Teacher Luke: How’s life in Paris? Find out in this episode. It’s quite a long one (1hr 30mins) so feel free to listen to it in stages. You don’t have to listen to it all in one go. You can listen to a bit, pause, listen to more later, pause again, finish listening to it. This is easier if you use iTunes to download and listen to the podcast.
There is a transcript to some of this episode smiley THE TRANSCRIPT STARTS HERE:
I recently moved to Paris. I’ve been here for about 6 weeks. This episode is all about my first impressions and experiences of living here. It is about my experience of moving to Paris, but it is also about the experience of living in another culture, so in many ways this is a cross-cultural case study. And if the expression ‘cross cultural case-study’ sounds a bit boring, you could always think of this episode as a bit like “Mr Bean in Paris”, in which I am Mr Bean – a kind of bumbling, foolish English man making loads of mistakes and generally making a fool of himself. That might help keep it amusing. Just keep in mind the image of me getting everything wrong in a famous European capital city. It could be a crap ‘fish out of water’-type movie. Like, “He was a boy, she was a girl, he was English, she was French and the city was Paris. When Luke Thompson moved to Europe to be with the girl he loved, he got just a little more than he bargained for!”. That’s a kind of movie trailer for my life in Paris I suppose.
Anyway, if you have ever lived in another country, you may be able to relate to my experiences of being a fish out of water. If you are thinking of moving to another country, you may be able to learn something about what it is like to be out of your comfort zone. If you are from Paris or France, you may like to know what it is like for an English person to live in your city. If you have never been to Paris, but you have always wondered what it is really like, let me share my experiences with you. You may have noticed already that this episode contains lots of vocabulary and expressions relating to cross-cultural experiences. You can read most of what I am saying by visiting my website which is… http://teacherluke.podomatic.com or http://teacherluke.wordpress.com
I must say at the beginning that I only wish to express my own experiences of living in Paris for just a few weeks. If you are Parisian, French or know a lot about
Paris or France you may feel that I haven’t covered the whole picture yet. I don’t consider myself to be an expert on Parisian life by any means. In fact, I feel like there’s so much that I don’t know! So, don’t be offended if I have got the wrong end of the stick and misunderstood certain things about life here in Paris. I don’t imagine you would be offended to be honest.
Let me also say that I have not completely left London behind. The two cities are very close. On the Eurostar (which is a train that connects the two cities – it goes under the sea, yes under the actual sea!) it’s really easy to travel between London and Paris in just a couple of hours. Some people say that London is a Paris suburb, or vice versa. (Obviously, I reckon it’s the other way round because London is bigger than Paris) So, I still maintain my connection with London and with Britain. I will be regularly going back to London to see my friends and my family, to catch up on what’s going on in London and to keep in touch with my work colleagues at The London School of English. So, this is not going to become Luke’s French Podcast. It’s still very much Luke’s English Podcast. In fact moving to France makes me even more aware of my London roots. I’m an Englishman at heart. Living in France gives me more perspective on this, and on the culture of the English language, and hopefully (depending on how things go) here in France I will have more time to devote to doing episodes of the podcast that focus on the English language, culture and all the other things that you have come to expect from Luke’s English Podcast.
So, let me tell you what you’re going to hear in this particular episode.
First, I’m going to talk a bit about cross cultural awareness, just to provide a bit of a context to the whole thing. Then, in no particular order, I’ll go through my general experiences of life in Paris. What I’ve found different or similar to life in London, what I’ve found difficult or challenging, and what I’ve found enjoyable, inspiring, and funny about life here, so far. Please leave your comments if you want to share, and as ever you can always send me a donation to show you care, if you fancy it! It’s completely up to you to decide how much you wish to donate, from just £1, $1 or €1 (to be honest I hope you choose the £1 because, well, it’s worth more because of exchange rates, so if you have to choose, then go for £1 maybe). Well, from, like 1 pound, dollar or Euro to a hundred thousand billion trillion pounds if that’s what you think is appropriate. I am, of course, aware that a hundred thousand billion trillion pounds (£100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 I think…) is more money than there actually is in the world, but, you know, maybe Roman Abramovic listens to this. You never know… You can dream… Anyway, it’s really easy to donate, you just click a donate button on my website and it’s really easy to make a donation really safely using PayPal. OK that’s it. The begging bit is over.
