French Exchange Trip - 5 Months

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Benny the Bear
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French Exchange Trip - 5 Months

Postby Benny the Bear » Sat Mar 29, 2008 4:59 am UTC

Hi, so I'm probably going on a French exchange for the last half of 2008 and a bit into 2009.

In terms of French speaking ability, I'm better off than most. I'm in a private school (which, in most cases I understand, provides better education) and have a B+ standard in the subject.

Prior to the exchange in June I'm going on a one week school trip (about 10 people from years 8-10) to New Caledonia. The exchange leaves in September I think.

Anyway I want to ask for any advice about the general experience of the exchange. Any stories or anything would help - especially on the topic of being away for so long and how French schools are different from Australian ones.

I'm told French people will have trouble getting over the fact that I'm Australian. Fun.

Edit: I'll be going to a French school, thus why this is in the 'School' forum. Hope that's appropriate.

btilly
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Re: French Exchange Trip - 5 Months

Postby btilly » Sat Mar 29, 2008 5:38 am UTC

Benny the Bear wrote:I'm told French people will have trouble getting over the fact that I'm Australian. Fun.

This joke is actually appropriate!

Q: How does an Australian say, "You're welcome" in French?
A: (In your strongest Australian accent) "Pas de probleme, mate!"

More seriously, a number of people I know who have lived in anglophone countries and France highly recommend French or Foe? It condenses in humorous form many of the big cultural misunderstandings that are likely to come up.
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Benny the Bear
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Re: French Exchange Trip - 5 Months

Postby Benny the Bear » Sat Mar 29, 2008 6:28 am UTC

That book actually looks very helpful - I'll try hunt myself down a copy.

Anything else?

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Æshættr
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Re: French Exchange Trip - 5 Months

Postby Æshættr » Sun Mar 30, 2008 1:42 am UTC

Oddly enough, I just got back from a trip to France. Having never been on an exchange program there, I can't comment on the schools there. However, I can point out a few things (I'm not sure how many of these will not be commonplace in AU, generally they're not in the US):

- Shopkeepers, waiters, porters, etc. will always expect you to say hello and goodbye, it's considered polite in France
- Many, many of the French are very competent at speaking in English, but it's polite to at least attempt to converse in French first (this one may not come up at all if you're very good at speaking French.)
- You'll find that in many places, there are no sidewalks and pedestrians share the road with cars. Crossing a road without using a crosswalk is acceptable. I haven't looked up whether or not it's legal, but everyone seems to do it.
- Tips for restaurants are included in the price of your food. If you really feel compelled to leave extra money, usually about a euro per person will do.


On the subject of pickpockets and other people you want to stay away from: If you see a woman on the streets in a dress, with possibly a shawl and she asks if you speak english, ignore her. Don't even say no, just keep walking (usually you'll only find these people in tourist areas/cities like Paris.) Lots of pickpockets in Paris and other cities seem to wear the same brown leather jacket and have short hair. It's probably a good idea to keep a healthy suspicion of people who fit that description. Some pickpockets will try to immitate tourists and somehow always be taking a picture or be fascinated with something else when you look at them. But this is only really a big problem in cities with lots of tourists.

I'd say that buying that book is a very good idea. It'll cover a lot more stuff that I didn't mention here (probably how to dress, what you shouldn't wear, etc.)

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Benny the Bear
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Re: French Exchange Trip - 5 Months

Postby Benny the Bear » Sun Mar 30, 2008 6:26 am UTC

Call me slow, but how does a woman in a dress asking me to speak english make her a pickpocket? Not insulting you, you obviously know more about France than me, but I'd like to know of course.

I ordered the book online - it's coming late April. Ample time, don't worry. I leave in September and return early 2009.

btilly
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Re: French Exchange Trip - 5 Months

Postby btilly » Sun Mar 30, 2008 6:31 am UTC

Benny the Bear wrote:Call me slow, but how does a woman in a dress asking me to speak english make her a pickpocket? Not insulting you, you obviously know more about France than me, but I'd like to know of course.

I would assume that it is because pickpocket rings in Europe have studied the possible approaches extensively and found that a target to is engaged in conversation makes a particularly easy target. Tourists are more likely than most to carry large amounts of cash. And a lot of tourists will be a sucker to help out a fellow tourist in need. So lots of pickpockets use that strategy. And, of course, no matter how often they use that technique, most tourists won't know about it and are still vulnerable.
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Æshættr
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Re: French Exchange Trip - 5 Months

Postby Æshættr » Sun Mar 30, 2008 8:38 am UTC

Call me slow, but how does a woman in a dress asking me to speak english make her a pickpocket? Not insulting you, you obviously know more about France than me, but I'd like to know of course.


