November 5, 2013, by Guest blog

Making friends in Bordeaux

In just under week, I will have been in Bordeaux for two months. I have met a great deal of people, visited and been to a whole heap of places and had to tackle lots of problems on my own. Although some has been a challenge, I am actually looking back thinking where has the time gone?

The first week was the biggest challenge. The day before I was supposed to arrive, my flat fell through when the landlord decided to rent the flat to some French students. So I arrived on sans logement (without accomodation). Whilst I was a little lost in the airport, I ended up meeting a girl who has become one of the best friends here and with some help from the international team at the university here, I managed to eventually secure an apartment from the city centre.

Opening up a bank account, registering for various services and getting a phone contract were also quite stress free – although I found myself searching for vocabulary that you learn in Year 7 French! Thus I spent the first couple of weeks, exploring Bordeaux (which is beautiful) and its surroundings, and learning how to use the tram – Bordeaux style. (As a native Londoner, I am appalled at how the ‘Bordelais’ cannot use the tram correctly – Tube users (it’s the equivalent of the tube here in terms of its use) would be horrified to see the ‘Bordelais’ not using all the available doors and delaying the tram. More recently, a llama was spotted on the tram. No, I’m not joking.).

It has been more difficult however to become accustomed to various social and cultural differences. It is very English (and formal) to shake someone’s hand whilst the French always ‘faire la bise’ (exchange kisses on the cheek). Thus I have had various awkward first encounters with French students where that has been confusion over whether we should kiss or shake hands. I’ve also had become accustomed to people randomly saying hello, but this has led to really funny and quite bizarre situations such as talking to a random French man (his name was Christophe) about why the English hate the Euro whilst doing my laundry.

I have also noticed that the French are very timely people – they are often late (and nonchalant about it), they take their time and care over tasks (such as eating lunch) and they work to live (rather than the other way round). This approach is great as it means that lunches last forever and you have plenty of time to chat and enjoy your meal but conversely means that you will be standing in the rain for half an hour waiting for someone (this happened to me) and if you wake up on a Sunday and fancy having some eggs and decide to take a stroll to the supermarket, you will find it closed (this also happened to me).

Studying has been quite a strange experience. I thought that studying at a business school would mean that everyone and everything would be super serious. I also had the impression that since it was very small and a ‘Grande Ecole’ (a private university), everyone would be much more focused. I was also told before arriving that the French did not really have the concept of societies and I was worried as in England, a lot of emphasis (and a lot of your friends will be made) is placed on societies.

Thus I was very surprised when I arrived and there were plenty of ‘associations’ to join. Maybe it is just here at KEDGE but the ‘associations’ have such a great spirit about them – and they make KEDGE a great place to study. I have enjoyed two in particular – I have started playing football with the women’s team and I have also been accepted to join the music association committee. It has been amazing for my French because I have managed to pick up all sorts of words and use all kinds of vocabulary that I probably would have never used. We will have to see how my first radio show (in French) pans out then!

In terms of work – French students and the ERASMUS students here are all very similar to English students back home. (Yes, it is ok to leave your essay to do until the day before because chances are the French will actually just hand it in late – they are timely people!).

It has been good to do a little reflecting as I am only here until Christmas and I will soon be in Paris. This week will see me tackling another set of exams in French, playing a game of football, attending my first committee meeting and then off to Madrid to visit my best friend to see how she’s coping with her year abroad.



Posted in First impressions