Saturday, March 15, 2014

Speaking from Experience (March 5, 2014)

A big part of our move involved finding a place to live while we are in France. We had the option of flying  to France for 4-5 days and meeting with an agency to look for a house or apartment. However we had a unique situation arise.

It turned out that another employee from my husband's employer had taken a position in Toulouse for two years ago. Her family had moved into a beautiful home and would be returning to the United States just 1-2 weeks before we left for Toulouse.

Early one morning we got up and did a "Skype Tour" of the house with the family while they were still there. I will write more about the house  in a later post, but will say here that we were convinced we would love living in the house as much as they had loved being there. We decided we would rent the house and not travel to look at other options.

At this point we knew we had contacts who were now "experts" in the exact same scenario we were soon to experience.

To take full advantage of this new relationship we set up an evening to have supper with the family after they return to the States and before we left.

In their situation the wife took the position in France and the husband took a break from working. They also have a daughter who was 13 at the time the left the United States.

Our conversation moved all over the place during supper but here are some of the highlights I picked up  from their experience:

1. It was and will be hard at times. We will have periods of home sickness, frustration and possibly some depression. 
2.  It's worth it1 The bad times pass and are replaced with some exciting experiences, but also a sense of settling in and feeling comfortable in your new environment.
3. I was surprised that the family wasn't more fluent in French after having lived there for two years. I have visions of becoming 'super' fluent and this sounded a little disappointing. But they did know a lot and certainly more than enough to get by. On the bright side - I knew we would get by too. Many people speak enough English that most situations will work out fine from a language perspective
4. Some little things will be hard or confusing. But - lucky us - we now knew what to expect for quite a few things. For example

  • If you want a shopping cart you have to insert a Euro coin to unlock it. You get your coin back when you return the card.
  • You must bag your own groceries and bring your own bags.
  • You must weigh your own fruit and vegetables and print out a label to be scanned at check-out.
  • Many stores are closed on Sundays
  • The White Garden is a great place to eat and the owners are expecting us. :-)
  • The car we will have will be considered very big in France, even though same car would be considered moderate sized in the U.S. It may be difficult to park and may barely fit on some of the small streets.
  • The house doesn't have air conditioning - in fact it is rare for a house to have it. I must admit this one worries me a little
  • Travel in the Euro zone is easy and inexpensive so TAKE ADVANTAGE of it. This family traveled a LOT and had amazing stories and memories. This is not a time to wait for retirement to travel.
I have more examples but you get the idea. Nothing earth shattering but the by the time supper was over I found myself much calmer about out upcoming move. I had met people who had done exactly what we were doing and they were extremely happy to have had the opportunity. In fact I'm not sure they were really ready to come home.

But now the move was not as much of an unknown to me. I had a contact person I could consult who could help me if needed. I knew some of the things to expect and I knew we would get through those first few days and would begin to feel at home and enjoy ourselves.

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