Monday, July 16, 2012

First Six Months

Ok so I'm writing this blog in response to some advice from my mom and sister. I agree it's probably a good idea since this is an interesting time in my life, and I may not remember a lot about it later. Although my memory is strong when it comes to learning new French words, it's not that good when it comes to remembering dates, names, and events. Anyway, here it goes!

I moved to France on January 11th, 2012, a little over 6 months ago. I now live in the 6th district of Marseille on Rue d'Alger with my girlfriend Anne, who is from Marseille. I moved from California to France after graduating from college for a number of reasons, the primary one being that I love Anne and we were tired of living so far apart from each other. It was a difficult decision because, although I knew I would be happy in Europe, my family lives in California, and California is my home. However, as time went on I realized that my moving to France was an inevitability. I just simply knew it was what I wanted to do. Perhaps I'll talk more about that later but for now I'll get into some more interesting details about my life in France that may actually interest the reader.

I arrived during the day on the 11th tired as usual from the long flight. Anne picked me up with her mom at the airport as she had done a year before when I visited for two weeks. I didn't feel at all awkward or displaced during my first few hours in France as I had the year before though. Maybe because I had already done it or maybe because my mind was better prepared for the change. Anyway, everyone, including myself, was very excited about my arrival (everyone being Anne, her family, and best friends). The first week or so was quite busy. Having arrived on a Wednesday, I started French courses in Aix-en-Provence the following Monday, which meant that Thursday I had to drive up there (just a 45 min drive north of Marseille), register, and take the placement test. Then, I had to get my metro and bus passes squared away so I could actually get to class on my own. Also, I had to notify the French police department that I had arrived in France and in turn validate my visa. Brigitte, Anne's mom, helped a lot with all of that.

As soon as I got my feet on the ground with classes, Anne and I were allowed to move into our apartment. Moving was a breeze because all my stuff was in a suitcase and two backpacks, and the apartment was just about 100 yards away from Anne's parents' apartment. The only real problem with the apartment was how empty it was. Even after moving everything in, luckily Anne had a lot of spare furniture, the apartment had mostly blank walls and it lacked a lot of decoration. Only now, after six months, are we starting to be satisfied with it. However, regardless of style and furniture, it's a very nice studio apartment with a good sized backyard and, thanks to financial aid from La Republique Fran├žaise, it's very affordable to Anne and me.

The first three months in France consisted mostly of learning French, making friends, exploring my surroundings, and above all: budgeting. I came with a limited amount of cash and it had to last me until I found a job or else I would have to borrow from my parents which I didn't want to do. Luckily, I've made it so far without borrowing because our living expenses are super low, Anne and I live very frugally, and I found work starting in May at an American temp agency in France. The temp agency doesn't give me the chance to make very much money, but as I said with such low living expenses we're getting along just fine. 

In regards to learning French, I've made good progress since January. I wouldn't say I'm fluent (I don't know if I ever will) but I am at a point where I'm pretty comfortable speaking French. My speech has some errors and my accent is very American, but I can express myself to others, and I am able to understand most anything French people say to me (except for some expressions and advanced words). I've also come to learn what the southern/Marseille accent sounds like versus the Parisian one as well as a handful of Marseille slang and expressions. Two of my favorite examples of Marseillais, the adjective for someone or something from Marseille, are "degun" (pronounced the same as in english except with a silent 'n') which is a dramatic way of saying nobody and "degaine" (again, pronounced with english phonetics except this time you say the 'n') which means cool or awesome.

The French friends I've made in Marseille have mostly come through friends of Anne. However, the two best friends I've made I met on my own (well, one I met as a result of going to an ERASMUS party Anne invited me to, but she didn't introduce us so I can't say I met him through Anne). Not surprisingly they are both anglophones. Kenny is an Aussie "mate" I met from taking courses in Aix, and Paul is an Englishman who's been living in Marseille since September '11. Both are great guys, personable and intelligent, and both are going through a similar experience having fairly recently moved to France. Kenny met a French girl while studying abroad in Canada, and then moved to France to live with her after finishing up "Uni" in Sydney. Paul lived in Cambridge with his partner Yann, a Frenchman, for eight years until they decided it was time for a change so they moved down to Marseille. Kenny is a laid-back, politically turned-on, punk rocker type with a thirst for travel and poli sci grad school in Europe, something I'm right on board with. Paul is a free lance home-renovator who never went to college but has good knowledge and interest in politics and philosophy, and a very progressive social attitude. Both guys have been great to get to know these last six months, and have really been a lifesaver when I get frustrated with speaking French or need to get a beer or coffee and just shoot the bull for a couple hours.

Last but not least in the blog is Anne. Anne and I are really happy together and feel very lucky to have found each other, let alone live in a time when such a relationship is even possible. It was hard for us for the first few months I got here with all the big adjustments and Anne having a very broken leg, hence me waiting on her hand and foot. But things are always getting better and we finally feel like we have accomplished something special by staying together this long. Although we argue sometimes like all couples do, and our cultural tendencies clash from time to time, we are very happy in our tiny little apartment and very excited about our future, be it in America or France. Maybe it's not modest, but we both really feel like we have an amazing and unique relationship that is an inspiration to those around us. We lived very far away from each other for the first year of our relationship, although fortunately we got to see each other for about 3 months of that year, and now I have successfully moved to and settled in France. It's pretty rare for people to get along that well and try that hard to stay together. Sometimes we still talk about how I may move back to America at any moment because it's either too hard to adjust, or I can't find work, or some other reason, but I think we both feel like that probably won't happen.

We do, however, miss California a lot. We are really excited to go back and visit for a month in December. The things we talk about most are my parents, Annie, Sienna, Connor, Cailin & Nick, Kyle & Cara, Chico, San Francisco, Los Angeles (lots of friends from Chico that now live down there), In-n-out burger, Forever 21 (well that's just Anne), swimming and barbecues in the backyard, the list goes on. Also, we want to shoot guns with Ryan Gilbert. Anne has a fascination with guns since they are so illegal in France, and frankly, I do too because, well, I'm a guy.

Anyway, that's it for now, stay tuned.



  1. I was considering for a time moving to Lyon, so your blog is very interesting to me, and I'll be subscribing as a result. I am curious about two things though...

    You moved, went to the police station, and that was it? No hassle? No problems?

    And what do you mean the state helped pay for your flat?

    1. Hey sorry for not responding sooner. I was on vacation. Glad to hear you liked my blog. I think I'll make another entry soon.

      1) I obtained a student visa before leaving California at the French embassy in San Francisco. When I got here I went to the police station to let them know I arrived, then I was summoned to the immigration office some weeks later for a medical check-up and to validate my visa. And that was it, all in all it wasn't a big hassle, no. The only thing I didn't like was all the forms I had to fill out.

      2) The state gives my girlfriend what's called a 'bourse' because she studies and her parents don't make very much money. They give us 170 euros, soon to be augmented to 270, a month for rent. It's a huge help for us.