Hmmm, should I try to write this one in English? Belgian people will be ok with it + my friends in the UK would finally understand a blog post of mine! Let's try it. Oh and just ignore any spelling / grammar mistakes, ok? Great, let's go!
Last days in the UK
Apart from working like a crazy person to try and finish off my UK work, I spent my last days in the UK trying to do things I knew I would miss after leaving London:
1) Go to the gym: Yep, tried out bodyjam, yoga and zumba and went swimming quite a few times! Done
2) English breakfast: this is the only English 'dish' I will miss so had one in the last weekend in Ealing
3) Cider: had enough of this during my leaving drinks :) Great evening with so many amazing colleagues who all came to say goodbye... I'm glad I'm not changing companies, so I will keep having the opportunity to catch up with all of them when I need to be in the UK from time to time! I have learned so much in my 1 year and 7 months in the UK, thanks to all of them!
4) Sushi and Thai food: went for sushi on my last night out in London with my 2 best friends who I will miss more than anything else! One of them actually taught me how to use chopsticks properly a few months ago, so I can finally eat sushi in a decent way! Had Thai for my last lunch in the UK, mmm
5) London: I have always said that I've never really been in Love with London, but that doesn't mean that I won't miss it. So much culture, so many great places to go, always something to do. In my last weekend before leaving the UK, we went to Hampstead heath to check out the view of London. A long trip from Ealing but a very rewarding view of London at sunset!
First days in Paris
So my company had this really interesting job opportunity in Paris and I thought: that's where I want to go. Having studied French and Spanish at university, it seemed the perfect opportunity to combine my work experience in project management and my studies.
I left the UK on a Tuesday evening, after a last working day in the UK with lots of catch-ups with people who's feedback I value a lot. One big trolley, a bit too heavy for me, with all my clothes for 1 month and I was gone! I can tell you now that the London tube is no fun at all, especially around 17h30 when you're so much slower than everybody else due to the trolley... Finally made it to Saint-Pancras where I decided to buy a half price WHSmith book for the last time (why would you not buy a book if it's only 4£?) and a Time Out about Paris. After 2h 30 mins, the train arrived in Paris, where the journey was even more painful because by now my hands just really hurt a lot. Anyway, I arrived in our temporary flat around 23h and god I love this place! It's old but good old, with dark wooden floors and high ceilings, a television, internet, a bath and a dish washer! Pure luxury for me :) Of course I'm looking for a permanent flat now as this is just for a month, but I will make sure I enjoy the temporary luxury :) The area is nice as well, next to Gare Saint-Lazare, in 'le quartier européen'.
My first day 'in the French office' was actually like this: getting up at 5h30 (yes... and the night beforehand I actually went to bed really late because I'm one of those people who doesn't feel comfortable until my -huge trolley- bags are unpacked and everything has its own place... i know) - taking the train to Saint-Etienne, which is even further than Lyon, attending an all team meeting from 10 to 16h and take the train back! Very very intense but a great first day as I got the chance to talk to a lot of people and could present myself and the work I've done beforehand, in French (et oui!).
On Thursday and Friday I practised the art of switching between English and French without thinking about it (which is still a bit weird, because I also still have this third, Dutch, language in my head). It's going quite well! On Thursday evening I went out with the 'expats'. It's not just English people as you would expect, but actually a mix of Australian, Spanish, Belgian (ok, that's me) and English. We went to a nice restaurant close to Place Monge and for a drink afterwards, really a nice area (and evening!)
And yesterday I met up with a friend from university to go for a drink and watch a concert, which was just amazing so all I can say is that I love Paris already...!
First observations about Paris/France (in random order + only personal impressions so no general truths!):
- people are not as dressed up as in London (which is definitely a good thing, I think!) I feel a lot more normal now, which wasn't the case when I sat on a London tube on a Saturday evening and only saw girls who almost didn't wear anything at all - I still wonder why that is?)
- old brasseries and cafés are as cool as the fancy bars in London, even when they don't look like it when you first enter
- when you ask for a glass of wine in a pub or bar you get a really small mini-glass, but the wine is excellent!
- French people eat their salad first and only then they start eating their meat and potatoes/rice...
- Baguettes are really as delicious as you think they are!!! Same for the 'pains au chocolat'!
- People eat more lentils than in the UK and Belgium
- As my Belgian friend knows quite a few singers/musicians, I've already had the pleasure to go to a gig which I wouldn't have known about in a 100 years if it wasn't for her. In a small venue, 'La Java', close to metro Belleville, I've seen the band 'The effervescing paintbox' http://www.la-java.fr/#Scene_1 - great band, really cool songs, just a difficult name if you ask me!
- French people like you a lot more when you show that you want to make an effort to speak French, which is obviously really good for me as I really want to improve my French now!
- People are very friendly. Every morning, in the elevator (our office is on the 10th floor), everybody says 'bonjour' when you enter the elevator and 'bonne journée' when you leave the elevator
- When you arrive in the office you say hi to everybody individually, and if you wish, you give everybody 2 kisses. I've done it for the first time on Friday and secretly felt a little bit like a real French person :)
- The radio station 'Virgin' just plays music all day, English, American, French songs and even Milow today, heyy!
- In Paris, the 'Vélib' system is a real success. You pay a yearly sum and then you can just use any 'vélib' bike which you can find anywhere in town. As long as you don't use it for more than 30mins, it's free, you pay when you do more than 30 mins. My colleagues love it, my friends told me that it's sometimes really hard to find a spot to park them again (thus forcing you to pay as you keep it more than 30 mins)... Will have to check it out first before I decide what to do
- Paris is a lot smaller than London, you can get around so easily by tube but also just on foot (or indeed, bike)
Well, that's it for now, time to look at flats online! Keep in touch, people in London and Belgium!