It’s been three weeks since my arrival in Lyon and from clubs to cauliflower I have had quite the experience. The keys to my flat weren’t available until one week after I arrived and not only that, but nearly all the shops are closed on Sundays: which is mighty frustrating come Sunday morning you can only find cauliflower residing in the kitchen. However, despite these minor setbacks the transition has been as smooth as I would have hoped. Having studied French language for over two years now I believed (albeit foolishly) that the French would never dare switch to English in everyday conversation. I was wrong.
Quite possibly the most bizarre element of my stay thus far has been speaking French. As a student from Scotland, I fully expected that I would rarely hear English from the local Lyonnais but to my detriment this is not the case. I was having lunch in a local restaurant (a local Bouchon which specialises in Lyon Cuisine) and despite ordering the meal for my friend and I in French, the waiter proceeded to ask in English ‘Would you like a desert?’ Now, despite the fact the English is a delightful language, I did not come to France to speak English. The reason I believe making such a fuss about this is important is because when you are trying to learn a new language, you MUST insist upon speaking it as often as possible. If not, you will never improve and you will never push yourself to speak the language. I strongly encourage making mistakes when learning and speaking a new language so that you make progress with it. My biggest tip regarding learning French, for example, would be that you have both French friends and other international friends. Even if you are with the latter group still try it – even if it’s only pigeon French.
I also took part in an immersion week at University Lyon 3 which I would highly recommend to any future students. The initial shock of having three hour long lectures in French was, for me, thoroughly difficult but it has benefitted me more than my last two years of ‘classroom French’ in Glasgow. There were language, culture and law classes all taught in French which served as a pleasant and swift introduction to the style of teaching at Lyon 3: which involves the prof dictating most of the time. Otherwise, for the first week, I stayed in a delightful hostel called SLO which is by far the best well-kept of its kind I have ever seen. It wasn’t too expensive (around €20 per night), the staff were helpful in suggesting the best places to be in Lyon and they even let me sleep in the courtyard hammock on a night where all the rooms were booked.
In retrospect, I would have set up a bank account earlier. The opening itself takes a couple of days and to receive your bank card, you need to first receive a code sent by post from the bank (which takes a week) and then bring it back to them. I gave them an incorrect address the first time which extended this period considerably, nevertheless it should be one of the first things to do upon your arrival. However, my lengthy ordeals with the much-maligned French bureaucracy are a story for another time.
It is also possible to receive a government subsidy towards rent from an organisation called CAF. If you submit the necessary documents early in September then you can receive a third (roughly) of each month’s rent. This is distributed in two block payments: the first in November and the second in June. This is not be missed: free money from the French Government!