Living Abroad and Falling in Love

by missfootloose on August 25, 2014 · 11 comments

in Expat life, foreign places, France, living abroad

IMG_0720-3-300x415Serial expats are not always charmed by yet another new country and another new culture. Much is written about the strains and stresses of the expat life, so I will refrain from adding to it. Instead I’ll just jubilate about my own experience of moving to another new country: France. I am in love. Yes, I know, it’s France, how can you not be in love?

Alas, apparently you can hate the place, because I hear expats whine and complain and I read their diatribes about how bad things are. To them I say, go home.

I love the sounds of our village: The church bells chiming the hour; the cooing of the doves; the bonjours in the street of people greeting each other; the loudspeakers announcing the arrival in the village square of the butchery on wheels, or the mobile unisex hair salon. I love walking through the ancient, narrow alleys to the small village shop with my basket and buy a baguette and a few peaches and the garden tomatoes grown by the owners themselves.

Doesn’t it all sound romantic? What can I tell you: it is!

I love the open markets that come to towns and villages on certain days. The fabulous cheeses, meats, fish! You find yummy honey of all sorts from the fields and mountains just nearby, free range eggs, and artisan breads sold by weight. And now it is mushroom season again…

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Oh, what the heck, here a picture of cheese. You love cheese, don’t you?

French cheese

And let me toss in a quote by Charles de Gaulle: How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?

It’s totally cliché, but I love old buildings, balconies, windows, doors, ancient stone walls (but I don’t want to own them!).

Old door

Old door in our village

Just to be fair, there are many nice new doors in medieval villages, but the old ones are more romantic, and I’m in a romantic mood. Below a picture of a stone wall along the vineyards just outside our village.

Old wall

 

I love our morning walks through the vineyards, watching the sun rise and munching on the wild blackberries and figs, and picking more to take home.

Wild blackberries

Early morning harvest of wild blackberries

I love the summer festivals everywhere: the food fests, the art fairs, the wine tastings, the concerts in old castles. Every town and village far and wide bursts into activity with shows of all sorts, the centers of town being the stage. Food stalls, wine tasting stalls, and art displays line the streets. Tables are set up so you can sit down and eat and drink what you buy along the way. Music and other performances create a wonderful ambiance.

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Pasta and mussels, anyone?

 

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Children watching and listening to an Irish music/dance group.

I love watching the children. They will sit nicely in a restaurant, eating a bowl of mussels. They will attend piano concerts with their parents and listen and not fuss (usually). Teenagers will politely greet you with a bonjour when they’re passing you in the street or square. And it is rude not to greet everyone nearby when you enter an office or a shop, and to offer a proper bonne journée when you leave. You don’t just say thanks, turn around and walk out.

The French people here are warm and friendly, and eager to help, including waiters in restaurants and cashiers in supermarkets. They’re patient with my sorry French, and if they speak English, they’ll generously offer it up. I’m always surprised when foreigners say the French are rude. Of course they say that about the Dutch too, and that surprises me as well. Perhaps I don’t recognize rude when I see it?

Last week we were so busy doing things, eating out with friends, and doing all the above things, that we were not home for 5 evenings in a row. My prince and I do not normally have a wild and woolly social life, so this was quite a surprise.

One of the great advantages of our own village is the fact that it is near several larger towns that have all the attractions and conveniences of modern life: restaurants, theaters, art galleries, antique shops, health food stores, supermarkets, DIY stores (Americans, think Home Depot).

One of my favorite hobbies is to sit on a terrace while having a drink or eating a meal and watching the world around me. And the world around me is new and different and I’m enjoying it. And yes, it is summer, and yes, it will all look different in January, but no worries, I’ll keep you posted!

* * *

What country did you love when you first arrived? Or after you got used to it? What did you enjoy and made you feel welcome?

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Sine Thieme August 26, 2014 at 2:46 am

I love this!