I don’t really do any language teaching in this episode, although I will be doing more stuff in the future – getting back to basics and doing more language oriented episodes. However, I’ve managed to write some pretty detailed notes for this episode, and a transcript of a lot of what I’m saying. I don’t always do that, but this time I have. So, like I said before do check out teacherluke.podomatic.com and you can read a lot of this and that can really help you to work out and learn a lot of the English I am using.
So, first, a bit about cross-cultural awareness.
Whatever your situation, it is always good to have some sense of perspective about the place that you live in. Remember, you may think that the way of life that you are used to is the normal way. That your way of life is correct, and another way of life is wrong. That’s a pretty basic way to put it but I think we all think this to a certain extent. We take for granted many things about the way we live. It could be little things like the way we dress, or the way we eat. Or it could be bigger things like politics of the country we’re in or the religion or something. I think most of the time we get used to our own way of life and consider it to be normal. It is only when we leave our culture and live in another one that we realise how different life can be, and that maybe our way is not the only one.
Living in another country (not just on holiday, but permanently – for at least a few months) can be confusing, it can be frustrating at times, but it can also be exciting, refreshing, inspiring and humbling. It can open your mind.
I think everyone should experience living in another country for a while. Living abroad can make you more tolerant and patient with other people. It should at least. That’s the idea. Hopefully it doesn’t just confirm any xenophobic attitudes or prejudices you had when you visited the country. I’m sure that’s the case sometimes, but for the most part like to think it helps us to realise that it takes all sorts to make a world. It’s good to remember that our way of life, our habits and familiar routines are not the only way to live. When we step out of our comfort zone we get the chance to realise that we are not always right about everything, and that there are other ways to live your life. Hopefully, living abroad helps to prevent us from getting too arrogant or big headed, like “Oh, the rest of the world is stupid and my country is the best” – I actually think we feel this way more than we like to admit. It means we are more willing to see differences in the world as something to celebrate, rather than something to fight about.
That’s the idea of course. That’s the theory. In reality, on a day to day basis, living abroad can be difficult, confusing, dangerous, infuriating and hilarious. It takes a while to really get used to living in another country. It probably takes about a year to feel that you understand things, but really you never get completely used to it. It’s a constant learning process. But it’s good to keep learning. In my opinion, when we live abroad, certainly at the beginning, we learn about 3 things: About the new culture that we are living in, about the culture we have come from, and about ourselves.
Culture shock. I’ve talked about this before. I don’t really believe it is a shock. When it’s bad you feel frustrated with the other culture, or even angry because you see what they do as wrong or ridiculous. It can also make you question yourself and make you feel pretty small. You might not even realise you are experiencing culture shock. You might just feel a bit annoyed that everyone is apparently doing it all wrong. That’s really common. “These people are stupid”, you might think. You make judgements. You might even offend people without realising it, because you’re not aware of little cultural rules that youre breaking. You might get offended yourself. It depends on why you are there in the first place. So, really it should be re-named ‘culture-frustration’, ‘culture-rage’, ‘culture-depression’ or ‘culture-neurosis’, but of course none of these are particularly catchy titles. Of course, culture shock can also be really great! When it is good the feeling is pretty wild. It feels like a crazy adventure which sweeps you away. You can feel inebriated by the excitement and wonder of a new experience. It can be very liberating to be removed from the shackles and limitations of the culture you come from. Certainly, that is why a lot of people travel or decide to live abroad. Travel broadens the mind. I’m sure I don’t need to convince you of that. But just in case, allow me to share a couple of sayings made by famous people, on the subject of travelling, just so you are absolutely sure that I am 100% right about this (as if there was any doubt about that!
