- Step One
My sensitisation to all things French actually began this summer when I spent a month living with my good friend Lorène. I was meant to be learning about Indian culture and life, but she probably educated me a lot more. She was constantly direct – no need to worry about crossed wires – and also stylish. This sums up most french people very accurately. Especially in Paris! everyone in Paris is good-looking or, at the very least, they know how to dress. At least I knew what was in store from an early stage.
- Step Two
On another note, STEREOTYPES DON’T EXIST HERE. Forget all the rumours you’ve heard and reassign them in your brains as facts. I have never seen more people wearing (or more shops selling) stripy tops in my life. French people smoke like trains. Nothing will be done on time. French wine is cheap. Baguettes. Baguettes. Pastries. Baguettes.
I am doing my best at keeping up in this respect.
- Step Three
And then there are the things that are less well known but so obviously a part of life here. Things that considered ‘edgy’ in the UK are just the way it is here, namely man buns and double denim… The second that I arrived an instant craving kicked in for a denim jacket – but not just any denim jacket, THE denim jacket. Everyone’s got one and they’re versatile, practical and very very cool all at once. I’ve spotted one with potential on the Croix Rouge shop in town, but it’s only open certain days so time will tell.
- Step Four
French people are SO straightforward. I (badly) needed to get my hair cut, so I decided to risk it and brave a french hairdresser rather than wait until I got home. My vocab in this area is limited, but I did understand when the hairdresser looked at me in despair and said ‘your hair is very sick’. I should have known at that point that I was going to get more than a trim – hairdressers never change, eh? An hour and a half later my hair was darker, shorter and choppier. And more French? I’ve definitely been able to blag that I’m a local on waaaaay more occasions recently (we won’t discuss what happens once I start talking).
- Step Five
I’ve also been on some unreal trips recently in an attempt to ‘soak up the culture’. I had a weekend in Paris where I had lunch with one of my best friends from home, met up with loads of Durham friends for La Nuit Blanche (decidedly underwhelming itself but accompanied with too many hilarious moments to list), and a day at Longchamp Racecourse for Le Prix de L’arc de Triomphe. Plus all the regular touristy stuff and a brunch to die for. I suffered from depression on the train home. Nowhere in the world can compare to Paris. It felt like stepping off the train from Durham to Newcastle to burst the bubble, only I had somehow managed to get off in Paris. The dream.
Blues didn’t last for long though because someone out there was on my side and I only ended up having 2 hours of classes out of the scheduled 8. I took it as a sign to sort my life out and go food shopping for the first time in a fortnight. I’d spent the week before locked in the library prepping for an exposé worth 25% of one of my modules (already), so I had a very long checklist of stuff to do. Life was swiftly sorted and the week pretty much sped along until my Versailles trip yesterday. It seems like I never stop and it’s still surreal that I’m here, but I think things are slowly but surely falling into place!
On the topic of making french friends…. Sometimes the girls in my Thursday Body Attack class grimace/smile at me with a ‘we’re all dying together’ kind of look, but no actual words yet. I’ll mark it down as progress.
On a more unfortunate note, when I whipped my bright pink raincoat out of my rucksack at Versailles I got laughed at for being ‘so british’. Two steps forward, one step back. I don’t think I’ll ever give up on practicality though.