April 23, 2015, by Rachel Bainbridge

Nissa la Bella

I arrived in Nissa la Bella (Niçois for Nice the Beautiful) around a month and a half ago and I have to say: settling in to this dreamy city has not been too taxing. Nice – France’s fifth most populous city – sits on the Cote d’Azur and experiences a warm, sunny climate almost year-round. Think palm trees and terracotta buildings against a perfect blue sky; the lighting and colours that attracted world-renowned artists to the city, such as Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse. It’s like being on holiday all the time! And yet, there is a perfect balance between being in a laid-back beach getaway and having remarkable city facilities (public transport, museums, libraries, parks, shops, night life) readily available.

However, living and working here has not always been as smooth as the curveson a Matisse femme nue. Last year, we were repeatedly told how slow and frustrating French bureaucracy is. I can now vouch for this fact. Everyone who is on or who has completed a year abroad in France will understand the struggles of finding a place to live, applying for social security, opening a bank account, getting a mobile… (list non-exhaustive!) All of which, by the way, seem to be prerequisites of one another; e.g. to open a bank account you need proof of address in France yet to get a place to live you need a bank account! Ridicule!

Within a few weeks I found a place to stay: a large, traditional French apartment which I share with a French student and an American English assistant, like me. And, after a month, where paperwork and bureaucracy was concerned, I was starting to settle in. I was living and working in France; a real, self-proclaimed Niçoise chick. Then: I was pickpocketed! This started a new chapter of exasperation as I worked my way through the French bank, police and post systems. It happened over a fortnight ago and I am still suffering the consequences, but more of the slowness of the aforementioned French systems than of the perpetrator!

Despite these setbacks, my first impressions of life in Nice and France in general have been positive. After less than two months I am already feeling like my year abroad is passing me by too quickly. But this is easily said when I can go out in mid-November in sandals and no coat! When I see pictures of friends on years abroad in Paris, wrapped up for winter, I think: while I may not be in the world-famous Ville-Lumière, I would still much rather be here, enjoying the sunshine in Nissa la Bella.

Posted in First impressions