There is one word to describe my experience in Europe so far: exhilarating. I’ve been able to live in Lille for a week now & still not a day goes by that fails to put me in awe.
First I’ll talk about my educational experience thus far. For my elective class, I have 4 different professors which saddens me because I’ve had 2 of them so far, for 3 classes, and now I won’t see them again & I loved them! They were both British & I’ve come to the conclusion that I could totally live in the UK someday because everyone I’ve met from there is so wry; they have such a great sense of humor. My French class on the other hand… well I was right about level 6 out of 7 being too good for me, & spent the 1st 2 days of class having no idea what my prof was saying (the class is taught in French) so I was finally able to drop down a level & be a lot less stressed about failing. The 3 hour classes still make me feel like I’m slowly dying on the inside but I’m in France after all so you win some, you lose some.
Some things I’ve learned in class so far:
- There is a difference between beaucoup pronounced (bow-coo) & pronounced (bow-cyew); the 1st means “a lot” but the 2nd means “nice butt” (cul is French for butt).
- L’histoire de cul = 1 night stand
- There is a saying in French where you tell someone they have horns, but it doesn’t mean horny like in the States, it means that they’re being cheated on.
- The French are late and it is normal to cancel a scheduled meeting at the time the meeting was supposed to be at.
- The French only acknowledge each other once. They don’t smile and greet each other every time they come across the same person because they take that as a sign of the other person forgetting greeting them previously.
On Tuesday night, I was able to see the opera Madame Butterfly for free. It was amazing although I must say it was an experience seeing my 1st Italian opera with French subtitles. I had to look up the plot afterwards to make sure I was understanding everything but regardless it was a beautiful thing to listen to.
Some more observations about France:
- The toilets are different, they all have a button flush rather than a handle which I think is a lot nicer, & the toilet paper isn’t always in a roll, you pull it out tissue style, which I think is not as efficient as a roll. Also the toilet paper is often colored or printed with designs like flowers, kind of cute I must say.
- It’s quite embarrassing being part of that large group of loud Americans speaking loud English on a bus full of French people that just silently judge you.
- My prof told me that the number of kisses in France depends on the region, and in this region it seems to be 2 “bises” (kisses on the cheek).
- French people are not rude. I repeat, French people are not rude! I will probably state this many more times in my blog, but the French are just like the Americans: there’s some very friendly ones, there’s some less friendly ones, but in general they are just like any other people! Now I’m only speaking about northern France, I haven’t yet been to Paris which is a whole new breed but I’ll let you know when I go 😉
- Portions are the same size in America. Now I haven’t been to St. Michel or anything fancy like that so I’m just speaking for normal French restaurants, but on TV you always see these expensive European cuisine dishes with a thumb sized portion. Not true at all, they give you big portions of food and you won’t be going home hungry.
- There are military guys in packs of at least 3 or 4 that walk around armed with not just handguns, but large rifles & they’re everywhere. I see them all the time & it’s a bit strange but I’m used to it now, I like their little military hats.
So this past Wednesday I went to Ypres, Belgium for a WW1 commemoration field trip. We went to Tyne Cot, which is the largest commonwealth cemetery in the world. Here lies over 11,000 soldiers with 70% being unknown. It was quite an experience, although a bit different for us Americans since WW1 didn’t have as great an impact on us as the European countries. I didn’t have time to find my family name but I was able to sign my name in the registry! And proceed to jump over a wall in the cemetery to avoid missing the bus. Guess that’s what I get for making fun of people taking smiling selfies in front of graves of dead people xD
Then we went to Ypres and surprisingly, I liked this town better than France! And more surprisingly, a lot of other people also felt this way. It was such a beautiful, quaint town and the people there were so friendly & spoke very good English. First, we went to the Flanders Fields Museum which was especially touching for me after having just sung the song back at UF for the annual veteran’s concert & knowing some of the history already. I kept hearing the song in my head as I was walking through & learning about this horrible battle. Everyone was feeling kind of sad after that, but it’s ok because directly after the museum what did we do: get Belgian waffles of course! It was quite strategically placed directly across from the museum and let me tell you about how this was the most amazing waffle I’ve ever had, drizzled with warm, melted chocolate. After this I bought Belgian chocolate & oh my goodness… the best chocolate in the entire world, and so cheap! I really wish I could be shipping food & drinks in bulk back home right now. Lastly, I must rave about the best chocolate mousse I’ve had in my life at a restaurant called Markt 22, I thought I was in heaven. Needless to say after this tiring day of eating, I woke up the next day not even hungry for breakfast but it was so worth it. I’m excited for my trips to Bruges and Brussels in the next 2 weeks but even more excited for my trip to Amsterdam this weekend! Many more adventures to write about next week, a tout a l’heure 🙂