On the first day of French class in 6th grade, I learned one of my favorite words: enchanté. I have hardly used it since then, although I have been saying it a lot over the past few weeks. The words means “nice to meet you.” Here are some of the people I’ve met recently, and some encounters I’ve had with French people.
When I got to school for my Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management class at 8am, I chose a seat next to a girl who was sitting by herself. The professor went off topic for most of the lecture and discussed his life and his business contacts, which wasn’t too useful for us. I spent most of the class chatting with the girl next to me and listening to her talk about her home life in Morocco.
Our professor had cancelled class the previous week to meet with one of his business partners, so we had a make-up class scheduled for later in the day on Friday. During the break, I went with my classmate, Chaimae, to McDonald’s. As we crossed the school parking lot and headed toward the bus stop, she stopped in front of a BMW with Moroccan plates. “We’ll take my car,” she said. I didn’t know how she had brought the car here from home, but when I asked her later, she told me that she had taken a boat here, which took two days.
Over lunch, we talked about our families, our schools, and religion. We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out at her apartment. Just before we had to head back to the university, she went outside with her prayer mat. I was curious to learn more about her religion, and she was very open about answering my questions about her traditions and practices.
My doorbell rang sometime in the afternoon. I forgot we had a doorbell, since no one had ever rang. I looked out the peephole to see a women holding up her ID card. When I opened the door, she spoke in French with a heavy accent as I looked closer at her card to try and figure out why she was here. I stood in the doorway and spoke to her. I didn’t understand every word, but what I understood was that she needed to take a survey and that I would have to answer some questions about the apartment and my length of stay. I let her in and she asked if I own a computer. She gave me instructions for what website to go to, and I started a survey on the French National Institute of Statistics site. The woman helped me with some of the questions, which included things like the estimated size of the apartment in square meters. I also had to indicate my reason for staying in Nice and how many people I live with. I looked at the website again after the woman had left, and it appeared to be a Census survey.
Later that day, I had a chance to practice my French even more. I had dinner with my friend Alexia, her uncle, and his colleagues, who were visiting from Paris. It was easy to follow the conversation in French, although they paused a few times to ask if I understood what they were saying, since I wasn’t speaking too much. I was happy to just listen and chime in with a few comments. It was almost midnight by the time we finished dinner, and I expected us all to go back to our apartments. Instead, we walked down one of the narrow streets of the Old Town and Alexia’s uncle led us into an Irish pub. We danced to the tune of the band and laughed at ourselves for imitating her uncle’s dance moves. We stopped in one more bar before going home, where I fell asleep almost immediately.
I took a bus to a town called Èze—the kind of place that makes you stare with your mouth hanging open as you try to fathom whether or not the view in front of you is real. The kind of place you typically only encounter once in a long while. Èze is a cobble-stoned town on a hilltop, where people have been inhabiting since 2000 BC.
I spent the day with students from the Erasmus exchange program, who I met through my roommate, Nour, and our friend Alexia. We sat among the plants in a garden at the highest point in Èze for a few hours, watching the sea. Our group was a mix of people from Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, and a few other places. Everyone had a lot of ideas to discuss and stories to tell. I’m always so happy to be surrounded by this group. However, it’s hard to get to know individual people in a large group setting.
Later that day, I spent some time with Daniël, who was in Èze with us. The two of us chatted over tea, and he showed me the postcards he was writing in French to send to his friends back in the Netherlands. We talked about languages and learning to be comfortable speaking French, which seems to be a common topic.
We headed to a movie after, where we met up with Vivian, who’s from Athens, and four girls who I hadn’t met yet. Two of them are from Italy, and two are from Norway. When we left the movie, I said goodbye to almost everyone with “bisous,” where you give a kiss on each cheek. I was about to say goodbye to one of the girls from Norway in the same manner, but she laughed and gave me a hug instead. Kissing on the cheek is not from her culture or mine.
On Monday I set out to practice my French speaking. I walked into a small shoe store in the Old Town, in which I was the only customer. I talked to the salesman and asked a few questions about some of the shoes. I hadn’t intended to, but I ended up buying a pair…
I continued my stroll around the Old Town and stopped to browse at the antiques market. I talked to another salesman to practice the language. We discussed the price and the material of a few items, and although it wasn’t a long conversation, it made me feel a bit more at ease about speaking and being understood.
My day ended with a fitness class at the University of Nice (where I pretended to be a student) and a long, relaxed dinner with Vivian.
I haven’t made any French friends so far, but I’ve met some pretty amazing people from places I’ve visited and other places I know nothing about.