I Moved to Paris and Everything is Different. // Year Abroad Diaries #001

As they say at gigs, here we, here we, here we fucking go.

Your favourite unavailable and chaotic blogger is back. Nobody asked, I highly doubt anyone wanted, but when has that ever stopped me? As is concurrent with my life I’ve run out of other things to do and so I’ve come back to writing as a form of entertainment. I wish I could say it’s going to last this time, but we all know the reality is far from that. I’m opting for a much less “professional” “lifestyle blog” approach this time though, which should make it more sustainable. I love writing, I don’t do it enough, and I have far too many opinions to express, so here we are. 

Since I last wrote in February, a lot has changed. The big thing being that I now live in Paris, France; aka I’ve added another country and another house to the chaotic mess of half-nested places I inhabit in the North of England. That’s right, I have finally made it to my third year of university, and thus the ever-looming and slightly terrifying year abroad. And because I’ve moved to a completely new place, and because I’m interning rather than studying, I have absolutely zero friends to hang out with, so instead of telling them my thoughts I’ve ended up putting them here.

I’ve only lived in France for about 3 weeks, but already I don’t think I’d be able to sum up all the strange differences and bizarre learning experiences. Instead of being greeted by a napping housemate on the sofa with whatever shitty daytime TV is on at the time in the background when I get home, I’m now greeted by a 3 year old, whose incessant babbling I rarely understand. Instead of waking up 10 minutes before a lecture and arriving in a caffeine-infused haze, I wake up over an hour before work to catch rammed commuter trains across central Paris, and grumble when they’re inevitably delayed every other day. Instead of being able to get a pint for less than 2 quid in the SU every day of the week I treat myself to one €7.50 beer a month, because who the fuck can afford to get drunk in this hellscape of a capital? I only moved one country across but literally everything feels different. 

I am, largely, enjoying myself though. I’ve gone into it with an open mind when it comes to all of this chaos, and I’m treating it as a kind of sabbatical year, even though here in France I’m working a 9-5 internship everyday. However, that “grind” doesn’t feel like as much as it sounds. I spend most of it in an office, doing fairly simple tasks and learning something new everyday. It’s mentally demanding sometimes, sure, and I feel awkward from time to time interacting with my colleagues in my second language, but at least so far I’m finding it really refreshing. When I left England I left my third summer in my current job, and I think what must be my fifth or sixth year working in customer service. I was so exhausted and jaded by dealing with the general public day in day out, being on my feet for 8 hours a day and never having a routine. I grew too accustomed to that life, and it didn’t me anything in terms of personal or professional development anymore. Paris is.

Literally every day I have to deal with some form of bullshit that is forcing me to develop as an individual, and whilst at times it feels frustrating, it’s ultimately extremely rewarding. I haven’t really had to do anything that pushed me too far out of my comfort zone since going to university, beyond what I’ve done in student politics. In comparison, even the most basic of things are a learning curve here. I’ve had to battle with 4 different banks, figure out how to buy and cook a meal that isn’t canned beans and bread (vegetarians in France have been done dirty), navigate my way around the biggest place I’ve ever lived by far and adapt to everything closing at 13h on a Sunday. Oh and all that’s happening in a second language that it turns out I distinctly lack confidence in. So, basically, I feel like superwoman when I do a basic human task without fucking up somehow. It’s like being a really stupid baby again, only your parents aren’t around to conjure up your rent in cash when your bank won’t let you make any more withdrawals. 

In some ways it really should be getting easier from here. I’ve done all of the base set-up tasks and I’m starting to figure out what my routine is. I’m even getting back into running after my injury, and that in turn is helping me get to know my neighbourhood. However, I still don’t have any friends, which for now is fine because my girlfriend is here and I’m still enjoying the newness of it all, but when she and all my other pals go back to Durham in October I’m going to have to find someone to talk to, or risk living vicariously through Instagram and Snapchat until I can visit. So, that’s the task for this week: find friends that aren’t the 3 year old I now live with.

Hopefully by the next time I write I’ll be able to tell of all the new friendships I have blossoming. What’s more likely is that I embarrass myself in front of the first person I attempt to befriend and decide that maybe hanging out with 3 year olds isn’t so bad after all.

 

-Megan, listening to the new Taylor Swift album (you could say I’ve changed for the better yes)

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So, you want to save the planet? Try eating more Quorn

Hello lovely people!

Something I’ve talked about here and there over on my Instagram, but not as often on my blog, is that over the last 6 months or so I’ve been transitioning to vegetarianism. I’m now proud to say that since the 25th of July this year I haven’t eaten meat, and I don’t really intend to do so ever again. It’s something that I think is really important when it comes to climate change and animal rights, so I thought I’d outline some of my reasons for becoming a vegetarian and how I did it, in the hopes that someone will be inspired to limit their meat consumption.

Why?

