Lyon International Association

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A magnificent opportunity to get to know French culture from a new perspective

Translated by Kate Norman — 2 years ago

Original text by Nuri Mercury

During my first time in France I discovered an association called "Bienvenu à Caen". It is in charge of putting a French family in contact with a foreign student during the time that they will be in that city. You can invite them to have lunch with you, or you can organise days out with him so that he can discover French culture from a new perspective.

After that first experience, when I returned to France, I decided to look for a similar association in Lyon... And I found it! "Lyon International" is an association that has existed for thirty years. Thanks to this association, foreign students and "lyonnaise" families have the opportunity to get to know each other, something that would certainly not be possible in another situation.

The student can be invited by one, two or more families throughout his stay in Lyon. Last year, for example, I was invited by four families! There were two in particular who I got along with very well and who I saw more than once.

When you come to the exchange, it is normal that the first thought you have is wanting to go out with other people of your own age and party, etc. However, it is really enriching and very interesting to be able to live with a French family. Some are retired couples, others are younger and have teenage children, for example. But they are all very interesting and pleasant, full of curiosity about the culture of the student that they are receiving.

A magnificent opportunity to get to know French culture from a new perspective

One of the families that hosted me last year.

A French-style meal

Being invited to lunch or dinner with one of the families means enjoying a real French meal. If French cuisine is world-famous and there are many excellent restaurants, there is nothing like being able to discover it with a domestic touch.

Here in France, a complete meal is composed of a starter, a main course, a dessert and cheeses. But there is also something called "apéritif" or "apéro": before starting the meal, you chat for a bit whilst eating a snack (peanuts, pistachios or something other) and a glass of aniseed, cider, etc. An apéritif is a French tradition: a meal without it is not a real meal. It's a really special moment (and no, I don't mean that because of the alcohol! ) because it allows you to talk in a more informal way with the family that hosts you.

After the aperitif, it's time for lunch. Sharing the table with a French family will allow them not only to practice the language, but above all to discover and learn a little (or a lot! ) more about the culture of the country. The talks are always very interesting, although it is normal to get along better with one family than with another. However, all Lyon International Families are open and eager to learn about new and different cultures.

I am very happy with all the families I have been able to meet so far. For example, there is a retired couple who have travelled a lot, and I mean A LOT a lot. They have been to an infinite number of countries, including places like Mexico. The lady speaks Spanish and I am very happy every time I get to see them because I love to listen to their anecdotes about their travels.

With another family, I remember that once, I was invited to eat and on that same day was the "Fiesta de la Música", and so we went out for a walk to enjoy the animations and the street concerts.

A magnificent opportunity to get to know French culture from a new perspective

During the Music Festival. That day I also met another Chinese student.

By the way, it is common to be joined by another student when you are invited to dinner by a French family. Generally, families invite two foreign students at the same time. This is also an excellent opportunity to meet other students, someone your own age! In addition to this, if you are shy, being with someone your own age can be more reassuring than if you were completely alone.

Annual International Buffet

An important event organised by the Lyon International Association is the "Buffet International Annuel". It is an evening where each family cooks a typical dish from their country of origin with one or two foreign students. Then, they bring what they have prepared to the place where the buffet takes place, so that they can share the dish with the other families and students of the association. It is a great opportunity for them to share with their families a little piece of their country. And the best of all... that little piece get to be eaten!

This event is organised around the month of January. I remember that, for last year's International Buffet, I cooked muffins with one of the families who received me... with re-fried beans, cheese, and "pico de gallo" sauce! Mmm, it still makes my mouth water when I remember those delicious re-fried beans and the flavor of pico de gallo sauce, with its chilli and cilantro... very delicious! On that occasion, a Chinese boy also cooked with us. He prepared Cantonese rice with egg and vegetables. It was really nice to share such a moment with that family.

Later, when we went to the place where the International Buffet would take place, I was pleasantly surprised to see (and taste) what other students and families had brought to share. There were dishes from almost every nationality: Asia, Europe, Latin America. I was able to try recipes from China, Japan, Indonesia, Russia, Spain, India, Poland, Colombia, Belgium, England. There were both salty and sweet dishes.

