Day Hike: Marseille to Cassis Along the Calanques

It’s never been easy for me to say good-bye to summer. A creature of the sun who had the poor luck to grow up in the snowy northeastern United States, I spent my first twenty-three winters hiding inside and eating pastries, one step up from a hibernating bear. I get stir-crazy when the weather gets cold, because…

11 TAPIF Must-Dos

If you’ve decided to embark on the Teaching Assistant Program in France, chances are you already have the travel bug and an interest in deeply discovering a foreign place instead of skimming its surface like the average tourist. There are lots of ways to take advantage of your resident expatriate status while living abroad and to do…

TAPIF Packing List

Packing for TAPIF (Teaching Assistant Program in France) is no easy task. You’re moving to a foreign country, but only for about half a year. How do you minimize cost, maximize efficiency, and still make sure you don’t feel like you’re living out of a suitcase? It’s hard to predict what you’ll regret leaving behind, but…

TAPIF Invasion: 10 Ways to Frappe the Ground Running

It’s that time of year: young anglophones lugging bulging suitcases suddenly appear in airports and train stations all over France, many of them employing a version of the local language that exists only in textbooks (and some of them, if we’re being honest, speaking what can only generously be called franglais). The TAPIF invasion has begun!…

Indiana Jones and the Missing Apostille of Doom

When I submitted my application for the Carte Vitale, the infuriatingly elusive piece of plastic entitling me to the medical benefits for which I already pay taxes, I was told that it would be processed within three weeks. That was more than three months ago. Still, hope flickered last week when I received an envelope emblazoned with “Carte…

Passport for ‘Amurca

The newest version of the American passport befits our international reputation as the least subtle of nations. It’s got a bald eagle emblazoned across the front page, and every page thereafter boasts an equally AMERICAN subject: Cowboys! The Liberty Bell! Grizzly bears! Mount Rushmore! It’s like they asked Clint Eastwood to cry on a few pieces of paper…

How I Ran Away to France, the Third Time

After I participated in the Teaching Assistantship Program in France for the second time, I didn’t want to leave Europe. I loved working and living there, and decided that if I could get another job offer abroad I would take it. The only position I could target that I felt fit my experience and French language level (in which…

Jill: 0, CPAM: lost count

ARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! It took every bit of self-restraint not to scream like that in the face of the impassive man I just encountered at the Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie. To get the medical benefits I help fund with the taxes I pay to the French government every month, I need a social security number and Carte Vitale. These…

Fatal Phonemes and Emphasis Disasters

The ability to imitate an accent without making mistakes is rare, even among people who are paid boatloads of money to do it. Only a near-superhuman can avoid falling into sticky phoneme and stress traps unique to their linguistic background. For some language-nerd schadenfreude, here are a few recent endearing slip-ups I’ve come across while trashy tv-watching (mostly native Anglophones trying to…

Lyon and Shopping… for Those Who Hate Shopping

In general, I find shopping to be about as fun as going to the dentist. It’s boring, tedious, uncomfortable, and expensive. That’s why it took me a while to discover that I actually liked shopping in Lyon, that the city is full of lovely little shops run by talented designers and artists hoping to sell…