Mark Twain said “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine
“All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.” – Samuel Johnson
Anyway enough about all that. Let me tell you about my experiences in Paris.
People back in London keep asking me questions like:
-So, how is Paris then?
-How’s it going?
-What’s it like living in Paris?
-Do you smell of garlic yet?
-Do you feel homesick?
-Is it different to the UK?
-Are you experiencing culture shock?
-How are you enjoying the food?
-What are the people like?
-Do they refuse to speak English to you, even though they could if they wanted to?
-Have you got a job yet?
-Have you learned French yet? What’s it like learning a foreign language? Is it difficult to pronounce the words? Do people really say “ooh la la”, “zut alors!” or even “hoh-hee-hoh-hee-hoh”?
-What do all the buildings look like? Are they beautiful?
-Are people really fashionable and chic?
-Have you put on loads of weight because of all that rich buttery food?
-Are waiters really rude to you in restaurants?
-Do people hate you because you’re English?
-Have you managed to understand the ridculously complicated Metro system yet?
-Have you managed to get an apartment yet? Because apparently that’s really hard if you don’t have a bank account.
-Have you managed to get a bank account yet? Because apparently that’s really hard if you don’t have an apartment.
-What’s it like driving in Paris? Is it strange driving on the other side of the road? Have you driven around L’Arc de Triomphe? Is it as impossible and life-threatening as everyone says?
-What about getting a taxi? Apprarently that’s impossible.
-What about the night life? Have you been to the Moulin Rouge? Is it like that movie? You know, the one about the Moulin Rouge, with Nicole Kidman and Ewan Magregor. I can’t remember what it’s called, but anyway, have you been to the Moulin Rouge?
-Have you seen any sexy French movies yet? You know, the black and white arty ones, in which people lie around on beds smoking and undressing?
-What are the girls like? What are they LIKE? You know, are they…? Do they…? Will they…? Have they…? How often do they…? What about their…? Hmmm? (Sorry, I’ve got no idea what you mean)
-Have you been up the Eiffel Tower? How long did it take? Did you walk all the way up? What’s the view like?
-Have you been to le Louvre? Did you see the Mona Lisa? Did she seem happy or unhappy to you, or somewhere in between?
-Have you had sex with Carla Bruni yet, because everyone else has, apparently?
-Do they really eat snails & frogs’ legs and loads of garlic?
-Does everyone drink champagne and red wine all the time?
-Have you started riding around on a bicycle yet, wearing a stripy top, with a beret on your head, a moustache on your upper lip, a chain of garlic round your neck and some baguettes in the basket? or is that just a cliche?
-In fact, what’s it really like Luke? What does it look like Luke? Look, Luke, like, what does it, like, look like Luke? Do you, like, love it? A lot? or a little? Please, let us listen, Luke, to you, like, letting us learn a lot about living life in Le French capital, of Paris.
OK. Let me try and deal with it all. I recently noted down some thoughts Paris, and how it seems a bit different to life in London.
This section is not transcribed because I am just talking off the top of my head, but below you can see the notes I used for this bit. It may contain some of the language I used.
-When you arrive you immediately get a sense of the rich history of the place. It seems very 1920s or something. Looking at the bistros with their canopies, chairs and tables it seems almost untouched by time.
-Much of the city looks quite similar. The streets are quite uniform in style. The design is based on lots of diagonal streets that branch out from circular junctions. This means that I get lost pretty easily.
-All the streets seem to have the same types of shop; cafes, bars, tobacconists, boulangeries, Japanese restaurants. My girlfriend is always saying “this is the best boulangerie in Paris!”. As far as I can tell, there are about 9 “best boulangeries” in Paris.
-The bread really is a delicious luxury. The croissants are full of butter.
-They have cheese before desert. You can’t end a meal eating something savoury! It has to end with something sweet, like a dessert.
