La Vie Française: Starting Over – Little Changes

(13) La Vie Francaise Column photo (1)By Fiona Hardie


When I got off the bus at Victoria Coach Station it was the first time I’d stood on the ground in Britain in exactly three months. That day was a bit of an autopilot blur: waking up in Paris on not much sleep due to a terrible cold, followed by an eight-hour bus journey that actually didn’t feel that long.

But arriving into London was just… bizarre.

It was 5pm on the Sunday before Christmas, and as I was waiting for a friend to come and meet me I just felt overwhelmed; like I was in a bubble. I could hear and actually understand every single conversation around me. It was almost too much to deal with. It was dark and there was a Sainsbury’s directly across from me, and as I squinted down the road, my face contorting in the cold, I remember feeling like I didn’t know how to feel.

It was almost exactly how I’d felt on my first day in France: out of my depth. Culture shock on returning is also normal, apparently, and thankfully it didn’t last long, but I will never forget stepping off the bus and just hearing everything. It was all so familiar and yet somehow so disconnected from me.

As a shorter Christmas holiday than what I’m used to at university, I decided just to make the most of the two weeks with my family at home, so I don’t think I spoke much French at all during that time – and I genuinely think it did my brain the world of good. Since I’ve been back in France I’ve noticed how much more I can hear and understand when people speak to me. I don’t have to keep translating everything in my head – it ‘clicks’ a lot faster now. And it’s more than that, my mind in general feels so much more refreshed: I have so many ideas for this column, and my scholarship project (which is now taking shape – more on that next time).

The January blues, however, weren’t great. Going home was simultaneously the best and worst thing to do, because it was so hard coming back to France afterwards, even though I just adore my job and my school here. I’d never travelled on the Eurostar on my own, and home was just too comforting. Even after returning, it was still difficult to motivate myself to get out of the January Slump, but once I’d figured out how, it was glaring at me:

You may be in a foreign country but don’t forget who you are at your core. What makes you passionate or happy or inspires you, regardless of where you are? Trying new things is an important part of this year but so is keeping up with things you’d normally do. Not losing sight of what helps you to perform at your best is key to getting out of that slump and making the most of your time here. Even the smallest change to your routine can make the biggest difference.

For me, cinema has always been one of the things I love most (you all know this by now). I realised I hadn’t been to the cinema here very much at all, so even just going back once in January felt like a small victory against the dark winter days. Like I’d found the Old Me again whilst keeping the new, Fresh Start Me going. Now I’m resolving to go at least once a week, as well as my evening dance class.

The first few months were for settling in. Now, at last, I feel like I can finally start to do everything I wanted to do here.var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);