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Tough life being a "foreigner"...


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Back to Scotland again! And "glad" to see that... not much has changed since I left before Christmas.


Just a note for the non-EU citizen and non-students: Erasmus is a european program that allows you to study abroad while paying the fees of your own university. So, to annoy any british student that might wander on the forum, that means I'm actually paying something like £250 for a year of study at the University of Glasgow (yes, you can hate me for this :hm: ). We *do* have low-uni fees in France (but we also *do* have lousy uni...


So, this is the fine part of the story. Because we are foreign students, we are not entitled to any governemental aid (which is logical, I agree). We have a nice Erasmus grant of something like... £600 a year (great, my student residence costs me £3600 a year...)


So you might want to get some work. Bad thing: your mobile phone number your CV starts with 0033. So you go online to shop for a cheap mobile. When he ask your personal details, you enter the much dreaded 0033 number and... it comes out unvalid. Uhuh... So no cheap mobile, you'll have to face the mobile phone shop employees, who have at least **** in contract forcing.


Maybe I should just sit on a sidewalk I wail to get a bit of money :)


The experience is indeed awesome, I love it, but rather strangely, it scares me to see that all the money I had spared in two years of part-time/holiday jobs is gone, and my parent's money is starting to go down the drain as well. And I still have several years of studying waiting for me back in France.


Ho, by the way, if you are a British and want to come to France, do not go through Erasmus, because your British fees would still be higher than those you'll pay as an international student :p


While I am here, I'll give you a selection of the most funniest thing I have heard about France and French since I am here:

"Do you have a French internet?"

"You dubb movies in French?:)? How come???"

Read on a newspaper article in the French Department at Uni:

"If you want to seduce a French women, go for it frankly, they are used to it, and they like it."

Heard in literature tutorial:

Teacher: What was the aim of the French revolution?

Student: Wasn't it some kind of bourgeois power thingo?

Me: :p

Daily talking

Flatmate: You English is really good!

Me: Yeah, you'd think they'd send non-English speakers to study in Great Britain, but strangely they don't...


Do anyone have similar experience to share? Have you ever lived out of your own country (and subsequently felt...foreign :p )?

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Despite that a lot of money went to it I'd say that my exchange student experience in 2001 was well worth it. (And I think I can say same for Darios' behalf; who also went to University of Glasgow through Erasmus program, like you Garfield.)


My exchange was handled independently by my school (Helsinki Culinary School) and even though I didn't know it at the time it was a really great deal: the school paid my flights and the hotel restaurant where I went to work in England was expected to arrange the accommodation. It all other schools I've went you've expected to pay those things for yourself, which very effectively blew out my changes to go to Barcelona when I was studying theatre costuming. (Okay, I also don't speak any Spanish, which affected my choice as well.)


Anyhow, amusingly enough, in UK many people didn't really seem to have a clue where Finland was (or that it even existed):


(An official hands back my passport after examining it.)

Her: 'So, you're from Poland?'

Me: 'No, I'm from Finland.'

(I point to the word 'Finland' on the cover of my passport.)

Her: 'Oh...'

(At the time Poland was not part of EU, I suppose that in theory I could have been in trouble if I really had been Polish.)


Another fellow was convinced that Finland was part or at least next to Czech Republic.


A taxi driver: 'Where are you from? Are you Irish?'

Me: 'No, I'm from Finland.'

Driver: 'Finland? That's an island like Ireland, right?'

Me: 'No, not really. Finland is located in northern Europe, between Sweden and Russia.'

Driver: ? ? ?


Overall, everyone seemed convinced that 'Are you Irish?' is a great opening line in a bar. Might've been the red hair inspiring them, but it still gets old really quickly. Or there some between-nations-joke, that I'm not aware of. I suppose that if went to talk to a (blond) girl here and asked if she was Swedish that cold be interpreted as 'are you easy?'. :)


I won't even go to the British public transport, which to me (accustomed that a train that is 10 minutes late is something extraordinary) was a nightmare.


Other stuff:

'So, you must eat a lot of reindeer and elk in Finland?' (I eat reindeer maybe once in every two years and I've eaten elk like twice in my entire life.)

'You must eat lot of fish.' (About once a month and it's usually fish sticks.)

'You're really good at skiing, right?'(Last time I've skied was when I was twelve.)

'There's only 5 million Finns, I can't believe it!'


'Which side did Finland fight in WWII?'


(Disbelief and horror follows; which I found a little strange - blaming people for what happened at the time of their grand and great grand-parents.)


