It has been over a year since I first arrived in Paris, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, anticipating the span of five months that, in my fantastical imagination, would be pure bliss. It would be all frolicking, colorful macarons, endless bottles of wine, cornucopias of cheese, and elegant style. I just assumed that I would suddenly transform into one of those chic people you see in photos from Paris fashion week at the Tuileries. Indeed, I certainly did consume countless bottles of wine, but what I didn’t expect was a crippling reality check.
The French word dépaysement in the most general sense describes the condition of being disoriented in an unfamiliar context. At a deeper level, it is used when a person finds themselves far away from their home country, feeling a sense of alienation and longing for home; the word itself contains pays, which is French for country.