Thursday, 7 November 2013

Travel & Culture Week: Laura's Experiences

trips down imagination road

So I realise that it is slightly out of the usual for me to do this, but considering the theme of the week, and the feedback given by fellow bloggers, I thought that I would write my own Guest Post (well Post really, as it's my blog) on my experiences of living and working abroad. So here it is: 

Living and Working Abroad

Its no secret that I am now in my final year of my degree, doing International Business and French, and so in my third year (last year) I had to go abroad, to a French-Speaking country, and work. So I lived in Paris for 6 months, working for Deutsche Bank (yes, I worked for the French branch of a German bank, believe me I've heard it before!) I lived in the 18th Arrondissment, in a pretty dodgy area, in a dismal flat with a few other people from my course. 

N.B. Paris is split into 20 Arrondisments moving outwards in a concentric circle from the middle, its to do with post codes). 

Anyone that knows Paris, will know that the 18th does actually have some charms, namely Sacré Coeur (one of my photos of Sacré Coeur was included in the intro post of this week). Now for the most famous landmark of Paris, think of France and I'm pretty sure you'll think of the Eiffel Tower. One of my favourite memories of Paris is going with my coursemates to the Champs de Mars (where the Eiffel Tower is) on the night of a meteor shower, we all lay in a circle and watched the meteors while drinking wine. We then ran out of wine and ended up having a conversation with some French people. 

Now, any other English person would probably agree that that just wouldn't happen in England! The people said we could either pay them 5 euros for 2 bottles of wine or come and talk to them and they'd give us them for free. We sat out until 6 in the morning talking to these guys (in French), chilling and drinking wine. I never felt so Parisian! 

And of course, leaving at 6am, we got to watch sunrise over the Eiffel Tower, of which I took a picture (naturally!) This was taken shortly after I moved to Paris in August 2012, and is another of my favourite pictures!

I have so many photos of the Eiffel Tower it is untrue! I have another from when it started snowing. Apparently it never snows in Paris, but in January 2013 it did, and being mature adults, we decided that we should build a snowman, but that's not the point! The point is that I got to see something rare. And I thought that Paris was beautiful before, but that is nothing compared to Paris in the snow! 

Parisian life wouldn't be Parisian life if I didn't talk about the food. Now I've been going to France since I was 2 years old (and started speaking it at 7 - my first French word was papillon - means butterfly), and obviously I still have a passion for the language after 14 years. Having been visiting for 19 years, its safe to say that I'm no stranger to French food, and love it! No one does a steak quite like the French! But living there it was slightly different. Gone were the easy options in the staff canteen and out came the proper French food! Now its important for me to mention that the Paris branch of Deutsche Bank is small, and so everyone there knew that I was English. 

There are certain rules you should adhere to if you want to eat French style: 
  1. Do not ask for meat well done, or they will look at you like you shot their mother
  2. If you ask for medium meat it will be rare 
  3. Bread goes with everything
  4. As does wine
  5. Take your time, every meal should be savoured 
  6. As should the wine! 
That obviously isn't all the things you could possibly have to be aware of to do with food, but its a start! Most of the time in France I was pretty confident that I knew what I was eating, there are a few where I wasn't, one was andouillette, it looks a bit like a sausage, and I didn't look up what it was because I was scared I had just eaten intestine (for the record its esophagus not intestine...not that that makes it any better really!) 

The other was something called quenelle, having learnt from past mistakes, I asked the chef (yep, another cultural difference, the French have chefs in Staff canteens) what it was and he basically explained that it was a flour chicken ball, which caused me to get a bit worried, he even asked one of my co workers what it was in English. Except, there is no English, because we have no idea what it is! In the end I tried it, and it was quite nice, and nothing dodgy (I looked it up!) 

So...whats my favourite French meal? Well I'd have to have some dry white wine with a French Onion Soup to start, rare steak for main, and a crême brulée for dessert, and if you don't know what a crême brulée is then it looks like this and is delicious! If you look closely you can see where it is on fire! 

I did have a favourite French work custom too, and this one was that when somebody left the office, as in forever, there used to be champagne and macaroons. I love champagne and macaroons, can't think of anything better! In fact, I managed to convert my little brother to macaroons too! He likes the raspberry ones whereas I go for vanilla, but they come in all different flavours. One day I plan on being able to make them, particularly if I follow my dream to own an afternoon tea shop. (I can't remember what flavour the blue one was, but the one on the right is vanilla!) 

And finally one more thing to share, and that is a video of the firework and light display that they held at the Arc de la défénse! (I did take this video myself so please excuse the shoddy blackberry camera!