A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi

For most people studying Modern Languages for their degree, the year abroad is an exciting prospect for various reasons – meeting new people, exploring a new city and being immersed in a new culture. For me, as well as these reasons, I was looking forward to the fashion!  Different styles, new shops and introducing British trends to foreigners.

Whilst packing for France I ensured I packed my most fashionable outfits; my imagination wild with images of the effortlessly stylish French women seen in films, parading around Paris in Louboutin heels and Chanel sunglasses.

The reality however is far from this. There are the occasional very fashionable, style conscious girls, but for the majority, practicality takes over. Jeans, trainers and a rucksack seem to be the staple pieces in most French girls’ wardrobes, and whilst I agree that a good fitting pair of jeans is a must for every wardrobe, wearing jeans everyday gets a bit boring.

Evening wear is much the same story; jeans, a vest top, occasionally a pair of heels but not the skyscrapers I’m used to wearing in Nottingham. If people do dress up for a night out it still tends to be very conservative – more family party than girls’ night out.

After becoming aware of this, I attempted to tone down my evening wear, trying not to adhere to the French’s stereotypical view of English girls. I’d ensure I always wore black tights with skirts and dresses, put on a cardigan or coat (even though this meant paying good money to use the cloakroom – I’m a student!) and wear flats or low heels.

I have to say, it did make a nice change not having to walk to clubs with my teeth chattering before my ‘alcohol jacket’ kicked in and being able to walk without fear or breaking my ankles or going home with blackened, sore feet from taking my shoes off.

I still have days when I just don’t care anymore and will go out in my highest heels and a pretty dress, and in the daytime I still wear what I would normally in England. But in my opinion, at the end of the day, I’m living in a different country, experiencing their culture and so think it is only fair that I conform to their way of living, their culture and etiquette. And it’s now only 6 weeks until I return to the UK for Christmas, I’m sure I’ll get my Topshop fix then!

Alanna Lintin

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