Futhermore, as there were also other Mexicans, I could also taste food from my own country. A girl from Mexico City cooked nothing other than... "mole poblano" (meat stew)! When I saw it at the food table, I couldn't believe my eyes. It was so incredible that I had to eat it to prove that it was real (instead of "see to believe", I went for "taste to believe")!

As well, some students did some small presentations to show a little more about their country or just to brighten up the night. Some danced, others sang, others played an instrument, etc. There was an Indonesian boy who even did some magic tricks! The Mexicans hadn't prepared anything but they asked us to do something, recite a poem, sing. Anything. We decided to sing the song "Cielito lindo" and I was surprised to see that there were French people who recognised it and even joined in!

After lunch and the little presentations, we all went to the dance floor. And when I say everyone, that really included everyone. They played both modern and older songs. But no matter what people's ages were, or the type of music, everyone danced. I remember there was a big lady who was dancing more than some young people. I was very happy to see that the dance floor was full. The atmosphere was incredible, I really enjoyed this event because I was able to meet new people, try new dishes, share something of my country with others... in short, all this was thanks to the Lyon International Association!

Trips and days out

In addition to bringing together French families and foreign students and holding events such as the one I just described above, Lyon International also organises a number of trips and days out throughout the year. One of them, the one I attended this weekend, was a walk in the region called "Beaujolais", where a wine with the same name is produced.

Lyon International organises the Beaujolais trip every year. At the start of this year, we first visited a castle in the region: le Château de Fléchères. We visited this place with a tour guide, who explained the history and architecture to us.

A magnificent opportunity to get to know French culture from a new perspective

The castle of Fléchères

Afterwards, we went to visit a family vineyard where we were able to taste some wines. It was here where we also had a picnic at midday. It was a very pleasant moment because we sat at big tables, so we were able to talk and we shared the food that everyone had brought with them.

A magnificent opportunity to get to know French culture from a new perspective

Walk in the vineyards of Beaujolais

Finally, we took a walk through a small village that was close by. The village was called Salles Arbuissonnas en Beaujolais (yes, it has a slightly long name! ) and was in the countryside, so the only thing around it was hills, meadows and vineyards. We walked through its narrow streets and took a walk through the vineyards. This allowed us to appreciate the beautiful landscape of the place, breathe a fresh air and enjoy the French countryside.

I really liked this day out because they are places that I would never have had the opportunity to visit without the help of the Association!

In addition, as there were several (or lots of! ) other families and foreign students, so I was able to talk to new people. There were, in fact, a total of one hundred and thirty guests. Seriously, the committee that organised this event deserves a massive round of applause.

I also want to meet French families! How do I join this association?

To join Lyon International and to be invited to lunch or dinner with French families, all you have to do is fill in a short questionnaire with your details (name, studies, country of origin, interests, length of stay in France, etc. ). This form is completed online on the Association's website. Fill it out - it will take you less than ten minutes! The direct link is the here:

Oh, and by the way, if you don't understand or don't speak French very well, the association's website is also available in English.

You also have the option (highly recommended and very practical) to sign up to receive the association's Newsletter. With this, you will be able to keep up to date with the activities organised by Lyon International. I recommend that you fill in both the registration form and the newsletter request. Last year, as I was not a member of the newsletter, I did not receive the invitation to go on a boat trip! And in fact, this year, I heard about the trip to Beaujolais because I was invited by one of the families I already knew.

A magnificent opportunity to get to know French culture from a new perspective

During the excursion to Beaujolais, after we had a group photo taken.

In conclusion: an unforgettable experience

Being far away from our own families, it is comforting to be able to have comforting and homely moments here in France. Also, as I said before, being part of Lyon International will give you the great opportunity to get to know French culture from a different perspective. You will be able to share unforgettable moments with exceptional people. Don't hesitate for a moment and join the Association as soon as you arrive in Lyon. You won't regret it!

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