously I did not belong here with them if I could not even handle grocery shopping - the most basic thing a person can do. After a few moments, I made myself swallow the bleak and desperate emotions that were engulfing me. I began to reason with myself. I told myself that this is only culture shock. We were warned that it would happen to us. It would wear off eventually and the city would once again become the thrilling city it was supposed to be and not this nightmare that had me enveloped.
I made myself grab something to put into my empty grocery basket. Finally, I found something I recognized – spaghetti. So I ended up with a baguette, spaghetti, cereal, and something close to milk. I caught up with the rest of the group and began to feel a bit better until we got to the checkout line.