Resources for an American in Toulouse
May 8, 2005 8:38 PM   Subscribe

An American friend of mine has accepted a two year assignment in Toulouse, France. She'd appreciate any advice that could make the experience simpler or better.
posted by mosch to Society & Culture (10 answers total)
Well, there are always the Expat Blogs of other Americans in France!
posted by jeanmari at 9:12 PM on May 8, 2005

Best answer: Toulouse always seemed to be a friendly place, a good blend of French style and Spanish warmth.
Lots of wonderful small towns nearby too; I recently visited a pal who lived in a picturebook village a half-hour's drive from the centre of town.
Standout memories from student life in toulouse 20 years ago were cheap and wonderful meals at the meat market, and the proximity of the Pyrenees with its great beauty and dangerously cheap alcohol (Andorra).
posted by io at 1:21 AM on May 9, 2005

She'd appreciate any advice that could make the experience simpler or better.

Simpler or better than what? Is there some sense of impending doom which we should know about? Does she speak French? Have a family? Is a vegetarian? Does not like to eat? Hates wine? Hates to travel? I'm not trying to be belligerent but there is no reason why this can not be the best two years of her life.
posted by Dick Paris at 2:56 AM on May 9, 2005

Best answer: An interesting city in a beautiful part of the world. Explore lots. And learn French, if she doesn't speak it already.
posted by normy at 6:46 AM on May 9, 2005

Best answer: Read David Sedaris' "Me Talk Pretty One Day". Not all of it deals with his time becoming accustomed to living in France, but enough of it does that it gives you a great impression of what you'd need, should you move there yourself.

Of course, it helps that he's hilarious.
posted by thanotopsis at 7:02 AM on May 9, 2005

I have to second normy about learning French, having lived in Nice for a while. If she is trying in French people will realize that her French is horrible but that she is trying and suddenly a lot more people do speak English.
posted by Ferrari328 at 7:13 AM on May 9, 2005

Best answer: Go have some coffee and a crepe at Le Bol Bu. It's in the middle of town somewhere, not sure where, but I remember the name - the crepes are to die for.
posted by nyterrant at 8:26 AM on May 9, 2005

Response by poster: Her employer is providing her with language lessons, so French shouldn't be a huge issue. They're also providing basic help finding housing, a car, appropriate international insurances and what not.

She's not afraid of France at all, and this is basically a dream come true. She loves French food and good wine, has a good sense of adventure, and isn't intimidated by moving to a country where she doesn't (yet) speak the language.

That being said, she didn't know if any former expats might be able to fill in the blank in: I wish somebody had told me about __________.
posted by mosch at 8:54 AM on May 9, 2005

Best answer: I wish somebody had told me to appreciate and maybe catalogue the "minor triumph of the day." This is a definite feature of adapting to living in a new culture -- there is a limited amount of time where everything is new, where you learn information in little chunks. During this time, it is possible to keep a really interesting record of the little triumphs -- like, today I bought a stamp. Today I figured out how to pay my bill in a restaurant.

Adapting to a new culture seems a little insurmountable, but then one day you look up and you are interacting gracefully with the locals, and you think how on earth did I get here? I would like to have kept a journal of those first two years.
posted by jennyjenny at 12:07 PM on May 9, 2005 [1 favorite]

I'm a little late getting back -- sorry -- quite busy. Given your additition, mosch, I would say that your friend should first drop all of her expectations. (I did not see if she had been in France before but that this is a "dream come true" might be based on some errant assumptions and could lead to more frustration and dissapointment. *MIGHT*, not necessarily.)

(Even the food thing is hard to predict. I might for example show up at nyterrantt's recommended "Le Bol Bu" and pan the crêpes -- one never knows. It is in Toulouse after all. :-)

As a start, she is very lucky to have her employer support getting her set-up. It's been a few years since I've watched my wife go through the hoops but just getting a home established from scratch can be a chore.

One thing I would have done differently when moving to Paris: I would have left many more things behind.

I would like to describe what might be helpful in adapting to daily life in France but am having trouble finding the words. For some people, things will click right away. For others, new patterns and pacing will be forever a problem. Now, I am sometimes more annoyed by life in the States after having spent so much time in France.

I no longer look at a line at the baker or butcher as an inconvenience. I now recognize the benefits of having stores so specialized that I need to cross the street to find the same hinge in nickel plate instead of brass. (Happens less and less but it does happen.)

Internet commerce is a little less entrenched there -- and specialized items (tools meant for trades people, e.g.) that are easy to come by in the US can be trickier to find and buy, by persons not in that trade.

For me, I also had to learn that what I might do in the course of my day in the US will not be the same. Yes, it is still architecture and construction and woodworking but the customs, techinques, materials et al. were different enough that I had to forget some long held givens. (I suspect this will be less of a problem in your friend's professional life since her company is sending her there.)

The most important thing she should prepare herself for is what happens at the end of two years, when she will not want to leave.
posted by Dick Paris at 7:11 AM on May 13, 2005

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