Wendy: Le Franco Phoney
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to France, etc.
I’m Wendy, from Australia originally. I moved to London in 2000 and discovered the joy of European snow in 2001. I moved to France for my first season in 2002 before finally moving here permanently in 2005.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started in 2005 when I first moved out to France, but that was mostly photos for friends and family to see back in Aus. Then Facebook came along, so I started a new blog under the ‘Lefrancophoney’ name in 2008 and have kept it going ever since. I’ve spent my working life as a writer, so adding a blog into the mix was like devouring a dessert after a tasty meal.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
- My all-time favorite is a terribly translated English menu
- This entry is great because of the extravagant outfits:
- A storm of road signs with mismatching odd names is always good
- A crazy sport which I’m far too much of a coward to ever try
- Some stereotypical Frenchness
I probably should stop at my top five, right?
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?
I moved here for the snow. Australian snow is not powdery like European snow, and the ski season is short. At first, I embraced the ski season, and the first summer was a learning experience of short shop opening hours and an amazing amount of paperwork required for the tiniest of things. I also discovered that cheese talks: I paid off a real estate agent with cheese since I couldn’t provide some of the paperwork she demanded before she’d rent an apartment to me. It worked.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in France? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
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.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
A friend of mine received a letter from the electricity company to say they had received his request to get connected in his new apartment, and that they could process it sooner if he paid a premium. They sent the letter exactly eight months after he moved in. Thankfully, he’d had electricity the whole time.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in France?
- Expect to be lost in paperwork for the first two years — and that’s just for the easy stuff like renting a property, buying a car, and getting the national healthcare card.
- Don’t go shopping on Sundays: the shops will probably be closed (except for some in Paris and perhaps a few other big cities).
- Certain things (e.g. language) might seem far more logical in your home country, but you wouldn’t be moving to another country if all of those curiosities weren’t part of the deal. So, embrace the oddities and use instead them to your advantage.
How is the expat community in France? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Where I am in France, there are loads of small expat communities. I never sought them out, but having people around with similar backgrounds certainly helps with levels of sanity. The first few months of moving somewhere new are always difficult, but with time, the like-minded people always surface, and they’re often not expats.
How would you summarize your expat life in France in a single, catchy sentence?
I think the name of my blog captures that perfectly: “Le Franco Phoney: all things French as seen by an outsider” — I don’t feel at all French but it doesn’t stop me from trying, and then writing about it.