Tell, please, how did you happen to be in Paris? 

I went to Paris in autumn 2011 to complete master´s program in sociology that I had started in Moscow. Why Paris? There are many reasons for it, but the main one is French University College in Moscow where I used to study, it has agreements with several Paris colleges about recognition of diploma on 1st year of the master’s degree. Also crucial role had the fact that my research work I was doing in Moscow was guided by the professor from Paris college. I fell in love (intellectually) at first sight with my research advisor and  that is why I saw my way only to Paris. Now I am still studying, but already doctoral program, I am trying to write doctoral thesis.

Was it easy for you to be integrated into French space? 

Integration is process, where you, unfortunately or fortunately, are dabbling whole you life. The end of it happens with the end of  the human being. So, my integration is still going on. Of course, there are moments that have already become usual reality for me, that I got to understand, that I explained to myself, accepted and do not notice any more with the same sharpness. 

What are these moments like?

For example, I am used to the fact that shops in Paris, as in France, do not work on Sundays. Moreover, I had to go to the prefect’s office and spend 4-6 hours to extend  my residence permit. I am used to the chaos in the metro: you never know at what time you will get to the necessary place, as in the Paris metro something normally breaks down. Also I am used to the fact that people act extremely disorderly there. As opposed to the Moscow metro, where you always hear “Are you going out at the next stop?”, “Let’s switch places!”, here is a full mess. People start moving only when plain stops. There is always someone standing as if nothing had happened while others are trying to go round to get out. But what is a real noon of Paris nonsense is the way people get into metro coach. Not always, but in most cases, entering people do not let out exiting ones and both of these flows are moving towards each other with threatening determination. More than a year I have been thinking about some logic here, why do passengers of the Paris metro like so much to collide with each other, I still haven’t found any answer.

But getting back to your question, my answer is: no, integration is quite difficult for me. But it is connected not mostly with friendly or non-friendly space, but with my nature. I think a lot about things happening to me, about things that make me to notice more than in a case if I were frivolously doing what I had to. And I am perfectionist. So, it is not so easy…all this integration. But these difficulties have made me to look at myself and my reactions in a different way and start changing something. I am very glad about that.

How would you describe nature of French people and difference between our mentalities?
It is not so easy for me to answer, as I am sociologist and I see that I cannot extrapolate my experience of communication with particular Russians and French on all Russians and French. When I came to Paris I really enjoyed such comparisons but then I understood that it is silly. Moreover, I try not to attach labels on people so much. I don’t always manage it, but I am really trying.

I’d better tell about some observations that I have managed to make. Restraint  is distinctive of French people that might mostly impress sensitive Russian soul; especially contrasted with their widespread goodwill. Just imagine: you go to a shop in Moscow, not luxurious, but most ordinary one, you say hello to shop assistant and you smile. Then, at the end of this short interaction you say good bye and wish him patience and good day. I did the same in Moscow this summer. And shop workers were looking at me in the way as if I said unquotable tirade. Although it was just minimal politeness that is in blood of French people, at the level of reflexes. When you arrive to Paris, you get really surprised by this politeness. But during the integration process interaction with people is getting more profound and you just open new side of French people – their restraint in relations. It is not easy to make friends here, especially speaking about French that does not have big experience in travelling and does not have any curiosity to other cultures. This French will always remain polite, he will always be ready to help, especially verbally, but this position has nothing to his attitude towards you. When I discovered it, I felt hard. It was a year ago and that time I was about to start working on the doctoral thesis that meant that I was going to stay here plus 3 years. When I realized this state of affairs I cried and I couldn’t get rid of the sad question whole evening: "How I am going to live here, if I can´t make friends here?".  Perhaps, the most terrible picture is beginning to emerge, so I will explain: you can make friends among French but it will take a lot of time and I am not sure if  it concerns close friends. In Russia it is much easier to make friends, it happened there, like love, at first sight. But I want to repeat that these are general observations and it is not the only truth about Russians or French.

Probably, you have been to other regions/cities of France. How are French people outside Paris, how big is the difference between natures? 

First year when I studied in magistracy I visited other French cities but those were short trips (just for a day). During this time I had chance to walk along the town, to see some sights and to observe local people a bit. First thing that stroke my eye was more measured life tenor in comparison to what I saw in Paris. That time I couldn’t say anything about people, as I didn’t chat with them a lot. But next year, because of research work, I managed to have several trips and finally to communicate with local people. I was in Lion, Nancy, Contrexville, Nantes and Strasburg. I enjoyed everywhere, especially Nantes and Strasburg, because of people: they were very friendly and attentive. But that were contacts in work, so I can’t insist that my interlocutors always act the same way. Nevertheless, I have the warmest impressions from these trips and I would like to return to Strasburg, Nantes and Lion.

