When you look back at your life, whatever age you are, you can usually see crossroads and the direction you took changed your life.
Expatriation is a major crossroad. It is the type of life experience that will impact your life forever. The type of life event that will have a before and an after.
As a child and a teenager, I was pretty reserved and introverted. I’m much more comfortable with 2-3 people than in a big group. Raising my hand in class was not natural for me and I had no self-confidence.
However, I was hungry, hungry for self-development and a change. I knew I had to take risks to become the person I wanted to be.
Therefore, one of the first risks I took was to move to Dublin when I was 18. I left with an average academic English level, a two-week booking in a youth hostel and some savings. I needed to find a job quickly and a flat.
In two weeks I’d found a job at Ryanair’s call centre (yes, the famous Irish low-cost airline) and a room in a house share. Some people would call it luck, but I prefer to call it flexibility and provoking opportunities.
Not really what I expected
Lost in translation
I mean, it wasn’t the job of my dream or even the house of my dream…
But for an 18-year old girl with very little work experience and not native in English, this was a true challenge!
This job was so hard for me, that I almost decided to quit after 10 days…
I will always remember my first call, my first client buying a ticket over the phone! Which was pretty great compared to complaint calls!
However, I was unable to spell this lady’s last name! I can’t remember her name now but it was a pretty common Anglo-Saxon name I had never heard of. I didn’t know the phonetic alphabet yet and she started screaming over the phone, asking for my employee ID. She wanted to raise a complaint to a manager. I was petrified!
Finding my way
It took me a few phone calls to my family in France, a lot of perseverance to keep this job! After 3 months, I was much more comfortable. I’ve even gotten used to the Irish accents and all the diversity of accents in the UK.
We were getting calls from all of Great Britain! It was so challenging for me to understand all those accents over the phone! But eventually, I did. And also what helped me is that the questions or situations were often the same.
Of course, I was not able to read a magazine at the same time I was speaking to a client, the way my colleagues were, but I was doing great!
I learnt to let go and I realised I didn’t need to understand every single word to get the overall question.
Life experience over comfort
And, my house, well, it was much harder to find a home than a job! Dublin real-estate market was very expensive at the time, it might still be. Dublin was about the same size as Lyon, my home town, and the rents were about double the price!
So I ended up sharing a room with a Russian girl, Julia. Yes, your read it right, I was sharing a bedroom! Not exactly was I was visualizing when I decided to move to Dublin, but I had to start somewhere.
Julia became my best friend and about 15 years after we are still very close! I even went to Siberia to meet her family and she spent Christmas with mine in France. I know she is a friend I’ll keep for life!
At first sight, the job and the house were less than ideal. However today, I know that because I gave it a chance, I got more than I could have bargained for.
I gained confidence, improved my English understanding skills in no time. I also understood that I could restart somewhere new even if it was hard. It opened my eyes to the freedom I had to shape my life the way I wanted if I could overcome my fears.
What’s your French life dream?
Now, I’m sure you have a pretty good idea of the life you’d like to have in France. Maybe buying a farmhouse in the French countryside or living the Parisian lifestyle or just the French lifestyle.
You want to take more time to enjoy the present moment, have easy access to great food and discover Europe. You might want to give the opportunity to your children to immerse themselves in a new culture and learn a new language.
You want to find a new you, and explore your potential. You might have outgrown your current living situation or you’re just ready for a change of scenery.
This is just incredible what we can learn, at any age, when we live the expat adventure!
This is why I want to be scared
I mean I’m no longer the 18-year-old girl who moved to Dublin, but even after 7 expatriations and over 10 years of experience relocating people, I still learn and I still overcome my fears.
The difference is that now I know that my fears are what help me to anticipate and organise myself.
Also, and this is the hardest part (but also the most beautiful) is the realization that it is when things don’t happen as planned that the best of things happen! With patience and perseverance!
I read this quote not so long ago and I think it illustrates pretty well what I’m trying to tell you, don’t you think?
So, if your conversation in your head is I CAN, then you will! As you surround yourself with the right community your ‘I CAN’ voice will outweigh the ‘I CAN’T’ voice. Your inner voice is the answer to taking the first step to building your new life.
If you are wondering if living in France will work for you, the journey is taking that first step of saying I CAN DO THIS!
Life is all about playing the game until you win the game, then there is no way you don’t win. And this can happen even quicker if you know the mistakes to avoid…but this will be the topic for another post.