Bonjour! I recently wrote a blog post for the Very UnFrench Wives and wanted to share it with you. Very UnFrench Wives is a really lovely blog, community and forum for expats or anyone interested in life in France. They regularly post about life in general, travel, decor and also share some delicious recipes. You can find them online at http://www.theveryunfrenchwives.eu and I really recommend following them on Instagram or Facebook, as well as on their blog. If you’d like to read my blog post, I’ve posted it below. I hope you enjoy it. Catherine x
Guest Blog Post – Being A Very UnFrench Wife
I have always enjoyed reading the Very UnFrench Wives blog and was initially very drawn to the name. I really resonate with this and as an English wife living in France, I do feel very UnFrench! I was pondering exactly what the name meant and that’s where the idea for this blog post came from. For me being an UnFrench wife, means loving France and wanting to enjoy life here, but also remembering your roots and embracing your Britishness.
Being a Very UnFrench wife reminds me a little bit of the difference between French patisseries and traditional English desserts. Yes, the French do amazing, intricate deserts, that are light, creamy, rich and fluffy and look like works of art. I actually don’t eat dairy any more, but it doesn’t stop me staring in the windows of local patisseries and admiring the exquisite cakes a little too long and reminiscing about how much I used to enjoy them. The local speciality where I live is La Tarte Tropézienne and I have made it my mission to create a dairy free version, but I’m letting myself get distracted by food again! Beautiful as though they are, there are times when delicate, exquisite patisserie doesn’t cut it and what you really want is a warm bowl of sugary and satisfying sticky toffee pudding and custard.
I absolutely adore France. It’s an incredibly beautiful country, with a rich history, interesting culture, the most romantic of languages and incomparable wines. This year my husband’s job was moved from the Chateaux and vineyards of the Loire Valley to the Cote d’Azur, so I currently live just a short, sunny cycle from the oh so pretty port town of St Tropez. I feel very lucky and I absolutely love where I am living right now. However, I also love England and I miss many things about living there, not least of all my family and friends. My job is seasonal, but I have lived in France for the best part of five years, so I know an awful lot about life here. In some ways I feel very comfortable in France. However, before working here, I lived in England for 34 years, so it’s not really a surprise that I still feel more at home back in the UK. For me, it’s not only been important to admit this to myself, but to embrace my love for both countries.
I think it’s important to remember that life in France is just that, life. Despite the glorious weather and the stunning coastline, there is still work to be done and traffic jams and road rage to contend with on a daily basis. The normal ups and downs of life still apply, it’s just that in France there’s usually a little more sunshine and a prettier view. We have recently had some very unusual days weather wise, with persistent rain for two days. I found it to be refreshing and much needed, but it also made me feel slightly nostalgic for UK summers, where the rain is regular and relentless.
Of course it is important to try and integrate in to French life and the best way to do this is to learn the language. Learning a language won’t just help you to make friends, but it will open up many more opportunities if you decide you want to work here. It will also make your day to day life far easier to navigate, especially if you live in a small town or rural area, where many of the locals won’t speak English. I have recently signed up to an intensive online language course and it’s made my day to day transactions, such as in the Post Office much more stress free.
One way that I haven’t integrated in to the French life at all is with clothes shopping. I don’t enjoy shopping and I still buy most of my clothes online from British shops. I know that the French are, quite rightly, seen as some of the most stylish people in the world and there are some beautiful clothes shops here. However, if I had a choice of shopping or spending the day on the beach or exploring a medieval hilltop village, shopping is going to lose out every time. Shopping in this way, at familiar shops is a comfort to me and having one constant that I don’t need to think about helps to keep me grounded and balanced.
For most people, moving abroad means taking a huge step out of your comfort zone. It’s demanding in so many ways, but the very thing that was once uncomfortable and challenging will eventually become your comfort zone. It is important to keep stepping outside of your comfort zone, if you are going to grow and learn, but if you need to hold on to some of the things that make you feel secure while doing that, that’s absolutely fine. Some people would argue that if you don’t go all in, you’re not really committing to life overseas, but I don’t agree with that at all. Yes, it may give you a different experience, but do people that go all in from the first day end up staying overseas in the long term or do they end up moving home after they realise that the change was too much? I don’t know that answer to this question, but I don’t think it matters too much. You need to do whatever makes your transition to life in France as smooth and stress free as possible.
Moving away from friends or going for long periods of time without seeing your family, can be difficult and isolating. If keeping in touch with the things you love in England makes life in France a little easier to deal with, then that’s absolutely fine, necessary even.
It’s the balance that is important. Enjoy the weather, enjoy the wine, learn the language so you can integrate and make new friends, but don’t forget to make regular calls or visits to family and friends back home. It’s the fine balance between enjoying the joie de vivre of life in France and remembering the best of British that will really help you to feel settled and secure while living in France.
I’m sure that being a Very UnFrench Wife means something a little different to all of us. Please let me know what it means to you!