Well, you have been in many places… which part of this country will fancy your soul?

Yet Paris is the most lovely place for me. Probably, if I had lived in other city, I would have changed my mind, but right now it is Paris. In spite of all these difficulties that happen to me, I desperately love this city. For its endless beauty that covers you daily and makes to forget about troubles for a while. For its scale, this city is so miniature that you can cross it from the north to the south or from the west to the east to meet with friends. This is almost one of the most important reasons why I love so much this Paris life. In Moscow I had to spend crazy amount of time on the way. Also I love Paris because life is always pulsing here. It is more alive than other French cities that I visited. It is more lively than Moscow, in terms of people. I like that here are lots of  runners and cyclists devoting themselves to exciting talks on terraces of cafes, so many comfortable bars between which you can stroll, drinking everywhere a cup of something delicious.  Right now my soul, but rather my body, likes particularly this city.

What else, apart from work and studying, is keeping you in France? 

My friends. And, you know, it is quite pragmatic reckoning. No matter how sociable you are, the more you are getting old, the more difficult it is to make social contacts. So, you just invest in something that you already have. In summer 2012 when my grant was ending, more and more sharply an issue was being brought up: where to live further. I was thinking more about my social space rather than career opportunities. I didn’t want to be separated from people I met here in Paris and I was not sure if I could get back to former relationships with those who remained in Moscow. I was also afraid of going back to Russia, I realized that I could return into some kind of social vacuum.

Apart from my friends, this city is keeping me. I don’t know how to explain, but exactly in Paris I started living. I started moving more, communicating more, absorbing into life flow more profoundly. I love this feeling. That is why I want stay here.

By the way, regarding friends. Whom  do you prefer communicating more (i.e. Russians or foreigners)?

At first I communicated more with Russian friends that had come with me to Paris to continue the master’s program. Then, within the bounds of civil mobilizations that happened after parliamentary, then presidential elections I met with other Russians in Paris and started communicating more with them. Oh, no, don’t think that I am keen on isolated societies. I really wanted to communicate with French but there were many “but”.  There were not many people on this master’s program; there were mostly family people that were far from student frivolous interests. We used to chat only in the university and mostly on study topics. Moreover, these Russians that arrived here with me happened to be so interesting that I really wanted to communicate with them. This communication was kind of overwhelming so that no energy was left for something else. Everything started changing when I went to doctor’s program. I started consciously limiting my communication with Russians so that to be able to spend more time with French. I wanted to have French friends, real friends. But I had to make these friends, it is time-consuming process, although it sounds a bit strange. Also I wanted to speak French to make my speech more profound and correct. I started communicating with my colleagues, doctors, some of them became my friends. Of course, I don’t forget my Russian friends in Paris.

How much favorable are conditions for professional activity for people that came from other countries, that are searching or have already found a job?

This is very general question, I can’t answer. Conditions depend on professional area. I can tell about mine. It’s quite sad situation with employment in social sciences (in sociology). Well, that means there are 2 career paths. You can make academic career, i.e. become a professor or you can try to search a job in a private area. As far as I am concerned, foreigners have more chances in second case. Conditions in academic labor market is as follows: number of  those, who wish to get a professor position, is much more that the number of positions. Competition is crazy. Selection criteria is very tough. Even French people face a lot of troubles on this path. 

I still can’t imagine how my professional future will go on. It’s quite complicated and charge matter that I prefer not to think of yet. Nevertheless, my priority is not further employment, but my present thesis work that I should write within 3 years that is also complicated matter. Yet I am thinking of it. When financing ends, I will start  to work out a new plan.

What are you near-term plans in terms of  professional and personal development?

To learn to keep promises, globally speaking. For example, if I promise myself to do something today, that means I want to teach myself  not to forget about these plans,  not to leave for the next day, not to cancel meetings with friends. By the way, not only me, but most of my friends are also suffering from this, so it’s much more difficult to struggle with it. I want to develop willpower so that I could do things really regularly. When I speak about it, I think about sport and English. I have the desire, but still I haven’t managed to make things the way I want, to have days full of yoga, running and English. However, I believe that it will be.

Are you happy?


*photo is from home archive of Ksenya.