October 18, 2013, by Guest blog
An eye-opening beginning in Toulouse
Post written by Harry Canning
It has been an eye-opening first month in Toulouse. By now I have just about settled; a roof over my head, a bank account, a mobile contract and a Carrefour loyalty card. These seemingly routine achievements have come amongst numerous other, sometimes bizarre administrative requirements – such as a mandatory insurance policy for accommodation costing around 3 euros for the year – at the expense of some considerable exasperation. Paperwork is paramount. It often feels as if the French have dealt quite cunningly with any past rises in unemployment by simply increasing red-tape and bureaucracy and then creating administration jobs to process it. I have by now become quite used to running in circles, and with acceptance of the ridiculousness of some situations I can now just laugh them off – things take somewhat longer to get done over here.
In fact it feels like life in general is much slower, but I’m convinced that this isn’t a bad thing. Apart from the 1.5 hour lectures (which is a little too slow for my tastes!), people seem to take much more time to enjoy life. The city closes for two hours over lunchtime as people meet friends or family for a meal (it’s not just Spain then), and in general there is a far more welcoming atmosphere than can be found in any English city. A brief illustration: whenever a member at my local gym enters he will walk around the entire room personally greeting each and every person there with a handshake, regardless of if they have met previously or not.
The city has at least 3 universities and lots of other specialist colleges and schools, so it is packed with students. Whilst the halls of residence are socially a world apart from those in England, the Erasmus organisation provides plenty events to keep busy. The danger here is that English is the communal language for the majority, and most jump at the opportunity to practice. Playing rugby is a great way to immerse myself linguistically and I hope this becomes more intense as matches start this month. (It’s also an amazing place to be as a fan and I’ve made plenty of time to go and watch Stade Toulousain!)
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