I’m happy to present you the first edition of the Expat in France linky. The goal of this linky is to gather expat bloggers views living in France on a specific topic. This month’s topic is The Top Things I’ve Learnt Being an Expat in France. Moving abroad is not a fairy tale and it is full of challenges. It makes it a great opportunity to learn about a new culture but also about ourselves. Let’s hear what our 3 first bloggers shared with us.
Lara from Belgium blogs at Learn French with Lara
Lara is a French-speaking Belgium national that lived in the UK for almost 15 years before moving to France with her family. Belgium culture can seem very close to French culture in many aspects which sometimes makes the culture shocks and misunderstandings even more unexpected. Lara tells us more about what she has learnt being an expat in France.
She is also an experienced French and English teacher in Sable d’Olonnes, on the West coast of France. She decided to create her website to teach French during our new normal and she is now also giving remote classes and French language tips online. I loved her French idioms challenge. Check it out! Knowing French idiomatic expressions will level up your French.
Elizabeth from the blog L’anglais pour tous interviews her mother Ruth from Canada
Ruth moved to France in 1969 from English-speaking Canada as a young professional. She ended up staying and marrying a French man. She now has a bi-national family in France. Thank you, Elizabeth for sharing your mother’s challenges and laughs!
Elizabeth is bilingual and teaches English. Her blog is mainly in French but she interviewed her mother in English. You will have the joy to listen to the podcast interview as well!
Natalja from Latvia blogs at C’est la vie
Natalja remembers her arrival to France and compares her adventure to the now-famous character Emily from “Emily in Paris”. Natalja tells her story and gives her take on the myths and truths about French culture and her own experience compared to the series.
Natalja first came to France to study and ended up settling in Lyon. She gives an interesting insight into the world of Luxury in which she works now. “What I learnt is that one only stays in France if they fall in love with little things.” You will find on her blog all the little things she loves about France and Lyon. Check her blog if you are coming to Lyon or looking for some nice venues, café or brunch!
The top 4 things I’ve learnt being an expat
You may have understood that I’m a French serial expat. I have lived in 6 foreign countries in the past 15 years in Europe and Latin America and I don’t think it will end here. Life will tell. Let me share with you the top 4 things I’ve learnt from living abroad and leaving my comfort zone: France, the country you have chosen to be your new home. I have discovered a lot about other cultures, but I will focus here on what I learnt about myself facing the challenges most foreigners face when they are out of the nest.
It’s OK to feel lonely
Moving to a new place always goes with moments of loneliness. This is also true when moving to a new city in your native country. I have lived in several cities in France when I was a teenager, and the integration always took some time.
But relocating to a new country, with a different culture, a different language and all the challenges linked to it made me feel even more lonely.
Lonely, because it takes (a long) time to build new friendships. Friendships that are real. Getting to know people that you can count on when you have a problem or people that will understand you. At home, we have our first circle made of our family and our closest friends, but abroad we lose this local support and it can be very unsettling. We often realise how important it is once we lose it. Human nature tends to take things for granted.
I found that in these long moments of loneliness I learnt to find peace on my own. Of course, I still needed friends and eventually, I built my new crowd, people that still today, many years after moving away, are still very close friends! I learnt that it is OK to feel lonely, as long as I learnt to appreciate my alone moments and learnt to be more patient and perseverant.
Reflect on my own culture
French people like to debate, to question and also to complain about a lot of things. But after living in several countries, I realised that we do not really reflect on our own culture, in my case the French culture. By culture, I mean the way people interact, but also everything that is considered normal and/or expected. We all know that every culture is different. But we don’t always realise that what we do, think or believe, is not necessarily our individuality. It also comes from a national norm that we never really questioned.
I know now that I can be too tactile when living in the UK and not enough when in Brazil. I know that it is not an international norm to have a starter, a main and a dessert and not everything spread out on the table. I know the French are used to detail their thinking process before reaching to a conclusion. We learn the thesis, antithesis, synthesis at school and it impacts much more than we think our debating speech. We always find a reason to counter-argument. A coin always has 2 sides, right? Living abroad has taught me many other things about my own culture, but the main point is that it is no longer my only reference and I definitely do not consider it as a norm.
I can do it, even if I’m scared
Relocating abroad means getting out of our comfort zone and its share of scary moments. This is a very hard thing to admit as an adult that something scares us. Well, I’ve been scared many times when living abroad, and I know now that it is ok. And I feel much better after sharing it with someone that can understand. Someone that can understand that I was scared to go to this party by myself as I knew no one there. Or, scared not to be able to express myself correctly and not being understood…
Every time I manage to overcome my fear, I realise that it actually went well! This made me realise that this fear is healthy. It showed me the challenge I had to overcome and made me find some strategies not to go blindly.
It is OK to ask for help
I’ve never been very good at asking for help. It’s kind of weird because I’m always happy to help others. It often doesn’t really cross my mind that others can be happy to help me when I need.
When everything is different, asking for advice can be a good thing for people like me. This would have avoided me going all across the city top up my mobile phone credit. When I could have done it at the nearby pharmacy as it is the case in the UK or Brazil. In my mind pharmacies just sell medicines and care products… but as I know now home rules are no norms!
I hope you enjoyed reading different expat views on the challenge of expatriation and life in France. Hopefully, next month I’ll be able to share with you expat views on the Winter holiday season in France. A nice round-up of different views and experiences on the holiday season as an expat. Not necessarily Christmas related, it could also be Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, your family traditions, what surprises you in France, … I can’t wait to see your take on the French end of the year celebrations!
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