Adapting to the Marseille Way


Time has flown here in Marseille, and I know it’s only going to speed up as the weather gets warmer. For some reason, I didn’t think winter existed in the south of France, and every day would be warm and sunny. I was surprised when I found out that in the winter Marseille is cool, cloudy, and windy. The past couple of days on the other hand have been a perfect 70 degrees and sunny, and the city became an entirely different place. Everything just seemed more beautiful, and the south of France finally turned into what I imagined it would be. Tanning on my balcony these past couple of mornings has certainly had a positive effect on my mood. Despite the improving weather, not everything has been sunshine and rainbows since moving here. Some aspects of French culture both in and out of the classroom have been difficult to adapt to.

One part of French culture that has been difficult to adapt to is class scheduling. Classes at my school are 3 hours and 15 minutes long. These are the longest classes I’ve ever taken, and learning to stay focused for such a long period was a challenge. For me, the thing that has helped me most is eating a meal before class. Back home at Pitt, since classes are much shorter, I can get away with not eating breakfast before a class. Here when I tried to do that, I made it about an hour and a half before all I could think about was food. Ever since I started to focus more on meal planning, I’ve had a much easier time staying focused. Another unique thing here that has been difficult to adapt to is class rescheduling. Since classes are so long and only once a week, if one gets canceled it gets rescheduled. The make-up time is usually Saturday at 8 AM. This was a surprise to me because I always thought working on the weekends in France was illegal. Turns out this isn’t the case, and to accommodate weekend classes I’ve had to be extremely flexible with my plans. 

Outside of the classroom, I have also experienced challenges adapting to certain aspects of French culture. For example, in general, French people are more formal in the way they communicate. In the US when I go to the grocery store there are many ways I could greet a cashier. I could say hi, hey, howdy, hello, morning, etc. Here in France, you would say either “bonjour” or “bonsoir” if it’s at night. If you use the equivalent of “hi,” you would get a confused look. This has taken time to adapt to, but I’m starting to get the hang of French greetings. I’ve tried hard during these past couple of months to learn how to say “bonjour” with as little of an American accent as possible. Everyone still immediately knows I’m American, but at least now it sounds like I’ve been in France for more than a couple of days.

Leave a Reply