Expat of the Month: Rafia Bon from Pakistan

Published: 2019/05/09

This Is Lyon interviews a member of the English speaking community.

“Lyon completely changed my point of view about French people”

My name is Rafia Bon, I’m 34 years old, originally from Pakistan. I moved to France with my husband in 2013 and was living there till December 2018. For the last 5 years I had been teaching Bollywood and Kathak in Lyon at Condition des Soie du 1er arrondisement.

Expat Rafia Bon from Pakistan

Rafia Bon, 34 years old, originally from Pakistan.

 

Hi Rafia, can you introduce yourself?

Hi, my name is Rafia Bon, I’m 34 years old, originally from Pakistan with only one older sibling living in Pakistan currently, my brother with my mother and sister in law. My father lives in Japan but visits Pakistan often. I spent the first 6 years of my life in Japan too, after which we moved to Pakistan.

I have a Masters degree in Business Communications and Marketing but I was always dancing Bollywood since I was 5 years old since it’s an integral part of our culture and then at the age of 16 started learning the Indian classical dance form called, Kathak in Pakistan, which is the only classical dance form from the North of India.

It’s when I discovered my true passion for dance and my purpose of learning and practicing this art form. I have been performing both Bollywood and Kathak for over 17 years now at different parts of the world.

I moved to France with my husband in 2013 and was living there till December 2018. For the last 5 years I had been teaching Bollywood and Kathak in Lyon at Quartier Vitalité, Condition des Soie  de Lyon (1er arrondissement), and also been conducting several workshops on other Indian Folk dance styles.

I am also part of a dance group called MuskAAAn Dance Group in Lyon, comprising of me and another Indian girl. We fusion Indian Classical dance styles with folk and Bollywood. Lastly, I’m also part of a unique Indian, Pakistani and Persian Live classical Music and Dance Group, called the Sangeet Quintet in which I’m the only dancer. 

 

 

What are you doing nowadays?

At the end of December 2018 I moved with my family to Amman, Jordan till October 2019 as my husband found a job. So we are currently expats in Amman. In January 2019, I went to Pakistan to shoot a video on the awareness of the rising air pollution in the country’s capital, Islamabad with another dancer and also to conduct Pakistan’s first BhangraFunk workshop (Indian Folk Dance form). 

Rafia : “I had been teaching Bollywood and Kathak in Lyon and also been conducting several workshops on other Indian Folk dance styles.”

What attracted you to Lyon?

Well my husband is from Lyon so it was one of the destinations as part of our first Euro trip in 2010.

So my husband clearly had his childhood friends, family and knew of all the best spots to visit in town so I really had an intense and a very personal experience of Lyon on the first visit.
I found it exceptional as a city! I had my doubts about French people after formerly visiting Paris on the same trip but Lyon completely changed my point of view.

The city itself is sooo beautiful by day and night with Fourvière portraying as a Disney castle in the night and the big tower next to it as an Eiffel tower of Lyon.haha.

We rode our bikes through town and discovered Perrache-Confluence and its very contemporary architecture in comparison with the forest river track by quai du Rhône that we took to go to Parc de la tete D’Or and then discovered beautiful isolated spots in the park which made me totally fall in Love with this city.

I also loved going out to have breakfasts in Lyon. I think Lyon cafes are pretty cool and exceptional to allow people to have breakfasts brought in from other bakeries / boulangeries.
Most of all, I loved the vibe of the people in Lyon.

Parc Tete d’Or in Lyon © Muriel Chaulet

I found them to be very open minded, friendly, artsy, curious about new people, cultures and languages that made it all so easy to connect, meet and share with people from different backgrounds.
Soon enough I met so many different expats living in Lyon for years or recently moved in and we all shared one thing in common, all of us wanted to stay in Lyon for as long as possible.

 

 

What was your image of Lyon before you came here?

Well honestly, my husband had painted an image of a very artsy, cool, laid back and a beautiful small city, which is exactly what it turned out to be too.

 

What surprised you the most on your arrival?

I was surprised as to how nice and so much welcoming and helpful the people of Lyon were as compared to Paris.

Have you been able to adapt to the way of life here?

Well it wasn’t very hard since the lifestyle was very chilled out and laid back.

Has it been easy to make local friends and connections ?

Well like any place it takes a while to know the right kind of people but all in less than a year I made some of my best friends in Lyon and more so some even like family.
In a nutshell, it was quite easy to meet locals and make the right connections.

How do you spend your leisure time?

Meeting friends over tea at local cafes at Pentes de la Croix rousse and Hotel de Ville. Simply divine.

What are your favourite local dishes?

Since I’m not a big fan of meat but I’ve had the best Gratin de pomme de terre and Raclette in Lyon!

