I have an apology to make to my faithful followers: I have given you a warped sense of living in France. You may have thought that living in France has been nothing but sunshine and flowers, pain au chocolat and fantastic churches. I have been careful to conceal all meltdowns I have experienced and have realized that by doing so have given you a warped sense of the emotional rollercoaster ride that is studying abroad. However, the truth has been hidden long enough and therefore, I give you the post where I admit to going a bit grey over French and Culture Shock.

If Culture Shock had a human form, it’d be a ninja. Stealthy, plotting, sneaky–it attacks when you least expect it. It comes out of thin air and kamakazi attacks you from behind without giving you time to arm yourself with the weapons needed for hand-to-hand Culture Shock Combat. The Culture Shock Ninja doesn’t leave very many survivors, either. Victims can be identified by the blank, mindless stare most commonly found among beginning French students mid-worksheet at about 4 PM on any given day of the week. Sometimes victims burst into random tirades in English or fervent “Franglais” protesting whatever injustice they feel has been dealt them and in extreme cases, the victim may burst into tears and threaten (if only to herself!) to leave the classroom.

The Culture Shock Ninja is very cunning, too. He doesn’t only use the culture in question as a means for emotional, physical or psychological distress. He uses every single instance around you to slowly grate away at your nerves until–all at once–you flip out! “WHY IS THERE NO HEAT IN MY ROOM?!”  she may or may not yell to nobody. “DON’T THEY KNOW IT’S COLD IN THIS BUILDING?! ARE THEY INSANE?! I’M GOING TO FREEZE TO DEATH IN FRANCE!!!!!!!!!!!!” Also very common is the distinct lack of chocolate resources when the Culture Shock Ninja strikes. It is widely suggested throughout the Culture Shock World that the Culture Shock Ninja waits until chocolate resources are at their most minimal and then makes its attack. The victim, upon realizing she has no chocolate resources and may suffer frostbite at the hands of the person who turned off her heat may be observed to yell, “WHY DO I HAVE NO CHOCOLATE???! THIS IS MADNESS! I AM GOING TO MARCHE PLUS THIS INSTANT FOR AT LEAST 10 EUROS WORTH OF FATTENING SUBSTANCES!!!!!!!!!” and then stalks off in a full-on chocolate hunt.

Another weapon that the Culture Shock Ninja uses is environmental annoyances. For example, the victim, while sitting in a classroom of depressing bareness can become so worked-up over the slamming of  the doors, scraping of chairs from upstairs, clicking pens, snapping joints, incessantly sniffing noses, tippy desks and scratching chalk that she may or may not have just enough self control not to 1) lock the doors by whatever means necessary, 2) tip over every chair in the building in angst, 3) snatch pens away from classmates, 4) hand out tissues and insist that they “blow” and 5) break every piece of chalk that the teacher has in her possession into the tiniest shards possible.

So what, you may be asking, is the remedy for such awful symptoms of the Culture Shock Ninja? There are weapons to combat the Culture Shock Ninja if you feel its presence or its impending attack. Go for a walk to Marche Plus to buy boatloads of nice things to eat (i.e. substances with a lot of endorphines also known as Dark French Chocolate (DFC)). Go for a walk to the castle while listening to show tunes, singing along to them on your iPod while skipping. Make some tea and write a blog post about your grey hair. Take a deep breath and tell yourself that you only have a few days left in the country. Seek out the wonderful hugs you know your friends are ready to give. Boo-hoo on their shoulders, taking care to soak them throughly (it’s okay to cry). Realize that you really do love France, you wouldn’t change the experience for the world, and everything will be better in the morning.