1. It’s just cheaper.

This is the main reason why I reduced my meat consumption during my first year of university, and whilst it seems a bit selfish I think it’s a really important point to be made for students especially. Meat is expensive. I can buy a bag of meat free mince for about £1.50, whereas the animal-based alternative can be up to £5, which is a huge saving. I’ve also found that most of my diet is made up of either beans or vegetables now, which when shopping at somewhere like Aldi are absolutely dirt cheap. When you’ve got a limited student budget picking plant-based alternatives is just a no brainer.

2. It’s better for the environment.

A 2011 study done by the Environmental Working Group found that beef produces 13 times more emissions than vegetable protein (source). 13 times! Similar statistics are shown in the documentary Cowspiracy (check it out on Netflix), and more recent studies have argued that in western countries beef consumption needs to fall by 90% and be replaced by 5x more beans and pulses in order to avoid dangerous levels of climate change (source). When you consider that a recent UN study found that unless we make dramatic changes our planet will be warming up by a further 1.5 degrees before 2040, resulting in major risks to human life (source), this advice to follow a vegetarian diet becomes all the more important. For me it’s the least I can do to ensure that us humans don’t literally cause our own self-destruction,

3. Animals are cute, maybe let’s not let them suffer?

This one is a little more abstract and up for debate than the environmental impact of meat production. Personally I think that the abuse of animals through factory farming purely for the sake of production, efficiency and ultimately profit is morally wrong. Perhaps if there were more farms where animals were treated humanely throughout their lives I would have a slightly different perspective on this one, but considering that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found that over 95% of farm animals in the US are raised on factory farms, this doesn’t seem likely anytime soon (source). For me, just because I happen to be a human and a rabbit happens to be a rabbit, it doesn’t mean that I have more of a right to life. It’s that simple.

How?

I actually found the transition to a vegetarian diet very simple, as I had essentially been a flexitarian for about a year beforehand. I rarely ate meat when I was at university, and when I went on holiday with two of my vegetarian friends we made an effort to scope out all of the cool vegan/veggie cafes we could. What I’m saying is that it’s important to do this in stages. If you suddenly go from meat in all your meals to cutting it out completely your body probably isn’t going to like it very much, and it’s unlikely that you will either.

 

To help ease the transition it’s a good idea to start trying out meat substitutes. For example I really love this sausage casserole recipe, so I picked up a packet of Quorn sausages and tried it with them, and it was still really nice. Iceland now has a fully vegan range too, and I find that Tesco have a lot of different frozen vegetarian choices.

You also need to get excited about vegetarian food. Find new recipes and try them all out, I mostly do this by reading food blogs, BBC Good Food, and just googling “vegetarian recipes”. Instagram is also full of inspiration, VeganRicha is a favourite account of mine. Vegetarian food tends to have a base in fresh veggies, and for me nothing tastes better. If you want me to do a full post on my favourite plant-based meals, please let me know!

 

As with any big life change, making yourself accountable can be helpful. For example when I was first thinking about going vegetarian I told all my colleagues at work I was vegetarian, so I wouldn’t be tempted to take any meat-based leftovers whilst on shift. I can see why this would be unhelpful at the same time because you could feel pressured, but if it’s a decision you definitely want to make you will find it very useful.

Conclusions

At the risk of sounding too preachy, GO VEGETARIAN! Or, perhaps more importantly, cut your meat consumption. I don’t try and convert everyone I know, because we all have different ideologies and outlooks on the world. However at the same time when there is so much evidence to say that meat consumption has drastically negative effects on our environment, I find it mad that people aren’t willing to just have a veggie burger every once in a while to stop us all from LITERALLY DYING. I’ve linked to all the sources I used to write this post below, as well as some extra articles and videos that helped me when I was deciding to go vegetarian. I hope this was a useful read!

-Megan, writing on shift in my college library (I should definitely be studying instead)

Sources/Further Reading

‘How Meat and Dairy are Hiking Your Carbon Footprint’ – Time Magazine: Science – http://science.time.com/2011/07/26/how-meat-and-dairy-are-hiking-your-carbon-footprint/
‘Huge Reduction in Meat-Eating ‘Essential’ to Avoid Climate Breakdown’ – The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/10/huge-reduction-in-meat-eating-essential-to-avoid-climate-breakdown?CMP=twt_gu
‘Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040’ – The New York Times – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/climate/ipcc-climate-report-2040.html
’10 Ways Vegetarianism Can Help Save the Planet’ – The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jul/18/vegetarianism-save-planet-environment
‘Farm Animal Welfare’ – ASPCA – https://www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/farm-animal-welfare
‘The Undercover Investigators Exposing Animal Abuse in Factory Farms’ – The Independent – https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/animal-abuse-factory-farms-undercover-investigators-pigs-chickens-cows-turkeys-mercy-for-animals-a7501816.html
Why I Went Vegan – UnJadedJade – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRF41taqVUI
Why I Went Vegan Story Time – Holly Gabrielle – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDBNSPmbpq0
Two Years Vegan! What I’ve Learned and How I’ve Changed – tiffanyferg – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFnkCLfMSJI
A Vegan vs a Vegetarian – Elena Fender – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HI2nl3-DaY&t=265s