Where do you go for coffee, lunch, dinner, a drink?

I don’t drink much alcohol but my all time favorite place for brunch and to take tea with friends was Les Dejeuneurs in pentes de la Croix Rouse, also, Le Perko, Aux Thés des Merveilles and Mokxa which are also in the Pentes.

For a very traditional Lyonnais lunch or dinner, I used to love going to Le Comptoir du Vin or Le Gros Caillou in Croix Rousse too.

Your family is coming to visit. Where would you take them and what would you show them?

Well, we lived in pentes de la Croix Rousse so very simply, I’d take them first to a magnificent breakfast somewhere in Croix Rousse, experience would include them going to a boulangerie first, most probably to L’atelier du Boulanger and picking stuff of their choice and then to a nearby café, possibly to Paddy’s Corner to enjoy it all with their favorite hot drinks.

Then I’d take them on a tour of the local marche in Croix Rousse right after, if it’s a weekend to see how locals shop and consume and the difference between the normal and the bio market. My parents would really enjoy that as you can also get to taste or “gouter” a bit of local things while shopping.

Expat in Lyon, Rafi Bon

Rafia in Palais Saint-Pierre near Place des Terreaux

I’d then walk down towards the pentes to go to Hotel de Ville and show them Place des Terreaux and then we’d cross the Saône river to go to Vieux Lyon which is splendidly touristic and my folks would thoroughly enjoy the walk in the main and small streets there looking through all the famous Lyon icons including Guignol and Le Musee des Miniatures. After which we’d obviously take the funicular to go to see the famous, Fouviere and the amphitheatre next to it.

I’d then walk down towards the pentes to go to Hotel de Ville and show them Place des Terreaux and then we’d cross the Saône river to go to Vieux Lyon which is splendidly touristic and my folks would thoroughly enjoy the walk in the main and small streets there looking through all the famous Lyon icons including Guignol and Le Musee des Miniatures. After which we’d obviously take the funicular to go to see the famous, Fouviere and the amphitheatre next to it.

After a long visit of this we’d walk down and go to Cordeliers towards Rue Merciere to perhaps grab some lunch and then maybe go towards Place Bellecour and now either we’d walk back towards Hotel de ville by taking Rue de la République or we’d walk towards Guillotiere to show a very culturally rich quarter where so many nationalities blend together that it’s hard to keep pace.

Also, my parents would be happy to see what types of Pakistani food items are being sold in Lyon. Then to come back to Pentes de la croix rouse, I’d take the quai du Rhone to finish it all off with a beautiful stroll by the river.

 

 

Your friends are coming. Where would you go?

Well I’d repeat the same breakfast ordeal with my friends as that’s a must to experience in Lyon but maybe I’d go to Hotel de ville directly to Boulangerie Eric Kayser and then sit at a café nearby after which we’d most probably rent city bikes, Velo’v to go to Parc de la tete d’or via quai du Rhone and the beautiful forest path all the way till the end and spend a day exploring different parts of the park and its surroundings.

In the evening we’d go towards the quai de Saône river to go to Vieux Lyon and indulge in local tourism, where we’d also give the bikes back now and after walking around the main street we’d take the funicular to go see the Fourviere by night and take the small bridge behind for an amazing isolated experience with the night lights.

Bridge over the Saone river with a view on the Vieux Lyon © F. Crouzet

Then another day we’d walk towards the quai du Saône again to take the small boat to Perrache to see the contemporary and funky outlook of the buildings, grab a bite and rent the bikes again to come back via Guillotiere or quai du Rhone towards Hotel de ville.

What do you like most about Lyon?

How accessible everything is just by walk or metro and the wonderful artwork everywhere that keeps changing regularly.

If you had a magic wand what would you change about Lyon?

What I really didn’t like and would love to change about Lyon if possible would be the horrible piles of dog poop everywhere on the streets!

It was just appalling to see that every day while walking down the streets and having to be careful all the time!
I would rid the streets of Lyon from dog poop forever!

Would you like to give any advice to people moving to Lyon?

Well, I can say be patient and let the city sink in to you. It can be hard and frustrating sometimes to not achieve the desired results immediately i.e.; not to have met like-minded people or find a suitable job instantly but like anything in life, give it some time.

I’d suggest starting with websites like OVS, “On va sortir” that offer hundreds of free activities around your interests to meet some great people and to get to know the culture and language. So definitely look that up!

I know I started giving my dance lessons via OVS at first and met some great students who are now really good friends of mine even.

Do you feel that Lyon is an international city?

Definitely. No doubt about it. Just in my circle of friends we have varying nationalities from British, American, New Zealand, Australian, Portuguese, Turkish, Mexican, Cambodian, Italian and Pakistani. If that’s not international enough then I don’t know what would be.

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