Paris is the home of love, the Eiffel Tower, never-ending strikes and perhaps my new postal address, after learning the immigration process from today’s subject – Lade, a Masters Student at a grand ecole in Paris.
She lets us in on student life, what living in Paris has felt like for the first month, and the extreme measures she has had to take, living in a country seriously lacking pepper in its cuisine.
How do you say ‘escape while you can’ in French?
Let’s see, échapper pendant que vous le pouvez.
Your words, not mine. Per your directive, how does one Nigerian go about escaping to Paris? Asking for a me.
LOL. Well, you need a visa. This normally shouldn’t take more than three weeks, but these French people showed me pepper.
Okay, before we get into it, can you let the people at the back know why you are currently living in Paris?
Well, because I am absolutely obsessed with the city, always have been, I wrote papers on its historical sites back when I was in school, this my love of Paris, no be today! But if anybody asks you, it’s because I’m getting a Masters in Business Negotiation from a grande ecole over here.
Got it, so back to my escape plan.
Ehen, before you get that visa, and I’m talking about a student visa here, there are a number of things you have to do. First, speak French.
Oui oui, non, non. How am I doing?
Ah, it has to pass that level oh. I’m talking passing the DELF-DALF exam. I had a B1 certification that I used to apply, and while that isn’t some next level expert certification, cause the really high level of French-speaking is a B2 or C1 certification, it was good enough to apply with, because my school is an English speaking school.
Back up, you attend an English-speaking school in Paris?
Oh yeah, it’s for foreigners that want to learn in Paris without necessarily learning the French language. I’m interested in learning in Paris and perfecting the language by being around locals, so I decided one bird, two stones you get?
These oyibos are so thoughtful.
They are oh, except when it comes to visa delays. So apply with all the necessary documents, show you’re French-speaking, in my application, I let it be known that I had been motivated to learn French for a long time, it’s what I studied in UNILAG. I also included a student discount certified from my school, everything jamo-jamo sha, these gave me an edge in my application process. Didn’t stop the embassy from taking two months to approve my visa, I lost around a week of school, but we move!
Okay, off the top of your head, three things about Paris nobody prepared you for.
Where do I begin?
So you need to know something, just forget life in Paris between 12-2 pm. Dun cry, dun beg. You won’t get attended to, or any work done. The French do not play with their lunch, relaxation and smoke breaks. You must rest, they want you to rest! Like the city goes a lock-down between those hours. Same thing goes for the whole of Sundays. You think you like to relax? Try Paris.
That deep. Then for a country so developed, banking is extremely slow, and that’s because these people love their paperwork, even though you need banks for everything. In Nigeria, you could send a code to transfer money, but here, you need like 3-5 business days to get it done. If you need a sim card, you need a bank account, to get this bank account, you need a guarantor, another process. You cannot imagine the hours I haspent in line.
A wow wow.
Then all.the.strikes. There is a strike for every day of the week. Very recently, one of my exams had to be postponed because they were striking, the vex is strong in these guys, they do not play with their rights.
Oh, oh, bonus entry! They kiss everywhere. Like friends, people in relationships, they’re just on the road, in the cafes, showing love. Nigeria could never, I am constantly tensioned.
And these people find love on Tinder, like real, life-long relationships. But because of where I’m coming from and the evil that app has done in my life, it’s very “thanks, but no thanks” for me right now.
Hm. Must be nice. So you speak French, is it fluent enough that there is no language barrier or are there still a few stumbling blocks?
Well, I’ve been speaking French for a while. Like I said I studied it in UNILAG. But even then, it isn’t fully perfect, so sometimes I have to say something like “ralentis s’il te plaît je parle” (please slow down, I speak English), when the person I’m conversing with is speaking a little too fast. Luckily, I’m in Paris which is metropolitan enough that some of the French speakers are English as well, so sometimes if it’s getting too difficult to discuss, the conversation switches to English. Another thing to note though, the French fully expect you to learn their language when you’re in their country, some of them can be really brusque in driving home that point.
Interesting. So Lade, how is studies?
Man, it is wild, I can’t even lie. When I moved here, my classmates used to complain about 8 am classes, and I would just look at them like, *laughs in UNILAG*. I mean I don’t love 8 ams, but the system is so accommodating, it’s hard to complain. Like a simple application to my HOD, allowed monthly payments of my fees, instead of a lump sum, I get to pay like €400. Plus the system allows students, even immigrant students work. So I work, pay tuition, rent etc. But I guess the major difference for me here is, I feel like I’m actually learning. You have lecturers that come in and sit beside you to make sure they’re getting their points across. They want to relate with you. Like you have teachers inviting you for lunch break, ready to take smoking breaks with you?
