From Buckfast to Bordeaux Column 8

Seven months ago I left my life in Glasgow for Bordeaux. It’s now the final lap. In four weeks it will all be over and what an adventure it’s been.

I’ve been hit by a few red shells and caught a few flashing stars along the way. This is my ‘Do and Don’t Guide’ to a year abroad based on my experience:

DON’T lose your house keys in a foreign country late at night.

DO steal from the hotel you had to stay in to even the score.

DON’T try to play guitar to an audience when you’ve been mixing your drinks.

DO teach guitar for a reasonable fee to pay for said drinks.

DON’T tell French males they are short. They will be touchy about it.

DO try everything that’s offered to you even if it sounds bizarre.

Since I moved to France I’ve tried, to name but a few, steak tartare (raw mince mixed with raw egg yolk), snails, pole dancing and Get 17 (a mint shot that will cause you to boke a bit when you brush your teeth the next morning).

It’s impossible to summarise my time here but I could start by mentioning a few things that have changed.

My French has improved. I can chat away to teachers, explain games to kids and I can throw in relative pronouns willy nilly. There are a few things I still need to work on but in general I’m pretty chuffed with myself. The most important aid to developing my language skills has definitely been beer. Talking nonsense in pubs has done wonders to the confidence of my French persona.

After working with small children for seven months, something I never thought I would do let alone enjoy, I’m considering a post grad in primary school teaching. Not at all what I imagined for myself but being paid to play guitar, colour in and play games is not a bad way to get by.

And lastly, I now have two favourite cities. Once I’m home and Glasgow and I have reacquainted I’m sure it will reclaim my heart but I have certainly met a strong contender.

Bordeaux is amazing! The sandstone buildings, the ruins, the cathedrals, the riverside, the parks… the fact that I can jump on a train and visit the tallest sand dune in Europe (Dune du Pilat) or walk for 10 minutes and be on one of the longest pedestrian shopping streets in Europe (Rue St. Catherine) or that it’s still legal to drink in the streets (just!) all attribute to my new found love for this city.

One area where Glasgow definitely scores higher than Bordeaux though is its people. In Glasgow you can share a joke with someone and make a new best friend within the space of a few jagerbombs. In Bordeaux, females don’t seem to have time for anyone outside the group of friends they arrived with and males have no time for you if you’re not single. Contrary to this experience in pubs with the adolescents of Bordeaux, the people I worked with in the school were welcoming, helpful and keen to show me the sights in and around the city.

Not surprisingly, all the native English speakers I met were similarly keen to make plans and see things. After all, we had selected the same game and were all hoping to find flashing stars and shortcuts while avoiding banana skins and red shells. Amongst the language assistants I met here, of which there was an unbelievable amount, I made friends that I’ll never forget which led to nights that are already forgotten.

Before I leave there are a few things I still need to do. I have a road trip planned with another assistant to travel round the south of France (Toulouse, Carcassonne, Montpellier, Marseilles, Aix-En-Provence and Cassis) and my parents are coming over to drive me and all the extra stuff I’ve acquired over the past seven months back to Scotland… then it’ll be over, for now at least.


By Claire Alexander (columnist 11/12)

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