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Frances: To the End of the Earth

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in France makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to France, etc.

I'm a New Zealander who had a dream to live in France. Some of my ancestors were French. At the age of 55 I finally created an opportunity to come here, which wouldn't normally exist. It's been much tougher than I thought so I'm about to publish a book Follow My Heart under the pen name of Frances Lawson, on the joys and heartaches of trying to build a new life on the other side of the world, alone in middle age. I love France, despite the hard times and uncertainty, and would love to spend the rest of my life here, writing and exploring this fascinating country – that'll take a miracle but I'm ready for one.

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

In 2010 I planned a trip to France and since I intended changing my life, I thought a blog would keep me on track and provide a good journal. It certainly has and it's still going strong with visitor numbers increasing.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

Tell us about the ways your new life in France differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?

Yes I experienced culture shock, as well as workplace harassment. Banking, education, household amenities and the ubiquitous public servants in France have all been different and not always positive. The medical system is quite different too. NZ may be small but it's a lot more progressive and better organized than France. You can also set up a business much more easily, in only 12 days as opposed to the average 43. NZ is more advanced in using renewable energy than France. 75% renewables in NZ. Saying no to nuclear energy in the 1980s gave us motivation.

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in France? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

No, it wasn't possible. 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. It's hard to know what I'd change as I don't yet know my fate here. On the surface this time in France looks like a bad decision, but I still have hope something positive may secure my future here.

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

My shock at discovering one is expected to get naked at the doctor's without so much as a sheet to cover private parts.

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in France?

  • Consider retirement issues.
  • Ensure you have multiple official translated copies of all qualifications and key documents.
  • Non-European Union citizens should think long and hard about trying to live in France without multi-national backing.

How is the expat community in France? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

I've only started joining expat groups after more than three years. I don't yet know if it's worth it or not. They don't reply to my emails.

How would you summarize your expat life in France in a single, catchy sentence?

Perseverance and hope in the face of hardship and despair.

Ruben Barbosa

"After work I enjoy meeting other Brazlian expats offline. We go for a beer together and it feels like home. Thanks InterNations."

Verona Torres

"The idea to connext expatriates in Strasbourg fits perfectly to the city. Both are truly international."

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