A "rosbif" in the land of the frogs
Updated: May 27, 2019
Friday just gone, my housemates and I celebrated St Patrick's Day in a pub called 'the Frog and Rosbif'. And, naturally, we drank green-coloured vodka. The name of the pub comes from the fact that the British call the french "frogs" and they call us "rosbif" (French pronunciation of 'roast beef'). Apparently that's all we eat. One thing I have learned from my stay so far is that the English are not well-known for their cooking skills. Every time I cook something, my housemates are amazed that I know how to use a pan. In all honesty, I do cook much more sophisticated things than what the average Brit eats.
I've been making an effort to try some of the Bordeaux specialties, although I'm somewhat limited by the gluten/lactose/soya thing. Sarrasin crepes are a good go-to for nutrition and taste. The wine here is simply gorgeous. I've learned a few tricks about how to identify good wine, such as whether it is corked, or whether the label features the phrase "mise en bouteille au chateau". Everything here is so rich and full of flavour. I don't think I'll be able to drink anything sold in England ever again.
There are times when I feel distinctly English, and other times when I feel slightly more European or even French. At the bar on Friday, a group near us kept shouting and cheering, and I realised that this was in fact normal in Britain, but that I had become so accustomed to the French way of being that it felt alien to me. It's fair to say that there are aspects of British culture that I certainly do not identify with. Regarding the French language itself, my spoken fluency is improving, and people are taking a little longer into the conversation to ask me whether I'm foreign. Most guess English or German, and I get the impression that things I say are comprehensible, but it's better than immediately being identified as a Brit.
There are notable cultural differences that have become increasingly apparent as I've spent more time interacting with French people. At work, the food is of a very high quality and not at all expensive, and there is always a diet option. French woman eat an amusing variety of meals, ranging from simple a plate of green beans to a pile of chips, meat, and a yogurt for dessert. That is a rule: French women always eat yogurt. The French also smoke an un-quantifiable amount. I have also come to realise the truth in the saying "go to France for the food and to England for the service". If there were a competition for having the most miserable people, the French would certainly win. Another phrase I like is: "go to France for the weather but not for the people". Having said that, my French housemates are all lovely people.
Living with nine other people has its ups and downs. The upside is that you will always have someone to go out with and it's near impossible to spend an hour in the kitchen without company. We also play the occasional board game and watch films together. The only downsides are that inevitably things in shared spaces get dirty much more quickly and people tend to be a little reluctant to clean. All in all, communal living suits me well. I have a friend who lives in a commune in Sweden and while at first I thought it a little odd that he moved there, I'm beginning to see the appeal.
I've reached the conclusion that moving to Bordeaux was perhaps one of the best decisions of my life so far. It is such a relaxed and charming city, yet one is never short of things to do. It is only slightly smaller than Bristol, and therefore manages to have quite a 'city' feel to it, which Oxford never had. It's also great to finally have some time to chill out and read. I'm currently reading Le Roman de Perceval, which is part of the Grail Cycle of Chretien de Troyes. Now that I actually have time to read the books for my course, I'm really enjoying and appreciating them. With all the flea markets around (translated into French literally as marché des puces) my second-hand book collection is growing rapidly. This is another reason - aside from my love of strange herbal tea, quinoa, and 10-ingredient salads - it's getting harder to avoid the 'hipster' label: I buy a lot of books but don't always get round to reading them.
Last week I started Krav Maga classes, and I may start doing them twice a week. It's fantastic getting back into martial arts. I used to do a lot of kickboxing and Kung Fu when I was younger, and it was great for stress-relief and fitness. Last Monday was something of a jolt to the system, as I had to fight people who were much more advanced than I was. Even so, it was a lot of fun. The exercises, as is the case with any mixed-sex martial arts class, were rigorous and tiring. I still ache a little, but I'm very keen to go back. On Tuesday morning I only had about five bruises, which I consider to be an achievement, but I expect I'll gain more next time.
The job is still very much enjoyable, even though they insist on giving me no days off. I've been experimenting with teaching resources and with office decoration, given that I have my own space and a lot of autonomy with the lessons. I started with 'quintessentially British' items such as cricket, the Union Jack, tea, and a red telephone box. I now also have a 'News of the Week' section, which (sadly) always has a Brexit feature. Lessons so far have included teaching about British culture, politics, translation of classic British and French literature, and lessons on accents and dialects. Most of my students are quite excited when they learn that Northern British dialects distinguish between singular and plural second person pronouns, kind of like a "tu" versus "vous" distinction. Of course, the Oxford Dictionary says that it's incorrect, but if the dialect form furthers comprehension, who's to complain?