How it began – an introduction to my life in France

I came to France in 2012 when I was 20, I was considered to be an economic migrant. I thought my work chances would be better here that they were in the United Kingdom and although life was hard I can say it was much more rewarding. I didn’t really do much remarkable, in France they say “metro, boulot, dodo”, translated this means transport, work, sleep. That was my life, a routine of getting the metro to work or studies, working, getting the metro home, sleeping. Occasionally followed by church on a Sunday or friends in the evenings. I was more or less happy, slightly homesick, but life was good.

2015 had been a brilliant year, I had done an extensive French language course and I was now considered fluent, although several people had said I was fluent before I had started that course. I really did feel an improvement in my written French and I felt optimistic about my future. From there I got into studying childcare part-time while babysitting part-time through an enterprise promising me a recognized qualification. There were over 500 applications for only 50 places that were reviewed, more were eliminated before then so I was very privileged to get into this course. I was also living with my best friend in central Paris, life couldn’t have been any better.

We both saw some shocking things in 2015, there were terror attacks and Paris was not the nice place I had come to in 2012. We were both out in a bar when Charlie Hebdo happened and had messages from friends asking if we were okay. A few days later there was a hostage situation while we were in a shopping mall, everyone was in a rush to get home to safety. However, I had great moments too in 2015. I worked 48 hours in one week, mostly undeclared and saved up enough money to get an iPhone 6s, I had a great circle of friends and we used to have dinner and drinks together regularly. Normal young adult life. Then the 13th of November happened, I went out for a walk before going to bed as I found it helped me sleep better. I was greeted by an armed police cordon and when they asked them what happened they said they’d been a shooting. I thought to myself they were exaggerating, this is France, not America. We have gun control. The horrors Paris had witnessed that night put a damper on everything, the run up to Christmas was no longer the happy ceremony with lights everywhere. So many people were mourning, or just in shock with the horrors of the neighbourhoods where we lived.

The bad news kept coming, my Grandma got sick and nobody seemed to know what was wrong with her. The doctors were interested in her head but the nurses were more worried about her abdomen, she said she had stomach pain but they sent her for a brain scan. Then worse still at the end of December when the person who owned the flat kicked us both out. My best friend moved in with her boyfriend, she had wanted to for a while and I was happy for her. I, on the other hand, ended up on their sofa desperately looking for a room to rent. I couldn’t find one in Paris so I turned to the suburbs, the adverts I found either didn’t reply or were no longer available. Then I found one who was willing to meet me, but it was quite far out and very expensive at 450 euros per month, with 900 euros as a deposit. However, I had no money but she said I could pay the deposit in small amounts such as 100 euros extra per month, as long as I had the rent for the first month. I assured her I’d be able to do it and she gave me the address and asked me to be there at 1pm the following morning.

Thus, on the 31st of December I had finally had some good news, I would no longer be living on a sofa in my friend’s flat, taking up space where I was an unwelcome, depressing burden. We rang in the bells with more happiness than we had had since we had been so rudely kicked out of our last apartment. We rang in the new year twice, at midnight then with the BBC Hogmanay special at 1am, singing Auld Lang Syne while horrendously drunk and out of tune, with a French man and an Italian who had never seen such customs. There were two empty bottles of Martini on the table, along with various cans of red bull and a bottle of vodka, and that’s not counting the bottles that weren’t finished. We were all very merry and drunk, but it was going to be okay. I was optimistic, my studies were going well and my job was great.

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