adventures of an american housewife in the south of france

Adjusting to Life in Montpellier

After nearly 4 days in Montpellier, we’re starting to create our life here.  The biggest challenge for me right now is that I hate the hotel where we’re staying.  The location is fine (although it would be nice to be a bit closer to the main part of town) and the staff is super friendly and nice, but the hotel itself is somewhere between a Motel 6 and a youth hostel.  And if you know me at all, you know that I wouldn’t be caught dead in either place. I don’t mean to complain, especially because it’s only temporary and it’s free, but it’s having a major impact on my adjustment.  The biggest problem is the sleeping arrangement.  In true European fashion, the couch turns into a bed.  A single sized bed.  But wait!  There is another single trundle bed under the couch that can be pushed together to create….two single beds pushed together with no bed frame.  It’s just really uncomfortable and I’m not sleeping very well.  It’s hard to think about sleeping this way for an entire month.  Other than that, I can deal with the paper thin towels (I bought us our own fluffy towels today at the Monoprixe) and teeny efficiency kitchen.  I actually think it will be a fun challenge to figure out what exactly we can cook in here.

le lee

la cuisine

Today, while The Hub headed out to his first day of work, I ran a few errands for us, took Fig on a walk, and tidied up our room.  I’m starting to familiarize myself with the city and adjust to the French way of doing things.  I thought it would be fun to share with you a few of the quirks that The Hub and I getting used to: -          No bags at the grocery store. I actually think this is a great idea.  What is the fastest way to get people to be more environmentally conscious and bring their own bags for their groceries?  Force them to do it! Luckily we brought our own canvas shopping bags to France with us, but they have some available for purchase at the checkout if you forget. -          Strange showering situations. If you’ve ever traveled outside of the U.S., then you know that bathing options can be...different.  Many times in Europe, you are either faced with a teeny, tiny shower space, or no shower at all.  Just a tub with hose and nozzle that you can use to rinse yourself.  Ours in our hotel is somewhere in between the two.

at least it's big

I suppose I should be happy that we even have a stand up shower option available at all, but, seriously?  No curtain?  Get a curtain.  All that is accomplished by not having a curtain, is a soaking wet bathroom every morning.  I just don’t get it.

-          Lots o’ coins. In the US, paper bills are king and coins are the things you leave in your couch cushions or the cupholders in your car. Here, a single coin can be worth nearly $3! (Based on today’s current exchange rate).  All these coins make for a very heavy wallet. -          La Siesta. What do they call it in France?  I’m not sure, but almost every store is closed between noon and 2:00 or 3:00 (or should I say 14:00 – 15:00?).  These have always been the peak hours of my day, so I guess I need to find a new routine. -          So much smoking – It’s everywhere.  And if you know how I feel about smoking, you know that I hate it.  On Sunday, 3 people came up to talk to me and The Hub.  Two of them asked us for a light and one of them asked us for a cigarette.  All three times we told them, Je n’aim pa, which is as close as we could get to telling them we didn’t have what they wanted.  So many people told me that I would probably change my mind and start smoking in Europe, but living here has really only reinforced my feeling that it’s a disgusting, stinky habit. -          Je ne comprends pa - Speaking of our language capabilities, they pretty much suck.  We’re able to say a few phrases to people as we’re making purchases or ordering at a restaurant, but we have no idea what they are saying back to us.  It’s really hard not being to communicate well with anyone but each other.  We’re working on it and will be starting our formal lessons soon. -          So much walking – I haven’t walked this much since I lived in Boston with no car from 2003-2005.  I have to say, after a week of sitting in the moving truck and eating fast food, it feels great to be getting so much fresh air and exercise.  But it sure is doing a number on my feet and shoes.  I tried to buy a new pair of shoes, but I’m convinced they don’t make my size in France.  I went to 3 shoe stores asking for a size 43 and every time the clerk just said “Non, non, non!”  The largest size I’ve seen anywhere is a 41.  I’m like Bigfoot here. -          Our new last name. I know it’s a tricky one, so in case you weren’t sure, Micholic is pronounced “Mi-cull-ick.”  But in France, everyone pronounces it: “Mee-show-leek.”  So now that’s just how I say it if I need to tell someone.  It’s crazy – if I say it the right way, people ask me to repeat it and spell it.  If I say it the French way, there are no problems.  And it’s not even a French name, go figure. -          The dog poop – more on this on Friday during Fig’s update. These are all things that are so different from the U.S., but not all of them are necessarily wrong or worse.  It’s an interesting challenge adjusting to life in a new culture, the good and the bad.  We’re definitely learning a lot about the French people and also about ourselves. We spoke with our relocation agent today and she is going to scout out some properties for us to look at the end of this week or early next week.  I’m really excited to find a place that we can make into our home here. À bientôt!

