Salut! I am spending the semester living in Nice, France and studying at SKEMA Business School. So far, I am absolutely loving it here– from the culture to the food to the people. It’s been pretty easy to adjust to life in Nice, although there are some minor things that have surprised me. Here is a quick snapshot of a few strange and wonderful moments from my first two weeks here:
1. In the grocery store on my first day in Nice, the woman standing behind me in the checkout line turned toward the back of the store to call for her dog. The dog came running to her, trailing the leash. Since then, I’ve seen hundreds of dogs in cafes, restaurants, stores, and walking obediently without a leash. Unfortunately, it’s not acceptable to pet other peoples’ dogs here. Sigh.
2. One night, my roommate and I took a walk along the promenade after dinner. We passed in front of the casino, where two homeless men were bundled with sleeping bags around their legs. I walked past, not thinking much of the scene. Then, one of the men reached out and tried to grab my ankle. I jumped three feet in the air and let out a yell. The man laughed. I picked up my pace and we took a different route home.
3. Halfway through my first class at SKEMA last week, we took a short break, during which time the lobby turned into a scene from the movie Grease. A large group shuffled outside to smoke, while the rest hung out inside, clad in skinny jeans and leather jackets and chatting loudly. Someone brought out a big speaker and turned the break into a temporary party. Each break after this has been filled with just as much noise and energy.
4. For one of my classes last week, the professor was nowhere to be found. Everyone passed the time on their laptops, on their phones, or talking to friends. I knew no one in the class, so I sat quietly and listened to the conversations around me. As we waited, some students started to put on their coats. Others packed up their bags and stood up. At 8:26 am, the professor walked in, apologizing for being a few minutes late. He asked if class started at 8:15. Everyone replied, “No, 8:00,” in a mix of English and French with frustrated tones. I’ve been told this type of lateness is not too uncommon in France.
5. My dad was in Nice for a few days and asked me to make a dinner reservation at a local restaurant one night. I was anxious about talking on the phone in French, so I silently rehearsed what I was going to say before I called. When the man on the phone asked what time I wanted to reserve, I said 7:30, then realized I had to say it in military time, which left me fumbling for the right words. Despite my small mistake, speaking on the phone helped me get over a bit of the anxiety I had about speaking only in French.
6. On Saturday, I took a day trip to Ventimiglia, Italy. As soon as we arrived, we had lunch outside at a restaurant that served pizza. Before we got up to leave, one of my friends went inside to use the bathroom. As she returned to the table, I went inside to discover a restroom with two stalls, each with a toilet in the ground (and without a seat). I checked the restroom sign again to see if I was in the men’s room, but the sign didn’t indicate that it was gender specific. I ran back to the table and asked my friend why she hadn’t said anything about the bathroom. There was apparently a regular toilet in the third stall, which wasn’t open. The rest of my day in Ventimiglia only improved from there.
7. We met a girl on the train on Saturday who started speaking to me with a heavy Italian accent. I responded, “Est-ce que tu parles le français?” My friends gave me a funny look, and said, “Did you just ask her if she speaks French?” Since we were on the train back from Italy, I had expected her to be speaking Italian, and I didn’t fully process that she was speaking to me in French. We had a fast-paced conversation about Italy and New York, her home and mine, in a mix of French with some Italian and English words. She exuded a kind of vibrant energy that I admire, yet can’t fully describe. We talked to her for the rest of the train ride until she departed the train in Monaco to party with her friends. It was fun for all of us to communicate in a mutual language.