April 11, 2014, by Guest blog

A passport into French culture

Post written by Alice Noone,

The links I have made during my time in France fall into three categories. The first being the people I have encountered. I have been fortunate enough to establish important friendships, particularly with two of my colocs: Céline and Nico. Initially it took time to warm to one another due to our cultural differences. For example, whilst I enjoyed a traditional Earl Grey they would opt for a strong expresso. Over time the ice melted and our similar interests came into play, such as our appreciation for salsa and good wine. Their relaxed personalities were beyond refreshing and I found myself adopting a similar attitude. I was more than happy to accept an invitation to a soirée at the last minute: something I would have feared in England due to the lack of forewarning. On reflection I am grateful for the windows of opportunity they have presented. They introduced me to the secret delights of Montauban: ranging from a local cave, which serves some of the best wine around, to monthly town events such as la fête de la photographie.

Another area I have made connections with is Lycée Jules Michelet: my place of work. When I arrived I was painfully shy and found the prospect of the staff room terrifying. However as my language skills blossomed so did my confidence levels. Soon enough I was in the centre of staff activities. One weekend I accepted an invitation to watch the opening Six Nations rugby match: England against France of course! We spent the evening singing rugby chants and eating good French food. The experience demonstrated how laid-back the French are in accepting others and how quickly the formality of a work environment can be broken down over a sports match.

I also established myself teaching the students. To arrive to a class of beaming teenagers all chanting my name made me feel a sense of accomplishment: they were happy to be taught by me. The many hours I spent lesson planning seemed to pay off.

Finally I must stress the geographical connections I have made during my travels around France. I have ventured from Paris to Bordeaux, to Bayonne to Albi. I feel this has enabled me to understand how France varies in customs and traditions from region to region, whilst also giving me a taste of the varying levels of beauty the country has to offer. Personal highlights include the breathtaking sixteenth century architecture of Jacques Gabriel in Bordeaux, which can be equally matched by the picturesque coastline of Biarritz. In summary, these experiences have offered me a passport into French culture and I am grateful for how they have shaped me as a person.

Posted in Making connections