Flashback to October 2016 when a very nervous, (and hopelessly optimistic), Shannon packed her life into two suitcases and caught a plane to France to work for 6 months. You know the song at the start of Beauty and the Beast when Belle sings about her “little town”? Well, that comfortably sums up where I have been living and working for the last half a year. To say that I suffered from some culture shock initially is a huge understatement. Everything was different: my surroundings, the language, the food, my job, and the people. For the first few weeks I wasn’t sure I would ever settle in. However, time has completely flown as it always does, and somehow my time in France has come to an end. Looking back on the whole experience I can honestly say it was one of the most challenging, but fulfilling things I have ever done.
In my post 21 Things I’ve Learned by 21 I talked about how deceptive social media can be. I want to share my experience so I can give you an honest picture of what it’s like to live abroad, and to show you how sometimes the most challenging things you have to do, turn out to be the ones that change you for the better. So, seeing as you all already know I love lists, here are some of the things I will miss and some I will definitely not miss about being an Irish girl in France…
Things I will miss
If you follow me on Instagram, which you should, (shameless plug), you are probably sick of seeing me pose in front of various Parisian monuments. I had visited Paris a handful of times before this year, but never as an adult, or a french speaker, and it’s safe to say I have fallen completely head over heels. Living an hour away from the Eiffel Tower was a novelty I never tired of. Paris can be a daunting city, but it is tirelessly vibrant and brimming with culture. I can’t imagine how anyone could ever be bored there. I am not about to pretend to be a travel expert, but I have lots of best bits and recommendations, so drop me a message any time if you need a bit of inspiration for your next trip.
2. The Language
You will not appreciate how amazing it is to speak a second language until you have to do it every day. This year I exceeded my own expectations with the things I did and the progress I made. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the time speaking French all day gave me an actual hangover, and don’t get me started on how impossible it is whenever you’re tired, but it is SO worth it. I will genuinely miss learning new things about the language every day. No one actually speaks the French that they teach you at university, and they are right when they say the only way to learn is to be immersed in it. The trick is to persevere, and don’t get too caught up on grammatical perfection. If you can understand them, and they can understand you, you’ve won half the battle.
3. My Friends
One of the most beautiful things about moving abroad is the people you will meet. You will automatically be like-minded based purely on the fact you are both there doing the same thing, but they’re also likely to come from a completely different background from you. This year I sat in a restaurant countless times with about 6 different nationalities around the table at once. This exchange of experiences, and opinions, is such a cool thing and something I am so grateful to have experienced. I met people this year who challenged my point of view, and encouraged me to be more open-minded. You will need these people to laugh through the rough patches. I will always cherish these people, no matter how many oceans are between us in the future.
Things I will not miss
1. French Admin
The French are wonderful people with many talents, (especially for baking), but they are extraordinarily crap at administration and paper work. Even the simplest things take about 17 working days to be processed. Honestly, be prepared to send them the same document 5-6 times before they finally stop losing it/ not realising they have it. You will however get really good at making angry phone calls to customer services in French, which is a bit of a win.
France takes a big national all-day nap on Sunday, so don’t expect to do anything at the end of the week. While I completely admire them for having a much healthier approach to work hours and leisure time than we do in the UK, all the same it was a struggle to adjust. Nothing is open on Sunday, so no running out for supplies after a heavy night the night before. This caught me out more times than I care to admit. You don’t know how much of a gift 24 hour Tesco is until it’s gone.
3. Home Sickness
For a 21 year old girl, I would say I have had an over average amount of time away from home. As much as I love Ireland, I’m not really a home bird, and I’ve never struggled with home sickness in a serious way before. Until this year when I experienced it in a big way. It’s not easy, but remember that it is normal, and it can be overcome. I’m currently drafting a post all about my top ways to avoid letting it take over.
So that’s it, another chapter closed for me, and another ramble on the blog for you. If you are moving abroad, or just want to quiz me some more about my time in France, please get in touch. Doing scary things is good for you, so if opportunity knocks, I urge you to shove some things in a suitcase and go. I promise you will be a better person because of it.
Read some more of my musings:
Let’s be friends: