Another year in France, another vomit story

Tuesday and Wednesday were our induction days at uni. They could have equally been called the How To Get Secretaries to Help You Out and How To Neutralise Your Accent days. Day one was essentially a psycho analysis of the students and secretaries and how to build relationships with them. The way it was (literally) presented to us was with a picture of the wizard of oz and to imagine every time we go to the secretaries’ office, it’s like asking the wizard a favour. I also found out that I’m largely incomprehensible here, even to other native English speakers. My flatmate, Lisa, is Irish and speaks with as strong an accent as me but all the Americans seem to struggle with me. We all had to read out a pargraph from the board and everyone but me and the other Scottish lecteur got told they were fine and we got told we needed some work. I started to get a migraine halfway through the day so was dying to be finished, so at the end of the day when our boss said….well let’s wrap it up there, shall we? and the Keeny McKeens of the bunch started asking questions which lasted over an hour, I was not amused.

Got home and felt so sick but had to man up since my landlord and landlady were coming over for the first time (we hadn’t met since they’d been on holiday). My first faux-pas came when my landlady extended her hand to shake mine, introducing herself, as occasionally french people do whilst also kissing-cheeks. She clearly did not want to do this but since I was halfway lent in I basically just pulled her towards me and forced thebises on her, like some sort of etiquette rapist. Thankfully, that was small change compared to later. We were all sat in their mansion (complete with grand piano and leather books everywhere), sitting round the table, making polite conversation. I excel at small-talk in any language, and despite trying not to whitey, managed to carry on. My interest in her furnishings led to a tour of the house and just as we were being shown wood panellings I realised I needed to be sick. It was like a gameshow where a light shone on me and I got…. do you A. Continue the tour as there will most likely be a priceless urn of a sizeable volume upstairs to empty your stomach into B. run out. I chose B, saying “excusez-moi, il faut que je prennes un peu d’air” (excuse me, I need to get some air). I’m proud to say that my French has come on so far that I now conjugate the subjunctive even mid-boak. I then ran to my house which is across the garden from theirs, was sick, brushed my teeth and returned in the space of 2 minutes. I’m not sure how my parents drilled the importance of manners into me so much, but I can only suspect with rigorous beatings because I was back in the living room within 2 minutes, apparently white as a sheet but asking about their upcoming holiday to Turkey.

Day 2 of the induction was much less vomitty and involved us learning how to teach our classes. We have to learn the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet), which is basically how Radio Four presenters pronounce every word. So we were given sentences to transcribe into these symbols and despite being a native English spearker, I got 1 word in my entire sentence right. I quite enjoyed my pupils last year speaking with wee Scottish accents but sadly that won’t work with phonetic symbols so I’m going to find the nearest English language charm school and sign up. The department took us out for lunch that day, to a fancy French restaurant. Some people there clearly weren’t from Clydebank, they were like “ohhh that’s good, there’s a 2 courses for 16 euro deal”, whereas I was more in the “garcon, foie gras s’il vous plait!” camp.

French admin continues to be hilarious, I got a letter saying I could pick up my bank card (they won’t send them out here) and that it was ready to pick up. Sauntered along with my letter, she found my card, then went to type in that I’d collected it and was like “ahhh madame, I’m sorry but your dossier hasn’t been validated” and I asked why and she told me that they had all my documents, and head office knew they had all my documents, but that the head office needed to confirm that the branch had all my documents. I pointed out that, as she had the documents in her hand we could just confirm ourselves that we had them but she was having none of it. I made an appointment to come back the next day to get house insurance and I had all my tactics played out, not signing up for my insurance without getting my card, but went in today and was greeted with a bank card AND a cheque book…..Allah has truly smiled on us this day, my brothers!

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