First Impressions of France

Landing at Montpellier on a windy Saturday afternoon, I definitely did not expect what I would get to experience in the following four weeks. On the first day, what really stood out to me was how walkable the city was. Most of the streets are narrow in the downtown, and there are so many squares and plazas to hang out in. It is really easy to get around places, especially with the tram and bus, and I love being able to get from downtown to my home in half an hour or less. I have been able to explore the city with a lot of free time after my classes at 5 pm. Some of my favorite parts of Montpellier are the Musée Fabre, Pavillon Populaire, Parc Rimbaud, and the beaches like Palavas and Carnon. Every day I learn at least a new word and even special phrases and idioms that native speakers use on a daily basis (some more profane than others, I have to say!). I have been able to meet so many people around the world, including places like Canada, Germany, England, Ireland, China, and even Singapore!

To be honest, most of the things I heard about French people back home were not really true. At least in Montpellier, they are super nice and do not have any arrogance to them. The main thing I noticed is that if you speak French to them and not English like I see other tourists do, they open up and are more friendly to you. Politeness goes a long way, especially in stores and restaurants. In the beginning, talking with people was intimidating because it was difficult for me to understand what they were saying at the pace they were talking, and I often had to ask them to repeat what they were saying. However, after the first two weeks, my ear adapted to the speed at which people spoke to me, so now I understand at least 80% of what they say without asking them to go slower. It was a culture shock, to say the least, as I slowly realized it was basically impossible to find an open restaurant from 3 pm-7 pm in the city during weekdays. 

Also, what is really surprising is the weather is absolutely amazing here, and it rarely rains. In fact, it is so rare that my host family actually complained one time when it was drizzling just for an hour. The absolute opposite is the case back home in Chicago. There is always something to do in the city. There was a Day of Music on June 22nd where there were many concerts going on throughout the many plazas and streets. There are dozens of beaches south of Montpellier, and beautiful towns like Avignon and Nîmes are only a short bus/train ride away. My personal favorite moment of this trip so far was getting to the highest point of Paris on top of the hill of Montmartre and looking down at the City of Light. I was able to go to Paris, Arles, and Nîmes, and I found that each city has its own culture. Montpellier is really energetic with a lot of young adults and children, and it has a really good nightlife for a city that only has a little more than 10% of the population of Paris. I have been able to be in the city late at night, finding stuff to do even on weekdays like going to the discothèques, and I am glad I am able to spend my time with a lot of friends I have made on this trip.

Here are some photos of my experiences so far!

Carnon Beach
Musée Fabre
Waya Music Festival
Highest Elevation in Paris (Montmartre hill)
Arc de Triomphe
Pavillon Populaire