Many Brits found it hard to believe that, Lapland, nights when sun does not go down at all at summer, three months of darkness at winter, native people of Lapland (Saami), reindeers and the food and entertainment they offer to the tourists in Lapland are almost just as exotic to me as they are to them.


I'd say that spending an extended time in foreign country is an awarding experience and I'd recommend it to anyone. You can learn to respect (and maybe even understand) what they have and even though I was really glad to be back home there are things that I do miss from the UK. Some of my prior expectations were broken (including but not limited to: they really don't eat kippers anymore and some of the British food is actually enjoyable) and some of them enforced (they do indeed have carpeted floors in bathrooms and it's really stupid to say that you don't like football). People who live elsewhere are different, but it's not so scary after all.

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You will find that poorly educated people inhabit every nation. They will say the oddest things. Mostly, they're just grasping for something to say that isn't "So how's the weather?" and isn't horribly offensive.


The need for smalltalk does not confer a knowledge of geography :)


No explanation for the Irish bit. I got that, too when I was in GB. Maybe it is the hair. Or the location...


The wonderful Scottish and British gentlemen reading this should ignore the rest of this paragraph. I am absolutely certain that you do not carry on like this. I found that men in nightclubs are far more assertive than they are in the US. I was warned, but that did not prepare me for the first time my British then-fiance took me to a nightclub. Men in pubs behave much the same as men in bars here: they more or less talk to the people in their own group and are well-mannered enough when you need to move through a pack of them who have unwisely decided to camp in front of the ladies room. I suppose if you're really attractive, someone might hit on you, but that isn't something that happens much in my world. In the nightclub we went to, I was surprised to be hit on and/or groped four or five times in about 45 minutes. This was surprising because there is nothing about my appearance that would have made that reaction believable.

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No one asked me if I was Irish... but I've been asked a certain number of times if I was Spanish:"Yeah you know, you've got dark hair and you're tanned"(you have to see what they call "tanned"...)


British transportation... actually, I expected much worse :) In Glasgow, you have buses almost every ten minutes on the lines to the city centers (and the drivers are very nice: don't ask them to tell you when you reach the Central Staytion because there are chance he might drop you *right in front* of it, and you'll get very very nasty looks from the drivers that folowed the bus as you get off it :hm: )

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Mostly, they're just grasping for something to say that isn't "So how's the weather?" and isn't horribly offensive.


That's true, and I'm fairly sure that I managed to live up to every prejudice that you might have for a Finn. (Shy, sulking, can't really grasp the concepts of 'please' or why you have to ask 'how are you' every time you meet someone, etc.) I did try make a valiant effort on the small talk, pleases and howareyous, but... :)

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(and the drivers are very nice: don't ask them to tell you when you reach the Central Staytion because there are chance he might drop you *right in front* of it, and you'll get very very nasty looks from the drivers that folowed the bus as you get off it :) )


Yes in my experience in UK the service in the public transportation is always very nice, polite and helpful. (Here it's almost the opposite.) It's just the timetables and that the different companies running the services that get on my nerve in UK: I'd like my train/bus not to be cancelled or always late, like to collect my timetables from one place (instead of fetching one from every company running the alternate routes) and I like my return ticked (in local buss services) to be exchangeable for every company running the alternate routes (instead being good for only a buss line run by same company that the buss I got there). :hm: In Leamington they also didn't display the numbers of the buses (let alone the destinations) that stopped on any given bus stop anywhere. Which made using the buses a bit more complicated before you learned which bus stopped on which buss stop.

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The thing which annoyed and still annoys the hell out of me is the standard small talk:


"Hmm, I cannot place your accent. Where are you from?"


I have no idea why people think it is *polite* to identify you as a member of an audible minority, when it is considered very rude to say that you are fat or comment on the color of your skin, etc, ie identifying you as a member of a *visible* minority.


"Oh, you're orginally from Russia?"


"I knew that guy/gal from Russia once...."


Sure, since that jolly fellow was from Russia he probably lived next door to me... NOT! Come on, people! Russia is the biggest country out there. There are some 150 mlns of Russians, if I am not mistaken.


Oh, and Canadians like to through in Ukraine to boot. That increases the probability, I bet, by encompassing even bigger territory.


Hokkey. Hokkey deserves an article specifying the degrees to which people can and will make it annoying to foreigners, and especially to a Russian living in Canada. Think about it twice. Hokkey. Russian in Canada. A Russian who has a very vague idea about why people would even consider pushing a red piece opf plastic with the wooden sticks clearly not designed for that purpose.