12 Responses to “Adjusting to Life in Montpellier”

  1. Kelly Rix says:

    Well it wouldn’t be a true adventure if it was like home and it was easy right? Hope you get settled very soon. I was in Italy for almost two weeks and couldn’t stand not being able to communicate with the locals it made me feel so isolated, I’m sure you’ll pick it up very soon. Miss you.

  2. i think a bike is in your future :)

  3. nate says:

    Love your updates — keep them coming! It really brings me back. We had a very similar setup for our first month in France — twin beds pushed together that were super uncomfortable, and a barely-there kitchen. It’s temporary of course.

    Don’t get me started on French showers — I feel like they haven’t innovated in showers since the French revolution. :-)

  4. Marq says:

    i remember your last name being pornounced that way in H.S. French class. Ooops, I spelled pronounce wrong on accident, but then felt it was a happy accident. meeech-elll-icke sounds porny.

  5. Courtney Cantwell says:

    Yes, keep those updates coming! It feels like you aren’t so far away when we can read about your days. I will be praying you find somewhere cozy and chic to lay your heads very soon. My girl deserves a shower curtain, at the very least! :)

  6. Devon says:

    love the comments on the bathroom because it’s so true!! i have lost control of the shower head before and then had water dripping from the ceiling above the vanity. what is so hard about hanging a shower curtain?! at least the toilet, sink and shower are not all occupying the same space, which has happened to me before. it always sicks me out. why would i want to shower with my toilet?!

  7. Leslie says:

    U are cracking me up! No one picks up dog poop in france. its weird, i know. I used to step in the “merde” all the time. esp when i had too much to drink. oh, and the shower sitch u have is awesome!!! i used to have to hold that damn thing over my head the whole time in the shower…i used to duck tape it to the side of the shower so i could have a “shower”. LOL. tips from me: dont go to the post office. EVER! Stay away from crepes (they will make u huge!) and use liquid laundry detergent if available. the washers over there will leave a chunk of dry detergent on ur clothes. always! used to drive me crazy! viva la france!!!!! j’taime
    ps….rent french movies with subtitles. it helps :)

  8. Andy says:

    I think you’ve found your calling – shower curtain lady…or however one would say that in French. I can’t believe that they still don’t have them. When I traveled around Europe back in 97 we stayed with a friend in Lille – no shower curtain. Needless to say, he had one flooded bathroom after I was done. Amazing that the French find this OK.
    Love hearing about the Me Show Leeks adventure!

  9. Debs Ivelja says:

    Ahhh, found your amazing blog today and just sat down with a cuppa to read! I am living in Montpellier at the moment, my husband and I spending 2 and a bit months here this year. Unfortunately we head home at the end of this month (until next year maybe!) and we love it. This post is so familiar, all the same things we have learned to love…although I can’t say that we love the last bit so much!

  10. pat says:

    I live in Montpeiller and I hate it, it’s been almost 2 years, I feel like I’m constantly décline eighties bullshit gère and it just selles so bad there authentique Allemagne the dog pops and pee from human.

  11. pat says:

    African men are harassing me everyday trying to get some, I can’t be myself anymore here I can’t be bubbly and friendly like I used to be if I were friendly to anyone here, men think I’m.willing to fuck them. Ethics doesn’t exist here, whatever goes.People dont go to church here, everyone is just trying to see how far they can get away with. It’s a disaster. My job here will end in may but I dont know if I can stay that long here I’m so unhappy.
    I have been here almost 2 years and dont have a single real friend, people just want to use you here.

    • Shannie says:

      Hi Pat,

      I read your post and this sounds like a red flag to me. I just recently received an offer to work in Uni Mont 2 for 1 year. I haven’t make up my mind as I never been to Montpellier before. Some people in the forum said its a great place. I am from Australia and I think from what you said, I might have to reconsider this offer as I hardly compromise to unethical and unhygienic environment. Can you share me more about montpellier?


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