French by the Ocean

After the initial trajectory of cultural shock, binge cheese-eating and my eventual adaptation of the French ways, I think today is a perfect time (not too early after four weeks) to talk about my improvements in the French language.

Absolutely beautiful and sunny in St. Malo

When I first got off the Ouibus at Tours, I called my host mom for the first time to let her know I have arrived. Ten seconds later, I was left dumbfounded with a disconnect tone. A few questions crossed my mind: Is my host mom coming to pick me up? Is she already here? Is she bailing out on me? Was that even my host mom, or did I dial the wrong number? Did the woman on the other end of the receiver speak French or Arabic?  Last Sunday, my host mom called me to see if everything was okay, since my host family was out of town, leaving me alone at home on Saturday night. It was a real dialogue. She asked me if I had already woken up, if I had enough to eat (I could eat whatever in the fridge), whether my excursion on Saturday had went well, if it rained and blablabla, then she told me how to microwave the pasta box she had prepared for me. It was only after the phone call ended that I realized how much my oral comprehension has improved. It’s at a whole new level.  

After three full weeks of French radio, Youtube, spotify and everyday life, my ears are now a lot more accustomed to the bouncing flow of this new tongue. While I could write, read and even speak at a higher level, they didn’t mean much until now when I can actually respond like a human to cashiers and waitresses, to my classmates and host parents. Another weakness I have noted is my limited vocabulary. While I seem to sail smoothly with grammar and even phonetics (which is surprisingly easier to comprehend than anticipated), I know no vocab beyond the outdated “1000 Most-Used French Words for Beginners.”  Now that my phone is set in French and I have purchased a second-hand “Père Goriot” by Balzac, I might actually learn a few useful words, just in case I need to elaborate on the value of wealth in the conditions of human existence.

I am also absorbing more of the subtle, slangy words in French:

So this is the dinner table at my host family. Just kidding: It’s the royal dining salon in the castle of Azay-le-Rideau.
  • Instead of saying “je suis,” it’s more French to say, “chuis.”
  • It’s rude to say “Bonjour” a second time as it indicates you have forgotten the person you’ve already greeted.
  • The first time someone sneezes, you can respond, “A vos souhaits!” If they sneeze again, you say, “A vos amours!”
  • “T’as qu’à le faire, toi!” means, “Why don’t you do it yourself!”


On a more personal note, I’m also feeling pretty wholesome. Morning classes are usually pretty bearable with varied exercises. After a €3.25 (Bon marche) lunch at a university dining hall, I like to wander the town with its pretty boutiques, book stores, chocolatiers, bakeries and parks. I especially like hanging out in the supermarkets and noting the different gourmets: absurd Lindt flavors, LU biscuits, cheap yogurts, and the unbelievable many varieties of French cheese. Jogging by the Loire is also extremely pleasant, especially as I pass all those panting French bulldogs. Day excursions on Wednesdays and Saturdays allow me do more touristy sightseeing: from visiting local chateaux to going all the way to Normandy. The sun sleeps late in the Loire Valley; after dinner, it’s always lovely to sit by the river with a few drinks and observe the French (who smoke a lot, dress super chic and like to sit in a circle.)

                      Moment of pure bliss: A Taiwanese girl in front of Mont Saint Michel





P.S. Last week I ranted about how the SNCF strike is messing up my travel plans, especially how I am going to go to the airport in Paris on the day of my departure. I found a solution. Two nights ago, after certain skilled negotiation, on top of a few heart wrenched pleas, I finally struck a deal with a driver on BlablaCar (very popular carpooling App here in France), to take me to Charles de Gaulle with my gigantic suitcase. Voila.