InterNations Featured Blog
Recommended Expat Blogs: France
Everybody who has spent time in a different country knows that expat life is not quite like anything else in the world. The confusion of the first few days and weeks, the slow, but steady process of acclimation, the little peculiarities and quirks that might strike you about your new surroundings: almost any situation you encounter can make for a great story. If you are so inclined and want to blog about it, of course!
Our InterNations recommended blog section features talented expat bloggers from around the world. Their offerings to the blogosphere have been selected for their great entries and high quality, whether they may be funny, informative, interesting, deeply personal or a combination of all of the above.
Let’s hear from our featured bloggers in France:
I enjoyed writing it so much and my friends and family enjoyed reading it so it became something I couldn’t stop doing. When we moved to France I naturally kept it up. Blogging about our life abroad has become a necessity; a way to document and process the experiences here as well as a way to meet other fantastic people who are doing the same thing.
I’ve now probably spent almost as many years on Reunion as in the UK, but when I first arrived I felt at home and also in culture shock. For example to me it was quite hot, but all the locals were wearing warm clothes (it was September, end of the cool season here)! And I’d learnt to speak French, but on Reunion the native language is Reunion Creole so that took some time getting used to.
Yes, I was fully prepared because I’d spent five years in England and winters in France as tasters before the final big move. However, those first years away from Australia taught me to be more tolerant of others and to not expect even the most mundane things to be like they were back home.
We had been thinking about a move to France for about four years and in that time we had done a lot of research, and had been taking French lessons, however, nothing quite prepares you for those first few months. Moving house, setting up utilities and starting a new school are stressful situations, coping with these in a different language to your own only adds to the stress. The only thing I would change would be to do more French lessons!
Eat everything! There are a lot of foods in France that might be intimidating (head cheese, escargot, brain) but try them all anyway. Food is an integral part of the experience of living in France. You can handle one bite of anything…no matter how much the thought of it freaks you out; and you never know, you might turn out to love it!
The first year we were here the cold really got to me, pipes froze inside the house, we were snowed in and I really felt like chucking it all in and going back to London. If I had a chance again I would definitely have prioritized work that provided comfort at an earlier stage.
Call me naïve, but I wasn’t at all prepared for how different France would be. I was blindsided by all the tiny differences and the sense of isolation that comes from not speaking the language. If I could do it all over again, I’d learn French first. Like, really learn French, and not just pretend to study.
I did return to the UK for a few years for work and experienced culture shock then, I had become very French! I was desperate to get back to France and get my degree to allow me to continue my business here.
The language barrier is also difficult but being immersed helps you to learn more quickly. The main culture shock is the lunch hours and everything being closed on a Sunday. Manchester is a 24 hour city, a small French town isn’t.
One that only seems funny in retrospect was trying to pay the highway toll with an American credit card and not understanding the response on the screen while a line of cars formed behind me. Definitely stressful.
Most people find when they move to France that it’s all new, exciting and exhilarating. I was no exception. I had the most difficulty with the language, despite having learned French at school and beyond for years. So for the first year, I felt at a strong disadvantage. I then took French lessons for four years and have never looked back. The French way of doing things and French attitudes can take a while to get your head around. There are still some surprises, even after 16 years!
I had only two months to dismantle my life, get rid of all my belongings, find somewhere for my daughter to live. I learnt what I could. But many things are only learnt after the fact.
The expats I’ve met in France have all been wonderful. The fact that you share being an expat automatically brings you together and it is so comforting to know others are going through the same feelings, struggles, and adventures that you are. No one else, no matter how hard they try, can understand what being an expat is like, except for another expat. You’ll quickly learn to rely on each other and it becomes this great community.
It feels like a re-discovery of the old- fashioned values of my childhood and a happier healthier way to live, and with more sunshine and a rich and diverse landscape as a bonus!
I think that I was as prepared as I could possibly be trying to organize things from afar with an 8 to 10 hour time difference. I don't think that there is anything that I would necessarily change, I would perhaps just start getting ready a lot earlier to avoid stress and try and get in touch with a fellow expat living in the country.
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