Thursday, 23 April 2015

Education, Education, Education.

Many moons ago I sat some rather stressful and painful exams known to all as A-Levels. Now many language students are vexed by the kinds of stuff they have to learn as part of their courses when at school, but I can tell you some of these things can be very important believe it or not! I’m going to outline in this post exactly what I’m glad I learnt in Sixth Form and the vocab I wish I had known when I moved to Paris.
·         The Environment – when I was sitting my exams at the end of my school career no fewer than three out of my four subjects contained modules in the Environment. I was sick to death of saving the planet and renewable energy sources. Never wanted to hear about them ever again. But dear reader I am glad that I learnt all of those lists of words for it has helped me in this my adult life. Like the English love talking about the weather, the Parisians love talking about pollution. “Paris has worse smog that Beijing didn’t you know?!” and “I just need some fresh country air in my lungs” are not phrases that are unfamiliar to me when conversing with the natives. So thank you AQA, you have done me a massive favour for which I will be ever grateful for.
·         Plumbing – French plumbing is an interesting topic. In my old apartment it was certainly a thought-provoking topic due to the toilet that was so loud it could wake up even the most comatosed teenager. I wish I had known more about what the word for a block drain was or “How do I improve the pressure on the shower?” The main parties talk about Education reform a lot and all of them have passed over a change in the languages syllabuses. I urge them to reconsider and to implement more classes in which languages students learn more practical sentences which they can use in their travels around the world.
·         The Imperative – Those who haven’t had as many grammar lessons as me might be unaware as to what this term means, and for that I am quite jealous. It is the form of the verb you use when you are commanding someone to do something. Pretty useful eh?! After many, many lessons on this at GCSE I am so glad I know how to use it. It’s perfect for telling creepy men to “Get lost” and children to “Tidy their bedrooms”. So I would like to thank both of my secondary school French teachers for this particular nugget of grammatical knowledge. I am massively appreciative.
·         Meat and Fish – I love food. This may be evident to anyone who follows me on Twitter. I’m constantly asking for people to bring me different culinary delights, but I quite like cooking myself and not just people waiting on me hand and foot with mini doughnuts. Now most people can tackle a French menu, but can they tackle a French supermarket fish counter? I thought I could. Turns out I can’t really. Last time I tried to buy something from one I just pointed to whatever looked like a white fish because I had no clue as to what it was. Ended up buying a lovely piece of hake which was a pleasant surprise. I think school children should be given practical oral exams in dealing with surly supermarket workers and having to buy a shoulder of lamb as well as extracting the mother’s recipe for oeuf en cocotte from the man behind the counter.

There we have it. My shortlist of the things I had wished I had learnt at school and the ones I’m thankful I did. For all of you out there studying for exams that you feel are pointless, never fear they may feel like that now but I can assure you that snippets will be amazingly useful in the future. 

Friday, 10 April 2015

The Problems Of An Ex-Pat

I’ve been living in France now for just over 19 months and as what you might term an “ex-pat” I have encountered a few problems. Many people have a dream of living in a different country and that doesn’t mean they don’t love their home nation any less just that they wish to go and sample somewhere else’s culture. After recently writing a piece for the lovely people at the Franco British Chamber of Commerce and Industry about why I moved to Paris in the first place I started thinking about the downsides of being a foreigner abroad.
1.       Lack of Bacon – Not much needs to be said about this as all I have to say is the lack of this food of the Gods is in limited stock on the continent which is bad news for hangovers and quick dinners.
2.       Absence of Family/Friends – Even though there isn’t a massive time difference between France and Blighty but it does impact on when you can call up your nearest and dearest for a chinwag or for moral support.
3.       French TV shows – I don’t ask for much from a country but one thing I do require is a decent Masterchef-a-like programme of which France has nothing to offer. Finding sneaky ways to watch John and Greg eating strange taste sensations is just something you have to put up with as a Brit abroad who is in need of some cheeky, light-hearted entertainment.
4.       The Weather – Out in Liverpool today, I was commenting on the phenomenon that is sunshine in the UK. As soon as the rays of dawn grace our tired morning eyes we decide to don a pair of shorts and make the most of it. This eternal optimism just doesn’t happen on the continent. Partly because they get good weather most of the time but also because they can be reet miserable. I’d bet you any money that there is a Parisian still in a winter coat and knee high boats walking down Rue de Rivoli at this very moment.

So there you have it. My list of the problems one faces as an ex-pat in the Hexagon. It is by no means exhaustive however it certainly covers most of the main areas that we roast beef lovers have to deal with when living in the land of frog’s legs.