A French friend came to visit my childhood home over the Christmas holidays this year. It was his first time visiting the great US of A, and I wanted to shock him with the cultural differences between our two countries. I took him to an enormous Costco, I made him drink a Root Beer Float, we almost got run over by building-sized SUVs… but nothing made him blink an eye until he had his first glass of water.
We were seated at a table at Zingerman’s Roadhouse, and a waitress came by to fill our water glasses. I was confused when I saw the horrified look on my friend’s face. “But Marina, it’s snowing outside. Why is there so much ice in my glass?” It was true, there was barely any water in each of our glasses due to the mountains of ice cubes.
As an American living in France, one of the hardest cultural differences for me is the dearth of ice cubes. Water is served room temperature, or slightly chilled if you are lucky. One of my dearest possessions in my home is my extra-large ice cube tray. I even brought a small ice cube tray to the freezer at my office.
When I moved to France, I wanted desperately to hide my American-ness. I dreamed of the day I would speak without an accent; I tried to adapt the mannerisms of the French people around me. But after a few years and many mangled French words, I’ve come to accept the fact that I will always be étrangère. I will probably always speak with an accent, in a voice a bit louder than the Parisians around me.
And I’ve decided to allow myself to ask for ice when I am served a glass of water.