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If you were going to move to another country where you couldn’t speak the language that well, what is the one non-obvious but absolutely essential thing you need to know?
For me it was having my hair cut and dyed for the first time. It was a comic-tragedy with that rare happy-ending with me, the husband, and the hair dresser trying to figure out what I wanted and how to say it in French. The end result was perfect and I love my new hair-dresser, but it was a nerve wracking hour hoping she wasn’t going to dye my hair that horrible shade of purple-red so loved by the old women here.
These are the types of things no one thinks about. You move to another country and say to yourself “I can buy bread and order wine, what more do I need?” Then you come down with a skin rash and have to open a savings account and jolt up in bed one night at 3am thinking “I don’t know the word for savings account in <insert language here>.”
I’m talking about past experiences of course, but as I prepare one of my own students for a future move to England, I am wracking my brain trying to think of things she NEEDS to know or there will be somewhat tragic consequences.
The word for laundry detergent vs the word for fabric softener. Yeah, for a month our clothes were super soft, but no cleaner until the husband looked at the bottle and saw the mistake I’d made on my last purchase
It will be summer soon. All of Europe and some of the US will be descending on Provence. If I could give you some advice before you depart for your vacation, I’d probably scare you away. But today, I’d like to warn you, or at least give you a preview of the trains.
Once, I have no doubt that traveling by train was a pleasant experience, possibly easy and comfortable, and in reality, it’s not actually a bad experience today. But romantic? Not so much. The glamor is gone.
Trains are few and far between, and that’s when SNCF is NOT on strike which happens about once a month. The trains themselves are cold, dirty and covered in graffiti inside and out. They do their jobs well enough, and I have no complaints, but be careful of wet marker if you lean against a wall.
The above is one of the few trains I saw on my sojourn Monday and the only one not covered in graffiti – through there is a little on the top you can see.
There’s the train stations themselves. In the small towns of Provence on route between Toulon and Marseille the stations are quaint, abandoned, quiet. When it’s warm out, it’s a pleasant place to eat lunch while you wait for your train.
Looks cute huh?
Until you realize you have a two hour wait because SNCF is on strike and the trains are all delayed and there’s not a toilet for miles.
Some people go in the bushes. I do the potty-dance.
Now, I don’t want to discourage people from taking the local trains (Don’t get it confused with the TGV). The view is often enjoyable and when the trains are on time they are a relaxing way to travel. But I suggest traveling with a cat in your bag to be safe. Go to the bathroom before you leave and drink water sparingly. And that weird old fridge smell on the train is just the air conditioning, I promise.