Paris: the city of delicious food and wines, fashion and culture, and the place where I would be spending the first 6 months of my Year Abroad. I arrived in France in July 2019 to start my 6-month internship at a language app company. Before moving, I had always been really excited about my Year Abroad and the opportunity to live in Paris, one of my favourite cities in the world. However, when the time came around, I found the reality of leaving my life in Durham behind quite sad. I had a great group of friends, I really loved college and university life in general, and I knew that when I returned in fourth year, a lot of my friends would have graduated. Therefore, I did struggle in the first month, as I didn’t particularly enjoy my job and I found it difficult to make new friends, as I was working rather than studying. When I first arrived, I barely knew anyone in Paris, and, given the fact I arrived in July when most people arrive in September, I had to force myself to go out and find new people. Language events such as Mundo Lingo (free on Thursdays at La Maizon Bar) and Franglish (Sundays 6-8pm at Chapi Chapo) were really great ways to meet open-minded and friendly people. A lot of people recommended joining a sports team to meet new people, but since I am not particularly sporty, I found that language meet-ups in bars were the best way to meet like-minded people.
After the initial month of feeling sad about leaving Durham, I realised that I wasn’t appreciating this opportunity enough. I was living in such a beautiful and culturally-rich city, with loads of opportunities, people to meet and things to do. Once I pushed myself to meet more people, I made a great group of friends here in Paris. Simply saying yes to opportunities allowed me to meet way more people and do things out of my comfort zone. My love for the language has grown, as has my appreciation for the culture and the way of life here.
Now, regarding cultural misunderstandings/shocks, there are a few things I’ve had to get accustomed to over here. For example, every morning I have to high-five everyone in my office (yes everyone). I’m not sure if this is a start-up thing or a Parisian thing, but saying good morning and fist-bumping is expected here, and I’m not a massive fist-bump girl. Apart from that and the distinct difference in terms of French humour and British sarcasm, I’ve personally felt that I’ve come to fit in quite well. The French do have a reputation of being slightly cold, but most people I’ve met have been very polite and welcoming, pretty much the same as British people. The only thing I really miss is Cadbury’s and a good cup of tea (French milk is just not the same).
I have really felt my ability to be independent, confident and open to new people and experiences improve dramatically and after an initial bump in the road, I am truly enjoying every moment of my new-found life in Paris.