Internship in France, help me know what to expect!
November 30, 2006 11:00 AM   Subscribe

[FranceFilter] I'm an early 20s Canadian doing a 4-month internship near Lyon, France in January. I have a few nagging questions before I leave.

I have arranged an engineering internship in France for January - May of 2007. I have my work visa interview tomorrow, but since I have all the paperwork lined up for that I'm not too concerned. I have been to this region of France once before, for about a week in 1999, but I was with my family and it was summer.

A few things I've been thinking about though:

(1) Out of pure industrial curiosity of an Ontario-educated French speaker, will French girls find the accent I have while speaking French as endearing/attractive as (I find it) when they try to speak English with their French accent? I know this might be a preference thing, but in general I find accents are attractive, to me and most others I've talked to.

(2) Anything I absolutely must see/do this time of year in or near Lyon that hasn't been mentioned on this previous AskMe? Is there a male equivalent of the recreational soccer association listed in this AskMe thread? I would like to play some 5-a-side indoor soccer while I'm there.

(3) Will my laptop power adapter (brick + cable) be okay with a simple adapter to the physical geometry of the French outlets? The brick DOES say 110/220V on it, but I trust MeFi personal experience more.

(4) How much will it cost to skype home with video? Am I better to try out MSN with a webcam or just straight calling cards?

(5) Anything local to this region that would be a good gift for my girlfriend? She's in school (in Canada) for this period and it would go a long way towards guilt reduction if I could find something amazing. Bonus points for sock-off-knockingly amazing.

(6) Any other anecdotes for engineering internships abroad would be appreciated. What do you wish someone told you before you hopped your plane?
posted by KevCed to Society & Culture (15 answers total)
3. Your power adapter will be fine - mine (Cdn) has worked in Italy and is doing its thing right now in the UK. So have been all my other power thingies.
posted by Flashman at 11:41 AM on November 30, 2006

I think they'll find the fact that you speak French at all endearing - the accent probably won't play much of a role to be honest.

If you ski, the Alps are not too far for a day's skiing despite the comment in the linked post. When I lived in Lyon there were places who offered an all-in package - ski hire, lift pass and coach for a day on the slopes - it was an early start but very doable.

I can't help with the laptop or engineering questions, but I'm down the road in Geneva so if you have any more questions feel free to send me a mail to anything at the domain name in my profile.
posted by jontyjago at 11:43 AM on November 30, 2006

Video Skype is free (or at least as free as the cost of your broadband connection) as long as the person on the other end of the line also has Skype. It is an excellent way to communicate.
posted by k8t at 11:45 AM on November 30, 2006

Will my laptop power adapter (brick + cable) be okay with a simple adapter to the physical geometry of the French outlets?

It ought to be. I was fine in Germany with a PowerBook G4, and the adapter wasn't grounded. It did occasionally feel like I was the ground wire, though.

How much will it cost to skype home with video?

Well, if both sides have Skype, it doesn't cost anything. You would have to pay for a connection to the Internet, though.
posted by oaf at 11:46 AM on November 30, 2006

1) yes, especially if you can pepper conversations with quebecois words.

3) You'll be fine.

4) If the other side doesn't have Skype, you're better off finding a flat that already has internet access with it includes unlimited phone calls to 28 destinations including Canada. Our international flatmates love it.
posted by stereo at 12:32 PM on November 30, 2006

Try to get away as much as possible? You're smack in the middle of europe, the culture, the history, the architecture. Check it all out.
posted by aeighty at 12:35 PM on November 30, 2006

1. They'll like your english more than your french. They'll like it even better if you speak french with an american accent. I couldn't understand it, but the girls in Lyon liked it when I mangled their language.

2. Lyon is pretty lousy as a tourist destination, but luckily it's really close to Geneva, the south of France, etc. EasyJet can get you anywhere on the continent for $20.

3. Yes

4. SkypeOut rates are here.

5. Lyon is a historically known for silk. Maybe something silky? There's also a lot of great antique stores and book shops.

6. Stay out of Venissieux. Trust me.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:03 PM on November 30, 2006

Response by poster: Awesome answers so far. I thought skype was only free within Canada/US.

I'm not sure what restrictions my visa will have on it, so leaving France might be problematic, but I would very strongly consider day/weekend trips to Geneva, Northern Italy, and other parts of France.
posted by KevCed at 1:47 PM on November 30, 2006

Response by poster: you have a girlfriend! stop worrying about if your accent will seem attractive or not. ugh.

