Anouschka during her studies in Paris, France
Anouschka studied in France and: "It was absolutely amazing, I felt more at home in Paris than I had in the Netherlands ever before".
- Internship Abroad
Anouschka from the Netherlands in Paris: "In a city like Paris I quickly understood what it means to be a flâneur".
Hello! I'm Anouschka and I'm from the Netherlands. I studied and lived in Paris for six months.
What was the first thing you thought when you got off the plane? (bus/train/car)
"This is actually where I live right now."
What was the most shocking difference between your home country and your new country?
Customer service. In the Netherlands the customer is king, and in France they know you are the one with the problem. When I arrived I decided to order my bedding because I had no idea where you could buy stuff like that and the Internet didn't help. I thought I could live on a yoga mat with a towel for about five days. It turned out there is no post delivery in the weekends and on Mondays. Then the postal service took longer. Then I was informed that the deliverer couldn't find my house (what is ambiguous about the description 'that enormous bright red building on the corner'?). Then they had accidentally sent it to a package pick-up point. The wrong one, I discovered once I tried to retrieve it. After eighteen days I was fed up with the situation and I really needed a good sleep, so I furiously bought an extra set of bedding, made my bed, and my doorbell rang. Package arrived. I must say I learned French quickly, being on such intimate terms with the customer service.
Did you ever feel homesick? How did you cope with this?
The only moment of homesickness for me was the day after the attacks. It felt horrible that I couldn't easily visit my parents. I called them, had a good conversation, and spent a lot of time with the friends I spent the night of the attacks with, hiding. We became very close friends in the end, as we were all far from family, and made our own little rituals. My recipe for homesickness is to get in that little black dress, put on that red lipstick, and have wine with friends in cafés.
Did you feel at home in your new country? Why (not)?
It was absolutely amazing, I felt more at home in Paris than I had in the Netherlands ever before. Despite some moments of Babylonian confusion, the pace of life and the beauty of the city suited me well. The way the libraries are organised (free subscription for Parisians), the metro system and the fifteen-minute-chance to read; all these very normal, quotidian, realities for Parisians made me feel in place. Until the bureaucracy happened, but I've been told that's horrible even to Parisians themselves.
Please give us tips about who to befriend when living abroad. The Russians? The Irish? The Chileans? (Honestly, we want to know some gossip about other internationals you’ve met.)
Swedes are absolutely adorable, especially when you have the chance to live with them. The Irish and English have streaks of melancholy very suitable for night walks and pondering about life. Americans are so different from one another I would advise you to speak with them and give them a chance. The French are very loyal and friendly when you speak their language - they're very shy about their English so don't make them speak it. If you ever find a French-Australian you'll have a night you'll never forget, especially when that person tells you his first time at MacDonald's was when he was about five years old and on the lookout while his mom, stoned, was trashing this child of capitalism.
Describe the inhabitants of the new country in three words.
Laid-back, hospitable, inefficient
Was there a type of local food you could NOT handle?
I still need to learn how to appreciate blue cheese.
What did you learn from your experience abroad? Was it the loving community you liked? The cheap cocktails? The overwhelming nature? Or was the experience less helpful than expected? Details, we want details!
All I wanted from Paris was a time of intellectual growth and a moment to breathe in beauty. In a city like Paris I quickly understood what it means to be a flâneur, and I flâneured away since the university workload allowed a breath every once in a while. The people I've met were mostly expats but not Erasmus students, so I found myself surrounded by people looking for the same kind of hopeless romanticism, so that with nights out someone always brought a cheap bottle of incredible wine to drink along the Seine or the Canal Saint-Martin. Quickly, the community of artists and poets opened up itself and knew me by name. To be recognised abroad for what you wished to be deep down inside - that's what Paris brought me. That's also what gave me the courage to start looking for the same back at home: to go to the places where I want to be, like a foreigner, and on my own.
Thanks! Could we also be so bold as to ask for a nice travel photo (or more) from that period in your life? Yay!
Sure! There's one of my first week when I visited Musée d'Orsay and one of when I was flâneuring with my fake fur coat. Looking back at all my pictures, I see I have forgotten to take group pictures - these are really all the pictures of myself in Paris. I guess the laid-back adventure made me forget about remembering with pictures later on because I'm still sure I'll be back.