Before arriving in rural Aveyron (which from now on shall be referred to as ‘the back end of nowhere’), I naively thought I would become worldly, chilled out and tanned, finding an affinity between myself and the countryside that I had never had, having been raised in the leafy pastures of South East London. However, after one week of rural life I came to the unsurprising realisation that I am not ‘zen’, can’t do yoga, and I burn really easily. Shockingly, it turns out that working on a campsite isn’t as glamorous as it sounds.
Though I complained bitterly throughout my extended exile, it wasn’t all bad. I was situated near a giant man-made reservoir, where I managed to find the perfect spot to top up my second degree burns. Key to remember that when I say Southern France, the area about which I am speaking is more wholesome families on a pedalo than yacht owners with offshore bank accounts.
It also turned out that my enclave of calm was also a haven for local (agèd) nudists. I took this to be a sign from the powers that be for having previously complained about speedos, which I now realise hide a multitude of sins. I must also emphasise that though nude, the male members of this covert clan were never to be seen without a heavy gold / silver or nickel chain adorning their necks.
- I saw someone unironically sporting a ‘vape-life’ tee-shirt.
- The southern French accent is basically incomprehensible
- The local village bus (my only escape route) left once a day at 7:45am, leaving me effectively stranded and reliant on kindly passers by to drive me to other equally rural places. It is also important to note that the local ‘village’ was a) a 35 minute walk away b) not really worthy of being called a village because it didn’t even have a boulangerie, which in my opinion is one of the only things going for France.
- I had to start going on rural walks to keep myself occupied. Except the area was actually quite ugly and I almost got run over by a 14 year old on a dirt bike one time.
- Backwards caps with aviator sunglasses are a uniform for the southern-french stud
- The local supermarket (‘local’ meaning an approximately 30 minute drive away)
- My only form of entertainment consisted of going to rural French equivalents of a village ‘fayre’. These are actually quite fun until you take a good look around you and realise you’re in a middle of a crowd of French teens, the 4th conga of the night is snaking its way around the village hall, and the DJ is making the executive decision to transition from Despacito to Cotton Eye Joe.
- Drunk driving in rural France is a real thing, and all I can say is it is a miracle that I am writing this sub-par article today.
- Speedos are the southern French version of casual day wear.
- Rural French men in speedos of a certain age lacked certain social cues, such as not approaching me. I was thus unwillingly engaged in numerous conversations about the merits of the Aveyron countryside, a topic about which I could add very little because to my mind it resembled the environs of industrial Dartford. I would also advise learning the phrase ‘please leave me alone I am trying to play candy crush’.
- My work had a ‘playlist’ that was almost exclusively composed of the top French hits of 2006, 95% of which were backed by aggressive accordions.
- One of my colleagues was one of those men with a tendency to tell young girls to smile, which gave me the distinct urge to put him in a chokehold. As I am a nice person and not generally prone to psychopathic behaviour I did not act on these urges. I have, however, perfected my pleasant grimace / withering glare, which will hopefully help me out in similar situations.
- Crocs are the sliders of the south (I’ve been told they’re actually very breathable, so coming round to this one)
- Nature is best observed from afar (unless you are someone who wears North Face for practical purposes). This conclusion was in no way influenced by my tripping into a bed of nettles on a misjudged foray into wilderness.
- My ‘sense of humour’ translates even worse into French than it does into English.
- In southern France the drink of choice is an aniseed spirit whose mixer is water. If you want to spice up your drink order a little, just ask for a ‘peroquet’ - mint syrup, Ricard, and water. You can thank me later :)
You must also use BlaBlacar (hitchhiking on an app) as your main mode of travel, as the French rail system is often incapacitated due to strikes. Make sure you also leave plenty of time to account for a potential BlaBlacar break down on the autoroute (motorway). During my particular experience of breaking down in a stranger’s car I surprised myself with my calmness, because I realised I could probably live out the rest of my days on the edge of the autoroute subsisting on wild grasses and still prefer it to the campsite.
Stylewise, dig out your year 7 union jack tee-shirt. It may seem paradoxical that French people claim to hate England with a passion, yet can’t get enough of our flag, but when in life does anything ever truly make sense?