By the way, the obsession with all sports that involve hitting something with wooden articrafts modified to specifically be unsuitable for hitting the particular ball or whatever....


I remember my first and only softball game. They gave me a bat, threw a ball at me, told me to hit the ball. Well, I did, and all my crew fell down to the ground, 'cause they forgot to mention that *after* hitting one is supposed to run. Somewhere. GAH!


In States: One of my prolongued stays in States was in the time of Clinton scandal. Oh, gods, did I stop caring for life if he did or did not sleep with that woman!


In States: You have to see Americain cities to understand the full humor of the situation! On the first free Sunday (I was in a training Centre where the company's training centre was very intensive Mondays through Saturdays) I decided to go to the museum, so I studied the city's map, and it looked like it was about 5 km directly down the road. One thing though: Americain cities rarely have sidewalks not in the down-town down-town core. So, I'm walking on the grass-bluff by the road on a nice Sunday morning, when a police cruiser stops by. "Ma'am, have you missed your bus?"

"I'm uhm... going for a walk to the museum?" Hey, the guy gave me a tour of Tulsa Oklahoma in the police cruiser with a free lecture on crime in the area! And dropped me off in the museum :)


In Scotland.... they thought I was from Oklahoma because my accent was so funny. I, in turn, was sitting on the train station in Abberdin, and thinking "Good gods, there are so many foreign tourists here..." and then it dawned at me: Those were all Scottish. Their accent... oops! Biggotry!


In France: It's tough to be a 4-months pregnant women doing touristy things in France. (clue: washrooms range from non-existent to charging a up to 1 euro fee even after you paid your entry fee). I was tempted to ask in Cheverny if they had a multi-pass.


In Austria: I married to a man of German descent with a very common German last name. Hence, the lady in the hotel was trying to authomatically talk to me in German....


And despite all these I have to say that travelling is the BEST thing!

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I'm just remembering something of the two summers I spent in the USA. Everyone kept talking to me about how it feels to have ones nation represented by Pepe Le Pew... Which I did not quite understood at first, for in the French version, he speaks with an Italian accent :p


I was there in summer 2003-2004, and I must admit I was expecting a severe french-bashing. Well I did not get it (but I heard many nice things on TV about my country... Why do American think French people never shower? It was true 200 years ago, and back then, Americans did not shower much more) :)

But the family I stayed with was quite nice (and a strange mix of Dutch/Finns/Brazilians/Americans)


Even I France I sometimes feel like a foreigner :hm: My mother is from one of those islands France kept all over the world, and not of the most famous one. Some French people do not even know where it is (although it is a French "Department" as Paris is one.) So I tell them "It's southeast of Madagascar, close to Mauritius."

Option 1) So you're mother is black? (If she was, wouldn't I be less... white?)

Option 2)Waaa, this must be wonderfull, withe sand beaches, palm trees, blue lagoon... (Yaeh, that's why she hurried to mainland France at the age of 19).


Anyway, I'd agree with Domi, travelling is the best thing (that is if you can afford it :))

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Even I France I sometimes feel like a foreigner :) My mother is from one of those islands France kept all over the world, and not of the most famous one. Some French people do not even know where it is (although it is a French "Department" as Paris is one.) So I tell them "It's southeast of Madagascar, close to Mauritius."



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Anyhow, amusingly enough, in UK many people didn't really seem to have a clue where Finland was (or that it even existed):


Hehe, it seems nothing has changed over the last 30 years! As a teenager, I spent several summers in Britain with my father who was working as an engineer for Rauma-Repola Oy, a major Finnish pulp and metal industry company back then in the 70s and 80s. It was quite amusing to see how unbelievably little most people knew about Finland. If someone knew something, it was mostly about Lapland, reindeers and all that stuff.


However, I did meet some Brits who knew even the name of our long-time president, Urho Kekkonen. Finland was in the news for some time in the middle of that decade, thanks to the big Conference on European Security and Cooperation held in Helsinki in 1975. And of course the business associates of my father were well-educated people, some having quite high-level jobs in their companies (one of them was actually a very civilised nobleman, and not at all haughty and arrogant as such people are often thought to be).


But generally speaking, most of the so-called common folk knew next to nothing about my homeland. But that’s understandable. After all, Britain is a former superpower, and just like France, it tends to pay more attention to the major players on the international stage (and Finland is definitely not one of those). Such historical trends are naturally reflected also in the school systems of present and former great powers.


I’ve never been an exchange student, so unfortunately I can’t add much to that discussion.

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