26 Things You’ll Only Understand If You Studied Abroad In France
You were warned about culture shock, told to register with a doctor and to be organised with paperwork, but there are some things those year abroad meetings could never have prepared you for. In reality, adapting to the regular rhythms of everyday life across the Channel is a tricky business, with many an administrative obstacle.
Here are twenty six things you’ll totally get if you’ve studied abroad in France.
1. You had to spend hours scouring websites like appartager.fr before leaving in the desperate hope of finding somewhere to live.
2. You gain a whole new understanding of the phrase ‘feeling like a fish out of water’ during the first few weeks of integrating into French life.
3. It takes a good month or two before you can confidently go to places without spending an hour researching how to get there on Google Maps.
4. You start to speak to your family and friends more on Skype from France than when you’re at home.
5. You feel like you deserve to be awarded your degree early after wading through the seemingly endless administrative jungle that is French bureaucracy.
6. Not to mention making it through the whole getting your travel card, SIM card and opening a French bank account rigmarole relatively unscathed.
7. And you’re genuinely convinced that, after completing the infamous CAF application, you can do anything.
8. You find getting your head round a new city, its transport system and French recycling rules absolutely exhausting.
9. You’re eternally disappointed that the rumour that French supermarkets offer great value is a terrible myth.
Um, how has stocking up on some pesto, an aubergine and some toilet paper come to twenty euros?
10. You struggle to read your own writing on the ridiculously narrow lined paper they use in France.
There’s simply way too much going on.
11. And you’ve now experienced enough impromptu French strikes to last you a lifetime.
12. You might even have been unlucky enough to suffer the incomparable trauma of 8am lectures.
13. You quickly learn that, on Sundays, France is a ghost town. The joke’s on you if you’ve forgotten to do your food shop, because nothing will be open.
14. You’re surprised by what you end up missing from home, like Heinz baked beans, Boots and proper peanut butter.
15. You regularly opt for a fake it ’til you make it technique when you can’t remember how to say something.
“If I just act like I know what I’m saying, maybe they’ll just think they’re the ones who don’t understand.”
16. But then, the three-month-in linguistic plateau strikes and everything you say sounds so English and awkward.
17. You’re constantly faced with a dilemma whenever ordering things like un thé Earl Grey or un muffin in a cafe – do you go for the French accent or just say it normally?
18. Stumbling across a manifestation in town becomes totally normal.
19. You reach a distressing stage when you completely forget how to say and spell English words.
And when someone asks you how to say something in English, you turn to a fellow Erasmus student because you no longer trust your own judgement.
20. You come to accept that you will never understand some aspects of French culture.
Like why the contents page of books generally comes at the back.
21. You do however get used to the beautiful parks, the cheap wine that actually tastes nice and the extensive range of cheeses at the supermarket.
22. By the time you come home, you’ve got totally used to the whole kissing thing and realise how awkward British greetings can be.
At least with la bise it’s like a standard procedure.