Pahdin? Smoke with whom?
See, it is a whole lifestyle here, nobody looks at you smoking like you’re a bad child. I have four-hour classes with fifteen minute breaks before and after each class. So I have classes from 8 am -12 pm, then the break after, before the rest of my classes. We have exams at the end of every week. I’ve written about four exams since classes started, because it’s a new course every week and you get tested on it. Sometimes instead of a test, you get like a project or a term paper to write though.
Oh but there’s one thing.
The student life. Like maybe because I have a black man blood in me, but I am very die on the line with exams and classes. Like I am up for an hour, or almost an hour every day studying before class, because our lecturers send in class notes for the day beforehand, so I try to stay up to speed. The whites in my class? A whole other story. These guys just want to learn and chill, no stress for them, like they actually can’t die.
After exams, I’d be asking “what did you write in number 3”, and you’ll see these people actually saying “oh, I didn’t know the answer so I just left it blank”.
See, I don’t even need to know the right answer, but the tuition I’m paying can never let me leave an answer blank. These same people just want to teach high school after their Masters or retire to be fishermen after school, and I’m just looking like, ehn?
Okay, that’s enough white for today. Is there an African community where you are? Where you just go after a long day of adding ‘le’ and ‘la’ to everything.
Lol. There is oh, and they always invite me for stuff. Plus there’s an African market I can buy okro and eba things. So that’s great. But funny thing is, I have so many local friends, I tend to be amongst the locals most of the time. It’s the most interesting thing, make a French friend, and you’ve made a friend for life. Even if you fall out, they just have this sense of loyalty and I just love it.
But do you love the food? *side-eye emoji*
Hmm. First off, my diet has changed oh. From Gala and whatever I used to take before class in Nigeria, now you can’t miss me taking a croissant and coffee every morning before class.
But man, these people. They eat beef as a meal. Not as the topping on their rice, or the thing taking corner kick in their plate. A full meal. Like I’d be looking for the polite way to ask for the rest of the food and these people will really be wolfing down like it’s amala.
But that’s not even all. These guys do not eat pepper. It is a national emergency. I would order food and ask the guy to add extra, extra, extra pepper. And you can see him looking like, “doesn’t this girl like herself?’ I always clarify that I’m African, amd this pepper can’t do me. I still return home to add the Cameroun pepper I packed from Nigeria to whatever they add.
Hay. Speaking of Nigeria. Another thing I forgot to add, everything is expensive here. Like the next time I’m coming from home, I know what I’m bringing along. Pads and detergent. You would not believe how expensive these things are, like it is almost a joke.
Extra thing to add. They like by force fit fam here.
They have to walk everywhere. Bus stations can be like 25 or 45 minutes away from your home and you’d see people just legging it. Easily. Like you could take Ubers to your destination, but Ubers cost about 50 Euros a pop here, which is the amount I would spend on a month of transport cards. Sure there’s the metro and the bus, but sometimes I just miss Keke Napeps, you get?
Lol. So, random question. How many historical sites have you visited in Nigeria?
Well, because I don’t want to kpai, I know how unsafe these sites can be, I’ve seen pictures, but I’ve never actually been to any.
And France. How many have you visited?
How much time do you have? There’s Versailles which is my ultimate favourite, Arc De Triomphe, Wall of Love in Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, Eiffel Tower, Place de la Bastille, Point Alexandre III.
And I’ve only been here a month and two days oh. Check back next month. I have a whole list, Disneyland for the Halloween party, Grenoble Alpes etc.
Double ah. Must be nice. So what’s the plan after school?
Look, I’ve thought long and hard about it, and I have decided that this French pali is a must! I probably would move from Paris to the South of France because it’s warmer and just a lot better, then maybe teach in Singapore. I have two non-profits in Nigeria, so my ideal situation would be a job that lets me travel between countries so I can focus on my projects properly.
And just how does one go about getting this pali? Again, asking for a me.
Work hard, show you can speak the language and pass the nationality exams. Pretty much it oh.
Okay, oui, oui, see you in a little bit, my soon to be fellow Frenchie.