-Cafe culture is different to pub culture. You have to wait to be served, which feels a bit strange to me at first. I always feel that I have to ask for permission before sitting down.
-The drinking culture is different. In the UK we have a lot of ‘binge drinking’ which means drinking a lot, in a short space of time, in order to get drunk. It’s a bit of a public health issue. It’s probably something to do with the early closing times of our pubs. In France they seem to be more civilised with their drinking of alcohol. They drink wine with food, and enjoy the taste, rather than just drinking to get drunk (although I am sure there are plenty of people who do that – I just haven’t noticed it as much as in the UK)
-People tend to know quite a lot about wine. There is a lot of good wine available in the supermarket and it’s pretty cheap. Champagne too. It’s cheaper, so people drink it more, which seems pretty decadent.
-I often see water flowing through the gutters in the streets in the afternoons. Perhaps this is a way of keeping the streets clean. It seems like quite a waste of water to me, but it also reminds me of when I was a kid with my brother on holiday in the south of France. We used to sail paper boats down the water in the gutters.
-There’s quite a lot of dog poo, dog muck, dog turds or dog sh*t in the street. It’s pretty disgusting, and quite surprising considering the way the city is so well presented and elegant. Perhaps this is just because people love dogs, and there’s no other place to let them do their poos. I guess a lot of the poo is washed away, and a lot of dogs poo into the gutters. Still, you have to watch your step sometimes.
-I often find there is quite a lot of piss/urine in the street as well. Do people really just pee in the street, or is this homeless people? I don’t know, but it smells quite a lot!
-Cars seem to bump into each other more, perhaps because there are fewer parking spaces.
-Driving on the right is quite strange for me. Driving onto the Boulevard Peripherique (ring road) was quite stressful. The slip road just sends you directly into traffic, which was quite a surprise for me. In the UK the slip road gradually eases you into the traffic over about 1km. Not here!
-People seem to push, shove and bump into each other more, as if they are less aware of their own personal space.
-People seem to stare more. I often feel self-conscious when I am out in public. I feel like I should dress smarter, because I am being judged.
-People tend to dress well. They’re chic. It’s as if the grand elegance of the city is reflected in its people.
-People seem less humourous, or perhaps the humour is just different or valued in a different way. Certainly, in the UK the humour is more ironic or deadpan.
-Generally, people seem a bit more formal, particularly when meeting for the first time. For example, when I met my girlfriend’s parents.
-They speak a different language!
-The sirens (on police cars and ambulances) sound different. Here’s the video of Bill Bailey talking about sirens, and doing his song:
And here are the translated lyrics (it sounds better in French):
We are injured
We have a man
He’s called Jean-Michel
His leg is broken
With a young girl
She’s caled Gisèle
She’s so beautiful
They climbed up a tree
To make love
They adopted the missionary position – Its popular
He broke his leg
-The buildings are very grand. The interiors are gorgeous.
-Apartments seem to be very high quality. Nice wooden floors, etc.
-Paris is smaller than London, so it feels a bit like a town to me.
-It’s slightly more chilled out than London.
-There is less stand-up comedy here, it seems.
-I’m not sure about the music. There’s less evidence of modern popular musical culture here (although perhaps it’s because I am not aware of it, although I do love some things like Serge Gainsbourg for example)
-It can be really hard to get an apartment in Paris. You have to jump through lots of administrative hoops.
-The people can seem quite judgemental, and rude even, but when you get to know them they are lovely. Everyone I’ve met has been very nice to me.
-The light is beautiful here. It often strikes me as being a stunning place.
-I’ve become aware of how British I am, how awkward I am (like Hugh Grant or something)
Generally it’s a great place and I recommend it to anyone who wishes to visit.
Stay tuned for more episodes of Luke’s English Podcast. In the future we will be getting back to basics and looking at the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the language; the vocab and grammar. Hopefully I will be able to devote more time to this, but we’ll see what happens. Bye for now and thanks for listening, I hope I didn’t bore the pants off you! winking