Well, not all women in dresses, obviously (I realize that was not the best way to describe it, but after a few, you can spot them.) However, the usual tactic for those is to ask if you speak english, and when you say "yes" they hold up a sign written in english (somehow I've run into two such women supposedly homeless from Bosnia, reminds me of the African bank manager phishing e-mails.) When you're reading the sign, someone they're working with will come up behind you and do the actual pickpocketing. A variation on this that happened to my uncle was being crowded in tightly on a subway and being picked clean (that was in Mexico, however.)

Out of curiosity, what part of France will you be staying in?

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Benny the Bear
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Re: French Exchange Trip - 5 Months

Postby Benny the Bear » Sun Mar 30, 2008 2:32 pm UTC

I don't actually know yet - it depends which host family gets me. :(

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Re: French Exchange Trip - 5 Months

Postby MoonBuggy » Sun Mar 30, 2008 3:05 pm UTC

There's a quick and easy way to defeat pickpockets that hasn't failed me yet; just keep your wallet on a lanyard and loop it through one of the belt loops above your pocket.
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Benny the Bear
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Re: French Exchange Trip - 5 Months

Postby Benny the Bear » Tue Apr 01, 2008 4:21 pm UTC

MoonBuggy wrote:There's a quick and easy way to defeat pickpockets that hasn't failed me yet; just keep your wallet on a lanyard and loop it through one of the belt loops above your pocket.


Good idea - I think they just go for the easy targets.

No one else can help? This thread has had a low response rate.

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Laura
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Re: French Exchange Trip - 5 Months

Postby Laura » Tue Apr 01, 2008 9:06 pm UTC

What kind of info are you looking for, Benny? It's kinda difficult to just spit out some odd things, you know?

Unless you can use your host family's phone happily, buy yourself an international phone card to call home. You can buy them in a news-agency, and then call the number on the card from a phone box. (Yes, they still exist in France. Increasingly hard to find, but they're there!) You'll speak to an operative (or a machine sometimes, I guess) and they will dial forward for you. You pay less that way.

Hm, what else?

Let's see. The tipping thing will be a big deal. We do tip in the UK, but not as much as in America. I've not a clue how it stands in Australia. It's not expected here, it's very much a matter of choice. That said, in Frog, gratuity is on the bill. I've had a waiter come out of the restaurant behind me to return my change before.

I don't know whether smoking is banned in public places in Australia or whether you're a smoker or not, but it's banned in France. The legal age for alcohol is eighteen, and that includes in restaurants (unlike here in England, where children from sixteen can drink wine with their meal with parental consent).

You'll probably be looked after really well by your host family, and have plenty of time to get used to things that might be different from Australia. That said, knowing the difference between a la carte and le menu will give you a head start and might help you not look like a twonk. ;)

In case you didn't know, a la carte is a full menu, with plenty of choices. Le menu is a more restricted version, and cheaper, but without the ability to ask for something cooked-on-demand. (As in, you can't go into a restaurant serving le menu for lunch and order a cheese and tomato sandwich because you don't like the look of anything on the list.) As a general rule, if the price isn't listed... it's not cheap. I think that's world-over though, lol.

Don't be surprised to be served coffee in a bowl. That is, a big mug without handles. Same for hot chocolate. That's just sometimes the way it comes. Oh oh -- not my experience, but a friend's; in coffee shops, if you're looking for just a coffee, take it at the bar. It's cheaper. Apparently you pay for the pleasure of sitting down at a café table.

If you get the chance to go to Paris, spend a few hours browsing the book market along the Seine. Just do it.

Errrrm... the French kiss? They tend to start by kissing the left cheek. It's usually two kisses, but the odd one'll kiss three times. They probably fancy you. :p

Practice your French! Speak with the friends that are going on the exchange too in French. Try not to slip into English, but to use French all the time over a lunch-date, or something. If you don't know a certain word then use the English, but stay as Frog as possible.

If you have any questions then by all means, direct them at me and I'll answer them if I can. As it stands, though, I think that I've waffled enough now. :mrgreen:

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Re: French Exchange Trip - 5 Months

Postby Benny the Bear » Wed Apr 02, 2008 3:46 am UTC

Laura wrote:HELPFUL STUFF


The type of thing you posted is exactly what I want, just information on the lifestyle.

Actually I think I've gotten about as much as I can from this topic - I mean there's only so much you can be told, I guess I should just live there for the 5 months and see for myself.

Thanks guys.


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