When travelling as a college student, you have to be comfortable with a variety of sleeping arrangements. We don't have a stable income, so a lot of times this also means not having a stable place to crash.
When I was working in Los Angeles, I shared a double bed in Koreatown with a roommate I had met over email. When my best friend and I backpacked the Appalachian Trail, we shivered through 30 degree temperatures in our little cocooned sleeping bags.
Even last night, here in Lisbon, Portugal, I had the pleasure of listening to my hostel bunk-mate sleep talk about the NFL draft.
But of all the unusual roommate situations I've met while traveling, one definitely sticks out from the rest — living with Monsieur and Madame De Pommery, my 80-year-old French host parents.
Before I left for Paris, I wasn't sure how I felt about living with a host family. Of course you hear about the great experiences of some students, like my brother, whose host mom in Spain stuck a chocolate bar between two slices of bread and sent him off to school. By lunch time, the chocolate melted into the perfect candy sandwich.
But then you hear other stories from people like my friend who studied in Italy. After a few days living with a host family, it was clear they weren't interested in getting to know an American student, but only in getting a check.
Thankfully, I lucked out with the De Pommery's, who not only live in one of Paris' best arrondissements, but have also been wonderful hosts as I've settled into the city.
In the mornings, they carry a portable radio around the apartment to listen to morning talk shows while drinking black tea out of large bowls. In the afternoons, they split up the day's grocery list and discuss in fervent detail how cheaply they got the avocados.
In the evenings, they like to take long walks around the neighborhood and ask me one more time if almond milk is really milk — and if so, how does one milk an almond?
They are big fans of collecting place mats with maps on them. They think Monsieur Trump is a whackjob. They enjoy visiting their dozens of grandchildren across the country.
All in all, I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to know this family over the past few months. But what makes getting settled in their home so different than the rest is the fact that I haven't gotten comfortable.
This may be surprising to hear, but living with two 80-year-old French natives in a home and culture you're not used to can sometimes be a challenging experience.
During my first week, I tried to tell Madame I was going to take a shower. But when she didn't understand my pronunciation, we ended up yelling the word for "shower" back and forth at least 10 times.
Incidentally, that word we were yelling would be "douche."
Since then, I continue to use the wrong knife for the cheese course. I accidentally brought up surrogacy at a dinner party, not realizing it wasn't legal in France. I let the neighbors believe I was from England for the first couple of weeks.
Sure, I’m not exactly comfortable, but my French is stronger and I’ve learned more about Parisian culture in this apartment than I ever would in class.
Throughout college, I’ve lived with 99 sorority sisters, four roommates in a tiny New York University dorm, strangers on backpacking trips and a few sleep-talking NFL fans along the way.
Who would have thought that two French retirees would end up becoming my favorites?
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