Everyone continually moans about health and safety in the UK and yes, some of the rules and regulations can be slightly bizarre and often inconvenient. However France has demonstrated to me just how lost we would be without them and the chaos which would inevitably ensue.
The story starts in the admittedly not obvious setting of a modern art museum. Every so often Strasbourg, to prove how much is loves its students (I have a bag which claims that ‘Strasbourg aime ses étudiants’), opens up one of its museums in the evening for free. The student’s love of anything that is free is universal and this event, with its crowds of people, was no exception. The visit started off fairly averagely, albeit fairly hectic. We looked around the exhibition (which looked at art about ghosts and goblins chronologically) for a couple of hours and after a while we grew tired of the increasingly more modern art and decided to go home. This is where is got interesting.
By around 10pm the museum was about as full as you will ever see a modern art museum. I suspect this has less to do with the art and a lot more to do with the DJ set and other performances. Although this is France, so it could have been the modern art. As we made our way to the exit we faced a crowd enraptured by some kind of dancing. We figured there must be another way out, after all, who would place a performance area directly in the way of an exit? Asking a security guard we realised the organisers of this evening would place a performance area directly in the way of an exit. So we thought we would try sneakily going backwards through another exhibit, when we were faced with a museum attendant blocking our exit (our evening was turning into a bad video game). Somehow we managed to explain to her the inhumanity of the situation and she grudgingly let us through.
So now we found ourselves at the exit, freedom seemed nigh. Alas it was not. The exit was also the entrance and the entrance was filled with inebriated late-comers craving a late-night fix of modern art. There were no orderly queues; just two opposing masses, one trying to get in and one trying to get out. Here I would like to point out that had there been a separate exit and entrance there would have not been a problem. Or, if you must have one doorway functioning as both, divide the entrance and use guide-ropes to from a queue. I, however, presume the majority of my readers are British and do not need such things explained; queuing is in our blood.
We waited and watched as an ever more agitated crowd at the entrance pushed to get in. I could clearly see the potential for injury from my vantage point and our group planned which way to go, should the entrance crowd violently push through. After we had been standing there for a while, bemused and British (there was also an Irish girl and a French girl in the group, but then there would be no alliteration), an attendant yelled at the exit crowd to go to another exit which had presumably just been opened. Finally we were free!
As we left we could see the entrance crowd push through to get to the second set of doors, which had been closed to stop them getting in. They were then literally hammering at the doors; such was their craving for structuralism, post-modernism and neo-expressionism.
From what I know, no-one was hurt. However the situation was ripe for disaster. The security guards and attendants lacked information, simple details like getting in and out were overlooked and many of the students had been drinking. It’s a shame that my memory of the night will not be seeing works by Goya, Goethe or Kandinsky, but witnessing dangerously bad organisation. It’s fair enough that the British are often laughed at for our love of queuing, but it would have prevented the treacherous chaos that I witnessed. But then maybe I’m just too British for my own good?
Kim, this is a very funny and well written piece, I was laughing out loud in the library reading it, thank you for sharing.
I am thinking about France for my third year abroad, what is the one thing you wished that you knew before arriving there?
Thank you for your lovely comments!
I presume this would not be part of a French degree, but rather through another department?
It’s hard to say one thing that I wish I’d known. A lot of things for me relate to speaking French, as I am here to learn French and I’ve often found it difficult to find opportunities to do so (I know that sounds odd). I suppose I would say I wish I’d known how different uni accommodation is here. I expected self-catered to be a flat-type system, as in Edinburgh, but it was not. Self-catered is actually more like Pollock; you have to share four hobs with 30 people. The bathroom facilities were also not what I expected (e.g. no toilet seats). In my residence people mostly kept to their rooms, so there wasn’t a lot of interaction with other students (hence the lack of French); although I have heard that it is different in some other residences. Fortunately I’ve since moved and am a lot happier in my new flat.
I don’t want to give you a bad view of the year abroad but that is one thing that, looking back, did get me down.
If you want to know any more, please get in touch! I remember how daunting it was before I moved away!
Hi Kim, thank you for your quick and honest response.
I study International relations. I am looking at going to Sciences Po In Paris, which I understand to be very competitive thus highly regarded in the social sciences. My French is basic (from school in the 1980’s – incredibly, I am that old) but I am very much a Francophile due to my love of the footballer Franck Sauzee. Sad, but true.
I wish to experience studying in France, albeit with lessons in English. I’ll let you know how I get on.
I actually know someone there, from what I know she’s having a great time although I think there’s a lot of work.
There are a lot of blogs and articles out there on queuing system topic, but you have acquired another side of the subject.
Thanks, nice to see people still reading my blog! Definitely a topic that’s stayed with me since leaving France!