The first country I fell in love with is also France. I went there in the 1970s or early 80s as an exchange student. My mother somehow found this family and set it all up, and I was shipped off, scared to death. This was my first true expat experience, come to think of it. Scared to death and just took one day to fall in love and never want to go back. Everything was so exotic, the language was lovely, and the people so friendly. I too have never understood why people say the French are rude. I find that this is mostly said by men, and mostly by men who can’t speak any French or any other languages for that matter. I love how the French shrug their shoulders when they’re not sure about something, or it is a complicated topic and deserves consideration from all sides. I love how they kiss everyone they meet, no matter how well you know each other. I love how they use their hands when they talk. And, of course, I love the food.

Maybe I fell in love with France because that was the first time a boy told me (in French, no less – after 3 weeks I was fluent and didn’t have an accent) I was pretty. On the train going back home to Germany. Maybe that is why I didn’t want to go home:)

Thanks for asking – I am thinking this is going to become a blog post of my own!
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missfootloose September 9, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Being an exchange student is quite an adventure. I was one in the US, in high school. I’m sure being told you’re pretty by a Frenchman is no small matter when you’re young 😉 I’m Looking forward to your post about falling in love with a country. Actually I have been a bit in love with most places I’ve lived in. It’s just fun and interesting to discover a new place (usually).

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guyana_gyal August 28, 2014 at 9:48 pm

What a lovely post, a celebration of life. Yes, there are problems wherever we go, but what you’ve shown is how to find the joy amidst the blahs.

I’ve liked wherever I’ve been – Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, the USA – Florida, Seattle, Australia, London. Oh, wait, I wasn’t keen on Canada for some reason, it was probably because of my mood, sorry Canada, I’ll visit again one day and discover the loveliness.
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Karen Zachary August 30, 2014 at 7:19 pm

I’m so glad to hear that you and your prince are happily settled. Your essay certainly made me long to visit such a marvelous place.

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missfootloose August 30, 2014 at 7:44 pm

Karen, you are welcome! We have a guest room 😉

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Sami Veloso September 1, 2014 at 3:26 pm

246 different cheeses, I could live on cheese alone!! And all those different types of mushrooms, wonderful.
It sounds like you live in a wonderful place.
I’ve loved everywhere I have lived – South Africa, Portugal, Australia, but not so much Germany! I found the people a bit unfriendly and I don’t think I every really fit in, even though I learned some German and tried to integrate. The weather was another big minus of course!
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missfootloose September 9, 2014 at 5:32 pm

The weather in Germany is not ideal, but Holland and England are worse, I think. Perth must suit you better!

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Gordon Barlow September 3, 2014 at 12:46 am

Karen. I hope you will allow me to post this link to a blog of mine from May 2013, titled “France – a love affair”.
http://barlowscayman.blogspot.com/2013/05/france-love-affair.html

As I wrote there “…I’ve loved France ever since, and everything about it – except…” Well, there is always an “except”, isn’t there? But I can and do truly say that it’s one of my favourite countries, of the 70-odd I’ve visited. One of the others is Norway, where my son and his children live, and which surely likes cheese almost as much as the French do.
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missfootloose September 9, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Gordon, link away! I loved your story on your adventure in France, and remember reading it earlier as well.

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Karien September 5, 2014 at 6:43 am

Haha, I lived in France too, it was not my favourite but you sure know how to sell it! I fell in love with Singapore instantly. It fits us perfectly, safe and clean for my husband who likes western comforts, but enough exoticness beneath the shiny surface for me.
I think most countries are great, if you just make an effort to look for the good stuff….
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missfootloose September 9, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Yes, if you look for the good stuff, many countries can be perfectly fine, or at least interesting. I remember visiting Singapore for a few days, years ago, when we lived in a provincial town in Indonesia. I was impressed by how clean and organized everything was, and a bit “sterile” I remember thinking. However, a bit more “sterile” would have been good in the place where we were living at the time 😉

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