Advice for a newbie exchanger

The spring semester has started and along with eye-wateringly early classes and sporadic sunshine comes a great wave of new exchange students. It seems like mere days ago that I was mournfully waving goodbye to some truly great friends made in semester one. Yet here is a whole bunch of innocent, fresh-faced, new meat on the Lausanne exchange student social scene, bright-eyed with the heady excitement of their first two weeks in a new country.

We’re still a highly diverse bunch of course, though there seems to be a pronounced prevalence of Québécois this time round. This is a welcome thing (more francophones = more French than ever being spoken at parties!), as the Québécois accent is quite fascinating, not to mention their system of swear-words. There is also a large number of Germans here, who seem to favour Switzerland; no doubt due to the fact that Switzerland is one of the few other European countries which can match in terms of advancement, cleanliness and economy.

I think back fondly to my first few weeks here, of the excitement and confusion, but find I’m pretty happy to be settled, an old hand at all this Lausanne malarky. These sweet new things, once they find out I’ve been here a whole semester, naturally have questions. I’ve lined up a few of the more common ones here, and my responses, which were of course given in a much more sensitive manner in person…

What’s your name/where are you from/how long are you here for/what are you studying/what’s Classics? Have given the responses to these questions so many times that I have started reeling them off as soon as I catch a stranger’s eye, just to save their breath, and hope they will do the same, to save mine. Got a funny look from the guy who just wanted to know where the toilet was.

But where are you really from? Oh god not that again

How do you speak French so well? Well, firstly, it depends on what you mean by “well”. I’ve been getting a lot of compliments lately but far from reassuring me, they are always (always!) followed by, “because English people normally don’t speak French at all…”

How can I improve my French? Well deary, the first step is to stop speaking in English all the time. So, don’t go to exchange student parties, chuck all the English-speaking friends you’ve just made…in fact, turn your back on me right this moment and go find a Swiss/French/Québécois person to speak to. It’s the only way…

Is it expensive in Switzerland to go out/shop/live life in general? By asking this question you are demonstrating that you are either a) blind or b) trying to block out the truth and desperately searching for reassurance. In vain.

Is clubbing good in Lausanne? Last semester I literally passed over the threshold of a boîte once. So I’m probably not the best qualified to tell you.

How much do you spend in a month on average on food? *Cries*

Why is it, like, so hard to get by in shops and stuff when you don’t speak French? Don’t they know English here?? *Cries*

Can we speak in English? Non.

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