That's part of why I'm curious. I want to know what to expect in social situations. For instance, I'd like to avoid reading too much into something and making it awkward trying to "let someone down easily" by telling someone that I'm completely devoted to THE girl back home. Who likes to drop the SO-bomb unnecessarily? Or, perhaps I can be an excellent wingman, attracting girls with my knowledge of Montreal colloquialisms or something... Primarily I wanted to know exactly how self-conscious to be about my accent, was really looking for a "relax, they'll be able to tell you're trying and be appreciative of it" kinda thing.

Incidentally, I've heard that the attempt at French is often good form, considered polite, after which both parties can switch to English if possible, a convenience not afforded those who speak/demand English up front.
posted by KevCed at 1:57 PM on November 30, 2006

1) Re: the accent

I'm not sure how best to respond since I'm not a native francophone, but I think you should be just fine. That said there could be a few caveats. There seems to be a preference for "proper" French accents and I've had some quebecois friends say they've felt discriminated against because of their accents. And in strong tourist areas people might feel more comfortable speaking to you in English (even as another francophone). That may feel a little insulting...but I'm not sure what to do about it.

But I think the vast majority of your experiences will be positive. There will be some cultural differences of course, but handled properly they can actually be rewarding.

5) If you're into skiing, Lyon is in pretty close proximity to the French Alps. Grenoble is an hour away by train, and would make a good base for a weekend ski trip. Ski Central has a list of all French ski resorts. Alternatively you could leave straight from Lyon and head directly to a resort.

6) I've not done an internship, but I spent some time in a French engineering school. Experiences seem vary from company to company, but don't be too surprised if you find yourself working less than you would be in North America. Then again you could find yourself in one of those rare companies where they actually work more. Also, office politics can be very different in France, but it's something you'll get used to.
posted by timelord at 2:32 PM on November 30, 2006

As a French girl, I can tell you that French girls will love it if you speak with a foreign accent. Maybe not with a Canadian French accent though... I personally find it pretty cute but some French people are prejudiced against Canadian French speakers (like, they can't speak French, you can't understand them, they're dumb, etc.) and tend to make fun of them.
posted by celine at 2:58 PM on November 30, 2006

I'm not sure what restrictions my visa will have on it, so leaving France might be problematic
If you have a Canadian passport, you'll be able to go wherever you want in Europe, and you'll get an easy ride at immigration.
They do like us, but please, don't bother to rock the maple leaf on your backpack. I've been living in Europe coming on 3 years now, and I've *yet* to be angrily, venomously accused of being an American.
posted by Flashman at 3:29 PM on November 30, 2006

Celine is on the ball re: Quebeqois accent, I've heard French people refer to the accent as like a "country hick", quite a few stereotypes about this. Another Breton friend told me it sounded to him like the equivalent for me of a Deep South American accent (which I personally love, but that's not the way he meant it!)
posted by Wilder at 8:24 AM on December 1, 2006

I asked the football question originally. I managed to join a team at uni (the first women's football team they ever had, because french girls just don't play much football), but all the social sport I know of is organised through the university association where, unfortunately, you have to be a student. The association given as my answer isn't exactly recreational, players move cities for their team, so it's far above my level. There's probably more choice for a guy playing football, however.

If you just learned french in Toronto or somewhere, not actually in Quebec, then your accent is probably just 'canadian sounding french', which is quite distinct from quebecois. I'm pretty sure that celine is referring to the quebecois accent. (I have a few friends from quebec here, as well as a girl from toronto that I hang out with a lot, and it's completely different.) If you are actually quebecois, ignore that, and I agree with what the others have said about possible reactions.

Your laptop brick will be perfectly fine. As a bonus, there's free (unconditional!) wifi all over the city - at every McDonalds I've been to, at a bunch of stores in the city centre, and so on. You can use skype here, just have a headset.

Finally, for the gift - wait till you get here. I presume that this is for something to take home to her, so you have your whole stay to find something that is both particular to the region and perfect for your girlfriend. I think it would be much better to be able to say 'I found this in a little shop near my work, and it just reminded me so much of xxx about you that I had to get it!'.
posted by jacalata at 11:46 AM on December 1, 2006

Also, feel free to email me with more questions (in profile) and if you'll be on your own when you get here, I'd be happy to meet up and show you around a little/introduce you to my friends (I'm leaving in february).
posted by jacalata at 11:51 AM on December 1, 2006

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