Twenty-one days isn’t enough time to really understand anything about a place — we’ve been on Prince Edward Island for twelve years and we still don’t understand. Most of what I relate above is more about comfort and familiarity than about realizing French life, culture and history.
We lived for upwards of 21 years in Taiwan and still were dumbfounded by many things. Even after spending close to 6 years studying Chinese, much at the undergrad level, I still only seemed to be skimming the surface. A professor I studied with a National Central University said that I must marry into the culture to acquire a deeper level of understanding, a shallow remark considering she knew I was married, and something I discounted as just another person repeating the “you foreigners don’t understand Taiwan culture” trope.
This apparent lack of understanding did not take away from our experience there; Taiwan, and all the other places we have travelled, have shaped our view of the world today.