Friday, December 15, 2006

Parting Wisdom

Anything can happen, any day. Seriously, you can be sitting there and something falls on your head, or someone marches into your life, or you get a phone call with a proposition that could drastically alter your path as you thought you knew it. I think this is why potato couching is never advisable, but anyway...
If you, like me, ever get a phone call suggesting you ditch your life as you know it and move to France (it very well may happen mind you!) then i have some things to say to you. Listen well, you will thank me much in the future.

1. The language: you will not, repeat NOT just pick up French. It is not a pick-up-able language. If you don't already have a base, take lessons, and if you have a base, take a course when you get here. Meanwhile make sure you know how to say "speak slowly please" and more importantly; "can you repeat that please?". If you expect to learn French by Osmosis, then don't expect it to be fast, i know people who have lived here 10 years, and can't put two sentences together.

2. The People: The French have a chip on their shoulder. How big the chip is depends greatly on nothing at all. If you are lucky the odd one will smile at you, or lend a helping hand. More probable is the fact that if you forget the hand breaks of your car down while parked and your car slides to cosily touch bumpers with the car in front of it, you will come back in an hour to find a typed, yes typed! letter of insult telling you that if you do not know how to park to stay the hell away from my car. The French have a chip on their shoulder, and they are waiting for you to take it out on.

3. The People when you know the language: I have one suggestion; ear plugs.
The French talk alot. What you would say in English in one sentence they automatically say in four. Having said that, 40% of their talk is small talk and 50% is whining. Should you be lucky enough to be around for the remaining 10%, let me know, i am yet to find a French person who had anything to add to me in terms of conversation.

4. The system: The word bureaucracy is French, it has not been altered all over the world for a very simple reason; no one can compete. There is a hole in every loop in the french system, and not one from which you can sneak in from, no, it is a hole that makes it near impossible for you to get into the system at all. If you want to rent an apartment, you must have a bank account, if you want to open a bank account, you must have proof that you have an apartment. If you are an Egyptian/British person you are forever condemned to using an international license, because you are a gap in the system. Having said that, once you are in the system, there is no getting you out of it. Ever.

5. Random Tips:
  • If you do not drink, don't start here, you will not stop.
  • Keep a camera with you at all times, there is always something so beautiful that you must take a picture
  • It is difficult to find a restaurant with a completely off menu, the French cuisine is great, and bad French cuisine is still pretty good
  • It is near impossible to get food between 3:00pm and 7:00pm unless you are in Paris, if you are hungry, too bad.
  • If you are here for another World Cup, go somewhere else. They only watch the matches they are playing in, if they win you hardly notice and if they lose they become triple whiney and gloomy. Seriously, go somewhere else.
  • If you are going to get sick, do it here, they are as good as they say they are. You better be insured though!
  • Always, always, keep a single Euro coin with you. This is by far the most precious piece of advice i can give you.
And lastly, prepare yourself to always have a love/hate relationship with France, the most beautiful warm country with the most unsettling and cold underlying effect.


Haroun said...

Vive la France!

Maxxed`ouT said...

I could never have said it better ...

N said...

That's quite the compliment Kaf :)

Juka said...

WOW. Great piece.

If at first said...

I loved. I realized though, that I wouldnt have appreciated this piece has much had I not been to France. Paris mind you is probably an entity on its own, standing quite different from the rest of the country.

I did fall in love with Paris. And thats exactly how I felt...there was something beautiful to take a picture of always.

Carmen said...

Everytime I think of Paris my heart swells...I've never fallen in love with a city like that.

N said...

i think Paris is the most chosen favourite city in the world.

I remember the first time i went there, i went to london the next day and then back to Paris after two days, i remember asking myself all day; how can someone choose to go to London over Paris? How can someone choose to go to any city over Paris?

If at first said...

I flew to London just after Paris...and having been to London many times before, I wasn't expecting too much in the way of umph...the stark differences b/w the two cities hit me nonetheless...if Paris is full of smiles...London is full of rush-hour tube rides with sullen faces...