In this series, I want to take a look at why people come to France. Everyone has their own personal struggles and triumphs as an expat – but I would love to take a look at patterns and similarities between each individual.Today we have a guest post from Tuula at Le Petit France Blog. She tells us about her big move to the south of France.
1.) How did it come about that you moved to France? Did you want to move here? What were your apprehensions?
Well, I did a bit of the traditional “fall in love & move to France” thing, except I did it in little of an untraditional way. I was working in Rome, Italy when I met my future husband-to-be and we dated for about one year before his contract ended and we decided to hop across the border to France.
Of course there were apprehensions, but I think quite a lot fewer than if I had moved directly to France from the States. I had a good idea that the first year would be really difficult, and felt better prepared after my Italy-expat experience. I would have to say that my biggest apprehension was learning the language. After investing so much time and energy into learning Italian, it was certainly a big commitment to break open those grammar books again.
2.) What were your first impressions once you arrived? How did that change as time went on?
My first impressions were positive. Thankfully my boyfriend has a kind & caring family and a supportive circle of friends. I did expect a lot of the French stereotypes to rear their ugly head when I made the move, but I didn’t find any support in the South for the rude and/or snobbish French people I had heard about. Of course I’ve had the odd bad experience or two (it’s not a perfect world after all!), but overall my impressions have been about the same since I arrived. I love the French!
3.) Do you speak French? How important is language to living abroad?
My French is at a quite good level now as compared to when I first arrived. I put in hours & hours of solo study as well as supplementary courses. I couldn’t stress enough the importance of learning a language when living abroad. Before I used to think that it would only be necessary for getting a job in your host country, but now I believe it’s fundamental to the transition process.
4.) Do you feel integrated into life in France?
I do feel integrated, but just like my life in Italy, I think it takes several years to really get your life off the ground in another country. It’s like starting your life all over again, and often without the familiar support system (ie. friends & family) that you would have in your home country if you were to move to another city. It takes time, but, for me, the process of discovery is part of the fun.
5.) What do you miss the most about your native country?
Well, of course the top of the list would have to be friends & family. But coming in at a very close third is Mexican food – tacos, nachos, burritos and everything in between!
6.) What is your favorite thing about living in France?
Oh, that’s a tough one! There are really so many great things. Maybe it comes from being located in the South, but I very much appreciate the French lifestyle in the detail & care paid to the enjoyment of daily life. Whether it’s an extended lunch, or shopping at the markets every day for fresh produce, I don’t think it’s a stereotype to say that the French have the pursuit of pleasure down pat.
7.) What is your favorite French wine?
That one’s easy – Rose! I never thought I would be such a fan, but nothing beats a chilled glass of Rose during a hot, Provencal summer.