All Hectic on the Western Front

I’ve gone quiet a bit and missed out on all kinds of posts and blog entries but now I’m here and will catch up quickly. I was afraid of this move. I wasn’t scared by moving to a different country, since I have done well in England already… but I knew England, I was enrolled to university, I had a safe place to go, I had friends and last but not least I didn’t have any problems with speaking the language. Not to mention the fact that London is very cosmopolitan, people are used to all kind of strangers, so I was sure I wouldn’t feel like an alien. Of course, it’s not like the French haven’t seen foreigners or immigrants… but they haven’t seen me. “And what if they’re going to hate me?” I thought. “What if I won’t have my own friends and I will feel alone?” This trembling for acceptance and integration is a sort of knee reflex in me, I grew it somewhere along primary school and didn’t quite manage to leave it behind. Partly it was because of this fear that I started this blog because I thought if I wrote about it, if I transform the fear into a creative project, I’ll make it seem less scary.

I arrived on 3rd October, my boyfriend came to fetch me and we dragged my luggage home. I fell in love with the flat immediately; it’s charmingly small, very easy to keep it tidy. My only problem is that it’s on the fourth floor sans elevator and my stamina is painfully non-existent, so I need to be resurrected when we finally reach the door.

Paris miniature photographed by Petra Balog
Paris miniature photographed by Petra Balog

I didn’t really go out on the first week, I tried to save money. We went to see friends sometimes and we visited my boyfriend’s parents on the second weekend. So what did I do with my days? Well, I was somewhat transformed into a dormouse and spent my mornings in the embrace of sleep… Then I translated various things, applied to a ton of jobs and I practiced French on Duolingo. I was also sitting on the roller coaster of euphoria and despair.

I popped over to London on the second week, I had a bank account to close, and a heap of stuff I left in the care of my very understanding landlady. I combined duties with pleasure and spent the evening with my beloved London friends. An entry about this little trip is on its way.

I kept on applying to jobs and started really to get desperate because I had nothing but rejections. Then on Tuesday the miracle arrived. I got an email inquiring if I was free for a short phone interview on Wednesday morning. It was really short, they just asked me if I could go for an interview to the office. It is of course situated on the opposite side of Paris, because why not, but I’m not complaining because I can still make it in an hour. This is the same time I needed to get to my office in Hungary.

It must have been fate though, because the company was looking for a native Hungarian wtih a good knowledge of English and call centre experience. I would have never though my being Hungarian will be an advantage at one point in my life because so far it has only been a problem that I’m not native French or not native English. I stressed all Thursday long because I was waiting from a call from the company’s Hungarian office. In the meantime I met my friends from home who were brought to Paris by the autumn, so at least I spent the hours of waiting in good company. Finally at five o’clock I was called and told that I could go to work next day. It was a bit sudden but I can’t complain.

I had my first work day on Friday. This time public transportation was good to me (which is a small miracle because the train system in Paris can be a real b*tch… see more about that in my upcoming London entry) I had a seat on both RERs ( = local railway) so I could read in peace. The underground was crowded but I could survive those two stops. My second train crosses a bridge; there is the river underneath and a group of skyscrapers in the distance. It’s really beautiful. It reminds me of going to work at home where I could always see the morning above the Danube.

My experience is that there are quite a lot of people begging on the underground and on the train. It makes me really sad but I can’t always give. Friday morning there was a man on the train, giving everybody a little yellow paper which explained that he was homeless with two little children and if somebody could spare him 1 or 2 Euros or a food voucher, he would be really grateful. I didn’t have a lot of money but I gave him a Euro because I like to be charitable on important days ( such as the first day in work) because according to my own system of beliefs, this way I can win the benevolence of the universe. The man was a bit surprised when I gave him my coin. I think I might have been the only one who gave him something.

Fortunately, the office building is not to far from the station, it’s five minutes on foot. I was thrown into deep water with long hours of training, my brain was numb by the end of the day. I’m a bit startled by the tasks but I’ll get used to them. I could see the Eiffel tower and the dome of the Sacré Coeur from the window, I also consider this an auspicious sign.

I met the Hungarian girls taking the incoming calls, they seemed very kind and helpful. I had lunch with a Czech girl who had arrived in November and was struggling since February to get this job. It means almost a year without a real job! I feel I was incredibly lucky that I managed to land a job in less than a month. What is more, she told me that she couldn’t really speak French so she couldn’t really go out because people weren’t too helpful when she talked to them in English. I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been for months without work or without the chance of communicating with people.

I always try to speak French and I haven’t met a bad reaction yet, which surprises me a bit. I was afraid that they would eat me or at least throw sharpened baguettes at me when they notice that I made a mistake in conjugation. I heard from many places that the French are a bit stuck-up and they don’t answer if you don’t have a spotless French accent. So far I’ve only had good experience, everybody is really sweet, the ticket selling girl and the bakery lady complimented my French which made the night of a hard day much netter.

On Saturday I got an appointment to open my bank account, because here you can’t just waltz in and open an account, no no. Here you need to ask for a date and bring along a million papers. The receptionist girl was extremely helpful and I’ll have this sorted next weekend. I also signed up for the library, that is the médiatheque and borrowed five books. It’s not like I’m not reading three other books already and Nano is coming up soon… but I can’t resist books. The médiatheque is in a nice, modern building, there are lots of children’s and young adult books, so I will be a faithful member. Signing up and borrowing books is free (unless you want to borrow CDs, DVDs and such things). I also got a cute book bag to carry my loot.

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