Only in France

Bonjour à tous,

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it yet, but I’m living in France at the moment. Here is a list of things I’ve seen since I’ve been here that could only happen in France:

  • When walking down a side street in broad daylight on a Saturday afternoon and the familiar sent of piss reached our nostrils, we turned in horror to see not a man standing against the wall, but a woman crouched between two bins. “Hey,” she shouted, “It’s not nice to watch!” I think we were all in agreement there.
  • This exists.

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  • On our way to the Pont du Diable, our coach came to a halt for over twenty minutes because there was a tractor in the road. Not parked, but casually abandoned, blocking traffic from both sides in the already narrow country road. I wouldn’t be surprised if the driver had gone for lunch.

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  • The French are so seductive and sexy that on Chantal’s road, there are condom dispensers every 20 metres. Apparently they literally cannot walk that far without getting the urge.
  • Pharmacists went on strike and after blocking the tram for a few hours, they turned the fountain in the square green. They went on strike because they don’t want medicine to be sold in supermarkets (which it currently isn’t, which I couldn’t get my head around when desperately searching Monoprix for some painkillers). I was also told that recently there was a call for a day off work or a day of rest after a strike (of which there are many) which is one of the Frenchest things I’ve ever heard.

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  • I saw ‘Pierre’ on a coke bottle.
  • When we went to see an art exhibition in Marseille, the man behind the help desk was smoking a cigarette as he typed on his computer and answered the phone. He didn’t put down his cigarette when someone asked him for help. He was inside. I don’t understand.
  • There are coffee machines all round Paul Val that sell about 10 different types of coffee for 60c each. It’s not even bad coffee – the standard falls somewhere between Starbucks (gross) and Café Nero (great). We definitely need the caffeine to get us through our lectures.
  • They sell hairbands in the men’s section of H&M.

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  • This happened on the beach.

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Mr France 2014

So, last week was The Difficult Week. On the various year abroad blogs I’ve read and the people I’ve spoken to, The Difficult Week seems to be a fairly common occurrence. It’s basically a week where things have started to settle down, you start to get homework, you’re a bit more used to your new country, you’ve run out of money, the language barrier has started to get frustrating, and you’re beginning to miss home a bit. I’d been expecting to have the Difficult Week for a while and I thought I’d got away without having one… but then last week all of the above happened (I don’t know why #bellogate made me miss UCL, but it did), plus a lot of things went wrong and I got ill. But, as anyone who has ever done science can tell you, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, which in context means that this week has been GR8.

(If you’re currently experiencing The Difficult Week, you can find an article I wrote here with some tips on how to survive it. Because I’m qualified to give advice like this now.)

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I do actually have to work and it sucks, I did not come here to study.

The first reason I’ve cheered up this week is because I’ve finally got round to joining a gym. Oh my God I’ve missed the gym. I’d thought all hope was lost because I couldn’t find a gym that was nice and that wasn’t ridiculously expensive, and to be fair I still haven’t, but somehow I’ve managed to get a membership for a measly 5€ a month for a gym that’s supposed to cost 45€ per month. Please don’t ask me how that’s possible because I don’t know how it happened. All I know is that I’m not going to ask questions. It’s the nicest gym I’ve ever been to. You can access TV, radio, facebook, youtube and even Skype from the screen of the cross-trainer. The machines count your reps for you. The showers aren’t communal. At the end of his shift, the trainer goes round the gym and personally says goodbye to everyone. THERE’S A KITCHEN. It’s never busy (probably because it’s expensive). I LOVE IT. My only complaint (of course I have one) is that there’s no squat rack, sad times. I’ve missed exercise so much and I feel so much better for finally having done some!

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Happy happy happy

Another great thing that’s cheered me up this week is that Ruth has four new flatmates, which basically means I have four new flatmates. Three of the new colocs are girls and are all really sweet and fun, but my favourite of all (only joking) is Candice’s dog George, the sweetest thing in the world. Anyone who knows me will know about my obsession with dogs and will understand just how happy I am to have a new canine friend.

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I LOVE HIM

I’ve also been treated to A LOT of home-made food, which I could not be happier about. I really love cooking and eating together; it’s something I never really had time for in London, but I’ll definitely make time for it when I’m back. On Sunday evening, we (and by we I mean Ruth) cooked dinner à l’anglaise for her flatmates – toad in the hole! Sadly the oven decided to stop working so we couldn’t cook the three dishes of apple crumble we’d made, but the dinner was great anyway :)

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Not quite as sophisticated as French cooking but whatever

On Thursday (my mini weekend) we did something I’ve been dying to do for ages but have until now always been too hungover on a Thursday to make it to – ice-skating! There’s a great ice-skating rink in Montpellier: there’s one ‘athletic’ rink, which is massive and links onto another, smaller rink which has tunnels and hills and lights and music. There’s a cheaper rate between 12pm-2pm but of course it’s really quiet because everyone is busy at school/at work/eating lunch so there was hardly anyone else there at all and we basically had the entire rink to ourselves. The few people who where there were amazing skaters and kept doing tricks so they were fun to watch. I had such a good time!

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The final thing I have to tell you is that I’m very proud for finally speaking up in a lesson. As I’ve said before, most of my lessons are incredibly dull (with the exception of Italian which is way too easy and German which is way too hard but I love them both) and involve little to no class interaction. This week, though, in our comparative literature class, the teacher gave us a passage to read through and then asked people to give a short résumé of what we’d just read. When he said “Et qu’est-ce que vos camarades anglaises pensent?”, I suddenly found a very interesting spot on the table that I hadn’t noticed before and proceeded to stare at it intently so as not to make eye contact, but alas, he pointed at me. “Toi, qu’est que t’en pense?” I didn’t reveal anything profound or groundbreaking about the text in my résumé, but I did say something in French in front of a class of native French speakers, and for that I’m very proud.

Crossed off the bucket list this week:

  • Join a gym
  • Go ice skating
  • Choose a café to become a regular at until the staff know my name and my coffee order (Slight clarification needed here: when I wrote this, I pictured a cute French café, possibly with an accordion playing in the background. The reality is a bit different: the kebab shop near to Chantal’s apartment makes really great falafel. We’ve been there so often that the woman who works there, who we’ve affectionately nicknamed Queen of Falafel, always says bon soir and ça va to us before she takes our order, which she knows by heart. Her husband knows us too. I imagine it’s only a matter of time before we get a loyalty discount. But anyway, that definitely counts.)

Until next time,

Bisous xxx

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