What It's Like to Live With a French Family
Is it creepy if we hope ginger00416 marries her host brother someday? —Sparkitors
If you're a high school kid studying abroad, whether you go to Asia, Europe, Africa, or Antarctica, you will probably have to take up residence with a host family (although in Antarctic, your options may be limited to either penguins or half-crazed researchers). This summer, I had the opportunity to live with a host family in Brest, France. In order to educate all future travellers on what family life is like abroad, here is a rundown on a typical “journée”:
7:00 AM - Alarm rings. Decide to keep sleeping.
7:30 AM - Alarm rings again. Decide I should probably wake up now.
7:45 AM - Head downstairs, trying to make as little noise as possible, as my host brothers are on summer vacation and enjoy sleeping until 11.
7:46 AM - Am greeted by Enza, the host dog, who is a white fur-shedding machine. A black jacket was probably not the best choice.
7:47 AM - Tell Enza there is a cat outside. Watch her get excited then disappointed when she realizes there is not a car. Such is the life of a dog.
7:48 AM - Head to kitchen to eat breakfast. My host mother hands me my customary cup of tea. Try to decide whether to “faire la bise” or not. (Faire la bise refers to the French custom of kissing each other on the cheek in greeting. The confusion arises in trying to figure out the number and appropriateness of la bise.)
7:49 AM - Bise accomplished. Success.
7:50 AM - My jovial host father enters; kisses my host mother. La bise for me?
7:50:30 AM - Another success. La bise is a lot harder than it looks!
7:52 AM - My little host sister comes bounding down the stairs, not paying any attention to how much noise she makes. Did I mention she is also on break? She probably woke up at the crack of dawn.
8:00 AM - We both finish our breakfast (me: brioche with jam. My host sister: hot chocolate and cocoa puffs. Together. If only I had metabolism).
8:10 AM - Sing along to Britney Spears with myHS. I am impressed by how well she imitates English sounds (although she doesn’t know what any of them mean).
8:16 AM - Leave the house to walk the 1.3 blocks to the bus stop. IN THE RAIN. (Brest weather = Seattle weather)
8:23 AM - The bus is on time! Board it to get to school.
5:40 PM - Take the bus home after a day of school, shopping, and eating. The pastry shops in France are just too good to resist.
5:41 PM - See that my older younger host brother is on the bus, and sit down next to him. This isn’t uncommon because a) there is only one bus back to our suburb, and b) he can’t drive.
5:42 PM - He offers me an earphone bud, and we listen to his selection of American rappers.
5:45 PM - I inform him that Wiz Khalifa performed at a fraternity in my town. Judging by his look, he either doesn’t believe me or doesn’t understand what I said. Or both. Such are the difficulties of speaking a foreign language.
5:46 PM - He asks me if I liked the concert. He understood! Sadly I inform him that I didn’t attend the concert. His quizzical expression signals that he probably doesn’t believe me. (This almost identical conversation has also happened regarding Lady Gaga, Jason Derulo, B.O.B., and Kid Cudi. Who in fact all performed at the local university. Can anyone guess where I live?)
6:03 PM - Finally arrive home after a twenty-minute bus ride.
6:15 PM - Start my homework (bleh) after discussing my day with my host mother. Realize that my bedroom has been mysteriously cleaned. And by "mysteriously" I mean "my host mother cleaned it."
6:17 PM - Find my host sister hiding under my bed. Cannot believe she has managed to stay quiet for this long, especially with the amount of energy she has.
6:25 PM - After giving up on homework, I take up a game of “Dragon Speed” with my host sister. Lose all three times.
6:47 PM - My host father arrives home and wants to know if I want to go jogging with him. At 6:47 p.m.? Sure, why not.
7:19 PM- We return home. Even though he’s 40 years old, I struggle to keep up with him sometimes.
7:21 PM - Quickly take a cold shower. Why is there no hot water in France? Get dressed, trying not to get water all over the bathroom like I usually do.
7:32 PM - We finally sit down to dinner as a family. Forgetting the pastries I consumed earlier, I dig into my host mother’s amazing cooking.
7:43 PM - Ask my host father a question about France.
7:51 PM - He finishes answering (in complete detail) my question. What a guy.
8:05 PM - Dishes. I awkwardly place my plate in the dishwasher while my host mother washes everything else. Feel guilty for a minute, then decide to go and watch Dr. House with my host brothers.
8:20 PM - My younger host brother (who I also call JBeibs because of the striking resemblance) offers me an apple, as usual. I decline, as usual.
8:33 PM - Am touched by my host brother’s attempt to put on French subtitles so I can understand better.
10:23 PM - After 2.5 episodes of House, I wish “bonne nuit” to my host brothers (the only ones still up) and go to bed.
Life with host family: lots of confusion, lots of missed cognates, and lots of love.
Anyone else dying to study abroad? We're so jealous of ginger!
Related post: Where Should You Study Abroad?
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