Living in France is much harder than I expected it would be. I was pretty cocky when I came over – I reasoned that since I’d already gone to London on my own, not knowing anyone and with no room or job, Paris would be just as simple. Sure, there was the language barrier, but I’d always had an awesome time when travelling in France and I expected that I’d be fluent enough to be building friendships after a couple of months.
It hasn’t quite worked out that way. For the sake of being honest and not glossing over the low points of my trip, I might as well admit it – I’m lonely.
It comes and goes, and with so many posts being dedicated to the admin of starting a new life, I haven’t had much of a chance to write about this part of the experience.
When I’m busy it’s fine – my first week here was fine. The week I was at language school was fine. Unfortunately I can’t really afford to go back to language school until I start getting paid. It’s also difficult to start travelling on my weekends for the same reason. I’ve already been to Paris twice so I don’t really feel like visiting the tourist sites again. I have a room until the end of August, so I’m not frantically looking for somewhere to sleep. And my teaching hours are still building up, which leaves me with a lot of time to myself (I’m actually in a pretty good mood today because I just had 4.5 hours of classes and might be going out tonight, but today is the first time I’ve had work since last Wednesday).
I’m generally fine with a couple of hours of nothing, maybe even a day, but then I realise that I have nothing planned for a few days and I get lonely. And there’s only a certain amount of blogging and Skype-ing I can do each week before people get sick of it.
London wasn’t like this. In all honesty, I was there for four or five months before I started making my strongest London friendships, but in the meantime I was okay. I called home once a week; I had housemates who I liked to hang out with, even if this didn’t result in lasting friendships; and I tried internet dating out, which kept me very busy. Did I get lonely? Yes. But it didn’t happen for a couple of months. Here it has been coming in waves since my second week.
Here my current housemates speak French and, although they’re nice people, it’s difficult to have a real conversation. The teachers at work are all sent to different businesses for classes, which means there’s never a regular group of us that hangs out in the teachers’ lounge.
Being in Paris is an effort. Talking (which I’ve always been very good at) is difficult. Shopping is difficult. Some supermarkets expect you to weigh your fruit and veggies before you get to the cash register, and others don’t. The notebooks here all seem to have graph paper instead of horizontal lines. There are a ridiculous number of pharmacies yet I can never find what I’m looking for (Nurofen). And yesterday I burned my suit pants when ironing (my iron back home never got that hot!). Although this can be very entertaining, it makes it very difficult to relax. It leaves you feeling vulnerable – at low points it’s like you’re always steeling yourself against an attack.
That being said, you generally aren’t allowed to complain because you’re in Paris. And you should just be grateful to have such an opportunity.
I am grateful. It doesn’t change the fact that it is lonely, and I’m looking forward to finding my place.