Thursday, 17 October 2013

I'm too chic for my shirt.

Since living my new life in France I have noticed one thing in particular. French women are hot. Their casual look is the English equivalent of spending 3 hours getting ready to look suitable for the outside world. And in La Rochelle, being hot also involves riding bicycles in 5 inch heels. Doesn’t get much more chic than that, does it? I have to admit I once saw a lady in Liverpool Street trying to look good whilst cycling in a suit on a Boris bike – it was neither chic nor cool because she had decided to wear crocs and her laptop bag was quite frankly, hideous. 

Anyway since being here, the urge to flash the cash for new outfits and shoes is near enough uncontrollable. Having already mentioned that all my students look like they’re about to walk the runway while I don the same drab outfit everyday, I can’t help but think that I should’ve bought more garments with me to France. But the best part of my day is checking out what the teachers are wearing. Women walk around school looking like they’re 30 years old and displaying the new Massimo Dutti collection. Most of them are actually 50 and they look better than me…awkward.  I mean you get good looking cougars in London, but even in a small coastal town like this they’re everywhere. Heels, fitted chinos, hair did, nails did, lips did…everything seems to be did. So why does it all seem so effortless here for EVERYONE? Simply because image is important to the French. Maybe not for all but the majority of people I see on a daily basis seem to take much pride in their appearance. And they love it when you compliment them because it is assurance that they are looking extra fly.

Hopefully I can also adopt this notion of care for one’s face, nails, hair, outfit etc. However, coming from suburbs of London, everything is thrown out the window when it becomes socially acceptable to walk to Tesco in your pajamas and slippers for some bread and milk.  Yes people do that. I shall end with a quote from a teacher who works at my school and has now become my shopping partner. It really does convey the parallel universes of where I come from and where I now live. 

“ I could not bear to leave the house without doing myself up. Even if I’m popping to the bakery for a baguette I always make sure I have my hairdryer at the ready, my Chanel lipstick and my blusher. Because even the baker deserves some eye candy in the morning and I deserve to be looked at, because you know, I’m a chic French lady!” 

She knew she looked better than the Eiffel Tower.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Back to school at 21?

I write this as I look out onto my lovely balcony…and see lashings of rain. Yes even in beautiful La Rochelle the sun has the odd day off and everyone must hopelessly search for his or her umbrella. Waking up at 7am for class this morning didn’t improve this dreary Tuesday either.

To backtrack a little, I started work two weeks ago (I’m a English language assistant to students aged 14-22) and the shock was just, well, shocking. Needless to say, it was thankfully NOTHING like ‘Entre les Murs’ (for those who aren’t familiar to modern French cinema, do watch the trailer or read a synopsis of this film. You will then be glad, like I am, that my school really isn’t like the one that is featured.) Compared to common groups of dim youths in the UK who hang out everywhere apart from the classroom they’re meant to be in, these pupils are the complete opposite. Suited and booted, bloused and heeled – and then there’s me looking like a pansy in my yellow flowery top. Note to self – go shopping and try to purchase clothes that adults wear to work. My lycée (sixth form equivalent) is a vocational school so the students are either training to become sommeliers, waitresses, chefs, maître d’s and other fun professions such as these. Naturally for me it means participation in wine class, cookery class etc. - Basically a recipe to put on 5 stone during the year. Bienvenue a France!

Upon meeting my first class, at 8am by the way, there was chaos and every sort of noise you could expect from a group of 15-year-old French students. From one direction you could hear ‘HELLO!’ and another ‘Qui est-elle?’ Obviously for me this is all very daunting, walking through a corridor of masses of students looking at you as if you resembled an oompa loompa. Anyway, turns out that this class is super excited to meet me and by the end of a funny interrogation as to whether I have pets, if I have a boyfriend, what my favorite colour is and if I speak French or not, I have a couple of admirers and girls who want to go shopping with me. I can safely say I feel like I’ve conquered my first class regardless of the fact that they can really only say words in English mingled with the odd ‘ah merde’ or ‘comment je dis ça en anglais?!’ which by the way for those of you who aren’t so familiar with French is ‘oh shit’ and ‘how do I say this in English?!

Along with teaching 15 year olds, my other students can range up to 22…AWKS seeing as I’m 21. Well it seemed awkward until we got onto the topic of what their favorite drink was and because the older ones can drink, we discovered that we had a mutual appreciation for whiskey. This proceeded to an entire 20 minutes of discussing whiskey, the Scottish whiskey trail and the horrors of binge drinking in the UK to which they thought was highly immature and childish. If only they could spend a night in Leicester Square…