Spending six months working abroad was such a formative experience, and I inevitably learnt so much about both the French and myself.
One thing I didn’t expect was how conservative the Parisian fashion is in summer. Whenever I walked around in short skirts/playsuits (in 38 degrees heat might I add) I would get strange looks and a lot of catcalls, which brings me nicely to my next point.
Street harassment is a much bigger problem across the channel, men would approach me and say disgusting things, or make crude noises at me as I walked past. One particularly horrendous episode was when I was sitting by the Seine with my friend one evening, enjoying a nice moment and these two men came and sat next to us. They proceeded to pester and harass us, at one point saying to me “I respect you have a boyfriend, but will you please come and have sex with me?” like, no?!?!
On a more positive note, I learnt a lot of French/Parisian slang! I can’t believe I didn’t know any of these when I first arrived, they are used all the time in everyday conversation! Here are the most common ones:
- Du coup : so/therefore (used all the time- literally almost every sentence)
- Mec : guy
- Meuf : woman
- Bosser : to work
- Bouffer : to eat
One of the main things I learnt about myself is how much of an extrovert I am- I couldn’t stand being alone for more than a day. I get so much energy from other people. It’s actually quite frustrating that I have to rely on other people wanting to meet up with me to be happy and satisfied, but I guess it’s just one of those things.
Because I discovered how much of an extrovert I was, I realised that I needed to be proactive and organise meeting up with people- often people I had not met before. This taught me to be more confident, and not worry about whether they thought I was too keen or whatever. I discovered how much fun it is to meet people and find out about their lives.
Coping with mishaps
I encountered many mishaps and difficulties, often coming across unpleasant people and having to learn how to cope with their rude comments. For example, a man in a shop telling me that I am very bad at French, and another guy at a trade show aggressively asking to speak to someone “Who can actually speak French”. These both hit a nerve with my language insecurities but I learnt not to take people’s words to heart. They are just random strangers, I do not need to take any notice of their words.
Overall, I learnt a lot from the six months, maturing and growing as a person, understanding myself better and learning how to cope in new and unpleasant situations. I don’t regret a thing, the good times created some amazing memories, and the bad times some hilarious stories.