Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The lonely life of a language assistant.

I grew up in the countryside, and my childhood is a blur of running through fields with other children, collecting spiders and examining slugs.

So I can't believe I now long for the city. It feels like a betrayal of that wide-eyed boy, telling his parents knowingly that he too would live in the country when he grew up.

What happened? I suppose University did. My student-hood is a blur of running through streets with other students, collecting friends and examining the opposite sex.

And now, so freshly converted to the rush of the city, I find myself back in the fields. Admittedly this time the fields of a different country.

Life here is more challenging than I thought it would be. My main problem is making friends. Ever since the I arrived, I have been part of a close circle of assistants in Gap, and a wider circle of assistants in surrounding towns. They are superb - we have lots of fun together, they are the ones most likely to understand how you feel, and have the same ridiculous amount of spare time.

But then, the majority of us are out here to practice our French, so you begin to look around for French friends. I simply can not seem to do it. I have tried to make myself available. Done stupid things like go to Judo classes and go snow-shoeing, met up for drinks with 18 year old IT students and even offered free individual conversation classes. To no avail.

The closest I have come to friendship with the natives is playing squash wish two French guys every week. This is progress I admit, but as I pointed out to a friend, we are not relaxing at each other's houses, we are hitting a rubber ball against a wall and then shaking hands. My point is that it is hardly a deep friendship.

As Christmas draws closer, for me the focus falls on the fact that I have failed to make friends here. I do not forget my assistant friends - but I understand that they too have their battle to make a life here, which can't simply be a series of anglophone nights in.

So, what am I supposed to do? Write angry letters? Advertise in the local newspapers that I am alone? Or come back in the New Year with a daft resolution to befriend a stranger every single day.

I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I believe finding friends out here MUST BE possible, I'm just tired of not knowing how, and not knowing where to look.



  1. I might just copy & paste this into an email to everyone who asks me how it really is to live in France.

    --the anonymous comment to your blog post

  2. I think I'd be very early Keats about it and just be happy it was being read at all, so genuinely feel free.

    - the realisation that you put your name at the beginning.

  3. you haven't failed, thomas! you're just still in the process...and it's a slow and not very fruitful process, for all of us. don't let it get you down!

    gros bises