Tuesday, 4 March 2014


I'm feeling too tired and boring to think up a punny post title today, but I will at some point, I promise!

So, as you probably guessed from the title of this post, I have officially arrived in my second year-abroad destination: Biarritz. "Where?" you ask. Good question. I had no idea either until I accepted the job here (about 3 weeks before my placement was due to start - last minute, anyone?), but thought I should probably look up where it was before attempting to travel there. (As you may have guessed from the last post, travelling there was quite an undertaking!) Biarritz is right on France's Atlantic coast, and right in the south, about 40km from the Spanish border. So far so good!

You might be forgiven for imagining a sunny seaside town with beautiful sandy beaches. That's certainly what I thought. And what google images led me to believe. Turns out that the sunny weather only happens in summer, and right now it is definitely still March. Biarritz is currently in the grips of the stormiest storm I've ever seen. Imagine constant rain, thunder and lightning, and gales to make you re-think your decision to accept a ride to work on the back of your colleagues definitely-blow-about-able moped. Umbrellas are a definite no-no. Sad times.
Bit different to how I imagined...
So much rain :( Let's hope my camera forgives me for taking it out in this weather!
But it's not all doom and gloom! Yesterday, I started my shiny brand-new job at a translation agency, and I have to say that so far I am loving it! Although it is a definite shock to the system working 9-5 (well, technically 9.30-5.30) when I've been used to working 12 hours a week as a language assistant, the work is so interesting that the time (so far) has flown by. While the thought of translating boring documents for a living has never exactly appealed to me, this job could not be more different. I'm translating things to do with culture and entertainment, like TV-show subtitles, cartoon scripts, literature, and BDs (Bandes Dessinées - a form of French comic book/graphic novel). Definitely more interesting than the stuff we do at uni!

Adding to the list of pros about Biarritz (the weather is the only real con at the moment, but it's a big one!) is my living situation. I'm staying with a friend of my work colleague's, along with her 3-year-old son. Now, I won't lie. The prospect of living with a 3 year old did not exactly fill me with joy. But, assured by the previous intern (who also lived there) that it wasn't a problem for her, I decided to take the plunge and just go for it. (Who was I to turn down an offer of accommodation which would mean less long-distance organisation on my part!?) So far it has been great! Oona, the lady I'm living with, is really friendly and relaxed, and she keeps offering me more things to make my room feel more like home. I got home today to find that she'd sneaked a rug, chair and lamp into my room. I'm certainly not complaining! What's more, her son is absolutely adorable (well, so far anyway!) I helped him put together some Lego yesterday, so hopefully that put me in his good books! Fingers crossed...

All in all, the transition to France has been much less painful than it could have been, although this could be partly due to the fact that I'm too busy with my sudden full-time job at the moment that I don't have time to think about much else!

I have noticed a few small differences though. So, in the same way that I did when I arrived in Germany, I think I'll list them here:
  • Kissing. It's a big thing. Whenever anyone arrives at the office they have to do the rounds and kiss everyone (once on each cheek, which I'm told is relatively few kisses compared with other parts of France!). Sometimes they even do this when they leave the office as well. That adds up to a lot of kisses! I think I prefer the Germans' handshaking. Much less awkward-potential.
  • No one here waits at the red man! My inner-German is scandalised.
  • Sugar. So much sugar. Cake everywhere... Bit of a contrast to the German salt-obsession. (Not complaining!) 
  • French - Here I am back in the oh-no-people-are-expecting-small-talk-and-I-have-no-idea-what-to-say situation. So many times I have bitten back (or not quite bitten back) an ach so! which (sadly) is only met with confusion here. Darn those Frenchies for not speaking German!
  • Weird milk. It tastes different. I do not approve.
I'm sure there will soon be many more things to add to this list! I will keep you posted.

Until then, à bientôt!

Let's just hope the weather improves!


  1. BD!!!!!!! So exciting. :D I wish I could see what you are translating right now!

    I love the photos, and how some things look similar to Britain (grey sky, choppy sea!) and some look different (those houses! <3 with red roofs and balconies and a line of palms! Think how wonderful that will look in the sun!)

    Oh no, the awkwardness of cheek kissing and French small talk! You'll soon adapt though, I bet when you get home you'll kiss us all on the cheeks automatically when you see us! XD

    I hope the nomlicious cakes make up for the weird milk. And now you know what I'm going to say...have you seen any birds/other wildlife? I know it's raining but some birds come out in the rain, and I will lap up even your vaguest descriptions with great excitement. :D

  2. It's so cool! I really hope I get my name credited :D

    Some parts of Biarritz actually really remind me of cornwall, bizarrely... It's got the same out-of-season seaside town feel to it.

    Ha! Soon I will be a pro at cheek-kissing. I almost have the technique down already XD

    Unfortunately, I have absolutely zero recollection of having seen any non-human living thing around here (apart from cats, but they're definitely not wildlife!)... To be honest it's been so rainy that I've barely been outside myself, so I can't speak for the wildlife :P I will keep my eyes peeled in future though. I did see an awesome art shop though! You would have loved it. You should come and visit so we can go!! :D

    1. I hope so too!!! That would be super kick-ass. :D

      No worries, and I will soooooo come and visit!!! Yaaaaaaaaaay! I'm just so relieved you are settling in ok, I was worried about you but glad to know you are enjoying your job!! :)

  3. Hi Rachel,

    I am currently a second year French and Spanish student at University of Birmingham and really want to secure a translation internship! If you don't mind me asking - what was the name of the firm you worked with and how did you go about applying? Trying to sort all this out is stressful business!!

    Thank you

    Rea :)

    1. Hi Rea,

      I completely empathise! I had the most stressful time trying to find something in France! The company I worked for was called Passport ELS (which stands for English Language Services) and I found it through an email sent out by my university.. I have no idea if she's likely to contact Birmingham uni but you could always try sending her an email directly and ask how you can apply! Her website is http://www.passport-els.com/ and the email is on there. Good luck! I feel your pain!

      Rachel x