Lying on the beach semi-nude, under the blazing Mediterranean, you see the yachts gliding on the sky-blue sea that seems to bear no ends.
Along the beach, down the main street - Ave. Jean Medicin, is a Korean girl walking with a heavy backpack holding a map in her hands. Oops, she accidentally steps on a lady's flip-flops. "Merci!" Instead of saying Pardon or Desolee, she says "thank you!" Seeing the lady with a little bit of awkward expression on her reddened face and blaming herself for such stupidity, she hurries back home, where she lives with a French family, by bus. However, after walking for three and a half hours, she ends up calling the Madame, shouting "Je suis perdue!" more than ten times in the tiny phone booth. This was the beginning of "ma vie a Nice." Nothing exotic, nothing romantic; mine started out this way.
The secret reason I came here, rather than studying in Korea where I have almost everything, has two aspects; one is to learn French and the French culture and the other is to understand myself and Korea better.
I had chosen the southern part of France to be THE place because, in order to understand France, one must experience the south. Buses are never on time, getting a credit card takes more than two weeks - similar to Korean mentality in some sense, but here, people are more relaxed and more open to strangers.
As a South Korean who is more accustomed to North American culture, things seemed quite different in Nice, one of the most touristy cities in Europe. At first, I thought the city was filled with too much light, but later I found out it was like that only for those who want it to be that way. Moreover, so proud are the French of their language and culture, they answer back in French even if they speak perfect English. This is why I think people are more polite when you talk to them in French, even if it is broken grammatically. For the first few weeks, I was really stressed about people talking to me in a language that I did not understand. However, I think I got used to not understanding the language as time went on, rather than becoming more fluent in using it myself.
Besides learning French, the fact of being a stranger leaves you with a great deal of free personal time - you don't have to be tied up with a schedule where you go out to give some meaningless smiles. I have my time all to myself, which I can spend thinking, reading, and developing my ideas. How blessed I am to be out here talking to students from around the globe! This helps me to overcome my short-sightedness, and develop new ideas on Korea as well. When one studies another culture, one can also learn much more about his or her own by comparing it with others'. And for me, a double-major in Korean Studies at Ewha, my stay in France is a great chance to understand Korean culture better.
Unfortunately, Korea is not yet well-known in this part of the world and people think you are Japanese or Chinese. They boast of Samsung cell phones but think they are made in Japan. There is no Korean market or Korean restaurant here, but many Chinese restaurants and chic Japanese ones. I see that Korea still has a long way to go to be more competitive in terms of culture and the global market and to let people know of her charms.
I am in Nice, France.
Stepping on another caca de chien, talking in perfectly broken French, hoping that one day I can speak French and understand her culture with my Korean heart, I continue to struggle more for myself.
Rim Hyun-ji (French Lang. & Lit., 3) is currently attending the Institut des Langues-C.U.E.F.L.E. at the Universite de Nice-Sophia Antipolis in Nice, France.